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[Organizing] [China] [USSR] [Theory] [ULK Issue 56]
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Zero Responds to Debating Theory, Building Unity

[This letter is responding to the debate we printed in ULK 55: ”Debating Theory, Building Unity for September 9 Protests”]

Let me try to run through this as quick as possible. To the point yo. That original article in the ULK 50 was pretty half-assed. Admittedly, so was my response to it.

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:

  1. There is an entire theory journal written by MIM in 1994 about Stalin, along with other relevant articles and reviews. Get MIM Theory 6.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
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[United Front] [Principal Contradiction] [White Nationalism] [Theory] [ULK Issue 55]
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To Identify as White is to Identify as Oppressor

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.

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[China] [Theory]
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Review: China's Urban Villagers: Changing Life in a Beijing Suburb

China's Urban Villagers book cover
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 its citizen’s basic needs. First among these needs being the government’s ability to feed, clothe and house its 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 imperialist countries 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, through 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.”(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.

Family Relations

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.(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)
Notes:
1. “In the immediate aftermath of World War I, anthropology in Britain and America became established for the first time as a professional discipline. This new discipline was set up with the political mandate: to overturn the materialist paradigm established in the pre-war period by Lewis Morgan, Frederick Engels and Karl Marx” - Engels was Right: Early Human kinship was matrilineal. The earliest human institution was not the nuclear family. The latest research now indicates that it was the communist, female-centered clan. https://libcom.org/history/engels-was-right-early-human-kinship-was-matrilineal
2. Maoist Internationalist Movement, 1993, MIM Theory 4:Failures and Successes of Communist Development, p.54.
3. William Hiton, 1970, Iron Oxen - A Revolution in Chinese Farming, Monthly Review Press.
4. Daily Life in Revolutionary China, Maria Antonnietta Maciochi. p.436.
5. Maoist Internationalist Movement, 1992, MIM Theory 2/3: Gender and Revolutionary Feminism, p.141.
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[MIM(Prisons)] [Congress Resolutions] [Theory] [ULK Issue 54]
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On Cardinal Principles

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.

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[Theory] [Cuba] [ULK Issue 54]
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Revolutionaries Must Adapt to Change for Success

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.

Notes: For more on the Cuban revolution, send us $5 or equivalent work trade for a copy of MIM Theory #4: A Spiral Trajectory, the failure and success of communist development
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[U.S. Imperialism] [Theory] [Yemen] [Middle East] [Africa] [Fascism] [ULK Issue 53]
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The Strategic Significance of Defining Fascism

fight imperialism smash fascism
“The imperialists export fascism to many Third World countries via puppet governments. And imperialist countries can turn to fascism themselves. But it is important to note that there is no third choice for independent fascism in the world: they are either imperialist or imperialist-puppets. Germany, Spain, Italy and Japan had all reached the banking stage of capitalism and had a real basis for thinking they could take over colonies from the British and French. … The vast majority of the world’s fascist-ruled countries have been U.$. puppets.” – MIM Congress, “Osama Bin Laden and the Concept of ‘Theocratic Fascism’”, 2004

What MIM wrote about Osama Bin Laden in 2004 is just as true for the Islamic State today. Those who call the Islamic State fascist use an unsophisticated definition of fascism that may mean anything from “bad” to “undemocratic” to anti-United $tates. But the idea that it is in the Third World where we find fascism today is correct.

Much funding for the Islamic State has come from rich Saudis. For this, and other reasons, many people have tried to put the fascist label on the obscurantist monarchy of Saudi Arabia. Despite having almost the same per capita GDP (PPP) as the United $tates, it is by geological luck and not the development of imperialist finance capital that Saudis enjoy such fortune.

A word often associated with fascism is genocide. More recently Saudi Arabia is getting some “fascist” rhetoric thrown at it from the Russian camp for its war on Yemen. What is currently happening in Yemen is nothing less than genocide. A recent analysis by the Yemen Data Project showed that more than a third of the “Saudi” bombings in that country have targeted schools, hospitals, mosques and other civilian infrastructure.(1) We put “Saudi” in quotes here because the war to maintain the puppet government in Yemen is completely supplied by the imperialists of the U.$., UK and Klanada, along with U.$. intelligence and logistical support. The United $tates has been involved in bombing Yemen for over a decade, so it is a propaganda campaign by the U.$. media to call it the “Saudi-led coalition.” In October 2016, the United $tates bombed Yemen from U.$. warships that had long been stationed just offshore, leaving little doubt of their role in this war. A war that has left 370,000 children at risk of severe malnutrition, and 7 million people “desperately in need of food,” according to UNICEF.(2)

This is another example where we see confusion around the definition of fascism feeds anti-Islamic, rather than anti-Amerikan, lines of thinking, despite the majority of victims in this war being proletarian Muslims in a country where 40% of the people live on less than $2 a day.

In countries where the imperialists haven’t been able to install a puppet government they use other regional allies to act as the bad guy, the arm of imperialism. It is an extension of neo-colonialism that leads to inter-proletarian conflict between countries. We see this with Uganda and Rwanda in central Africa, where another genocide has been ongoing for 2 decades. While Uganda and Rwanda have their own regional interests, like Saudi Arabia, they are given the freedom to pursue them by U.$. sponsorship. And we are not anti-Ugandan, because Uganda is a proletarian country with an interest in throwing out imperialist puppets. Even Saudi Arabia, which we might not be able to find much of an indigenous proletariat in, could play a progressive role under bourgeois nationalist leadership that allied with the rest of the Arab world, and even with Iran.

Sometimes fascism is used as a synonym for police state. Many in the United $tates have looked to the war on drugs, the occupation of the ghettos, barrios and reservations, gang injunctions and the massive criminal injustice system and talked about rising fascism. We agree that these are some of the most fascistic elements of our society. But many of those same people will never talk about U.$. imperialism, especially internal imperialism. This leads to a focus on civil liberties and no discussion of national liberation; a reformist, petty bourgeois politic.

If we look at the new president in the Philippines, we see a more extreme form of repression against drug dealers of that country. If the U.$. injustice system is fascist, certainly the open call for assassinating drug dealers in the street would be. But these are just tactics, they do not define the system. And if we look at the system in the Philippines, the second biggest headlines (after eir notorious anti-drug-dealer rhetoric) that President Duterte is getting is for pushing out U.$. military bases. This would be a huge win for the Filipino people who have been risking their lives (under real fascist dictatorships backed by the United $tates like Marcos) to protest U.$. military on their land. This is objectively anti-imperialist. Even if Duterte turns towards China, as long as U.$. imperialism remains the number one threat to peace and well-being in the world, as it has been for over half a century, this is good for the masses of the oppressed nations.

The importance of the united front against fascism during World War II, which was an alliance between proletariat and imperialist forces, was to point out the number one enemy. While we don’t echo the Black Panther Party’s rhetoric around “fascism,” they were strategically correct to focus their attack on the United $tates in their own United Front Against Fascism in 1969. And it was reasonable to expect that the United $tates might turn fascist in face of what was a very popular anti-imperialist movement at home and abroad. What dialectics teaches us is the importance of finding the principal contradiction, which we should focus our energy on in order to change things. Without a major inter-imperialist rivalry, talking about fascism in a Marxist sense is merely to expose the atrocities of the dominant imperialist power committed against the oppressed nations.

Rather than looking for strategic shifts in the finance capitalist class, most people just call the bad sides of imperialism “fascism.” In doing so they deny that imperialism has killed more people than any other economic system, even if we exclude fascist imperialism. These people gloss over imperialism’s very existence. But MIM(Prisons) keeps our eye on the prize of overthrowing imperialism, principally U.$. imperialism, to serve the interests of the oppressed people of the world.

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[Organizing] [Theory] [ULK Issue 53]
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Who Says the Masses Can't Lead?

For those of us who have received a political education and are locked away in Amerikkka’s prisons, the September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity should be a call to action. As many people as have been involved in MIM and MIM(Prisons)-led study groups over the years, comrades should be more than clear on what their duties and responsibilities are to the prison struggle as well as to the International Communist Movement (ICM). The fact that September 9 events are still few and far between is therefore continuing indicative proof of a variety of contradictions still plaguing the prison movement. This essay attempts to address and give special attention to the development of the mass line.

Some people who have shown interest in taking up revolutionary politics incorrectly believe that they must spend years on end learning political theory before they are ready to take up revolutionary struggle, especially when it comes to applying Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. However, this type of thinking is incorrect, not only because it has the potential to slow down revolution, but because it can be used to purposely derail the revolutionary movement. Just think – where would any revolutionary movement be if everyone always sought to first become an expert in any particular field before they did anything? This is what Maoists criticized as the “experts in command” approach to education, production and revolution in communist China during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) (1966-1976), the furthest advance towards communism in humyn hystory!

The experts in command political line was initially related to the intellectual belief during the Great Leap Forward (1958-1961), that only experts with years of training (usually within the confines of a classroom or a controlled environment) were worthy enough to lead or teach. This same line was later used by traitors and the bourgeoisie in the Chinese Communist Party itself as a way to disempower the revolutionary masses and consolidate their grip on power.

In opposition to experts in command, Mao Zedong and others began popularizing Lenin’s slogan of “fewer, but better” by pointing out that it wasn’t necessary for comrades to have years of experience in political struggle before they were able to take up leadership roles. Instead Mao stressed comrades’ dedication to serving the people as more important than this “expertise.” Furthermore, Mao encouraged cadre to not separate themselves from the revolutionary masses, but to work amongst them and help them develop the mass line. To develop and carry out the mass line is simply to help the masses develop and carry the revolutionary programs that will best help them accomplish the task of developing revolution and achieving self-determination. Without the mass line revolution is impossible; the masses will sink ever deeper into despair, while the leaders lead the revolutionary movement astray and the oppressors will rein. Mao Zedong’s instructions for cadre to develop the mass line are thus:

“In all the practical work of our Party, all correct leadership is necessarily ‘from the masses, to the masses.’ This means: take the ideas of the masses (scattered and unsystematic ideas) and concentrate them (through study turn them into concentrated and systematic ideas), then go to the masses and propagate and explain these ideas until the masses embrace them as their own, hold fast to them and translate them into action, and test the correctness of these ideas in such action. Then once again concentrate ideas from the masses and once again go to the masses so that the ideas are persevered in and carried through. And so on, over and over again in an endless spiral, with the ideas becoming more correct, more vital and richer each time. Such is the Marxist theory of knowledge.” - Some Questions Concerning Methods of Leadership

Mao also said it would be enough for comrades to first put an emphasis on being “red” with an aim towards becoming experts through continued participation in revolutionary struggle.

There is also the problem of intellectuals in the prison movement. But does this mean that all intellectuals in the prison movement are a problem? No, of course not. There are revolutionary intellectuals and there are bourgeoisie intellectuals. Revolutionary intellectuals hate oppression, they value knowledge as power and the collective accomplishments of many people, and they are dedicated to using their knowledge to serve the people. Bourgeois intellectuals on the other hand don’t much care if people are oppressed, they are apathetic, they value knowledge for the sake of knowledge and they view the accumulation of knowledge as the accomplishment of great individuals. Some of these people may sometimes cheerlead for anti-imperialism and revolutionary struggles, but thru their inaction they actually hold up imperialism. Such people often excel in MIM(Prisons)-led study groups. These types of people take up revolutionary politics for the sole purpose of study and discussion without application, which is to say that they get off on talking about revolution but very rarely do they go further. These types of people give lip service to communist ideology and the topic of national liberation. When pressed on putting their knowledge to use they’ll suddenly come up with excuses. “Now is not a good time for me,” “The masses aren’t ready,” “The movement isn’t ready,” etc, etc. In fact it is they who are not ready!

Real revolutionary intellectuals don’t study revolutionary theory for the sake of knowledge, but to make revolution. Theory without practice ain’t shit! Mao addressed this in his essay “On Practice”:

“What Marxist philosophy regards as the most important problem does not lie in understanding the laws of the objective world and thus being able to explain it, but in applying the knowledge of these laws actively to change the world.”

Maoism teaches us that there is no great difference between politically conscious leaders and mere followers, between leaders and led. The only difference is practice, for practice alone is the criterion of truth for knowledge, as it is through practice that the masses can come to power and exert influence over their destiny.

Notes: Third Draft of Criticism of the RCP by MIM.
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[Organizing] [United Front] [Theory] [White Nationalism] [ULK Issue 55]
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A Case for Unity with Reactionary Nationalist Organizations

Is there ever a time when we would unite with reactionary oppressor-nation lumpen organizations in a united front for peace in prisons?

This particular question is one that contains within itself a set of extremely complex issues concerning the ideology of these types of groups or organizations. It is only after we examine these issues that we can make an intelligent informed decision concerning this question of uniting with a reactionary-oppressor organization in prison.

We know that at their very core a large percentage of these groups are deeply rooted in their beliefs in Adolf Hitler and/or the Nordic Gods, or they are rooted in the distorted beliefs of so called “white Christianity”” (ie the KKK or the Church of Jesus Christ, Christian, etc.). All of their gods are considered to be extremely Aryan and will only deal with or help those who are white Aryan people unless it benefits them. Those who hold to the ideals of “white Christianity” have merely reconstructed the Holy Bible to fit their views of white supremacy. These white Christian organizations support those organizations who are neo-Nazi by nature.

The ideologies of both of these styles of organizations are centered around the philosophy of one being “white.” Yet, you do find exceptions to this way of thinking. However, you generally discover that their mottos revolve around the principle of “if you ain’t white, you ain’t right.” This ideology holds not only the connotation of the color of your skin is important, but likewise so are your ethical, moral, and religious beliefs. This, in itself implies that you are never going to be on an equal status with them.

These white nationalists live by a 14 word creed “we must secure the existence of our race and the future of white children.” They likewise live by what they call the 88 precepts which create a vision of superiority for the white race.

Both morally and ethically the vast majority of white nationalist organizations find it extremely difficult to honestly and openly reach out to others with a spirit and agenda of true peace. This is due to the basic core of their beliefs that have been hammered into them since they were young. They have been taught to use other races, groups, organizations or individuals to gain their advantages for the betterment of themselves and once they are finished with them they simply jettison them and move on to their next victim.

Having presented the above to you the informed reader, I now remind you that we as individuals and a movement must never forget that the best method for change concerning these types of groups and organizations is to openly and honestly invite them to participate in the process for peace. If we diligently allow them to become actively involved in the process then perhaps their hearts and minds will be opened to the truth.

We must never let ourselves succumb to the way of thinking that we are better than others. We must steadfastly remain inclusive of everyone around us. Always remember that if we can affect one mind, just one heart, then indeed we have made a great step for all mankind.

Through slothfulness and unawareness we do surely die. Through strength, honor, courage and vigilance we surely do survive!


MIM(Prisons) responds: This is an interesting commentary on uniting with white nationalist organizations because it comes to the same conclusion we have come to, but for different reasons. We agree that the United Front for Peace in Prisons can include reactionary organizations. It is true that sometimes through a united battle we can educate others and change their minds to a more progressive viewpoint. But we must be clear that we only unite with reactionary organizations when we have common goals and enemies, and when this unity might serve to push forward the battle with our principle enemy. Just as the Chinese communists allied with the Kuomindang in the war against the Japanese imperialists in spite of the Kuomindang previously attacking the communists and expressing significant disagreement, antagonism and aggression against the communists. At that time the principal task of the movement was to get the Japanese occupiers out of China. And the Kuomindang was an organization of Chinese nationals and so they shared this goal with the communists. Once that was accomplished the communists knew they would then need to fight the Kuomindang, but it did not make sense to divide the anti-Japanese forces and take on both battles at once.

Similarly we see our principal task being best advanced by building peace and unity among prisoner organizations so that we can all focus our fight on the criminal injustice system. This doesn’t mean we expect white supremacist organizations to be won over to the side of the oppressed. But we can have principled unity with these organizations as we focus on a common enemy. We will not compromise our views or pretend to agree with them politically. And in this principled unity we may win over a few from the ranks of these white nationalist organizations who begin to see the correctness of our political positions.

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[Theory] [China]
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Book review: In the People's Republic

In the People’s Republic:
An American’s First Hand View of Living and Working in China
by Orville Schell
1977


The author’s trip was arranged in the 1970s by the Hinton’s, an Amerikan family. The group was composed of men and womyn between the ages of 18 and 60. As I read ‘In the Peoples Republic’ I came to see each subchapter as a beautiful blueprint of Maoism in practice It was very informative on how people can transform all their daily habits to better the people as a whole. For instance, Mao’s China seemed what some today would call “green” friendly, Schell explains how hotels in the city that obviously generate much trash, separated the trash for organic garbage, which was sent to pig farms and used for slop. This was done nationwide. Even human waste was collected in what they called “honey trucks” and taken to special ponds where thy would turn to fertilizer. This recycling and notion of wasting nothing is an advancement that even 30+ years later has not reached the U$ on a nationwide level. The Chinese people’s ability to use all material was remarkable, wasting nothing was common practice.

On the passing of Chiang Kai Shek Schell notes that hardly a mention was given in the People’s Daily publication, and there was no rejoycing or anger shown in the streets or otherwise and that the people hated what he stood for, but not him as a person. This shows the difference under socialism and the behavior the people developed even to disliked enemies, unlike here in Amerika as we witnessed the gleefullness and cheer in the U$ media when Saddam Hussein was executed. It is clear that under capitalism humyns mean shit.

Shell included Mao’s essay “the twenty manifestations of bureaucracy” in its entirety. This document showed Mao’s passionate disagreement with different bureaucracy. It was real good to see Mao fervently denouncing ever becoming disconnected from the people. During the Cultural Revolution many plays and dance troupes even addressed this issue with one of the performers wearing oversized glasses, dressed in a suit with much face makeup appearing very pale from staying in an office and carrying a briefcase. This performer played the arrogant bureaucracy.

What I enjoyed about ‘In the Peoples Republic’ was it gave a brief description of all levels of society in a Maoist country. Even the artists and performers only created artforms that had a correct line and benefited the people, and what was amazing is even the best performers or dancers were never singled out and praised. This is a deep contrast to what is seen here in Amerika where it is totally opposite and performers or dancers and especially actors and actresses are praised for their individuality. Individualism is not only praised here but expected.

This book spoke a lot of Mao’s emphasis on including the peasants in all spheres of society, Schell described how dance troupes would take their andmade props and travel by foot to mountainous areas off the beaten path where they would perform their politically charged dance performances and songs to peasants and when Shell asked one of the performers “where do you live on such trips?” the performer stated “we live with the peasants” and he went on to describe how they have the “three togethers”: eat together, live together and work together.

A scenario was posed that would be incomprehensible here in the U.$. While touring Schell’s guide in China gathered some workers off the street, a factory worker and other store workers, and conducted a political discussion and the workers explained how politics apply to their jobs. Schell wrote how in the U.$. during a foreign tour if one would gather a Kentucky Fried Chicken worker, a Safeway worker, etc and the same discussion was held, how different that discussion would be. I believe this is because in this country it would not be beneficial to U.$. interests for the masses to take up politics because should the people become aware of how things work, capitalism would suffer, so the average person is kept in the dark about politics. I thought this was a good scenario that showed the big contradiction in socialist versus capitalist societies, and the average person living in these societies.

Having experienced the imperialist prisons and its most suppressive states, i.e. control units/security housing units, I was particularly interested in the subchapter on prisons. There was a short description of the prisons in Mao’s China that I enjoyed, I saw the real difference in treatment in a socialist prison and in a Maoist prison specifically. Here in imperialist Amerika most prisons will often pass out Christian bibles, prison officials will leave a vast amount of bibles and other religious literature in the dayroom where it is all conveniently accessible to prisoners. Prison officials often send religious pastors cell to cell asking if prisoners would like to discuss/learn about religion. I often tell these pastors I would rather discuss communism and this usually sparks a long debate between me and the pastor, ending with the pastor walking off angry because I point out religion’s long history of atrocity and oppression.

According to Schell, when he and his group visited a prison in China, all cells had Marx, Lenin and Maist books in each cell. They also worked and partook in criticism/self-criticism, there were not reports of prison riots, suicide or guards abusing prisoners, unlike here inthe U.$. where there are many of suicides and guards are always caught abusing prisoners. Here even rape is a common occurance, depression is high with guards feeling a sense of hopelessness as well as prisoners. In contrast, in Mao’s Chian prison guards felt it a great honor to work as prison guards as it was seen as a great contribution in rebuilding these people and socialist reconstruction as a whole.

This book was good and gave a good study of Maoism in practice. I would liked it to be more in depth on things or to show more on China’s economics or its military, nonetheless it was a good look into everyday life in a Maoist society.

MIM(Prisons) adds: The author is a Harvard graduate who travelled with a group of other U.$. citizens to China in the last few months of Mao’s life. They worked in a factory for a few weeks, worked in a field for a few weeks, and toured many facilities such as clinics and schools. In the People’s Republic is written exclusively through the subjective filter of a typical Amerikkkan with a bourgeois perspective. The main take-home lesson of this book seems to be “Socialism works for the Chinese because they are so odd and different from Amerikans. Socialism is against so many cultural values we have as Amerikans, and it is bad for us for these reasons.”

It gives a favorable view of China in this period, but summarizes it as the Chinese are “just different” from Amerikans. The author writes off much of the Chinese hospitality as awkward and boring, and has a near obsession with connecting with the Chinese on an individual level, and telling anecdotes with a sense of irony. While having an apparent ignorance of Mao Tse-Tung Thought, the author does not hesitate to interpret the Chinese’s body language and conversation through an Amerikan cultural lens.

If you already have an understanding of Maoism and Chinese society under socialism, it can be interesting to read about such an important project from a bourgeois perspective. While the author’s subjective interpretation of events is “off”, ey at least doesn’t lie about how successful the Chinese were in raising the living standards of even the most destitute people in the country in incredible ways. There is much first-hand favorable reflection on the cultural revolution as well.

There is one point that we disagree with in this review, and apparently also with the author of In the People’s Republic. Both Schell and the author of the review seem to think that Amerikan’s are not given information about politics because it is in the interests of Amerikan capitalism to keep them in the dark. The reviewer wrote: “I believe this is because in this country it would not be beneficial to U.$. interests for the masses to take up politics because should the people become aware of how things work, capitalism would suffer, so the average person is kept in the dark about politics.” </p?

While this is true to an extent, we see Amerikkkans’ lack of interest in socialism as more than just being kept in the dark. Amerikans might not know about everything the U.$. government is doing abroad, but they know enough to be able to tell it’s not in the interests of many people. Yet even most critics of the U.$. government are still patriots. In a Third World country where the workers are truly exploited we would find significantly higher political consciousness. Workers in Amerika are overwhelmingly labor aristocracy and so their interests are tied up with imperialism. We can not compare them with workers in China. The Amerikan workers ignore politics because they don’t need to pay attention, not because the Amerikan government is keeping them in the dark.

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[New Afrika] [Black Panther Party] [New Afrikan Black Panther Party] [Theory] [ULK Issue 50]
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The Panther Legacy, Black Riders and Intercommunalism

Blood In My Eye

Uhuru of the Black Riders Liberation Party - Prison Chapter: 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the original Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP) by Dr. Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Black Riders Liberation Party, the New Generation Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, under the leadership of General T.A.C.O. (Taking All Capitalists Out).

The original BPP arose out of an immediate need to organize and defend the New Afrikan (Black) nation against vicious pig brutality that was taking place during the 1960s and 70s; while at the same time teaching and showing us through practice how to liberate ourselves from the death grip of Amerikkkan-style oppression, colonialism and genocide through its various Serve the People programs.

The Black Riders Liberation Party (BRLP) came about in 1996 when former Bloods and Crips came together in peace and unity while at the Youth Training School (a youth gang prison) in Los Angeles. The BRLP, which follows the historic example set by the original BPP, is a true United Lumpen Front against pig brutality, capitalism, and all its systems of oppression.

The political line of the BRLP, as taught by our General, is Revolutionary Afrikan Inter-communalism, which is an upgraded version of Huey’s Revolutionary Intercommunalism developed later in the party. Revolutionary Afrikan Intercommunalism is a form of Pan-Afrikanism and socialism. This line allows us to link the struggles of New Afrikans here in the Empire with Afrikans on the continent and in the diaspora. Thus Revolutionary Afrikan Intercommunalism is, in essence, revolutionary internationalism as it guides us towards building a United Front with Afrikan people abroad to overthrow capitalist oppression here in the United $tates and imperialism around the globe.

Our Black Commune Program is an upgraded version of the original BPP’s Ten-Point Platform and Program, which includes the demand for treatment for AIDS victims and an end to white capitalists smuggling drugs into our communities. [The Black Commune Program also adds a point on ecological destruction as it relates to the oppressed. -MIM(Prisons)]

Mao recognized, as did Che, that every revolutionary organization should have its own political organ – a newspaper – to counter the psychological warfare campaign waged by the enemy through corporate media, and to inform, educate and organize the people. Like the original BPP newspaper, The Black Panther, the BRLP established its own political organ, The Afrikan Intercommunal News Service, and took it a step further by creating the “Panther Power Radio” station to “discuss topics relative to armed self-defense against pig police terrorism and the corrupt prison-industrial complex,” among other topics.

Like the original BPP, the BRLP have actual Serve the People programs. When Huey would come across other Black radical (mostly cultural nationalist) organizations, he would often ask them what kind of programs they had to serve the needs of the people because he understood that revolution is not an act, but a process, and that most oppressed people learn from seeing and doing (actual experience). The BRLP’s programs consist of our Watch-A-Pig Program, Kourt Watch Program, George Jackson Freedom After-school Program, Squeeze the Slumlord project, BOSS Black-on-Black violence prevention and intervention program, gang truce football games, and Health Organizing Project, to name just a few. These lumpen tribal elements consciously eschew lumpen-on-lumpen reactionary violence and become revolutionaries and true servants of the people!

Finally, the BRLP continues the example set by the original BPP by actively building alliances and coalitions with other radical/revolutionary organizations. George Jackson stated that “unitary conduct implies a ‘search’ for those elements in our present situation which can become the basis for joint action.” (1) In keeping with this view and the BPP vision of a United Front Against Fascism, in 2012 the BRLP launched the Intercommunal Solidarity Committee as a mechanism for building a United Front across ideological, religious, national and ethnic/racial lines.

While I recognize that the white/euro-Amerikkkan nation in the United $tates is not an oppressed nation, but in fact represents a “privileged” class that benefits from the oppression and exploitation of the urban lumpen class here in the United $tates and Third World people, there exist a “dynamic sector” of radical, anti-racist, anti-imperialist white allies willing to commit “class suicide” and aid oppressed and exploited people in our national liberation struggles. And on that note I say “Black Power” and “All Power to the People.”

Note: George L. Jackson, 1971, Blood In My Eye.


Wiawimawo of MIM(Prisons) responds: For this issue of Under Lock & Key we received letters attempting to feature the BRLP (like this one) as well as to critique them. For years, MIM(Prisons) and the readers of ULK have been watching this group with interest. We made a few attempts to dialogue directly with them, but the most concerted effort happened to coincide with the release of an attack on us by Turning the Tide, a newsletter that has done a lot to popularize the work of the BRLP. No direct dialogue occurred. We thank this BRLP comrade for the article above. The following is a response not directly to the above, but to the many statements that we have come across by the BRLP and what we’ve seen of their work on the streets.

On the surface the BRLP does have a lot similarities to the original BPP. It models its platform after the BPPs 10 point platform, which was modeled after Malcolm X’s. The BRLP members don all black as they confront the police and other state actors and racist forces. They speak to the poor inner-city youth and came out of lumpen street organizations. They have worked to build a number of Serve the People programs. And they have inspired a cadre of young New Afrikans across the gender line. In order to see the differences between MIM, the BRLP, and other organizations claiming the Panther legacy today, we need to look more deeply at the different phases of the Black Panther Party and how their political line changed.

APSP, AAPRP, NBPP

The BRLP regularly presents itself with the tagline, “the New Generation Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.” And it is not the first, or the only organization, to claim this mantel. The African Peoples’ Socialist Party (APSP) was perhaps the first, having worked with Huey P. Newton himself at the end of his life. That is why in discussing the Panther legacy, we need to specify exactly what legacy that is. For MIM, the period of 1966 to 1969 represented the Maoist phase of the BPP, and therefore the period we hold up as an example to follow and build on. Since the time that Huey was alive, the APSP has shifted focus into building an African Socialist International in the Third World. We see this as paralleling some of the incipient errors in the BRLP and the NABPP that we discuss below.

While the APSP goes back to the 1980s, we can trace another contemporary organization, the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party, to the 1960s.(1) The brain-child of Ghanan President Kwame Nkrumah, the AAPRP in the United $tates was led by Kwame Toure, formerly Stokely Carmichael. The AAPRP came to embody much of the cultural and spiritual tendencies that the Panthers rejected. The BPP built on the Black Power and draft resistance movements that Carmichael was key in developing while leading the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).(2) Carmichael left SNCC, joining the BPP for a time, and tried to unite the two groups. But the Panthers later split with SNCC because of SNCC’s rejection of alliances with white revolutionaries, their promotion of pan-Afrikanism and Black capitalism. Carmichael’s allies were purged from the BPP for being a “bunch of cultural nationalist fools” trying “to undermine the people’s revolution…” “talking about some madness he called Pan-Africanism.”(3)

In the 1990s, we saw a surge in Black Panther revivalism. MIM played a role in this, being the first to digitize many articles from The Black Panther newspaper for the internet and promoting their legacy in fliers and public events. MIM did not seem to have any awareness of the Black Riders Liberation Party at this time. There was a short-lived Ghetto Liberation Party within MIM that attempted to follow in Panther footsteps. Then the New Black Panther Party began to display Panther regalia at public rallies in different cities. While initially optimistic, MIM later printed a critique of the NBPP for its promotion of Black capitalism and mysticism, via its close connection to the Nation of Islam.(4) Later the NBPP became a darling of Fox News, helping them to distort the true legacy of the BPP. Last year the NBPP further alienated themselves by brutalizing former Black Panther Dhoruba bin Wahad and others from the Nation of Gods and Earths and the Free the People Movement. While there is little doubt that the NBPP continues to recruit well-intentioned New Afrikans who want to build a vanguard for the nation, it is evident that the leadership was encapsulated by the state long ago.

Huey’s Intercommunalism

Readers of Under Lock & Key will certainly be familiar with the New Afrikan Black Panther Party, which was originally an independent prison chapter of the NBPP. Their promotion of Maoism and New Afrikan nationalism was refreshing, but they quickly sided with Mao and the Progressive Labor Party against the BPP and more extreme SNCC lines on the white oppressor nation of Amerikkka. They went on to reject the nationalist goals of the BPP, embracing Huey’s theory of intercommunalism. The NABPP and the BRLP both embrace forms of “intercommunalism” as leading concepts in their ideological foundations. And while we disagree with both of them, there are many differences between them as well. This is not too surprising as the theory was never very coherent and really marked Newton’s departure from the original Maoist line of the Party. As a student of David Hilliard, former BPP Chief of Staff, pointed out around 2005, Hilliard used intercommunalism as a way to avoid ever mentioning communism in a semester-long class on the BPP.(5) In the early 1970s, Huey seemed to be using “intercommunalism” in an attempt to address changing conditions in the United $tates and confusion caused by the failure of international forces to combat revisionism in many cases.(6)

Probably the most important implication of Huey’s new line was that he rejected the idea that nations could liberate themselves under imperialism. In other words he said Stalin’s promotion of building socialism in one country was no longer valid, and Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution was now true. This was in 1970, when China had just developed socialism to the highest form we’ve seen to date through the struggles of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, which also began 50 years ago this year. Huey P. Newton’s visit to China in 1971 was sandwiched by visits from war criminal Henry Kissinger and U.$. President Richard Nixon. Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, who would go on to foster normalized relations with the U.$. imperialists, stated that China was ready to negotiate or fight the United $tates in 1971.(7) The Panther visit was a signal of their development of the second option. But after 1971, Chinese support for the Panthers dissipated as negotiations with the imperialists developed.

A bigger problem with Huey’s intercommunalism was how do we address the Amerikkkan oppressor nation when ey claims there are no more states, there are no more nations? In eir “speech at Boston College” in 1970 ey specifically refers to Eldridge Cleaver’s “On the Ideology of the Black Panther Party” in order to depart from it. Newton rejects the analysis of the Black nation as a colony of Amerikkka that must be liberated. That Cleaver essay from 1969 has great unity with MIM line and is where we depart with the NABPP and BRLP who uphold the 1970-1 intercommunalism line of Huey’s.(8)

Black Riders and NABPP Interpret Intercommunalism

To take a closer look at the BRLP itself, let us start with General T.A.C.O.’s essay “African Intercommunalism I.” Tom Big Warrior of the NABPP camp has already written a review of it, which makes a number of critiques that we agree with. He calls out the BRLP for accepting “race” as a real framework to analyze society, yet the NABPP line also rejects nation based on Huey’s intercommunalism. At times, the NABPP and BRLP still use the term nation and colony to refer to New Afrika. This seems contradictory in both cases. Tom Big Warrior is also very critical of the BRLP’s claim to update Huey’s theory by adding African cultural and spiritual elements to it. This is something the Panthers very adamantly fought against, learning from Fanon who wrote in Wretched of the Earth, one of the Panthers’ favorite books: “The desire to attach oneself to tradition or bring abandoned traditions to life again does not only mean going against the current of history but also opposing one’s own people”.(9) This revision of intercommunalism is one sign of the BRLPs conservatism relative to the original BPP who worked to create the new man/womyn, new revolutionary culture and ultimately a new society in the spirit of Mao and Che.

The NABPP is really the more consistent proponent of “revolutionary intercommunalism.” In their analysis a worldwide revolution must occur to overthrow U.$. imperialism. This differs from the MIM view in that we see the periphery peeling off from imperialism little-by-little, weakening the imperialist countries, until the oppressed are strong enough to impose some kind of international dictatorship of the proletariat of the oppressed nations over the oppressor nations. The NABPP says we “must cast off nationalism and embrace a globalized revolutionary proletarian world view.”(10) They propose “building a global United Panther Movement.” These are not really new ideas, reflecting a new reality as they present it. These are the ideas of Trotsky, and at times of most of the Bolsheviks leading up to the Russian revolution.

Even stranger is the BRLP suggestion that, “once we overthrow the Amerikkkan ruling class, there will be a critical need to still liberate Africa.”(11) The idea that the imperialists would somehow be overthrown before the neo-colonial puppets of the Third World is completely backwards. Like the APSP, the NABPP and the BRLP seem to echo this idea of a New Afrikan vanguard of the African or World revolution. MIM(Prisons) disagrees with all these parties in that we see New Afrika as being closer to Amerika in its relation to the Third World, despite its position as a semi-colony within the United $tates.(12)

The NABPP claims that “Huey was right! Not a single national liberation struggle produced a free and independent state.”(13) And they use this “fact” to justify support for “Revolutionary Intercommunalism.” Yet this new theory has not proven effective in any real world revolutions, whereas the national liberation struggle in China succeeded in building the most advanced socialist system known to history. Even the Panthers saw steep declines in their own success after the shift towards intercommunalism. So where is the practice to back up this theory?

We also warn our readers that both the NABPP and BRLP make some outlandishly false statistical claims in order to back up their positions. For example, the NABPP tries to validate Huey’s predictions by stating, “rapid advances in technology and automation over the past several decades have caused the ranks of the unemployed to grow exponentially.”(13) It is not clear if they are speaking globally or within the United $tates. But neither have consistent upward trends in unemployment, and certainly not exponential trends! Meanwhile, in an essay on the crisis of generational divides and tribal warfare in New Afrika the BRLP claims that the latter “has caused more deaths in just Los Angeles than all the casualties in the Yankee imperialist Vietnam war combined!!!”(14) There were somewhere between 1 million and 3 million deaths in the U.$. war against Vietnamese self-determination. [EDIT: Nick Turse cites Vietnam official statistics closer to 4 million] Los Angeles sees hundreds of deaths from gang shootings in a year. We must see things as they are, and not distort facts to fit our propaganda purposes if we hope to be effective in changing the world.

Black Riders

We will conclude with our assessment of the BRLP based on what we have read and seen from them. While we dissect our disagreements with some of their higher level analysis above, many of their articles and statements are quite agreeable, echoing our own analysis. And we are inspired by their activity focusing on serving and organizing the New Afrikan lumpen on the streets. In a time when New Afrikan youth are mobilizing against police brutality in large numbers again, the BRLP is a more radical force at the forefront of that struggle. Again, much of this work echoes that of the original BPP, but some of the bigger picture analysis is missing.

In our interactions with BRLP members we’ve seen them promote anarchism and the 99% line, saying that most white Amerikkkans are exploited by capitalism. BRLP, in line with cultural nationalism, stresses the importance of “race,” disagreeing with Newton who, even in 1972, was correctly criticizing in the face of rampant neo-colonialism: “If we define the prime character of the oppression of blacks as racial, then the situation of economic exploitation of human beings by human being can be continued if performed by blacks against blacks or blacks against whites.”(15) Newton says we must unite the oppressed “in eliminating exploitation and oppression” not fight “racism” as the BRLP and their comrades in People Against Racist Terror focus on.

This leads us to a difference with the BRLP in the realm of strategy. It is true that the original BPP got into the limelight with armed confrontations with the pigs. More importantly, it was serving the people in doing so. So it is hard to say that the BPP was wrong to do this. While Huey concluded that it got ahead of the people and alienated itself from the people, the BRLP seems to disagree by taking on an even more aggressive front. This has seemingly succeeded in attracting the ultra-left, some of whom are dedicated warriors, but has already alienated potential allies. While BRLP’s analysis of the BPPs failure to separate the underground from the aboveground is valuable, it seems to imply a need for an underground insurgency at this time. In contrast, MIM line agrees with Mao that the stage of struggle in the imperialist countries is one of long legal battles until the imperialists become so overextended by armed struggles in the periphery that the state begins to weaken. It is harder to condemn Huey Newton for seeing that as the situation in the early years of the Panthers, but it is clearly not the situation today. In that context, engaging in street confrontations with racists seems to offer more risk than reward in terms of changing the system.

While the BRLP doesn’t really tackle how these strategic issues may have affected the success and/or demise of the BPP, it also does not make any case for how a lack of cultural and spiritual nationalism were a shortcoming that set back the Panthers. BRLP also spends an inordinate amount of their limited number of articles building a cult of persynality around General T.A.C.O. So despite its claims of learning from the past, we see its analysis of the BPP legacy lacking in both its critiques and emulations of BPP practices.

While physical training is good, and hand-to-hand combat is a potentially useful skill for anyone who might get in difficult situations, there should be no illusions about such things being strategic questions for the success of revolutionary organizations in the United $tates today. When your people can all clean their rifle blind-folded but they don’t even know how to encrypt their email, you’ve already lost the battle before it’s started.

Finally, the BRLP has tackled the youth vs. adult contradiction head on. Its analysis of how that plays out in oppressed nations today parallels our own. And among the O.G. Panthers themselves they have been very critical as well, and with good cause. It is clear that we will need a new generation Black Panthers that is formed of and led by the New Afrikan youth of today. But Huey was known to quote Mao that with the correct political line will come support and weapons, and as conditions remain much less revolutionary than the late 1960s, consolidation of cadre around correct and clear political lines is important preparatory work for building a new vanguard party in the future.

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