While we frequently discuss gender oppression in the pages of Under Lock & Key, most readers will notice a primary focus on national oppression. This is intentional, as we see the resolution of the national contradiction as the most successful path to ending all oppression at this stage. But for any of our readers who like our focus on nationalism, and have not taken the time to read MIM Theory 2/3: Gender and Revolutionary Feminism, i recommend you take a look. It is in MT2/3 that MIM really dissected the difference between class, nation and gender and justified its focus on nation. Don't just focus on nation because it's more important to you subjectively, understand why it is the top priority by reading MT 2/3.
All USW comrades should be working their way to the level 2 introductory study program offered by MIM(Prisons). We start level 1 studying the basics of scientific thinking. In level 2, we move on to study Fundamental Political Line of the Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons, which gives a good overview of the 3 strands of oppression: class, nation and gender, and how they interact. This issue of Under Lock & Key is intended to supplement that theoretical material with some application to prison organizing and contemporary current events. (Let us know if you want to sign up for the study group.)
Academic Individualism vs. Revolutionary Science
Bourgeois individualism looks at race, class and gender as identities, which are seen as natural categories that exist within each individual. While proponents of identity politics generally recognize these concepts have evolved over time, they generally do not explain how or why. Dialectical materialists understand nation, class and gender as dualities that evolved as humyn society developed. Under capitalism, the class structure is defined by bourgeoisie exploiting proletarians. Class looked different under feudalism or primitive communist societies. One of the things Marx spent a lot of time doing is explaining how and why class evolved the way it did. Engels also gave us an analysis of the evolution of gender in The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State.
One self-described "Marxist-Feminist critique of Intersectionality Theory" points out that "theories of an 'interlocking matrix of oppressions,' simply create a list of naturalized identities, abstracted from their material and historical context."(1) They do not provide a framework for understanding how to overthrow the systems that are imposing oppression on people, because they do not explain their causes. This "Marxist" critic, however, falls into the class reductionist camp that believes all oppression is rooted in class.
The MIM line is not class reductionist, rather we reduce oppression to three main strands: nation, gender and class. This is still too limited for the identity politics crowd. But when we dive into other types of oppression that might be separate from nation, class and gender, we find that they always come back to one of those categories. And this clarity on the main strands of oppression allows us to develop a path to success, by building on the historical experience of others who have paved the way for our model.
While MIM is often associated with the class analysis of the First World labor aristocracy, this was nothing really new. What MIM did that still sets it apart from others, that we know of, is develop the first revolutionary theory on sexual privilege. The class-reductionism of the writer cited above is demonstrated in eir statement, "to be a 'woman' means to produce and reproduce a set of social relations through our labor, or self-activity."(2) MIM said that is class, but there is still something separate called gender. While class is how humyns relate in the production process, gender is how humyns relate in non-productive/leisure time. And while biological reproductive ability has historically shaped the divide between oppressor and oppressed in the realm of gender, we put the material basis today in health status.(3) This understanding is what allows us to see that things like age, disability, sexual preference and trans/cis gender status all fall in the gender strand of oppression.
Using "Feminism" to Bomb Nations
Militarism and imperialist invasion are antithetical to feminism. Yet the imperialists successfully use propaganda that they wrap in pseudo-feminism to promote the invasion of Third World countries again and again. Sorting out the strands of oppression is key to consistent anti-imperialism.
In MT 2/3, MIM condemned the pseudo-feminists by saying that "supporting women who go to the courts with rape charges is white supremacy."(4) A recent Human Rights Watch report discussing alleged widespread rape in the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea (DPRK) is getting lots of traction in the Amerikkkan/Briti$h press.(5) This campaign to demonize the DPRK is just like the campaign to imprison New Afrikans, with potentially nuclear consequences. We have two leading imperialist nations who committed genocide against an oppressed nation touting information that is effectively pro-war propaganda for another invasion and mass slaughter of that oppressed nation.
If it is true that rape is as widespread in the DPRK as in the United $tates and Great Britain, then we also must ask what the situation of wimmin would have been in the DPRK today if it were not for the imperialist war and blockade on that country. In the 1950s, Korea was on a very similar path as China. Socialism in China did more for wimmin's liberation than bourgeois feminists ever have. They increased wimmin's participation in government, surpassing the United $tates, rapidly improved infant mortality rates, with Shanghai surpassing the rate of New York, and eliminated the use of wimmin's bodies in advertising and pornography.(6)
An activist who is focused solely on ending rape will not see this. Of course, a healthy dose of white nationalism helps one ignore the mass slaughter of men, wimmin and children in the name of wimmin's liberation. So the strands do interact.
Distracted Senate Hearings
Recently, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh went through a hearing before his appointment to assess accusations of sexual assault from his past. This was a spectacle, with the sexual content making it tantalizing to the public, rather than political content. Yes, the debate is about a lifetime appointment to a very high-powered position, that will affect the path of U.$. law. But there was no question of U.$. law favoring an end to war, oppression or the exploitation of the world's majority. Those who rallied against Kavanaugh were mostly caught up in Democratic Party politics, not actual feminism.
A quarter century ago, MIM was also disgusted by the hearings for Clarence Thomas to be appointed a Supreme Court Justice, that were dominated by questions about his sexual harassment of Anita Hill. Yet, this was an event that became quite divisive within MIM and eventually led to a consolidation of our movement's materialist gender line.(7) It was the intersection of nation with this display of gender oppression that made that case different from the Kavanaugh one, because Thomas and Hill are both New Afrikan. The minority line in this struggle was deemed the "pro-paternialism position."
The minority position was that MIM should stand with Anita Hill because she was the victim/oppressed. The line that won out was that Anita Hill was a petty-bourgeois cis-female in the First World, and was not helpless or at risk of starvation if she did not work for Clarence Thomas. While all MIM members would quickly jump on revisionists and pork-chop nationalists, paternalism led those holding the minority position to accept pseudo-feminism as something communists should stand by, because they pitied the female who faced situations like this.
Similarly today, with the Kavanaugh appointment, we should not let our subjective feelings about his treatment of wimmin confuse us into thinking those rallying against him represent feminism overall.
Bourgeois theories and identity politics
The paternalistic line brings us back to identity politics. A politic that says right and wrong can be determined by one's gender, "race" or other identity. The paternalist line will say things like only wimmin can be raped or New Afrikans can't "racially" oppress other people. In its extreme forms it justifies any action of members of the oppressed group.
Another form of identity politics is overdeterminism. The overdeterministic position is defined in our glossary as, "The idea that social processes are all connected and that all of the aspects of society cause each other, with none as the most important."(8) The overdeterminist will say "all oppressions are important so just work on your own. A parallel in anti-racism is that white people should get in touch with themselves first and work on their own racism."(9) Again this is all working from the framework of bourgeois individualism, which disempowers people from transforming the system.
There is a paralyzing effect of the bourgeois theories that try to persynalize struggles, and frame them in the question of "what's in it for me?" Communists have little concern for self when it comes to political questions. To be a communist is to give oneself to the people, and to struggle for that which will bring about a better future for all people the fastest. While humyn knowledge can never be purely objective, it is by applying the scientific method that we can be most objective and reach our goals the quickest.(10)
Today's principal contradiction, here in the United $tates, is the national contradiction — meaning that between oppressed nations and oppressor nations. MIM(Prisons) provides some very provocative questions as to secondary contractions, their influence on or by and in conjunction to the current principal contradiction. Class, gender and nation are all interrelated.(1) Many times, while organizing our efforts and contemplating potential solutions to the principal contradiction, we overlook the secondary and tertiary ones. Such narrow-mindedness oftentimes leads to difficulties, hampering efforts toward resolution. Other times it makes resolving the principal, effectively, impossible. Analogous to penal institutions making it possible to punish a citizenry but impossible to better it due to the irreconcilable contraction between retributive punishment and rehabilitation. This is why reforms consistently fail and prisons persist as a social cancer.
In regards to intersecting strands of oppression, prisons are illustrative of more than pitfalls of narrow-mindedness (i.e. reform of one aspect while leaving the rest intact). Prisons also provide numerous examples of oppression combinations. Interactions of nation and gender oppression are some of the most evident. Penal institutions are inherently nationally oppressive, because they are social control mechanisms allowing capitalism to address its excluded masses. Since the United $tates is patriarchal in practice, prisons over-exaggerate this masculine outlook, creating an ultra-aggressive, chauvinistic subculture.
Intersection occurs oft times when a female staff member is present. Other than the few brave people, most wimmin in prison are regarded as "damsels in distress." Generally speaking (at least in Colorado prisons) a male will accompany a female; though, most males make no effort to do this for other men. Capitalism's undercurrent to such "chivalrous actions" is rooted in wimmin being the weaker, more helpless and vulnerable gender. In prison, machismo culture such is the chauvinist's belief. While many wimmin aid in their inequality by accepting, encouraging, or simply not protesting such "chivalry," brave, independent wimmin experience a form of ostracism — they are derided, an effort to enjoin their conformity. At the same time men are being chivalrous, they sexually objectify females, further demeaning them, reinforcing their second-class status under machismo specifically and, capitalistic patriarchy generally.
Furthermore, there is also the ever-present nation bias (e.g. hyper-sexualizing Latina females, white females should only fraternize with whites). As prisons are "snapshots" of general society, the contradictions — their intersecting and interacting — hold useful material for revolutionary-minded persyns.
Intersection of different oppression strands (as shown above) demonstrates that the resolution of one does not automatically mean resolution of others. For instance, should machismo in prison dissolve, the national oppression will still remain and vice versa. Prisons are an encapsulation of society, meaning, their abolishment will not necessarily translate to class, nation, gender contradiction resolutions throughout society. Although, it is a very good, versatile place to start. Penal institutions are more of an observation laboratory where the effects and affects of contradiction co-mingling manifest. A place to watch, document, analyze, formulate and possibly initiate theory and practice. There is no better way to comprehend oppression than to witness it in action. Nor is there any better way of combating the many oppressions than from the front lines.
The Dangerous Class and Revolutionary Theory
Kersplebedeb Publishing, 2017
Available for $24.95 (USD) + shipping/handling from: kersplebedeb
CP 63560, CCCP Van Horne
The bulk of this double book is looking at the limited and contradictory writings of Marx/Engels and Mao on the subject of the lumpen with greater historical context. MIM(Prisons) and others have analyzed their scattered quotes on the subject.(1) But Sakai’s effort here is focused on background research to understand what Marx, Engels and Mao were seeing and why they were saying what they were saying. In doing so, Sakai provides great practical insight into a topic that is central to our work; the full complexities of which have only begun to unfold.
Size and Significance
In the opening of the "Dangerous Class", Sakai states that "lumpen/proletarians are constantly being made in larger and larger numbers".(p.3) This follows a discussion of criminalized zones like the ghetto, rez or favela. This is a curious conclusion, as the ghettos and barrios of the United $tates are largely being dispersed rather than expanding. Certainly the rez is not expanding. Sakai does not provide numbers to substantiate these "larger and larger" lumpen populations today.
In our paper, Who is the Lumpen in the United $tates? we do run some census numbers that indicate an increase in the U.$. lumpen population from 1.5% of the total population in 1960 to over 10% in 2010. However, other methods led us to about 4% of the U.$. population today if you only look at oppressed nation lumpen, and 6 or 7% if you include whites.(1) This latter number is interestingly similar to what Marx estimated for revolutionary France (around 1850)(p.66), what Sakai estimates for Britain around 1800(p.112), and what Mao estimated for pre-revolutionary China.(p.119) Is 6% the magic number that indicates capitalism in crisis? The historical numbers for the United $tates (and elsewhere) are worthy of further investigation.
lumpen + destitute semi-proletariat (Colquhoun)
1850s France (Marx)
lumpen + destitute semi-proletariat
2010 United $tates (MIM(Prisons))
First Nations lumpen
New Afrikan lumpen
Raza lumpen + semi-proletariat
Alliances and Line
Certainly, at 6% or more, the lumpen is a significant force, but a force for what? In asking that question, we must frame the discussion with a Marxist analysis of capitalism as a contradiction between bourgeoisie and proletariat. There’s really just two sides here. So the question is which side do the lumpen fall on. The answer is: It depends.
One inspiring thing we learn in this book is that the lumpen made up the majority of the guerrillas led by Mao’s Chinese Communist Party at various times before liberation.(p.122) This shows us that the lumpen are potentially an important revolutionary force. However, that road was not smooth. On the contrary it was quite bloody, involving temporary alliances, sabotage and purges.(pp.201-210)
Sakai's first book spends more time on the French revolution and the obvious role the lumpen played on the side of repression. Marx's writings on these events at times treated the Bonaparte state as a lumpen state, independent of the capitalist class. This actually echoes some of Sakai’s writing on fascism and the role of the declassed. But as Sakai recognizes in this book, there was nothing about the Bonaparte government that was anti-capitalist, even if it challenged the existing capitalist class. In other words, the mobilized lumpen, have played a deciding role in revolutionary times, but that role is either led by bourgeois or proletarian ideology. And the outcome will be capitalism or socialism.
Defining the Lumpen, Again
Interestingly, Sakai does not address the First World class structure and how that impacts the lumpen in those countries. Our paper, Who is the Lumpen in the United $tates? explicitly addresses this question of the First World lumpen as distinct from the lumpen-proletariat. While MIM changed its line from the 1980s when it talked about significant proletariats within the internal semi-colonies of the United $tates, this author has not seen Sakai change eir line on this, which might explain eir discussion of a lumpen-proletariat here. Sakai's line becomes most problematic in eir grouping of imperialist-country mercenaries in the "lumpen". Ey curiously switches from "lumpen/proletariat" when discussing China, to "lumpen" when discussing imperialist-country mercenaries, but never draws a line saying these are very different things. In discussions with the editor, Sakai says the stick up kid and the cop aren't the same kind of lumpen.(p.132) Sure, we understand the analogy that cops are the biggest gang on the streets. But state employees making 5 or 6-digit incomes with full bennies do not fit our definition of lumpen being excluded from the capitalist economy, forced to find its own ways of skimming resources from that economy. The contradiction the state faces in funding its cops and soldiers to repress growing resistance is different from the contradiction it faces with the lumpen on the street threatening to undermine the state's authority.
Sakai dismisses the idea that the line demarking lumpen is the line of illegal vs. legal. In fact, the more established and lucrative the illegal operation of a lumpen org is, the more likely it is to be a partner with the imperialist state. That just makes sense.
The inclusion of cops and mercenaries in the lumpen fits with Sakai's approach to the lumpen as a catchall non-class. We do agree that the lumpen is a much more diverse class, lacking the common life experience and relationship to the world that the proletariat can unite around. But what's the use of talking about a group of people that includes Amerikan cops and Filipino garbage pickers? Our definitions must guide us towards models that reflect reality close enough that, when we act on the understanding the model gives us, things work out as the model predicts more often than not. Or more often than any other models. This is why, in our work on the First World lumpen in the United $tates, we excluded white people from the model by default. We did this despite knowing many white lumpen individuals who are comrades and don't fit the model.
How about L.O.s in the U.$.?
The analysis of the First World lumpen in this collection is a reprint of Sakai's 1976 essay on the Blackstone Rangers in Chicago. Sakai had referred to L.O.s becoming fascist organizations in New Afrikan communities in a previous work, and this seems to be eir basis for this claim.
While the essay condemns the Blackstone Rangers for being pliant tools of the Amerikan state, Sakai does differentiate the young foot soldiers (the majority of the org) from the Main 21 leadership. In fact, the only difference between the recruiting base for the Rangers and the Black Panthers seems to have been that the Rangers were focused on men. Anyway, what Sakai's case study demonstrates is the ability for the state to use lumpen gangs for its own ends by buying off the leadership. There is no reason to believe that if Jeff Fort had seen eye-to-eye with the Black Panthers politically that the youth who followed him would not have followed him down that road.
Essentially, what we can take from all this is that the lumpen is a wavering class. Meaning that we must understand the conditions of a given time and place to better understand their role. And as Sakai implies, they have the potential to play a much more devastating and reactionary role when conditions really start to deteriorate in the heart of the empire.
Relating this to our practice, Sakai discusses the need for revolutionaries to move in the realm of the illegal underground. This doesn't mean the underground economy is a location for great proletarian struggle. It can contain some of the most egregious dehumanizing aspects of the capitalist system. But it also serves as a crack in that very system.
As comrades pointed out in our survey of drug use and trade in U.$. prisons, the presence of drugs is accompanied by an absence of unity and struggle among the oppressed masses. Meanwhile effective organizing against drug use is greatly hampered by threats of violence from the money interests of lumpen organizations and state employees.(2) The drug trade brings out the individualist/parasitic tendencies of the lumpen. Our aim is to counter that with the collective self-interest of the lumpen. It is that self-interest that pushes oppressed nation youth to "gang up" in the first place, in a system that is stacked against them.
The revolutionary/anti-imperialist movement must be active and aggressive in allying with the First World lumpen today. We must be among the lumpen masses so that as contradictions heighten, oppressed nation youth have already been exposed to the benefits of collective organizing for self-determination. The national contradiction in occupied Turtle Island remains strong, and we are confident that the lumpen masses will choose a developed revolutionary movement over the reactionary state. Some of the bourgeois elements among the lumpen organizations will side with the oppressor, and with their backing can play a dominant role for some times and places. We must be a counter to this.
While Mao faced much different conditions than we face in the United $tates today, the story of alliances and betrayals during the Chinese revolution that Sakai weaves is probably a useful guide to what we might expect. Ey spends one chapter analyzing the Futian Incident, where "over 90 percent of the cadres in the southwestern Jiangxi area were killed, detained, or stopped work."(p.205) The whole 20th Army, which had evolved from the lumpen gang, Three Dots Society, was liquidated in this incident. It marked a turning point and led to a shift in the approach to the lumpen in the guerilla areas. While in earlier years, looting of the wealthy was more accepted within the ranks of guerrilla units, the focus on changing class attitudes became much greater.(p.208) This reflected the shift in the balance of forces; the development of contradictions.
Sakai concludes that the mass inclusion of lumpen forces in the guerrilla wars by the military leaders Mao Zedong and Chu Teh was a strategic success. That the lumpen played a decisive role, not just in battle, but in transforming themselves and society. We might view the Futian Incident, and other lesser internal struggles resulting in death penalties meted out, as inevitable growing pains of this lumpen/peasant guerilla war. Mao liked to quote Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz, in saying that war is different from all other humyn activity.
For now we are in a pre-war period in the United $tates, where the contradictions between the oppressed and oppressors are mostly fought out in the legal realms of public opinion battles, mass organizing and building institutions of the oppressed. Through these activities we demonstrate another way; an alternative to trying to get rich, disregarding others' lives, senseless violence, short-term highs and addiction. We demonstrate the power of the collective and the need for self-determination of all oppressed peoples. And we look to the First World lumpen to play a major role in this transformation of ourselves and society.
Is China an Imperialist Country? considerations and evidence
by N.B. Turner, et al.
Available for $17 + shipping/handling from: kersplebedeb CP 63560, CCCP Van Horne Montreal, Quebec Canada H3W 3H8
This article began as a book review of Is China an Imperialist Country?. However, I was spurred to complete this review after witnessing a surge in pro-China posts and sentiment on the /r/communism subreddit, an online forum that MIM(Prisons) participates in. It is strange to us that this question is gaining traction in a communist forum. How could anyone be confused between such opposite economic systems? Yet, this is not the first time that this question has been asked about a capitalist country; the Soviet Union being the first.
Mao Zedong warned that China would likely become a social fascist state if the revisionists seized power in their country as they had in the Soviet Union after Stalin's death. While the question of whether the revisionists have seized power in China was settled for Maoists decades ago, other self-proclaimed "communists" still refer to China as socialist, or a "deformed workers' state," even as the imperialists have largely recognized that China has taken up capitalism.
In this book, N.B. Turner does address the revisionists who believe China is still a socialist country in a footnote.(1) Ey notes that most of them base their position on the strength of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) in China. This is a common argument we've seen as well. And the obvious refutation is: socialism is not defined as a state-run economy, at least not by Marxists. SOEs in China operate based on a profit motive. China now boasts 319 billionaires, second only to the United $tates, while beggars walk the streets clinging to passerbys. How could it be that a country that had kicked the imperialists out, removed the capitalists and landlords from power, and enacted full employment came to this? And how could these conditions still be on the socialist road to communism?
Recent conditions did not come out of nowhere. By the 1980s, Beijing Review was boasting about the existence of millionaires in China, promoting the concept of wage differentials.(2) There are two bourgeois rights that allow for exploitation: the right to private property and the right to pay according to work. While the defenders of Deng Xiaoping argue that private property does not exist in China today, thus "proving" its socialist nature, they give a nod to Deng's policies on wage differentials; something struggled against strongly during the Mao era.
Turner quotes Lenin from Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism: "If it were necessary to give the briefest possible definition of imperialism we should have to say that imperialism is the monopoly stage of capitalism."(3) And what are most SOEs but monopolies?
Is China a Socialist Country?
The question of Chinese socialism is a question our movement came to terms with in its very beginning. MIM took up the anti-revisionist line, as stated in the first cardinal
"MIM holds that after the proletariat seizes power in socialist revolution, the potential exists for capitalist restoration under the leadership of a new bourgeoisie within the communist party itself. In the case of the USSR, the bourgeoisie seized power after the death of Stalin in 1953; in China, it was after Mao's death and the overthrow of the 'Gang of Four' in 1976."
We'll get more into why we believe this below. For now we must stress that this is the point where we split from those claiming to be communists who say China is a socialist country. It is also a point
where we have great unity with Turner's book.
Who Thinks China is Socialist?
Those who believe China is socialist allude to a conspiracy to paint China as a capitalist country by the Western media and by white people. This is an odd claim, as we have spent most of our time struggling over Chinese history explaining that China is no longer communist, and that what happened during the socialist period of 1949 - 1976 is what we uphold. We see some racist undertones in the condemnations of what happened in that period in China. It seems those holding the above position are taking a valid critique for one period in China and just mechanically applying it to Western commentators who point out the obvious. We think it is instructive that "by 1978, when Deng Xiaoping
changed course, the whole Western establishment lined up in support. The experts quickly concluded, over Chinese protests, that the new course represented reform 'capitalist style.'"(4) The imperialists do not support socialism and pretend that it is capitalism, rather they saw Deng's "reforms" for what they were.
TeleSur is one party that takes a position today upholding China as an ally of the oppressed nations. TeleSur is a TV station based in Venezuela, and funded by Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Cuba, Uruguay and Nicaragua. Venezuela is another state capitalist country that presents itself as "socialist", so it has a self-interest in stroking China's image in this regard. One recent opinion piece described China as "committed to socialism and Marxism." It acknowledges problems of inequality in Chinese society are a product of the "economic reforms." Yet the author relies on citations on economic success and profitability as indications that China is still on the socialist road.(5)
As students of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, we recognize that socialism is defined by class struggle. In fairness, the TeleSur opinion piece acknowledges this and claims that class struggle continues in China today. But the reality that the state sometimes imprisons its billionaires does not change the fact that this once socialist society, which guaranteed basic needs to all, now has billionaires. Billionaires can only exist by exploiting people; a lot! Fifty years ago China had eliminated the influence of open capitalists on the economy, while allowing those who allied with the national interest to continue to earn income from their investments. In other words they were being phased out. Some major changes had to take place to get to where China is today with 319 billionaires.
Fidel Castro is cited as upholding today's President of China, Xi Jinping, as one of the "most capable revolutionary leaders." Castro also alluded to China as a counterbalance to U.$. imperialism for the Third World. China being a counter-balance to the United $tates does not make it socialist or even non-imperialist. China has been upholding its non-interventionist line for decades to gain the trust of the world. But it is outgrowing its ability to do that, as it admits in its own military white papers described by Turner.(6) This is one indication that it is in fact an imperialist country, with a need to export finance capital and dump overproduced commodities in foreign markets.
"The Myth of Chinese Capitalism"
Another oft-cited article by proponents of a socialist China in 2017 is "The Myth of Chinese Capitalism" by Jeff Brown.(7) Curiously, Brown volunteers the information that China's Gini coefficient, a measure of a country's internal inequality between rich and poor, went from 0.16 in 1978 to 0.37 in 2015 (similar to the United $tates' 0.41). Brown offers no explanation as to how this stark increase in inequality could occur in what ey calls a socialist country. In fact, Brown offers little analysis of the political economy of China, preferring to quote Deng Xiaoping and the Chinese Constitution as proof of China's socialist character, followed by stats on the success of Chinese corporations in making profits in the capitalist economic system.
Brown claims that Deng's policies were just re-branded policies of the Mao era. A mere months after the counter-revolutionary coup in China in 1976, the China Study Group wrote,
"The line put forward by the Chinese Communist Party and the Peking Review before the purge and that put forward by the CCP and the Peking Review after the purge are completely different and opposite lines. Superficially they may appear similar because the new leaders use many of the same words and slogans that were used before in order to facilitate the changeover. But they have torn the heart out of the slogans, made them into hollow words and are exposing more clearly with every new issue the true nature of their line."(8)
Yet, 40 years later, fans of China would have us believe that empty rhetoric about "Marxism applied to Chinese conditions" are a reason to take interest in the economic policies of Xi Jinping.
Brown seems to think the debate is whether China is economically successful or not according to bourgeois standards. As such ey offers the following tidbits:
"A number of [SOEs] are selling a portion of their ownership to the public, by listing shares on Chinese stock markets, keeping the vast majority of ownership in government hands, usually up to a 70% government-30% stock split. This sort of shareholder accountability has improved the performance of China's SOEs,
which is Baba Beijing's goal."
"[O]ther SOEs are being consolidated to become planet conquering giants"
"How profitable are China's government owned corporations? Last year, China's 12 biggest SOEs on the Global 500 list made a combined total profit of US$201 billion."
So selling stocks, massive profits and giant corporations conquering the world are the "socialist" principles being celebrated by Brown, and those who cite em.
The Coup of 1976
What all these apologists for Chinese capitalism ignore is the fact that there was a coup in China in 1976 that involved a seizure of state apparati, a seizure of the media (as alluded to above) and the imprisonment of high officials in the Maoist camp (the so-called "Gang of Four").(9) People in the resistance were executed for organizing and distributing literature.(10) There were arrests and executions across the country, in seemingly large numbers. Throughout 1977 a mass purge of the party may have removed as many as a third of its members.(11) The armed struggle and repression in 1976 seems to have involved more violence than the Cultural Revolution, but this is swept under the rug by pro-capitalists. In addition, the violence in both cases was largely committed by the capitalist-roaders. While a violent counterrevolution was not necessary to restore capitalism in the Soviet Union, it did
occur in China following Mao Zedong's death.
At the time of Mao's death, Deng was the primary target of criticism for not recognizing the bourgeoisie in the Party. Hua Guofeng, who jailed the Gang of Four and seized chairmanship after Mao's death, continued this criticism of Deng at first, only to restore all his powers less
than sixteen months after they were removed by the Maoist government.(12)
The Western media regularly demonizes China for its records on humyn rights and free speech. Yet, this is not without reason. By the 1978 Constitution, the so-called CCP had removed the four measures of democracy guaranteed to the people in the 1975 Constitution: "Speaking out freely, airing views fully, holding great debates and writing big character posters are new forms of carrying on socialist revolution created by the masses of the people. The state shall ensure to the masses the right to use these forms."(13)
This anti-democratic trend has continued over the last forty years, from jail sentences for big character posters in the 1980s and the Tianamen Square massacre in 1989 to the imprisonment of bloggers in the 2010s. While supporters of Xi Jinping have celebrated his recent call for more Marxism in schools, The Wall Street Journal reports that this is not in the spirit of Mao:
"Students at Sun Yat-sen University in southern China arrived this year to find new instructions affixed to classroom walls telling them not to criticize party leadership; their professors were advised to do the same... An associate professor at an elite Beijing university said he was told he was rejected for promotion because of social-media posts that were critical of China's political system. 'Now I don't speak much online,' he said."(14)
Scramble for Africa
What about abroad? Is China a friend of the oppressed? Turner points out that China's Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Africa is significant, though a tiny piece of China's overall FDI. First we must ask, why is China engaged in FDI in the first place? Lenin's third of five points defining imperialism is, "The export of capital, which has become extremely important, as distinguished from the export of commodities."(15) A couple chapters before talking about Africa, Turner shows that China has the fastest growing FDI of any imperialist or "sub-imperialist" country starting around 2005.(16) Even the SOEs are involved in this investment, accounting for 87% of China's FDI in Latin America.(17) This drive to export capital, which repatriates profits to China, is a key characteristic of an imperialist country.
In 2010, China invited South Africa to join the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and now South Africa) of imperialist/aspiring imperialist countries. This was a strategic decision by China, as South Africa was chosen over many larger economies. "In 2007... the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (now the world's largest company) bought a multi-billion-dollar stake in the South African Standard Bank, which has an extensive branch network across the continent." Shoprite is another South African corporation that spans the continent, which China has invested in. In Zambia, almost all the products in Shoprite are Chinese or South African.(18)
The other side of this equation indicating the role of China in Africa is the resistance. "Chinese nationals have become the number one kidnapping target for terrorist and rebel groups in Africa, and Chinese facilities are valuable targets of sabotage." China is also working with the likes of Amerikan mercenary Erik Prince to avoid direct military intervention abroad. "In 2006, a Zambian minister wept when she saw the environment in which workers toiled at the Chinese-owned Collum Coal Mine. Four years later, eleven employees were shot at the site while protesting working conditions."(19) While China's influence is seen as positive by a majority of people in many African countries,(20) this is largely due to historical support given to African nations struggling for self-determination. The examples above demonstrate the irreconcilable contradiction developing within Chinese imperialism with its client nations.
Chinese President Xi Jinping talks often of the importance of "Marxism" to China, of "socialism with Chinese characteristics" and of "market socialism." Xi's defenders in communist subreddits cite Lenin and the New Economic Policy (NEP) of the Soviet Union to peg our position as anti-Lenin. There's a reason we call ourselves Maoists, and not Leninists. The battle against the theory of the productive forces, and the form it took in the mass mobilization of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution is core to how we define Maoism as a higher stage of revolutionary science than Leninism. The Bolsheviks tended toward upholding the theory of the productive forces, though you can find plenty in Lenin's to oppose it as well. Regardless, Lenin believed in learning from history. We'd say Maoists are the real Leninists.
Lenin's NEP came in the post-war years, a few years after the proletariat seized power in Russia. The argument was that capitalist markets and investment were needed to get the economic ball rolling
again. But China in 1978 was in no such situation. It was rising on a quarter century of economic growth and radical reorganization of the economy that unleashed productive forces that were the envy of the rest of the underdeveloped nations. Imposing capitalist market economics on China's socialist economy in 1978 was moving backwards. And while economic growth continued and arguably increased, social indicators like unemployment, the condition of wimmin, mental health and crime all
The line of the theory of the productive forces is openly embraced by some Dengists
defending "market socialism." One of the most in-depth defenses of China as communist appearing on /r/communism reads:
"Deng Xiaoping and his faction had to address the deeper Marxist problem: that the transition from a rural/peasant political economy to modern industrial socialism was difficult, if not impossible, without the intervening stage of industrial capitalism... First, Chinese market socialism is a method of resolving the primary contradiction facing socialist construction in China: backwards
So, our self-described communist detractors openly embrace the lines of Deng Xiaoping and Liu Shaoqi, thereby rejecting the Maoist line and the Cultural Revolution.
Resilience to Crisis
During the revolution, China was no stranger to economic crisis. From the time the war against Japan began in 1937 to victory in 1949, goods that cost 1 yuan had risen to the price of 8,500,000,000,000 yuan!(22) Controlling inflation was an immediate task of the Chinese Communist
Party after seizing state power. "On June 10, 1949 the Stock Exchange — that centre of crime located in downtown Shanghai — was ordered to close down and 238 leading speculators were arrested and indicted."(23) Shanghai Stock Exchange was re-established again in 1990. It is currently the 5th largest exchange, but was 2nd for a brief frenzy prior to the 2008 global crash.(24)
The eclectic U.$.-based Troskyite organization Workers
World Party (WW) used the 2008 crisis to argue that China was more socialist than capitalist.(25) The export-dependent economy of China took a strong blow in 2008. WW points to the subsequent investment in construction as being a major offset to unemployment. They conclude that, "The socialist component of the economic foundation is dominant at the present." Yet they see the leadership of Xi Jinping as further opening up China to imperialist manipulation, unlike other groups discussed above.
Turner addresses the "ghost cities" built in recent years in China as examples of the anarchy of production under capitalism. Sure they were state planned, but they were not planned to meet humyn need, hence they remain largely empty years after construction. To call this socialism, one must call The New Deal in the United $tates socialism.
Marx explained why crisis was inevitable under capitalism, and why it would only get worse with time as accumulation grew, distribution became more uneven, and overproduction occurred more quickly. Socialism eliminates these contradictions, with time. It does so by eliminating the anarchy of production as well as speculation. After closing the Stock Exchange the communists eliminated all other currencies, replacing them with one state-controlled currency, the Renminbi, or the people's
currency. Prices for goods as well as foreign currencies were set by the state. They focused on developing and regulating production to keep the balance of goods and money, rather than producing more currency, as the capitalist countries do.(26)
When the value of your stock market triples and then gets cut back to its original price in the span of a few years, you do not have a socialist-run economy.(27) To go further, when you have a stock market,
you do not have a socialist economy.
Turner addresses the recent crisis and China's resiliency, pointing out that it recently started from a point of zero debt, internally and externally, thanks to financial policy during the socialist era.(28)
China paid off all external debt by 1964.(29) This has allowed China to expand its credit/debt load in recent decades to degrees that the other imperialist countries no longer have the capacity to do. This includes investing in building whole cities that sit empty.(30)
What is Socialism?
So, if socialism isn't increasing profits and growing GDP with state-owned enterprises, what the heck is it? The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) was the pinnacle of socialist achievement; that is another one of MIM's three main points. No one has argued that the Cultural Revolution has continued or was revived post-1976. In fact, the Dengists consistently deny that there are any capitalists in the party to criticize, as they claim "market socialism" denies the capitalists any power over the economy. This is the exact line that got Deng kicked out of the CCP before Mao died. Without class struggle, we do not have socialism, until all classes have been abolished in humyn society. Class struggle is about the transformation of society into new forms of organization that can someday lead us to a communist future.
"A fundamental axiom of Maoist thought is that public ownership is only a technical condition for solving the problems of Chinese society. In a deeper sense, the goal of Chinese socialism involves vast changes in human nature, in the way people relate to each other, to their work, and to society. The struggle to change material conditions, even in the most immediate sense, requires the struggle to change people, just as the struggle to change people depends on the ability to change the conditions under which men live and work. Mao differs from the Russians, and Liu Shao-chi's group, in believing that these changes are simultaneous, not sequential. Concrete goals and human goals are separable only on paper — in practice they are the same. Once the basic essentials of food, clothing, and shelter for all have been achieved, it is not necessary to wait for higher productivity levels to be reached before attempting socialist ways of life." (31)
Yet the Dengists defend the "economic reforms" (read: counter-revolution) after Mao's death as necessary for expanding production, as a prerequisite to building socialism.
"The fact that China is a socialist society makes it necessary to isolate and discuss carefully the processes at work in the three different forms of ownership: state, communal, and cooperative."(32)
The Dengists talk much of state ownership, but what of communes and cooperatives? Well, they were dismantled in the privatization of the 1980s. Dengists cry that there is no private land ownership in China, and that is a sign that the people own the land. It was. In the 1950s land was redistributed to peasants, which they later pooled into cooperatives, unleashing the productive forces of the peasantry. Over time this collective ownership was accepted as public ownership, and with Deng's "reforms" each peasant got a renewable right to use small plots for a limited number of years. The commune was broken up and the immediate effects on agriculture and the environment were negative.(33)
Overall Turner does a good job upholding the line on what is socialism and what is not. This book serves as a very accessible report on why China is an imperialist country based in Leninist theory. The one place we take issue with Turner is in a discussion of some of the strategic implications of this in the introduction. Ey makes an argument against those who would support forces fighting U.$. imperialism, even when they are backed by other imperialist powers. One immediately thinks of Russia's support for Syria, which foiled the Amerikan plans for regime change against the Assad government. Turner writes, "Lenin and the Bolshevik Party... argued for 'revolutionary defeatism' toward all imperialist and reactionary powers as the only stance for revolutionaries."(34) But what is this "and reactionary powers" that Turner throws in? In the article, "The Defeat of One's Own Government in the Imperialist War," by "imperialist war" Lenin meant inter-imperialist war, not an imperialist invasion of a country in the periphery.
In that article Lenin praised the line that "During a reactionary war a revolutionary class cannot but desire the defeat of its government." He writes, "that in all imperialist countries the proletariat must now desire the defeat of its own government." While Lenin emphasizes all here, in response to Turner, we'd emphasize imperialist. Elsewhere Lenin specifies "belligerent countries" as the target of this line. So while it is clear that Lenin was not
referring to Syria being invaded by the United $tates as a time that the proletariat must call for defeat of the government of their country, it seems that Turner is saying this.
We agree with other strategic conclusions of this book. China seems to be moving towards consolidating its sphere of influence, which could lead to consolidation of the world into two blocks once again. While this is a dangerous situation, with the threat of nuclear war, it is also a situation that has proven to create opportunities for the proletariat. Overall, the development and change of the current system works in the favor of the proletariat of the oppressed nations; time is on our side. As China tries to maintain its image as a "socialist" benefactor, the United $tates will feel more pressure to make concessions to the oppressed and hold back its own imperialist arrogance.
In 1986, Henry Park hoped that the CCP would repudiate Marxism soon, writing, "It
is far better for the CCP to denounce Marx (and Mao) as a dead dog than for the CCP to discredit socialism with the double-talk required to defend its capitalist social revolution."(35) Still hasn't happened, and it's not just the ignorant Amerikan who is fooled. Those buying into the 40-year Chinese charade contribute to the continued discrediting of socialism, especially as this "socialist" country becomes more aggressive in international affairs.
[We recommend Is China an Imperialist Country? as the best resource we know on this topic. As for the question of Chinese socialism being overthrown, please refer to the references below. We highly recommend The Chinese Road to Socialism for an explanation of what socialism looks like and why the GPCR was the furthest advancement of socialism so far.]
Nowhere is the necessity for the societal advancement to communism more apparent than in the realm of disability considerations. No segment of society, imprisoned or otherwise, is in greater need of the guiding communist ethos proclaimed by Marx: "From each according to their ability, to each according to their need." This humynist principle applies to no demographic more than the disabled.
When communist society is realized, the intrinsic worth of each and every persyn and their potential to contribute to society will be realized as well. In return, communist society will reward the disabled population by adequately providing their essentials and rendering all aspects of society open and accessible for their full utilization. In a phrase, communism will respect the disabled persyn's humyn right to a humane existence. We communists strive for the elimination of power structures that allow the oppression of people by people. The disabled population, as well as all peoples that have hystorically been subjugated by the oppressive bourgeois system of capitalism/imperialism, can then work toward the implementation of a truly democratic society.
Considering MIM(Prisons) recognizes only three strands of oppression in the world today (nation, class and gender), able-bodiedness is a cause and consequence of class, and in countries with more leisure-time it is intimately tied up in the gender strand of oppression. This essay intends to analyze disability as it relates to class, gender, and the prison environment.
Disability and Class
In the United $tates the greatest source of persynal wealth is inheritance. It can be said the ability to create and maintain able-bodiedness may be inherited also. For the most part, class station is determined by birth. By virtue of to whom and where a persyn is born, their access, or lack thereof, to material resources is ascribed. The bourgeoisie and labor aristocracy have access to nutrition and healthcare the First World lumpen and international proletariat and peasantry do not. The likelihood of a positive health background renders the labor aristocracy and other bourgeois classes attractive prospects to potential employers, lenders, etc. This allows them to continue to enjoy nutrition and healthcare not common to the lumpen, proletariat, and peasantry.
It would be extremely uncommon to find a First World lumpen, an international proletarian, or a peasant with a membership to a health and fitness club. This privilege is reserved for the bourgeois classes, including the petty-bourgeoisie and its subclass the labor aristocracy. This, of course, further enhances the prospect of maintaining good health, and compounded with employer-supplied healthcare, does act as prophylaxis against the onset of debilitating and degenerative physical ailments.
It would be unreasonable to ignore the possibility that a member of the bourgeoisie might be genetically infirm, or a labor aristocrat debilitated by an accident. But, due to their class position, these classes are better prepared and equipped to minimize the adversities resulting from such an unfortunate occurrence.
Able-bodiedness may also affect upward class mobility. An able-bodied First World lumpen that can find employment might enter the ranks of the labor aristocracy. A blue collar labor aristocrat may be promoted to a managerial position, and so forth. Of course other factors, such as national background, do play a role in one's mobility (or stagnation for that matter), but disability also plays a significant role.
Disability and Gender
Gender only comes to the fore after life's essentials are secured, thereby standing out in relief on its own aside from class/nation. In the First World leisure-time plays a major role in gender analysis. MIM(Prisons) defines "gender" as:
"One of three strands of oppression, the other two being class and nation. Gender can be thought of as socially-defined attributes related to one's sex organs and physiology. Patriarchy has led to the splitting of society into an oppressed (wimmin) and oppressor gender (men).
"Historically reproductive status was very important to gender, but today the dynamics of leisure-time and humyn biological development are the material basis of gender. For example, children are the oppressed gender regardless of genitalia, as they face the bulk of sexual oppression independent of class and national oppression.
"People of biologically superior health-status are better workers, and that's a class thing, but if they have leisure-time, they are also better sexually privileged. We might think of models or prostitutes, but professional athletes of any kind also walk this fine line. ... Older and disabled people as well as the very sick are at a disadvantage, not just at work but in leisure-time. ..." - MIM(Prisons) Glossary
This system of gender oppression is commonly referred to as "patriarchy," which MIM(Prisons) defines as:
"the manifestation and institutionalization of male dominance over wimmin and children in the family and the extension of male dominance over wimmin in society in general; it implies that men hold power in all the important institutions of society and that wimmin are deprived of access to such power."(1)
Professor bell hooks's description of patriarchy in eir work The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love has also contributed to this author's understanding of gender oppression:
"Patriarchy is a political-social system that insists that males are inherently dominating, superior to everything and everyone deemed weak, especially females, and endowed with the right to dominate and rule over the weak and to maintain that dominance through various forms of psychological terrorism and violence."(2)
Professor hooks's definition of patriarchy not only recognizes terrorism as a patriarchal mechanism, but that patriarchal forces do not intend only to oppress, dominate, and subjugate females or even just females and children, but patriarchy's pathology is to hold down anything it regards as weaker than itself. Patriarchy is a bully.
Children are one of the most stigmatized and oppressed groups of people in the world. Patriarchal society considers children physically disabled due to their undeveloped bodies and therefore susceptible to patriarchal oppression — regardless of the biology of the child. This firmly places children in the gender oppressed stratum. Due to disabled people's diminished bodies (and/or cognizance), disabled people can be categorized similar to children subjected to patriarchy, ergo, disability falls into the gender oppression stratum as well as class.
Patriarchy and Prisons
U.$. prisons are, from top to bottom, patriarchal structures. Prisons are institutions where the police, the judiciary, and militarization have crystalized as paternalistic enforcer of bureaucracies of patriarchy; prisons, the system of political, social, cultural and economic restraint and control, are fundamentally patriarchal institutions implemented to enforce the status quo — including patriarchal domination. Disabled prisoners in Texas have long been labeled "broke dicks," illustrative of their "less-than-a-man" status in the prison pecking order.
There are laws mandating disabled prisoners not be precluded from recreational activities, or any other prison activity for that matter. Yet enforcement of these laws are prohibitively difficult for disabled prisoners, especially prisoners with vision or hearing disabilities, or cognitive impairments. The disabled have few advocates in bourgeois society; they have virtually none in prison.
The likelihood that prison officials discriminate against and abuse disabled prisoners is readily apparent. What is most disheartening is able-bodied prisoners are often the perpetrators of mistreatment against disabled prisoners, frequently at the behest of prison administrators so as to procure favorable treatment. In fact, the most telling aspect of the conditions of confinement imposed on disabled prisoners is the abuse of the disabled prisoners at the hands of able-bodied prisoners. The able-bodied prisoners are quick to manhandle and overrun disabled prisoners in obtaining essential prison services which are commonly inadequate and limited. When queued up for meals, showers, commissary, etc. the able-bodied prisoners will shove and elbow aside disabled prisoners; will threaten to assult disabled prisoners; and have in fact assaulted disabled prisoners should they complain or protest being accosted in such a fashion. All this invariably with the knowledge and/or before the very eyes of prison administrators and personnel.
It is far too common for the victims of sexual harassment and assault in prisons to be gay, transgendered, and/or disabled. Whether the perpetrator be prison officials or fellow prisoners, this practice is condoned by the culture of patriarchy and the hyper-masculine prison environment.
In the Prison Justice League's (PJL) report to the U.$. Department of Justice titled "Cruel and Unusual Punishment: The Use of Excessive Force at Estelle Unit" the PJL outlined the routine and systematic abuse of disabled prisoners by prison personnel at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) Regional Medical Facility for the Southern Region, Estelle Unit.(3) Prisoners assigned to the Estelle Unit per their disabilities are regularly and habitually denied medical treatment for their disabilities, ergo oftentimes exacerbating the causes and effects of the disabilities which brought them to Estelle initially; are denied auxiliary aids so as to accommodate their disabilities as required by law; are physically assaulted by prison administrators and staff, or their inmate henchmen; and with egregious frequency are murdered at the hands of state officials.
Since the PJL's report and subsequent Department of Justice investigation, there has been a bit of a detente in the abuse visited upon disabled Estelle prisoners by prison personnel. But the pigz are barely restrained. Threats of physical violence directed at disabled prisoners are still a regular daily occurrence, and prison personnel assaults on disabled prisoners are still far too common.
Another recent example of the persistent difficulties disabled prisoners face, even with the courts on their side, can be seen in the American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) recent settlement negotiated with the Montana Department of Corrections (MDC), after it neglected to fulfill Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements from a 1995 settlement, Langford v. Bullock. In 2005, the ADA requirements were still not met, and despite the Circuit Court's order requiring Montana to comply with the 1995 settlement, it is not until 2017, and much advocacy later, that negotiations are being finalized between the ACLU and MDC. We can't dismantle systems of gender oppression one quarter-century-long lawsuit at a time. That's why MIM(Prisons) advocates for a complete overthrow of patriarchal capitalism-imperialism as soon as possible.
Another patriarchal aspect to be observed in prisons is ageism. As children are included in the gender-oppressed stratum, so should the aged. As the able-bodied prisoners' ability to work subsides due to age in the First World, especially in the United $tates where the welfare state is minuscule and the social safety net set very low, the propensity for a once able-bodied persyn to be relegated to the ranks of the lumpen is intensified. As the once able-bodied persyn becomes aged and disabled, their physical, as well as mental, health becomes more and more jeopardized, accelerating the degeneration of existing disabilities as well as increasing the likelihood of creating the onset of new ones (e.g. the First World lumpen are notorious for developing diabetes due to poor diet and lifestyle issues).
Disability as a Means of Castration
Holding people in locked cages is an acute form of social control. Solitary confinement creates long-lasting psychological damage. And prison conditions in general are designed (by omission) to create long-lasting physical damage to oppressed populations. Prisons are a tool of social control, and exacerbating/creating disabilities is a way prisons carry this through in a long-term and multi-generational fashion.
Prisoners, who are a majority lumpen population, are likely to already have unmet medical needs before entering prison, as described above in the section on class. Then when in prison, these medical needs are exacerbated because of the bad environment (toxic water, exposed asbestos, run down facilities, etc.); brutality from guards and fellow prisoners; poor medical care including untreated physical traumas, improper timing for medications (see article on diabetes), and just straight up neglect.
Mumia Abu-Jamal's battle to receive treatment for hepatitis C, which ey contracted from a tainted blood transfusion ey received after being shot by police in 1981, is a case in point. Mumia belongs to an oppressed nation, is conscious of this oppression, has fought against this oppression, and thus is last on the priority list for who the state of Pennsylvania will give resources to. And medical care under capitalism is sold to the highest bidder, with new drugs which are 90% effective in curing hepatitis C coming with a price tag of $1,000 per day. In a communist society these life-saving drugs will be free to all who need them.
Disability in the Anti-Imperialist Movement
The fact that people with disabilities will be treated better after we take down capitalism is obvious. Our stance on discrimination against people with disabilities in our society today is obvious. What is less obvious is the question of how we can incorporate people with disabilities into the anti-imperialist movement today, while we are so small and relatively weak compared to the enemy that surrounds us. This is an ongoing question for revolutionaries, who are always pushing themselves to be stronger, better, and more productive. After all, there is an urgency to our work.
Our militancy tends to be inherently ableist. With all the distractions and requirements of living in this bourgeois society, we have precious little time to devote to revolutionary work. We are always on the lookout for things and people that are holding us back and wasting our time, and we work diligently to weed these things and people from our lives and movement. Often when people aren't productive enough, due to mental or physical consequences of capitalism and national oppression, we can't do anything to help them — especially through the mail. No matter how sympathetic people are to our politics, and how much they want to contribute, we just don't have the resources to provide care that would help these folks give more to overthrowing imperialism. Often times all we can do is use these anecdotes to add fuel to our fire.
Disabilities amongst oppressed people are intentionally created by the state, and a natural consequence of capitalism. If we don't take any time to work with and around our allies' disabilities, then we are excluding a population of people who, like the introduction says above, are in the greatest need of a shift toward communism. We aim to have independent institutions of the oppressed which can help people overcome some of these barriers to political work. At this time, however, the state is doing more to weaken our movement in this regard than we are able to do to strengthen it.
[Of note, the primary author of this article has devoted eir life to revolutionary organizing in spite of being imprisoned and with multiple physical disabilities. Even though it is extremely difficult to contribute, it is possible!]
So, first lemme say that there were a few typos in my response that made some significant differences. Mainly I wanna be clear that it said I don’t care about your "lies." The correct word was "line."
Also, I have no fuckin clue what "Post-Fordism" could possibly mean. What the fuck is "Fordism"? I said "Post-Marxist". We live in a "Post-Marxist" era.
As for my acceptance of status quo definitions of "slavery", I don’t accept it simply because it's what is commonly presented to us, but because I more or less agree with it.
I do fully agree with your analysis concerning the exploited global proletariat as being the theoretical primary contradiction. Capitalist imperialism depends solely on expropriation of land and resources. In order to sustain capitalist rule this can only come as a result of perpetual expansion into foreign lands, etc., and not to mention wholesale slaughter of oppressed peoples across the globe. Imperialism being inherently nationalistic this means "global" class systems emerge and so there you see our analysis is virtually identical.
Now if you can explain to me how we can apply this dialectically correct analysis into revolutionary practice — aside from pencil-pushing while capitalism further secures itself by snowballing into a fascist state — sign me up. But in my studies of all revolutionary lines, I’ve yet to find a red theory that institutes practice in our current material time and place.
I’m a nihilist. I accept no theory/analysis simply because it’s common to any rev camp, but only if it jives with absolute objective and dialectically correct theo-analysis. I find red analysis to be exceptionally on point. But I find major flaws in dictatorships of any stripe based in historical evidence. Authority always shows to turn into tyranny. Communists are just as guilty of mass-murder and oppression as any fascist state and I find the differentiation between "nationalistic" socialism and so-called "international" socialism to be mostly a matter of semantics. Don’t get me started on Bolshevism being the theoretical root of fascism, evidenced by Hitler’s distribution of Leninist literature. So I’ll close this by saying red analysis is sound. But fundamentally anarchist methodology and principles are the only realistic road to a true egalitarian society. I don’t swallow this because of identity politics — be it the black flag or the red — but because it's true. And so I apply red analysis to anarchist principles.
Next, obviously I do recognize the importance of line as my writing clearly demonstrates. You make exactly the point of why it's important in your paragraph number five and others. When I say I don’t care about line, what I mean is that I don’t conform to any line simply because it’s a generally accepted body of politics. Though I will and do align myself with any line if it jives with my correct social analysis, theory, or mode of practice. In my case, red analysis, black theory (black meaning anarchist).
Obviously I’m also a big fan of theory. Marxist dialectics being the pinnacle of revolutionary science, this is my area of professionalism in fact. So, when I told you "your theory is based in theory", you omitted the first part of my statement which was that black theory is based in practice. So "anarchist theory is based in practice, red theory is based in theory." That was my statement, which demonstrates my ascription to theoretical science. I simply see no potential for practical application of red theory, and I’ve seen nothing from red camps that show otherwise.
Further, I say I don’t care about line, as in when I’m participating in any revolutionary campaign — not political agenda, but revolutionary campaign, which is different — I could really give a shit if you're a militant red or a backwoods biker for Christ. If you're with the business we’re crackin' off then I’ll ride in the same car with you. Do I dig your political line? That’s irrelevant during campaigns as long as our interests intersect on the immediate issues. This is also what Bakunin meant and myself when I quote him when he said in a letter to his sister "sometimes you have to throw theory into the fire for it only spoils life" — spoils, not "stalls" (another typo). We’re saying theory that cannot be applied, no matter how sound, is worthless. At that time he was still practicing Hegelian dialectics which is nihilistic in nature. And then he went and got himself a political agenda and became just as boring as Marx.
As I state in my original critique, your original article has a clear contradiction in your dudes' own analysis. The paragraph #5 and paragraph #10 directly contradict each other. But whatever. As I said, it was kinda half-assed and it's a mostly irrelevant point within all our other conversation on this shit. Ultimately I maintain my original statement on this which you neglected only to reiterate the same point which is that in refusing to participate in these pigs' exploitative practices, clearly I said "the P.I.C. will have to adjust to accommodate us." That does not even suggest a declaration that it will "close all prisons." For the record, I quoted a comrade from the Free Virginia Movement when I said that.
Lastly in my own personal defense of nihilism, I find red political agenda idealistic and historically and theoretically frightening and horrific. Be that as it may, I actually find anarchist ideas about some revolutionary end result of global economic syndications just as whimsical, and frankly unfavorable as any other systemic socio-economic structure. It's basically just another formula based around labor and industry and distribution of wealth and so on. It fails to bring into question the value and dependence of labor and production in itself. So ultimately it may be egalitarian in theory, which I align with in regard to revolutionary practice in our current socio-economic landscape, as we work from a decentralized organizational praxis. At the end of the day, the idea is to still be subject to industry, and so becomes somewhat mechanical and antithetical to the liberated spirit of the inherent animal nature of humanity. Further, any system, be it hierarchical like communism, or horizontal like anarchism, if it's a system designed to control the means of production, it is susceptible to corruption and a gradual development toward the control of humans by the worst part of other humans. In this case, the nihilist, rejecting all idealistic political theory, will be just as likely to attack and destroy anarchist syndicalism as she would any other system. That is, if it begins to be corrupted — which it would.
And so what this means for the nihilist is that we look forward to nothing but our cigarettes, our bitter coffee, and destruction.
I suppose I could go on and nit pick some more shit, but there's no point. I think we understand each other, and so I shall withdraw back into the black coils of my madness. Feel free to reawaken me for purposes of business or pleasure.
In the end, I hope I speak for everyone who gives a shit when I say I look forward to solidifying an alliance with you — as I’ve done before — for the coming tidal wave against the agony of oppression.
Face first in the fight for peace.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We appreciate Zero's willingness to continue the dialogue over our theoretical disagreements, and to build our practical unity in the struggle against oppression in which we do have much agreement. We want to reiterate that at this stage in the struggle, we have more unity with Zero and other anarchists than we have differences. We are all fighting to overthrow imperialism, and to take on that enemy we need a united front of all the enemies of the imperialist state. As Zero stresses that means uniting around the battles of the day, despite ideological differences.
There's no need to reiterate our responses to most of Zero's points, instead we want to take this opportunity to again comment on the theoretical debate over anarchism vs. communism and what's the best way to achieve liberation for the world's oppressed. As we've said before, anarchists and communists are fighting for the same end goal: a world where no group of people has power over any other group of people. Contrary to how Zero phrases it above, saying communism is hierarchical while anarchism is horizontal, anarchism is the communist's ultimate goal, we just disagree on how to get there. It is the getting-there process where communists believe in the use of force and repression of the oppressors.
This may seem like a theoretical and esoteric discussion that doesn't have much relevance to our day-to-day organizing. After all, we all know that right now the imperialists hold the power, and in the context of the prison struggle the criminal injustice system is a daunting and powerful enemy that we are all struggling against in many arenas. We aren't close to a revolutionary situation in the United $tates today, and so neither the communists nor the anarchists are in a position to seize power tomorrow. But this theory informs our practice in the struggle. Zero understands this and so stands firm in eir political positions, weaving them into eir discussion of the September 9th protests. In this we completely agree with Zero. In the long run this theory will determine whether or not (and how quickly) we are successful in overthrowing imperialism, which for many in the world is a life and death battle.
As scientists, we look to history to inform us about the most effective theory and strategy. Zero takes this same approach but draws different conclusions from eir study of history. We disagree with Zero's analysis that there isn't a significant distinction between communism and fascism (ey wrote: "the differentiation between 'nationalistic' socialism and so-called 'international' socialism to be mostly a matter of semantics.") Obviously Zero knows that fascism is an ideology that promotes the oppression of certain groups of people to the benefit of others, while communism promotes the end of oppression of groups of people. But studying the historical practice of communist revolutions we come to different conclusions from Zero. While capitalist propaganda tries to convince us that communists are brutal and murderous dictators, a careful study of Russian and Chinese history, from history books not written by capitalist apologists, demonstrates otherwise.
First we will state the obvious: neither the Russian nor the Chinese revolutions succeeded in implementing communism. Both reached a socialist state and then were overthrown by state capitalists from within. But during the years when they were implementing socialism and building towards communism, both countries made tremendous contributions to humynity. There are several important metrics we could look at here. To name just a few important ones: (1) Lives saved from feudalism/capitalism, i.e. people no longer starving to death, receiving health care, etc. (2) Lives saved from fascist and imperialist aggression, i.e. the Russian pivotal and central role in the defeat of Hitler and the fascists in World War II, the Chinese support for revolutionary movements around the world. (3) Advances made towards communism, i.e. the Chinese Cultural Revolution as a historical advance over the Russian implementation of socialism in terms of addressing the issues of corruption in socialist state structures through mass participation.
"The central problem with the critics of Stalin is that they do not understand the historical time period he lived in and the real-world choices that actually existed. Yes, he killed many people, too many even according to himself. However, all his repression combined was small compared with the lives he saved through the rapid and revolutionary transformation of society that he carried out. The choice the USSR had was not between liberal humyn-rights utopia on the one hand and tzarist era backwardness on the other. As if to drill this point into thick skulls, history has shown what happens after decades of criticism of Stalin: regression so that millions today are dying for lack of conditions that used to exist under Stalin almost 50 years ago! People supporting 'humyn-rights' and attacking Stalin are responsible for far more deaths than Stalin. That is evidence of the real world choices being faced — not between utopia and Stalin but between the pro-Western phony communists like Khruschev and Brezhnev and bourgeois politicians like Yeltsin on the one hand and Stalin on the road of Marxism-Leninism on the other hand. Stalin should be compared with other political leaders and then his merits will stand clear.
“Middle-class people from the West focus much too much on dissidents and not enough on causes of death such as food, clothing and basic medical care being lacking. Even including the repression he carried out, Stalin still doubled the life expectancy of his people. For this reason, polls of Russians on their favorite past leaders continue to show Stalin as the second most preferred leader of the past century, after Lenin. Although Amerikkkans love Lincoln more than Russians love Stalin, Stalin has a higher public acclaim than most U.S. presidents have amongst Amerikkkans, according to the survey by the Public Opinion fund cited in Pravda.” (From MIM Theory 6: The Stalin Issue)
Zero believes that humyn nature will inevitably lead to people seizing power for persynal gain if a state remains. In some ways Zero is correct. Zero's conclusion is similar to what Maoists say about the dangers of a new bourgeoisie arising within the party because of the strong history and remnants of capitalist culture. People don't just magically change overnight, and some will try to take advantage of opportunities to seize power and wealth even after a revolution. This is why the Chinese communists initiated the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution: to encourage and foster the criticism of leadership by the people so that leaders who become corrupt will be exposed and removed.
Communists believe that people are conditioned by their environment. We have loads of historical evidence to support this. And so, like the anarchists, we believe that if we can build a society where all people are equal and all people's needs are met, and where the culture doesn't encourage violence and power grabbing, but rather fosters cooperation and kindness, people will learn and adapt into this more peaceful existence. But unlike the anarchists, we don't think this can be implemented overnight. We will need a period where we have a state to force the former-oppressor classes out of power and keep them from taking that power back. We call this state the dictatorship of the proletariat, because it is using the power of the state in the interests of the oppressed. And during this time we will also be fighting against new people trying to take and abuse power. During this period of cultural revolution we will be remaking the culture while we are transforming ourselves to think and work collaboratively, for the good of all of humynity. People won't just start doing this on a mass scale spontaneously; it will take a long period of struggle against the capitalist patriarchal culture. The Chinese communists made significant strides, but we must continue to do more and better.
For people interested in going deeper into these questions we recommend a few readings:
There is an entire theory journal written by MIM in 1994 about Stalin, along with other relevant articles and reviews. Get MIM Theory 6.
For a deeper look at the successes and failures of communism we recommend MIM Theory 4, a theory journal by MIM, but also we distribute many books by both communists and non-communists detailing their experiences and observations in revolutionary China which provide objective (non-bourgeois-propaganda) facts about the real successes and struggles in that country under Mao.
We distribute several books and essays on the restoration of capitalism in the USSR and China for a more in-depth study of that history.
I would like to address the question if there should be a united front alliance with white nationalist groups.
I am all for aligning with other groups who face oppression and who share the same goals. When it comes to white nationalist groups first a few things must be clarified. First question is who and what is "white." White is scientifically not a racial group. Also do whites in prison and the world face the same systematic oppression as people of color? Lastly looking at history how has interactions between whites and people of color effected the non-white groups in a positive way?
The question on "who and what is white?" has an elusive answer especially right here in the United $tates. Since 1790, the United $tates has allowed only "free white persons" to become citizens; in the twentieth century as non-European immigrants applied for citizenship it became the responsibility of the courts to set limits upon whiteness. George Dow, a Syrian immigrant, was denied eligibility for citizenship on the basis that geography defined race; to be white was to be European. Dow eventually won on appeal, showing that Syrians were indeed Europeans based on geography and thus members of the white race. In 1922, a Japanese immigrant named Takao Ozawa argued that he should be considered a white person because his skin was literally white, asserting that many Japanese people were "whiter than the average Italian, Spaniard, or Portuguese." His case would go all the way to the Supreme Court, which rejected his claim to citizenship and the idea that race could be determined by skin tone: "To adopt the color test alone would result in a confused overlapping of races and a gradual merging of one into the other, without any practical line of separation," claimed one judge.
Using the science of the day, the court ruled that "the words 'white person' are synonymous with the words 'a person of the Caucasian race'." Since Ozawa was not a Caucasion, he could not be white. In only a short time later, in the case of an Indian immigrant named Bhagat Singh Thind, the Supreme Court betrayed its Ozawa ruling and declared that while all whites are Caucasian, not all Caucasians were white. Even scientists classified Thind as undeniably Caucasian, but the court insisted that "White" must mean something more. "It may be true that the blond Scandinavian and the brown Hindu have a common ancestor in the dim reaches of antiquity, but the average man knows perfectly well that there are unmistakable and profound differences between them today." To prove his purity, Thind invoked the Aryanist myth of ancient white conquerors setting up the caste system to preserve their race. "The high-class Hindu" he argued, "regards the aboriginal Indian mongoloid in the same manner as the American regards the negro." With all that Thind was denied citizenship. Within the category of "Caucasian," the court noted one could find a wide range of peoples including South Asians, Polynesians, and even the Hamites of Africa based upon their Caucasian cast of features, though in color they range from brown to black. For reasons not articulated the court decided Thind was not white, and therefore not granted privileges of the white empire.
That the Supreme Court could reject a white-skinned Japanese because he was not Caucasian and a brown-skinned Caucasian because he was not white reveals that white people have made race what it has always been: an unscientific and inconsistent means of enforcing social inequality that further rules the machines of global white supremacy. This machine is what gives birth to capitalism and imperialism and other oppressive factions. So basically whiteness is whatever white people say it is. So by white nationalist groups even identifying themselves as white places them in a privileged position in the global white supremacy machine. It is no secret why someone would want to identify as "white," especially in the United $tates where there is undeniably a caste system based on skin color. With whiteness comes privilege and a sense of entitlement. Yes, I know there are white comrades who are being oppressed also but it is not solely based on their skin color or ethnic group. They are basically collateral damage of the capitalistic and imperialistic system that comes from global white supremacy. White people make up around 11% of the world's population yet at least 82% of the world's population is in some fashion being oppressed by the global white supremacy machine. Are white nationalist groups really ready to give up their whiteness to stand for true revolution even if that means in the process whiteness will no longer exist?
History shows that those of us who fight for revolution have aligned ourselves with white groups and white individuals who claim they seek change too. In the midst of this, problems usually occurred. Most notably is with William Lloyd Garrison. Garrison, a white man, can be labeled as a true revolutionist of his time. As an abolitionist he spoke out against slavery and demanded full racial equality even before the Civil War. He also publicly burned the U.$. constitution, calling it an "agreement with hell." Garrison seemed like the white nationalist who wanted to join the fight but he still couldn't escape his sense of privilege and superiority. This moment came when Frederick Douglass, Garrison's protégé, told Garrison that he wanted to start a newspaper. Garrison, fearful that Douglass would draw black readers away from his own paper and hurt that Douglass would even think of competing against him, discouraged the plan. Another white abolitionist in Garrison's camp, Maria Weston Chapman, even doubted Douglass could have the mental capacity for such a task. Douglass went ahead and started his newspaper which ended his friendship with Garrison. Garrison, though he wanted to help, could not see that the revolution was not about him but about the millions of people being oppressed. He still had to be a white guy about the whole situation. He took his sense of privilege and entitlement and wanted to discourage another in his attempt to add to the cause. So can white nationalist groups align themselves with the United Front without trying to make the fight solely about their ego? Can the United Front hold the fight when aligned with white nationalist groups without having fear of offending white people when truths are spoken against capitalism, imperialism and global white supremacy when it puts the collective of white people in a negative light?
Lastly how have groups who are predominately non-white benefited in the past when coming into contact with whites? Historically the relationship between non-whites and whites has been one of colonization, genocide, slavery, imperialism, and destruction. Though all non-white groups and cultures did not live in idyllic golden ages before the coming of white people, these elements weren't consistent, nor were they typical, until the advent of white culture domination. This has been the consistent relationship of white people with the world. So history shows the consistent nature of white people when coming in contact of non-white people has been one of predatory and exploitative relationships.
Now some will say I'm being racist by stating these facts but consider the fact that people of "hue" hence humans have been the most tolerant and accepting people you'll ever encounter (sometimes to our detriment) and this premise of exclusion came from white people themselves. It is only us who are confused about where they stand. Now yes there are those white individuals and groups who attempt to confront and resist these norms. Those who have attempted to do so in earnest have learned these lessons the hard way. White people who actively resist whiteness (and all of its norms) are out-casted, disowned, and reviled by other members of their own groups. This is what defines the community and collective identity and not the individuals who know that "treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity."
So can white nationalist groups abandon their whiteness and sense of privilege? If so then yes United Front can align with them in some fashion. Based on historic events it should be controlled and constantly evaluated. Also whites need not to hold hands with us and smile but reach in their own communities and take the fight to their own who actively and by default participate in the global white supremacy machine which governs capitalism and imperialism.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with this comrade that to identify with whiteness is to identify with an oppressor nation, and we therefore say that Amerikans must commit nation (as well as class and gender) suicide through their actions, in order to join the side of humynity.
The example given of Garrison and Douglass is a fine anecdote, but it is just an example of a couple of people. So we would caution our readers to not draw broad conclusions from isolated examples. And there are books out there, like Settlers: The Mythology of a White Proletariat by J. Sakai and False Nationalism, False Internationalism by Sera and Tani that do broader historical analysis of the relationships between the oppressed nations in the United $tates and various groups of "revolutionary" or "progressive" whites.
Both of those books are looking at imperialism, or at least its emergence in the United $tates. Imperialism's identity is found in the conflict between the oppressor nations and the oppressed nations that resist them. While ideas of superiority based on phenotypical characteristics (appearance) certainly did not originate with imperialism, it is with imperialism that nation becomes principal. Therefore, we would reverse the author's premise that the "[machine of global white supremacy] is what gives birth to capitalism and imperialism and other oppressive factions." Marx and Lenin explained the evolution of imperialism on economic terms, while the culture and ideas that came with it were a reflection of those economic changes. In other words, which came first, racism or capitalism? There were seeds of racism before imperialism, but national oppression (the material manifestation of racism) solidified as a system under the economic conditions of imperialism. The ideas of racism, so central to our society, are a product of this system of national oppression that evolved with imperialism, not the cause of it.
In the struggle against white supremacy, capitalism, and imperialism, a united front does not require agreement on every position, or even for all parties to "stand for true revolution." In the context of the prison movement, white nationalists might be serious about the struggle against long-term isolation because their leaders are very likely to face this torture. In this case, we'd suggest we should unite with these groups to work on that campaign. In this issue of ULK we have some examples in which such temporary alliances for common interests as prisoners have succeeded.
The question of how oppressor nation and oppressed nation revolutionaries should relate in this country is a whole other question brought up by this comrade. We will only address it briefly to bring up some general points for further analysis. The urge to unite with white people in the United $tates is a recurring theme due to the fact that the white nation has been a majority population by design since the founding of this country, and it's hard to fight battles as the minority. As we know, those numbers are projected to change in the not-so-distant future. But even when euro-Amerikans become the minority, will most oppressed nation people be anti-imperialist? In current conditions they are not, though great potential remains. As we are currently in a non-revolutionary situation, we think it is a reasonable organizing strategy to avoid white people and white organizations altogether. There are plenty of oppressed nation people yet to be organized, and single-nation organizations have proven most effective in U.$. history at building revolutionary movements.
As conditions become more revolutionary, if forces in favor of revolution remain the minority in all nations in the United $tates, those who avoided whites before may be tempted to address this issue again. The Panthers organized with euro-Amerikans from a position of strength, so that they largely avoided those euro-Amerikans harming their movement, especially in the early years. Yet, Huey Newton found New Afrikans in a position of weakness due to their minority status that led to his proposal of the theory of intercommunalism. Fred Hampton's Rainbow Coalition and Huey Newton's Intercommunalism demonstrate a strong tendency in the Panther leadership to approach euro-Amerikans as potential allies in the anti-imperialist united front similar to how they approached other nations.
From Malcolm X to Stokely Carmichael to the Panthers, New Afrikan revolutionaries have pushed whites to organize their own. But how do they do that? Some white organizations tried to mimic the Panthers, but this was only viable in small pockets of lumpenized whites. Other groups have provided support structures to oppressed nations, where the focus is on organizing whites to serve other nations. But we need something in between, where white people can be leaders, applying and learning from the scientific method of building a revolutionary movement, but at the same time serving other nations in ways that are against the interest of their own. We don't think whites can organize on the same basis as the Panthers, because they are on the opposite side of the principal contradiction. But we also don't think relegating whites to the kitchen is allowing them to develop politically, and is therefore setting back progress. This could be done on the basis of accountability and self-criticism. It could also incorporate shared self-interest in opposing environmental destruction and war. But a truly revolutionary current among euro-Amerikans will likely not gain much traction until the oppressed nations have progressed the struggle to a stage that is more advanced than it is today.
China's Urban Villagers: Changing Life in a Beijing Suburb
by Norman Chance
Thomson Custom Publishing, Second Edition 2002
"Thus it is not surprising that an important theme expressed by the suburban Chinese described in the concluding chapter of this book is resistance — not in direct opposition to socialism per se but against a government and party that in recent times chose to put its own interest ahead of those of the Chinese people. In the early years of the People's Republic, the Communist party was the major force leading the struggle for economic improvement, enhanced social equality, and greater political empowerment of its predominantly peasant population. But the protest movement of May and June 1989, supported by thousands of Chinese from all walks of life demonstrated to everyone that the party and government no longer had a mandate of leadership. What the future holds for China remains to be seen. But the lessons of the recent past, from which much can be learned, are there for all to see." - Norman Chance
China's Urban Villagers is a book about peasants on the edge of modernization. This book discusses in part how peasants made great strides in the construction of socialism, attained a life free from hunger, oppression and exploitation, and then lost it all. In particular this book chronicles the story of Half Moon Village, a small peasant village which used to be located on the outskirts of Beijing on land which prior to liberation was known as a "vast wasteland" but which following socialist revolution was transformed through the peoples collective strength into Red Flag commune, one of China's largest communes.
The author wrote the first edition of this book based on data originally gathered on his third trip to China in 1979. However, the author also references material collected from earlier trips to China in 1972 and 78. He was also assisted in collecting information for the first edition as well as the second edition to this book in 1984 and 1989 by his wife Nancy Chance and by Fred Engst, the son of Joan Hinton, sister of William Hinton. Within the preface to this book Norman Chance explains his decision to publish the second edition (of which this review covers) so as to put into perspective his previous experiences in China, both during and after the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) as well as his time in Red Flag in light of the repression at Tiananmen which followed capitalist restoration.
The preface to Urban Villagers began with the author discussing how he was initially impressed with the Chinese success upon his first visit to China during the GPCR commenting that: "Many people, including myself, were impressed with Mao Zedong's strategy of reducing economic inequalities through the immense collective effort of the people."
Yet he immediately follows up this statement by saying that in retrospect this prior assessment was incorrect due to the fact that he later came to believe that we was never really allowed to actually observe socialist China's failures in agriculture and industrialization, only its successes. This is an erroneous analysis which effectively amounts to a "Potemkin Village" thesis in which the author implied that everything that was good about China was false and everything that was bad about it was instantly authenticated. This is a contradictory stance on behalf of the author, not because he changed his position after leaving China, but because all throughout the book he finds it useful to compare and contrast what he saw and wrote about China in 1972 and 1976 with the changes he observed in 1979, all the while claiming to uphold the conditions of the Chinese people as being qualitatively better in 1972 and 76, while still stating that what he saw in those first two trips wasn't really real after all — either conditions were better in 1972 and 76 or they were not, you can't have it both ways. Indeed, even in Chapter 9, "A Decade of Change", added to this second edition using data from the years 1987-89, the author comes to the conclusion that social conditions had drastically changed in China since 1979. In particular he refers to "class polarization the breaking up of communal peasant land into individual holdings and the rising rate of inflation and exploitation."
Norman Chance was one of the first cultural anthropologists to be allowed into China between the years 1952-1972 as anthropology as a branch of the social sciences was discredited in the Peoples Republic following the socialist stage of the Chinese revolution (1). He was invited to visit China in 1972 as part of an educational delegation during the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution. Professor Chance was asked to give a lecture at the Beijing Institute of Minorities titled "Minority Life in America." No doubt the communist party invited this Western academic not only as part of a mutual exchange of ideas, but so as to expose the Chinese people to reactionary ideologies so that they may learn from them and be better prepared to combat them. Upon reflecting on his visit to China Mr. Chance commented on "how different were our perspectives on the relationship between minority and majority nationalities." (p XV)
It would have been helpful if the author would've spoken more on this last point so that we could've learned about the structural relationship between the majority Han nationality and minority nationalities in China. For example, the contradiction of nation (Amerikkkka vs the oppressed nations) is principal here in the United $tates. How did similar contradictions get resolved in the PRC? In particular how were these contradictions further elaborated and worked on during the GPCR?
"Apart from their other characteristics, the outstanding thing about China's 600 million people is that they are 'poor and blank'. This may seem a bad thing, but in reality it is a good thing. Poverty gives rise to the desire for change, the desire for action and the desire for revolution. On a blank sheet of paper free form any mark, the freshest and most beautiful characters can be written the freshest and most beautiful pictures can be painted." - Mao Zedong, Introducing A Cooperative, 1958
To understand how Red Flag commune and Half Moon Village came to be developed we must first understand China's need to raise the quality of life for its majority peasant population. As in any other society quality of life is first measured by the country's ability to meet it's citizen's basic needs, first among these needs being the government's ability to feed, clothe and house it's citizens. After providing a summary of China's national liberation and socialist revolution struggles the author dives right into some of the major social issues facing the People's Republic in the early 1950s' primarily how does a country of 600 million paupers who are stuck in medieval culture and a feudal economy pull themselves into the 20th century? Chance acknowledges the feat with which China was forced to contend at this critical juncture in its hystory as nearly insurmountable.
Indeed, if China had remained a colony or neo-colony of this or that imperialist empire as say a country like India was at the time and continues as today, then it would have proved insurmountable. As hystory has proven however the Chinese people, with the guidance of Chairman Mao and the Communist Party, were able to lift the mountains of feudalism and imperialism off their backs, and in doing so cleared the way for socialism and communist development to begin.
When learning about socialist experiments of the past it is always common to hear intellectuals and sophists alike speak of the contradiction of a supposed "humyn nature" that will always prevent us from building a society free of poverty, hunger, exploitation and war. And as most academics writing on the subject, Chance does not miss the opportunity of raising the specter of humyn nature. Where Chance departs from this common bourgeois narrative is when he frames the issue of greed and selfishness as originating in the culture prevalent at the time:
"Underlying these conflicts is a fundamental problem in the building of a socialist society — the issue of human nature. If greediness is at the heart of human nature, then the whole idea of socialism is nothing more than a utopia. If on the other hand, human nature involves a dialectical tension between self-interest and social interests, then self-interest can become secondary to the interests of the larger group. Anthropological studies of various societies demonstrate that pure greediness in human behavior is deviant indeed. Rather, individual motivation is strongly shaped by the social and cultural environment. If greed is encouraged and rewarded, it would be considered foolish not to act in a similar fashion. By contrast, if friends and associates strive to act in a helpful, cooperative manner, selfish actions on the part of an individual would likely lead that person to feel ashamed. Even within the competitive, individualistic orientation of Western society, one regularly finds selfless actions by individuals who are willing to risk their personal security for a given cause. Thus in discussing greed and selfishness, the question is not human nature but rather the dominant behavior expected in normal circumstances." (p7-8)
What's more the Chinese masses were able to transform their country from the "sick man of Asia" into a strong socialist power in the span of only twenty years. They were able to accomplish this not by force but by persuasion. Compare this to India which started ahead of China, had a higher life expectancy and had a higher per capita than China. It was also 75% peasant like China. Yet China surpassed India in all these areas within one generation — so much for the comparison between socialism and capitalism.(2)
"Our task is to build islands of socialism in a vast sea of individual farming. We are the ones who will have to show the way for the whole country."(3)
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was able to spearhead the collectivization of agriculture thru their successful mobilization of peasants first into mutual aid teams, then low level elementary agricultural cooperatives.(p4-5) These APC's were comprised of "20 or more households which pooled their labor, land and small tools for the common benefit."(p4) These cooperatives not only helped peasants survive, but begin to spurn on the economy in the countryside. With time and success the APC's began to grow as peasants eagerly joined. According to Chance the only people who hesitated or refused were the "well to do" peasants who saw an end to their standard of living come with the rise of the APCs. At first the government let these rich and middle peasants abstain from joining until of course their abstinence became a hindrance to social development. It was at this time that the communist party under the leadership of Chairman Mao "opted for a acceleration of rural collectivization — a Socialist upsurge in the countryside — in which mutual aid teams and low-level co-operatives were to be combined into larger, more advanced units."(p6) These APCs were but preludes to the Great Leap Forward 1958-1960. The Great Leap Forward was China's attempt to catch up with the West by building up China's ability to produce grain and steel. Experimentation in farming, animal husbandry and other associated activity were in fact the earliest models in innovation from which experience and rationale knowledge were garnered for and summed up for further practice and experimentation in the city environment. Once the Great Leap forward began the APCs quickly ran their course and became outmoded. The APCs then gave way to the commune movement in the countryside in which the most advanced APCs were consolidated into 42,000 communes.(p8)
In it's early developmental stages one of the fundamental political lines in the Chinese countryside was to "rely on the poor peasants, unite with the middle peasants, isolate the rich peasants and overthrow the landlords and wipe out feudalism."(p39) Having put this political line into practice the land was re-distributed "according to the number of persons in the family and the quality of the soil."(p39) Landlords were treated thusly: their house, animals and tools were divided among everyone. As for the rich peasants the policy was to let them keep whatever they were able to work themselves. Because most peasants were not used to having so much land and were accustomed to only working on small individual plots much land and crops went to waste. After having had time to accumulate and process experience and practice from this the peasants of Half Moon were well on their way to conquering this new social environment. Half Moon as so many other villages within Red Flag became responsible for growing rice, wheat, corn and a variety of vegetables, as well as raising chickens and pigs.(p29-30) On the question of forced collectivization, two old peasants known to have lived in the area of Red Flag prior to redistribution had "nothing to say." The author insinuates the peasants were afraid to speak out against land distribution and collectivization for fear of reprisals from the government. However, this insinuation is unfounded due to the fact that (1) the peasants interviewed clearly voiced their support for Red Flag commune and the CCP remembering the "bitter years" before revolution, and (2) this interview was conducted in 1979 at a time that collectivization and other socialist policies originally began under Mao were being dismantled throughout China in favor of for-profit enterprise.
Education in the Peoples Republic
Education in the area of Half Moon Village lept from "fairly small" between the decade of the 1950s to the early 1970s when it then spiked to over 90 percent by 1979.(p91) These are surprising numbers for a Third World country, yet it is only another impressive indicator that only a country under socialist construction is truly serving the people. In visiting some of Half Moon's primary schools Professor Chance found that even in 1979, three years after the capitalist roaders rise to power, certain socialist values were still being upheld in China's education system even as others were being negated. One example of this could be seen in how peasant children were imbued with a sense of proletarian morality by being taken out of school and into the fields on a daily basis so that they could watch their parents and neighbors work. Children would also be put to work alongside the village engaging in light duty. The children's work consisted of "husking small ears of corn left behind by their parents... Such activities not only instilled in the student the value of hard work, but also emphasized the importance of being thrifty with what one produced."(p93)
In another example, the author describes how individualism was still being struggled against at the basic level of education:
"Students continually learned proper behavior from teachers, parents, textbooks, radio, newspapers and television. In all these instances they were encouraged to help each other, care for each other and take each other's happiness as their own. In contrast activities that caused embarrassment or remarks that emphasized a negative attribute were discouraged. Envision for example, a Chinese child's participation in a game like musical chairs. In an American school such a game encourages children to be competitive and to look out for themselves. But to young Chinese, the negative aspect was much more noticeable. That is, losers become objects of attention because they had lost their place — and therefore 'face.' In China, winning was fun too. But it should not be achieved at the expense of causing someone embarrassment. In all kinds of daily activity, including study as well as games, Chinese children were regularly reminded that they must work hard and be sensitive to the needs of others for only through such effort would their own lives become truly meaningful..."(p94)
Even groups like China's Young Pioneers, a group similar to the Boy Scouts, taught their members to engage in pro-social activities such as cleaning streets, assisting the elderly and aiding teachers as opposed to the leisure activities which the Boy Scout movement largely concerns itself within the United $tates.
Of course, not everyone in Half Moon was of the same mind politically. One school administrator spoke ill of education in China during the Great Proletarian Revolution (GPCR):
"Education is improving now... Before (meaning during the decade of the Cultural Revolution) the children had no discipline. They didn't behave properly and couldn't learn anything. Now that is all changed. We have ten rules and regulations for behavior, and they have settled down. Now they are learning very well."(p97)
As previously stated, it is logical that this school administrator would consider educational policies a disaster during the GPCR quite simply because his own power and prestige were challenged and negated by revolutionary students. In addition the author also states:
"Both primary and secondary education had expanded significantly throughout the commune by the early 1970s. Much of this activity, closely linked to the educational policies of the Cultural Revolution, emphasized the importance of utilizing local initiative. And indeed many villages had established new primary (and junior middle) schools by using local people and urban-trained "educated youth" to staff them. Wages for these new teachers were largely paid by the villagers themselves, though brigade-based work points. To obtain additional teachers for the new facilities, villages had reduced the earlier system of six-year primary schools to five years — justification for the step being summed up in the slogan "less but better."
"This dramatic educational effort put forward during the Cultural Revolution brought the benefits of expanded primary and secondary education to many commune youth — a real achievement, given the large increase in population between 1950 and the 1970s. Yet it did so at the expense of improving educational quality. The local primary school director was obviously identifying with the quality side of this equation."(p98)
Indeed, no period in the hystory of revolutionary China is more despised or has been more besmirched by the enemy classes as that of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. During the GPCR the bourgeoisie witnessed how the masses armed with Maoist philosophy opened up a new offensive against traitorous, revisionist and bureaucratic elements within the CCP itself, and attempts at the restoration of capitalism. This new offensive took the form of criticisms of bourgeois morals, values and ideals. Though seemingly innocent from a first worldist perspective such as our own, if left unchallenged within socialist society these morals, values and ideals become like a virus or disease in the body of socialism. When left untreated they will fester and wreak havoc on their socialist host, interrupting normal function with the very real potential to cause death.
Beginning in 1966 all established facets of life were forced to justify their existence within the new society or risk being relegated to the museum of antiquities. No more would an experts in command line be tolerated, in Chinese society whether in enterprise or education. No more would patriarchal rule be considered the natural order of things. Confucianism outside the temple of worship would be forced to contend with scientific method — all reactionary cultural products would be grappled with, criticized and torn asunder. In their place proletarian morality would be erected both as a guide and bulwark to the cause of socialism and the masses.
Later, on pg99 Norman Chance talks about how middle school students began to drop out and how most cases were related in one way or another to economic problems in the countryside. Chance explains that although "80% of all primary school graduates in the commune began middle school less than 30% finished. Of those who did, almost none entered higher education." Both the "failing" grades and new economic downturn can probably be linked to the restoration of capitalism.
Portrait of An Educated Youth
In socialist China education went beyond the enclosure of the classroom, as society as a whole was treated as a laboratory where people could discuss, debate, experiment and learn from others, not just experts in command. An excellent example of this could be seen in the "sent down educated youth" program which started in the mid 1950s but increased from the early 1960s to 1966 and then "dramatically from 1968-1976 before finally being concluded in late 1979" (p101). During the Cultural Revolution in times of intense political struggle in the country school was suspended so that students could struggle over the issues of the day and have a say in which direction China would go. This is more than can be said of the Amerikan public school system where rote memorization is popularized and children are expected to parrot what they heard and read and punished for leaving school to challenge government policies.
In this section we are introduced to Zhang Yanzi, a young tractor driver in Red Flag who chose to speak to Chance about her experience in the "Going to the Countryside and Settling Down with the Peasants" campaign. Zhang Yanzi recounted how after graduating from middle school she volunteered to go live with the peasants working first at a state farm as an agricultural worker then as a primary school teacher. She was only 16 years old when she took up a teaching position. She admitted to having her reservations about teaching because her parents were school teachers in Beijing and had been criticized by the masses during the Cultural Revolution.(p103) After requesting to be transferred from her teaching position, she ended up working with livestock and later attained a position as a cook.(p103) Zhang finally became a tractor driver in 1976 and was transferred to Red Flag in 1977.(p103)
She spoke about how initially there was great unity between the peasants and the sent down educated youth. This unity however soon began to dissolve after what Zhang describes as "political factionalism" began to develop amongst the older cadre in the commune. Another problem Zhang brought up was that there wasn't enough concern given to the educated youths' political development.(p104) It seems that much of what Zhang speaks about was happening in post-Mao China (1977) and it's somewhat hard to decipher what experiences happened when. For instance, on page 104 she speaks about how enthused at first she was about choosing to go work and live with the peasants in 1966. She speaks about how it was all done on a volunteer basis:
"In the beginning, no pressure was put on anyone to go. It was all on a volunteer basis. Each individual had to pass the 'Three OKs.' One was from the actual student, one from the family, and one from the school. If there was any disagreement, then the person wouldn't go. Even if you hesitated just before climbing on the train you could stay. But we didn't do that. We were all very enthusiastic."(p103-104)
In the next two paragraphs however Zhang speaks about how "later the policy was changed" and that families with more than "three educated children had to send two of them to the countryside" and if they didn't then the parents would be forced to attend study groups and if the parents still didn't agree then the "neighborhood committees would come out to the street and beat big gongs, hang up 'big character posters,' and use other propaganda to persuade you to let your children go."
Because the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was exactly that, a revolution in culture, it meant that the masses for the first time anywhere in hystory were given free reign to not only grapple and struggle with ideas but to engage in open debate publicly and at the grassroots level without government interference. This is the true meaning of democracy — and so long as violence wasn't used the masses were left to reach their own conclusions and express themselves freely. It is as Lin Bao correctly stated. "...the mass revolutionary movement is naturally correct; for among the masses, right and left wing deviationist groups may exist, but the main current of the mass movement always corresponds to the development of that society involved and is always correct."(note 4)
Critics of the Cultural Revolution, in particular, intellectuals like to portray the GPCR as some kind of punishment for the petty-bourgeois classes in which they were made to endure mental and physical torture at the hands of the Communist Party and hateful peasants. But Zhang who originally lived in Beijing and whose parents were both teachers, paints a much different picture. Admittedly enough, Zhang has her own disagreements with various CCP policies during and after the Cultural Revolution but commune living was not one of them:
"We all ate together in the public dining halls, with some of the older workers. Even though conditions were bad (speaking of the living conditions of the peasants and the weather) they took pretty good care of us, giving us easier jobs and better housing."(p104)
In that same paragraph Zhang also says that in fact it was the sent down youth who, after a while, began to talk down to and abuse the peasants calling them "country bumpkins," "dirty" and "uncultured." She also says that in "units where there were few educated youth, the work was done better, but where they were the majority, the problems became severe."
The most severe problem to occur at Red Flag during the time Zhang reflects on is an instance in which a corrupt high ranking cadre was discovered to be molesting young girls. This official was said to be virtually untouchable within Red Flag, until the People's Liberation Army caught wind of these abuses, entered the commune, began an investigation, arrested the official and subsequently executed him. Afterward the situation got better. (p104-105)
All in all, Zhang's biggest criticism of the GPCR is that there could've been more mechanization in Red Flag and that because of the lack thereof much of the commune's potential in agriculture went to waste. She thought that the sent down educated youth program was sound because it "enabled them (urban youth) to learn more about the good qualities of the peasants and also some production skills."(p105) Zhang also addresses the bureaucracy. This will however be addressed in the upcoming sections.
In this portion of the book the author focuses on how collectivization and land reform affected the family structure and the patriarchy in Half Moon Village. From control over the fields, tools and animals to wimmin's empowerment both in the home and the local and central government.
According to the author the focus of this attack in Red Flag was on "Feudal backward patriarchal thinking."(p130) Although the GPCR was the most progressive social event in world hystory we should not be mistaken to think that the Cultural Revolution simply went on unimpeded.
From a mother-in-law's perceived rule in the family to the bureaucratic apparatus there were a variety of social forces opposed to true revolutionary change, even in Red Flag.
The Changing Status of Women
Before the start of the GPCR wimmin's existence in rural China was largely devoted to serving the male's side of the family according to what was known as the "three obediences and four virtues." These required a woman to first follow the lead of her father, then her husbands, and on her husband's death, her son, and to be "virtuous in morality, proper speech, modesty and diligent work."(p134)
One peasant womyn recounts her experience to the author explaining how prior to the revolution she was given away as a child bride, beaten, starved and made to engage in forced labor at the hands of her husband and her husband's family. After 1949 however the Communist Party began the arduous task of doing away with the old system thru the enactment of wimmin's rights in a country where wimmin were by and large still considered property according to the old kinship system. Beginning with the Marriage Law of 1950, which required free choice in marriage by both partners, guaranteed monogamy, and establishing the right of women to work, and obtain a divorce without necessarily losing their children. This law when combined with the Land Reform Movement Act, which gave women the right to own land in their own name, did much to challenge the most repressive features of the old family system.(p137)
Social relations in Red Flag during the 1950s, 60s and 70s reveal a complex effort by the CP to simultaneously transform China economically and liberate wimmin. Because capitalism developed under congealed patriarchal social conditions, and ideology arises out of the superstructure, this means that even in a socialist society the ideology of the oppressor does not dissipate overnight. Rather, a cultural revolution must be set into effect so that the masses and society as a whole can learn to struggle against backward, reactionary and oppressive thinking. Therefore it should not be surprising to find out that when wimmin first attempted to assert their rights in the new society there were some who did not approve and attempted to put wimmin "back in their place." To some, especially idealists, this will seem difficult to understand, but revolution is never easy and at root requires scientifically guided struggle at all levels of society. And so to many Western academics and so-called "observers" it would've seemed that wimmin's rights were being subsumed into the wider socialist (and male dominated) framework. But before we get too discouraged with China's inability to meet our idealistic standards, we should remember that revolutionary struggle always requires determining and working to resolve the principal contradiction, to which all other contradictions become temporarily relegated. This is different than subsuming which requires the glossing over of contradictions or cooptation. It would therefore seem that this is also how the Communist Party saw it. Therefore they could enact land reform, marriage laws and divorce laws which recognized wimmin's democratic rights, but they also had to be aware of the fact that land reform, agriculture and industry were of the highest priority during this period. If China was unable to develop its productive forces in conjunction with changing social relations then all would be lost. Yes land reform was enacted, and yes wimmin were finally given democratic and bourgeois liberal rights which in semi-feudalist society were revolutionary. But socialist revolution proceeds in stages and it is ultra-left to believe that the patriarchy would not put up a fight and that some concessions would not have to temporarily be made. Ultimately this is why cultural revolution is necessary, to criticize and build public opinion against the old ruling class in preparation for the following stage of revolution.
Even with such reactionary ideas still being propagated wimmin's conditions were elevated exponentially. Testament to this being the fact that in 1978, 3,037 young wimmin students were enrolled in junior middle school in Red Flag compared to 3,202 males, while 1,035 wimmin were enrolled in senior middle school compared to 859 males in Red Flag.(p101) "In 1977, there had been six women members, out of a village total of fifteen members, of whom one had been the party secretary."(p44) In addition, let us not forget Jiang Qing, great revolutionary leader who helped spark the GPCR, one of the most influential and powerful people in China; neither should we forget the countless other revolutionary wimmin of China who without their participation in revolutionary struggle China's liberation would not have been possible. With the restoration of capitalism however, most of the progress made in the arena of wimmin's rights were reversed or negated with the exception of some democratic rights which mostly the petty-bourgeoisie and the bourgeois classes who reside in the urban centers are still privy to. China's countryside however has seen a resurgence in female slavery since the restoration of capitalism.(5)
Among other reversals in socialism which the author documents is a perversion of China's barefoot doctor's program which the social fascists used to depopulate the masses. Here the author speaks about how barefoot doctors and wimmin's federations "introduced system of material incentives to reduce births, pregnant Half Moon peasant women at that time could receive five yuan in cash and have several days off from work if they agreed to abort their unborn child. Counseling women on such matters was the responsibility of the local women's federation. Technical medical questions were handled by barefoot doctors in consultation with the federation."(p142)
"Becoming Rich is Fine" and A Decade of Change
These are the concluding chapters in China's Urban Villagers and they are very interesting as well as disappointing in the fact that they really document China's about face in building socialism. Perhaps they can be both summed up in Xiao Cai's (a young wimmin in charge of foreign affairs at Red Flag) statement to professor Chance: "you know, it's all right to become rich... I mean that individuals and families can work hard for their own benefit. If they make money at it, that's fine. They won't be criticized any more for being selfish."(p151)
Emphasis on getting rich came thru the "Four Modernizations" campaign which emphasized developing the productive forces while negating production relations in the economy and social relations in society. In popularizing this campaign the revisionists stated that "collective effort must be linked to individual initiative" and that the GPCR "was an appalling disaster."(p152) These criticisms expressed the class outlook of the bourgeoisie in the party and their attempts to convince the broad masses that "the political extremism of the Cultural Revolution" offered a "simplistic notion of capitalism" and "unfairly labeled people as capitalist roaders."(p152) The outcome being "a large decrease in individual and household sideline activities, to the detriment of China's overall economic development."(p152)
In reality however, nothing could be further from the truth. While the Great Leap Forward and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution were not without their mistakes, both the GLF and GPCR marked profound shifts in both the development of socialism as well as the overall development of the humyn social relations not seen since the development of classes themselves. Furthermore, the GLF and GPCR offered the masses insight into the unraveling of contradictions on a hystoric level. Thru participation in the Great Leap the masses learned what it was to engage in industrial production as well as how to innovate traditional farming techniques by utilizing collective effort in combination with proletarian thinking (see note 3). By their participation in the GPCR the revolutionary masses learned what it was to both gain unprecedented insight into the advance towards communism and the unraveling of contradictions prevalent in socialist society. Thru this experimentation the masses contributed not only to Marxism-Leninism-Maoism as the science of revolution, but to the development of rational knowledge as well.
Other reversals in socialism in Red Flag were made apparent when officials in Beijing issued an order to China's commune to "de-collectivize" the land and privatize most plots. Opposition to this privatization was fairly strong in Red Flag even though its residents weren't as politically educated as others, they still clung to the memory of the hardships common in the countryside before the revolution. In particular they were well aware that it was only thru collective strength and revolutionary leadership that they were able to overcome such difficulties. Thus, they began to openly fear class polarization as they rightly began to recognize that some peoples "rice bowls" had gotten bigger than others. Especially when it came to party officials.
As time went on, many in Red Flag began to get a new understanding of what Mao spoke about before his death concerning the revisionists and the return to capitalism.
By the mid-1980s exploitation in China had returned full-force and no-one could deny or claim ignorance to what was happening except for perhaps the bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie. As a part of the so-called "responsibility system" initiated under the traitor Deng Xiaoping "separate households and even individuals, could contract with production teams and brigades to produce their grain, vegetables, and other agricultural goods on specific plots of brigade land divided up for that purpose."(p161) The inevitable result of all this was that migrant peasant workers began to be sought out to work Half Moon's individually owned plots. The result? Deplorable oppressive conditions for hundreds of thousands of peasants from poorer regions of China who began arriving in Beijing's agricultural suburbs:
"It looks like a prison labor camp to me" commented one visitor on seeing Half Moon's migrant worker dormitories "After spending all day in the fields these poor peasants return to their dorms in the evening only to be doled out a bare minimum of food — lots of grains but not many vegetables. Once the harvest is over, they are paid a small wage by the manager and then head back to Henan, Hebei, or whatever province they came from. It's highly exploitative."(p166)
Due to a return to capitalism by 1985, China was again forced to import grain, something unheard of since the natural catastrophes that occurred towards the end of the Great Leap Forward. During this time corrupt party officials' greed reached new heights as they enriched themselves at the expense of the masses thru their manipulation of the national economy and exploitation of workers and peasants thru their access and control of the means of production. Some of the frustration of the people was captured in an interview of a party member by professor Chance in 1988. Although the quote is much too lengthy to feature here the party member was very critical of the capitalist roaders. This is part of what he had to say:
"Some people feel the nature of the party and the state has changed. The change first appeared in the late 1960s and 1970s when the power and authority, rather than representing the interests of the people came to represent those in power. This process took some time to unfold. But now it is quite clear what Mao meant when he warned us about the danger of capitalist roaders.... You don't know how hard it was for us to figure out what was going on. Mao tried time and time again to weed out the capitalist roaders, but still he failed. Now people don't know what to do.... Since Mao came along many years ago and saved China from the mess it was in, someone else will come along someday and save us from the mess we are in today..."(p173)
In fact, contrary to what this "Communist" Party member has to say, many of the problems with the bourgeoisie in the party first surfaced during the Great Leap forward 1958-1961 and were illuminated for us by Mao and his followers prior to the Cultural Revolution. In fact, during the Great Leap Forward political struggles and factionalism were already taking place in China's factories and industrial centers between those wishing to keep expert-in-command and those wanting the masses to take the lead in production. Furthermore, this party member is in error when he places Mao as a great individual whose responsibility it was to save China. Yes Mao was a great revolutionary leader, but he would've been the first to point out that the masses were responsible for controlling their own destiny. Afterall this is why the GPCR was initiated.
The student movement at Tiananmen Square is also addressed in which the author chronicles the events leading up to the political repression and massacre of the students. The demands of the protesters ranged from a return to socialism to freedom of the press and a desire to turn to Western style capitalism and democracy. The revisionist CCP, fearing an uprising by the masses, ordered the People's Liberation Army to fire on the protesters. On 3 June 1989, 8,000 troops, tanks and armored personnel carriers entered the outskirts of Tienanmen and began firing on protesters and city residents alike. Discussion in Half Moon over the protests and political repression and Tiananmen brought mixed reviews.
"Based on their past knowledge and experience, most villagers found it inconceivable that the PLA would fire on the protesters. Even during the height of the Cultural Revolution, the army had gone unarmed into the colleges and universities, where the worst fighting had occurred. But when several factory workers reported that the army had fired on crowds at street corners, the tenor of the conversation began to change."(p182)
Close enough to Beijing to have participated in the rebellion (and indeed some Red Flag students and other villagers did participate), Half Moon residents were brought under investigation by authorities. Most were eventually cleared.
In short, contradictions in China since the return of capitalism have once again created the conditions for a new revolutionary upsurge. With China's economic emulation of the so-called "economic miracles" of the South-East: Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong (also knowns as the "Four Tigers" or the "Four Dragons") contradictions in China have once again created the conditions for a new revolutionary upsurge. In relation to this point the author ends this book with the following:
"Implicit in this proposal is the assumption that by emphasizing privatization and a market driven economy, China too can achieve a similar prosperity. However, those four nations that were able to break out of Third World poverty were small, were on the Asian periphery, and were the beneficiaries of two large Asian wars financed by America. There is little reason to assume that a market-driven economic system will enable China to repeat the process. Much more probable is a return to a neo-colonial status with small islands of prosperity and corruption on the coasts and with stagnation in the hinterland — a sure formula for future revolutionary upheavals."(p187)
In the last year there's been some struggle over MIM(Prisons)'s six main points. This is a good thing, as it indicates emerging Maoist cells trying to reconcile what does and should unite us. The focus of issue 54 of Under Lock & Key is tactics. Tactics are not what unite us. Tactics is the realm where we need many cells trying many different things. Tactics are guided by line and strategy, but are much more flexible over shorter time periods and therefore require creativity that is in touch with the masses.
Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, or Maoism for short, is MIM(Prisons)'s political line. Maoism does not tell us whether putting money into one big advertisement or thousands of little fliers will have the greater effect. Maoism also doesn't tell us whether a hunger strike will be more effective than a legal battle. These are tactical questions.
Dividing Lines or Dividing Over Tactics
In the last year, a cell that we considered part of the broader Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM) split with MIM(Prisons) over what we saw as a tactical question. Maoists should never split over tactical questions; this is the theoretical importance of distinguishing between line, strategy and tactics.
We pushed this cell to present their split in terms of ideological line in relation to our six main points. The response was that they uphold the six main points but believe there are other issues to split over, such as promoting white supremacy, which they accused MIM(Prisons) of doing. They came to this conclusion after MIM(Prisons) did not print a statement criticizing the actions of prison activists that we have no affiliation with. This cell had a history of working closely with MIM(Prisons) over many years. And despite all the work we have done in that time (work that they admit challenged white supremacy) they were willing to split with us over this one action (or lack of action).
We see this as an error in how one should assess other cells. A cell, just as an individual, should be assessed on the whole. If a cell has acted according to one line for years, but did one thing that you see as violating that line, you probably should not split with that cell. That would be an ultra-left error, because you are expecting others to be perfect. Once it has been established by a pattern of actions that a cell has shifted its line and violated cardinal principles, then it would be correct to stop working with and possibly publicly criticize that cell.
In this particular case, MIM(Prisons) was condemned, not for participating in an event perceived to be white supremacist in nature, but for not condemning it. In contrast, MIM(Prisons) would argue that in most cases even if we had participated in this one event, that would still not be sufficient reason to split. You might publicly condemn the event yourself, but this should not rise to the level of creating splits in the Maoist Internationalist Movement. Willingness to split over non-cardinal issues is a threat to our ability to consolidate our forces in this country where individualism and splitism prevail. (To clarify, division of labor into collaborating cells is not the same as a split.)
If a cell does promote a campaign that caters to white nationalism, then one should criticize that based on our 4th point on the First World labor aristocracy being a force for imperialism, and as a violation of the Maoist line that oppressed nations have a right to self-determination. As anti-imperialists, supporting the labor aristocracy and undermining oppressed-nation self-determination is a no no. And a consistent practice of doing this indicates an underlying incorrect line that is a cause for splitting.
Principles of Line or Strategy?
Another MIM cell recently questioned why MIM(Prisons) put forth 6 points, adding on to the 3 cardinal principles that have historically defined the MIM.(see p. 2 of ULK) While we do present our 6 points in place of the 3 cardinals, it was not necessarily to say that the 3 cardinals were insufficient to define who is a communist. However, we must admit that we created confusion there.
The origin of our 6 main points is twofold. Our first goal with the six main points was to distinguish ourselves in the eyes of our readers. We were frustrated with the countless letters from people telling us to work with other groups, stop criticizing other groups and just unite around our common fight for justice. We wanted to succinctly differentiate ourselves from the countless organizations out there. Point 1 separates us from the Liberals, and in point 2 we split from the anarchists. Neither of those points were necessary in MIM's 3 cardinals, because all those claiming to be communists already agree on those two points. Point 3 separated us from the Trotskyists and neo-Trostkyists whose idealism leads them to unite with the petty-bourgeoisie in the First World while criticizing the bourgeois forces in the Third World even when they are fighting against imperialism. Points 4-6 are essentially the MIM cardinals.
While the 3 cardinals, as MIM came to refer to them, are nice and succinct dividing line points, they originally appeared in a greater context of a piece entitled "Who is a communist?" in the second edition of What is MIM?, which discusses concepts like "the abolition of power of people over people," "a communist party... is necessary," "democratic centralism," and "general unity with all other groups and outbreaks against imperialism."
The second contextual thing to understand about our 6 points is that they were developed in the early years of our organization, when those in the MIM camp were figuring out how to relate to each other as separate cells/organizations. It was also a period of fierce struggle against those promoting a third way in the post-9/11 Middle East, while framing the struggles there as "McWorld vs. Jihad." Therefore, our point 3 became, in the eyes of many organizations at that time, a dividing line question. The original MIM comrades, in fact, pushed this line hard to expose revisionists allying with the U.$. state department. While it is often tied up with the labor aristocracy question, it stands alone as its own point.
Mao's practice on building the united front of classes in oppressed countries, and eir theoretical writings on this topic contributed to our line on the subject and the development of point 3. We can also take lessons from the rectification movement of the Communist Party of the Philippines to find universal line lessons on united front building. However, in practice, who to form united fronts with is really a strategic question, as the answer may change as the strategic stage of struggle changes.
Mao's contribution on united front work was based on the assessment of the principal contradiction being between the oppressed nations and imperialism. Some seventy years later, we can say this is still the situation. But someday it will change. That is what makes our point 3 a strategic question and not a universal line question. From the early days of MIM, differences on the assessment of the principal contradiction have been a primary point of criticism MIM made of revisionist parties. That said, MIM never said the principal contradiction or united front was a cardinal principle.
In our point 2, we point out the need for a Joint Dictatorship of the Proletariat of the Oppressed Nations (JDPON) in order to implement socialism in the imperialist countries. This is MIM Thought, a logical application of MIM's line on the labor aristocracy to the universal communist principle of the need for a dictatorship of the proletariat. It is also a strategy question, that does not necessarily have universal application.
Who Defines the Cardinals?
"The materialist approach to cardinal principles stresses an examination of actual history, not just our own vivid imaginations of how the world SHOULD BE. We materialists do not take splitting the proletariat and its vanguard party lightly. We form only as many cardinal principles as are necessary to unmask the enemy's attempts to infiltrate us or divert us to a less efficient road to communism." - MC5(1)
The cell structure complicates things further. For with a centralized organization MIM could say that if you agree on these three points and the need for a party then you should join ours. Then you are obligated to accept our other lines until you convince the party to change them. With many small cells there is not democratic centralism on line in this way, and we could see many disagreements on many non-cardinal issues. This could lead to confusion and division in the movement. Therefore we caution all MIM cells to carefully think out their positions before disagreeing with historical MIM line and the lines of other contemporary cells.
At the same time, we must not hold dogmatically to MIM Thought frozen in time of 2006 or earlier. The three cardinals themselves evolved over the years of the original MIM. While MIM formed in 1983, they did not get serious about the third cardinal until 1987.(2) In the MIM Notes archive, which is incomplete for these early years, it is issue 42 from June 1990 when we first see the 3 cardinals presented as such. However, the paper version of issue 42 does not feature the 3 cardinals, so this seems to have been added to the web version after the fact. MIM Notes Issue 50 (March 1991) does have the 3 cardinals listed in the paper version. In 1999, MIM expanded the 3rd cardinal to include reference to Marx, Engels and Lenin, describe the oppressor nation labor aristocracy as a petty bourgeois class and specifically list which countries this line applies to.(3)
In practice, MIM used the 3 cardinal principles to determine fraternal status.(4) This came up most strongly when it decided that the third cardinal applied internationally and not just to First World parties, thus cutting its direct promotion of some who were practicing People's War in the Third World. This began with the "Resolution on defending cardinal principles in international context," 2002, but it was sometime after 2002 when MIM actually stopped any promotion of those parties.
Building MIM Today
MIM(Prisons) was announced as a MIM cell on 8 October 2007. To this day we often refer to "Maoism Around Us," published in May 2009, when discussing these issues. This was one of what could be considered the founding documents of MIM(Prisons). While our ideology was already represented in the expansive work of MIM, in that article we addressed the situation we found ourselves in as the original centralized organization of MIM had ceased to exist. In it we pointed out that the MIM lives on, by the same definition as it always has. We continued to print MIM's 3 cardinal principles in most issues of Under Lock & Key.
It was after our first official congress in July of 2010 that MIM(Prisons) put out our six main points. Since then we have referred to them as our "cardinal points" once or twice, and printed them in every issue of ULK with a similar tagline as we once printed MIM's three cardinals: "MIM(Prisons) distinguishes ourselves from other groups on the six points below."
As we've said before, we need more Maoist Internationalist cells. Topical cells that focus on gender, ecology and the environment, and anti-militarism are all good candidates. And there is an endless need for locality-based cells that focus on local recruitment and building around popular movements in the region that align with the interests of the Third World proletariat. But us saying this does not make them appear out of thin air. As we gain small victories in recruiting comrades outside prisons, we wonder if the MIM needs institutions that can allow those who agree on the 3 cardinals to join up in a meaningful way. A way that provides coordination without sacrificing security, independent initiative and other benefits of the cell structure. Six months ago we set up the subreddit /r/mao_internationalist "to help individuals and groups allied with the Maoist Internationalist Movement support each others' work." Maybe it is time to refocus on the 3 cardinals and push for a regroupment of MIM.
There are United Struggle from Within (USW) cells that might as well be considered MIM cells due to their advanced political practice. And there are prison-based cells that are in the MIM camp that are not USW, which are usually nation-based. We support the nation-based organizing strategy as a reason to form a new organization separate from USW. There is probably no tactical advantage to identifying prison-based cells as MIM cells, because of the repression in the prison environment, although there is obvious theoretical advantage in summarizing a group's line and practice.
Being in prison limits one's ability to coordinate with other cells without relying on MIM(Prison). For our own organization, MIM(Prisons) does not accept prisoners as members because it is not possible to have democratic centralism when all our mail is read by state employees. When coordinating between cells, we need to make similar considerations.
In most contexts that we are aware of, MIM(Prisons) is seen as the foremost cell representing the MIM today. While we are honored by that recognition, it is also a sign of how far we have to go. Discussion of party formation is no more relevant today than it was ten years ago when our organization just formed. If we cannot get more than a handful of cells putting in work at the level that MIM(Prisons) does, how can we build a Maoist Party? And what good would such a party do? There is no question of seizing power in the United $tates today, where MIM(Prisons) is based. But there is much work to do to prepare for that inevitability as the imperialists overextend themselves militarily and the Third World continues to strike blows against them.
Every popular movement is confronted with a common obstacle: change. As life progresses, it evolves in a never-ending forward trajectory. Because of this fact, the current questions, problems and circumstances facing the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist movement will never be the exact same problems in the future as they are today. This is an undeniable fact. As comrade Mao faced different variations of imperialist opposition than those faced by Comrades Stalin, Lenin and Marx, so too does the current struggle and fight for communism face distinctly different obstacles.
Tactics and strategy are the only effective measures against an ever-evolving foe. Every popular movement has set down tactics and strategies for overcoming determined opposition and many have adhered to them uncompromisingly, to the fatal detriment of their movement. Inflexibility, lack of progressive and innovative thinking, an unbending determination to follow a set course and finally stagnation. All cancerous to a movement.
History gives us examples of movements that have failed for lack of adaption and others that have survived by adapting. The Cuban wars for Independence are examples of the latter. Beginning in 1868, the Ten Years War began in earnest, led by Carlos Manuel de Cespedes. As their reality changed so too did their tactics and strategies. There were three major stages to the struggle that lasted over 30 years. La Guerra Chiquita in 1879 (the Small War) was the second, followed by the Spanish -Cuban-American War (1895) which ended in 1889. In each stage there were new leaders; Antonio Maceo, José Martí, Calixto García, Máximo Gomez and others. These revolutionaries never stopped evolving and adapting to the reality of their circumstances.
This Cuban example is one that should be followed as it leads to success. Overwhelming opposition, oppression, and outright violence assailed these revolutionaries. Yet, they prevailed, overthrowing the imperial yoke that burdened them for so long. Those struggling for communism must do the same: adapt and be both reactive and proactive. Tactics and movement strategy are not principles, they can be and should be changed according to the present reality. Only fundamental principles are set in stone and uncompromising. Tactics are meant to confront specific circumstances. Yesterday's tactics will not solve tomorrow's problems. Evaluating circumstances, employing tactics and strategy, re-evaluating and employing new tactics and strategies must be a part of any anti-imperialist/capitalist movement. Without adaptability failure is inevitable.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with this comrade's main point that the revolutionary movement must be adaptable to current conditions and obstacles. We have overarching political line that is the theory behind our work, but then we develop strategies from this line which match current conditions in the world. And from those strategies we implement tactics suited to our day-to-day work.
The history of the Cuban revolutionary movement does provide some good examples of adapting to conditions, such as the period highlighted by this writer. Cuba in more recent years also provides us with some examples of strategic mistakes and failure to correctly account for conditions. The Cuban revolutionary strategy led by Castro missed out on some important global conditions that should have impacted their strategy, and thus ultimately failed to learn from history. The end result was a dependence on the social-imperialist Soviet Union that held back the development of Cuba and forced them into some counter-revolutionary actions and policies. Maoism was alive and well in the world at the time of the Cuban revolution but they did not learn from the successes and failures of China's experience. The Soviet Union had already given up on socialism and was building a state capitalist system when Cuba became dependent on trade in a way that mirrored imperialist countries' relationships with their satellite colonies, keeping Cuba from diversifying crops and forcing Cuban troops to fight Moscow's battles in Third World countries.