"Without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement. This cannot be insisted upon too strongly at a time when the fashionable preaching of opportunism combined with absorption in the narrowest forms of practical activity." - V. I. Lenin
Often times the first half of this quote is misrepresented by people not really knowing the context. Well-meaning comrades will repeat this political axiom when calling for others to pick up their theoretical game (grasp of revolutionary science), for reasons having to do with the obvious need for revolutionary theory to influence and propagate our revolutionary practice. Yet it was in the process of struggle and heated political debate that Lenin first made this now famous statement. These struggles and other political debates were recalled by Lenin in eir book What is to be Done?; a book about communist organization and discipline. More to my point, in this book, Lenin addressed the importance that revolutionary theory should play in informing the revolutionary movement, in part for the purpose of combating various erroneous tendencies.
The main tendency which Lenin devoted the better part of this book to was the problem of opportunism. Opportunism can be defined as the conscious or unconscious watering down of political line in order to garner more sympathy for your cause or movement. It can also be said that opportunism can be described as the glossing over of contradictions within the revolutionary movement so as to not offend or turn away your social base. A perfect example of opportunism would be to tell Amerikans that they are the revolutionary vehicle which we call the proletariat instead of telling them the truth: that they are by and large the objective enemies of the international proletariat — parasites which we call the labor aristocracy.
One example of how opportunism can work its way into the revolutionary prison movement is thru a philosophical belief called pragmatism. To be a pragmatist means to worship the tactics of whatever works at the present time. While there may be occasions in which we must do what is most effective at that particular instance/moment, we must do so in a way that doesn't have us sacrificing our political principles or political line, all for the sake of practical results. Pragmatism as a strategic orientation is a danger to revolutionary movements because it can cause us to shift focus from our strategic goals in favor of the immediacy of tactical results. While tactical wins are a good thing for the oppressed, we will be in error if we confuse a tactical gain for strategic victory. A real world example of the negative effects of pragmatism is how many prisoners who participated in the California hunger strikes first initiated in 2011 abandoned the struggle for humyn rights in favor of material concessions and a more comfortable oppression.
Other more nuanced examples of how opportunism has come to dominate political organizing behind prison walls come in the form of "friendship groups" and "elites." Both are hazards to the prison movement because of the seemingly casual nature of the two and the Liberalism that underlies them.
Friendship groups are the more obvious of the two. Friendship groups can be defined as: "A group of friends who also happen to participate in the same political activities. Most of these groups' members participate within the group because they like the people in them and not because they have the correct political line."
Elites can be defined as: "A small group of people who have power over a larger group of which they are a part of, usually without a direct responsibility to that larger group and often without their knowledge or consent."
Friendship groups function on an external level and so many prisoners will surely recognize one when they see them, as most LOs have these types of groups functioning in one capacity or another. Elites on the other hand, while being dialectically related to the friendship group are the opposite and function on an internal level. One thing which both these groups share in common is their popularization and use of false logic as a method of accomplishing their objectives. This false logic can be best understood as sophism; a method of argument that fake philosophers use to fool the masses by exploiting to their own advantage any situation they encounter or create. One such method of the professional sophist is the ad hominem attack. Ad hominen attacks are marked by appeals to feelings or prejudices rather than to intellect. For example, if one persyn doesn't like another persyn's politics, but can't correctly argue against eir political line, the aggressor might use an ad hominem attack instead. The ad hominem attack might be accusing the persyn of violating an established taboo, such as stealing from another persyn.
Opportunism will find its way into revolutionary movements and organizations if both the masses and the leadership do not have a strong grasp or even an elementary understanding of revolutionary theory. This can allow for various dishonest and incorrect elements to find their way into our structures, which as a result can cause our movements to falter and perish. This is why as revolutionaries we put such a high premium on the study of revolutionary science not only amongst the prison leadership but the prison masses. Furthermore, in making this point we cannot over-emphasize the dialectical relation between study and practice, as a correct grasp of one will inevitably lead to a correct grasp of the other.
To re-iterate, preventative measures are essential in order to safe-guard our movements from taking up opportunism and watering down their revolutionary agendas. We must strongly advocate and fight for the study and production of both revolutionary theory and practice not only to effectively meet the demands and goals of revolutionary organizing, but to navigate our movements thru the sea and fog of bourgeois Liberalism. Our practice will grope in the dark unless its path is illuminated by the most advanced revolutionary theory.
Last, but certainly not least, i would like to speak to other challenges of revolutionary organizing behind prison walls. When working with the lumpen and attempting to organize for our collective liberation it is only natural that we will run into a variety of problems that may end with us in frustration. However, we should not blithely dismiss the prison masses as incapable of listening to our message because they are supposedly too "ignorant", "backward" or "apolitical" to understand what the so-called "revolutionary" might regard as "complex," as this has more to do with the revolutionary's own ignorance, inability and incapability to either understand the masses or effectively communicate to them the correct political line. More likely than not, when any movement, strike or action fails to materialize or develop it is not due to the low level of consciousness of the masses, but to the revolutionaries' own lack of profundity and insight into the movement of the masses which they often claim some sort of near spiritual connection to.
We must continue to find better ways to correct our approach and understanding of the masses, correct our shortcomings, and stop blaming the masses. Likewise, neither should we fear the masses or their criticism, as the acceptance of criticism and self-criticism is integral to establishing the correct revolutionary line. Do not fear the masses because they are the way forward, and do not fear their criticism because often times they prove to be correct, if even just a bit, for whosoever fears the criticism of the masses only proves that what they really fear is revolution. Above all, always remember that revolutionaries are not above the masses in any way, shape or form. We are but the advanced detachment of the prison movement, nothing more, nothing less. Whoever does not believe this is not a Maoist.
In writing this missive a relevant story comes to mind. When the masses in socialist China were struggling for control of their country against the capitalist roaders during the period of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, many so-called "revolutionaries" felt that the masses were out of control, and that they weren't yet ready to share state power with the communist party. Many of these revolutionaries advocated an end to this "anarchy," accusing the masses of being too backward to run the country. To this Mao Zedong and Lin Biao responded:
"The assumption of power by ideological means is absolutely necessary if consolidation of the working class's power and hegemony is the goal... To accomplish the decisive political leap, the leading role must revert to the masses; this has nothing to do as it is generally believed in the West to do with any form of spontaneity. The role of the party in destroying 'spontaneous' illusions lies in the quality of leadership which consists in transforming dispersed rebel movements into a revolutionary current capable of overcoming contradictions. Lin Biao says that 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. Revolution is the resolution of contradictions."(1)
Book Review: Marxism, Orientalism, Cosmopolitanism Gilbert Achcar Haymarket Books 2013
In part one of this review i addressed the author's apparent disdain for the anti-imperialist Islamic movement. In this concluding article i will expose the author's First World chauvinism as being at the root of his reactionary perspective by explaining how he uses the Christian liberation vs. Islamic fundamentalist concept in religion and politics today from a Marxian perspective, so as to better prepare the reader for his ideas on "internationalism" and "ultra-nationalism" by which he really means revolutionary nationalism. As such, it would seem that the entire premise of this book was not intended as a supplemental analysis of anti-imperialist politics in the Middle East today, but so that the author can push his crypto-Trotskyist agenda. Crypto-Trotskyism is a term used to refer to organizations that exhibit Trotskyist tendencies, but which don’t admit to being Trotskyist. Most significantly they suffer from the same great nation chauvinism as the other Trots: over-emphasizing the role of the oppressor nation working classes, and under-emphasizing the role of liberation struggles of the oppressed nations.(1)
The author begins the final essay of this book titled "Marxism and Cosmopolitanism" by tracing the very hystory of the word cosmopolitanism. He discusses how it went thru many twists and turns, from its beginning in ancient Greek civilization thru the Middle Ages and up until today; at one point progressive, while regressive at another. Hence, we learn that the terms cosmopolitan and globalization are connected in this regard. We also learn that Marx and Engels shared Achcar's disdain at one point or another for any and all national movements, in particular for those centered in the capitalist periphery, preferring, instead to champion the cause of the global proletariat, which in their lifetimes meant focusing on European workers. As a result, Marx and Engels contributed to popularizing the concept of cosmopolitanism as interchangeable with international proletariat, which to many communists of the time was preferable to mentioning by name the plight of English or German workers because of the obvious connotations to nationalism. Such connotations were seen by most as giving legitimacy to nationalist struggles, which at the time were driven by the national bourgeoisie.
Within this context nationalism was viewed as backward and reactionary for the proletariat, as the national bourgeoisie was using this concept to their advantage by inciting the proletariat to kill and be killed by workers of other countries, for the bourgeoisie’s goal of world domination. The communists on the other hand rejected nationalism, considering themselves staunch internationalists; champions of the world proletariat, whose hystoric mission it was to usher in the socialist stage of communist development. This being the accepted theory of the time, well before Mao posited that in the age of imperialism, nationalism of the oppressed nations is internationalism.
All this is important to remember when assessing the text as it pertains to the whole reason why Achcar even wrote this book. More so, it is important to remember because in the following pages the author uses much of this information to attack the practice and political line of Joseph Stalin. And while it is undeniable that Marx and Engels at one point agreed with many of the ideas that Achcar propagates, it is also undeniable that as reality progressed, so did Marx and Engels' thinking, which is more than we can say for Mr. Achcar. So if we want to learn the genuine Marxist stance on nations and nationalism then we should not limit ourselves to what the founders of scientific socialism had to say on these topics early on in their revolutionary careers. Rather, we should study and learn what they advocated and stood for later in their lives once they became full-fledged Marxists. As such, the line that Achcar is pushing is a disingenuous one in which he proclaims that all nationalism, just like all variants of revolutionary Islam, are inherently bad, when in reality it is the nationalism of the oppressor nations and the Western privilege that comes with it that he upholds. As such, Gilbert Achcar should just come out and say what he really thinks; which is that the nationalism of the oppressed is what he believes to be backward and reactionary, while oppressor nation nationalism is inherently progressive due to its linkage to Europeans, their culture and tradition. Thus, just as the author correctly pointed out in "Religion and Politics today from a Marxian Perspective," that Islamic fundamentalism is a concept that can be divided into one that is collaborationist with Western interests and one that is hostile to Western interests, so is nationalism a concept that can be divided into one that is bourgeois and reactionary, and one that is revolutionary and forward looking.
"Cosmopolitanism" as Anathema: the Stalinist Perversion
Trotskyists of various stripes have always hated on Stalin for a multiplicity of reasons, primarily however for his theory of socialist development. As Stalin's line on socialist development progressed it eventually came to stand for the national liberation struggles of the oppressed nations, not only within Europe but outside the continent as well. He correctly saw the revolutionary character of the anti-imperialist movement in the colonies as both hostile to Western interests and potentially pro-Soviet. Trotsky on the other hand had nothing but contempt for Asians, Africans and [email protected] Americans, believing them too backward and weak to ever launch successful liberation struggles and/or engage in socialist construction absent the immediate help of the European working classes, a theory that was proven incorrect when an onslaught of colonial countries broke free of the imperialist framework following the end of World War II. And so it is within the context of "globalization" and anti-imperialist struggles in the 21st century that Gilbert Achcar now attempts to rehabilitate Trotsky's theory of the world revolution led by the so-called proletariat of the advanced capitalist countries vis-a-vis the rehabilitation of cosmopolitanism; vis-a-vis his criticisms of Joseph Stalin. To accomplish this however, Achcar must go in depth into the hystory of the Soviet Union, in particular into the propaganda campaigns against cosmopolitanism which Stalin had initiated at the end of World War II, as well as to the campaigns in favor of Soviet patriotism which Stalin also had initiated to prepare the Soviet masses for the Nazi invasion.
According to Mr. Achcar these campaigns were nothing more than a cover for Stalin's anti-Semitism. Yet interestingly enough, in making these accusations the author inadvertently puts forth a plausible explanation for the oppression of notable Jews during this period in the Soviet Union; thereby paving the way for a materialist explanation of these actions and the clearing of Stalin's name as far as anti-Semitism goes.
Achcar like so many anti-communists before him cannot contain his contempt for the progress made under Stalin and so he jumps on the bourgeois bandwagon of blaming Stalin for the so-called Jewish pogroms that were said to have taken place beginning in 1949 alongside the further elaboration and popularization of Soviet patriotism as a concept over that of cosmopolitanism. In addition, the author also contends that these campaigns were one and the same as the so-called anti-Marxist movement which supposedly took place during this period. What these campaigns actually represented however were struggles in the realm of ideas between revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries battling for the "hearts and minds" of the Soviet masses, and indeed the future of the revolution.
According to Achcar, the cosmopolitans appear to have been something like a Trotskyist sect operating inside the USSR, who were agitating around the need for openness with the West and glorifying the West. Now remember, this is 1949 and the Cold War is cracking, all of the Soviet Union's wartime imperialist allies have retrained their guns on the communists. And although the author certainly doesn't say it, the Communist Party under Stalin certainly believed that these "cosmopolitans" were in the service of Amerikan imperialism carrying out intelligence gathering activities and engaging in building public opinion for counter-revolution and coup d'etat, just like the types of activities that CIA sponsored groups carry out in Third World countries with anti-western governments. It would seem then these cosmopolitans and other so-called "Marxists" were actually involved in sabotaging socialism from within with actions which thoroughly alarmed the Soviet government. But according to Achcar these were the real "Marxists," the real "internationalists" because they followed the teachings of the young Marx; but when did Marx ever speak of colluding against a socialist state?
Furthermore, the author states that in analyzing Stalin's anti-Semitism we cannot afford to begin in the post-war period, but must start with the publication of Marxism and the National Question, which Achcar describes as "a superficial and dogmatic essay on this most complex of questions."(2) Stalin denies the existence of a Jewish nation within Europe's borders, based on the Jewish people's lack of a common territory. Apparently Gilbert Achcar disagrees with the Marxist definition of nations preferring instead Otto Bauer's The Question of Nationalities and Social Democracy, which clearly defines Jews as a nation based solely on their "common cultures" by which they should really just say religion. The author further claims that it is in this hystorical period that Stalin began his first anti-Marxist campaigns in which he sought to squelch all opposition and secure his position of power. Achcar goes on to argue that Stalin's ideas on internationalism reflected only a narrow and selfish outlook which took into account only the internationalism of the "pan-Tsarist" Russia organization of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party when, in Marxism and the National Question, he mentioned the principle that the party strove to "unite locally the workers of all nationalities of Russia into single, integral collective bodies, to unite their collective bodies into a single party."(3) In defending this principle Achcar states, "Stalin launched a fierce attack on nationalism, putting Great Russian chauvinism on equal footing with the nationalism that was expanding among oppressed nationalities in the USSR - in a definitely non-Leninist fashion."(2) However, this is an extreme misrepresentation of Stalin's line on Achcar's part. Stalin criticized the national chauvinism that was beginning to develop among some of the more reactionary sectors of the oppressed nations in the Tsarist empire and certainly not the nationalism of the oppressed themselves. Apparently, the author believes that national chauvinism should only be criticized when it originates with the oppressors and by people of the offending nation themselves and not by anyone else. In other words, only Russians can criticize Great Russian chauvinism and only the oppressed nations can criticize any chauvinism that originates within their own nations. This is certainly an ironic point that those who have actually read Marxism and the National Question will note. But Stalin was right to criticize the chauvinism of the oppressed nations in the old Russian empire, especially when that chauvinism has the potential to foment violence amongst the oppressed. Chauvinism is chauvinism no matter who propagates it.
Later on Mr. Achcar comes out with an ass-backwards refutation of Stalin's theory of socialism in one country first, attempting to tie it back to Stalin's "anti-Semitism" (Achcar's term for his denial of a Jewish nation) and Soviet patriotism. The line goes as follows: "Socialism in one country: this theoretical innovation central to Stalinism actually laid the groundwork for a Soviet patriotism, coupled with a sui generis internationalism that amounted in fact to the internationalism of Soviet patriotism. Communist members of 'bourgeois nations' had a duty to identify with the thriving 'fatherland of socialism.' Indeed, their Soviet patriotic duty could very well have taken as its motto 'our country, right or wrong!'"(4)
The following paragraphs is where accusations of Jewish repression and anti-Marxism by Stalin really gets interesting.
To give some real context to these accusations, which Achcar himself provides, I will say that prior to the beginning of the Second World War an expansive campaign was begun in the Soviet Union to create and solidify a hegemonic Soviet patriotism for the explicit purpose of strengthening the bonds and common interests of the Soviet Republics against the impending threat of fascism. Stalin was well aware that not only the German fascists, but the soon to be imperialist allies were all working hard to divide the Soviet people from within on the basis of old national grievances which were common under the Tsar. And, as stated earlier, there were counter-revolutionaries inside the USSR consciously working against the Soviet masses. These were the cosmopolitans who by and large were composed of "real Marxists." The struggle between the two opposing forces is recounted and explained by Achcar:
"The patriotic mutation was brought to completion after the Soviet Union entered the Second World War, engaging in what the Stalinist regime called the 'Great Patriotic War.' This went along with the rehabilitation of the Greek Orthodox Church and the resurrection of Slavophilism. "Soviet Patriotism" became a highly praised virtue in the Soviet Union and in the world communist movement while Stalin's brand of 'internationalism' reached its logical conclusion in the 1943 dissolution of the Comintern.
“Soviet patriotism mutated into full-fledged chauvinism after Moscow emerged victorious from the war, especially when the Soviet Union faced renewed ostracism with the start of the Cold War. It is against this historical background that the campaign against 'cosmopolitanism' unfolded."(5)
We agree with the decision to disband the Comintern, which was done because
"it became increasingly clear that, to the extent that the internal as well as the international situation of individual countries became more complicated, the solution of the problems of the labor movement of each individual country through the medium of some international centre would meet with insuperable obstacles."(6)
Leszek Kolakowski is then cited favorably by Achcar as giving the Trotskyist perspective of these events:
"In 1949 the Soviet press launched a campaign against 'cosmopolitanism', a vice that was not defined but evidently entailed being anti-patriotic and glorifying the West. As the campaign developed, it was intimated more and more clearly that a cosmopolitan was much the same thing as a Jew. When individuals were pilloried and had previously borne Jewish sounding names, these were generally mentioned. 'Soviet patriotism' was indistinguishable from Russian chauvinism and became an official mania. Propaganda declared incessantly that all important technical inventions and discoveries had been made by Russians, and to mention foreigners in this context was to be guilty of cosmopolitanism and kowtowing to the West."(5)
Achcar then describes how, according to Isaac Deutscher, Stalin ordered a crackdown on Jews in the Soviet Union following "massive demonstrations of sympathy by Russian Jews who in 1948-49 greeted Golda Meir the first ambassador to Moscow of the newborn state of Israel..."(7)
According to Deutscher the crackdown was in response not only to this unauthorized public display of support by Soviet citizens, but because Israel "stunned" Stalin by siding with the West in the cold war. Yet the author would have us believe that "unauthorized public displays of support" for a foreign head of state invited to Russia by Stalin would take precedence in this "crackdown" over that of the machinations of cosmopolitans and their collusion with a tool of Western imperialism, as is the sub-text that lies hidden beneath these events. Indeed, just a paragraph down from this Achcar says that Soviet authorities began to close down Jewish theaters, periodicals and publishing houses while purging personnel and arresting various Rabbis and other Jewish public figures soon thereafter. But aren't these institutions that which have been traditionally used by the imperialists to agitate for counter-revolution in anti-imperialist nations? If Jewish pogroms really took place, then why is it that only certain people and institutions were being repressed and not Jewish people as a whole? Clearly these were political moves with a basis in national security that were happening and not oppression based on nationality (or religious beliefs) as Achcar would have us believe. As a matter of fact, when we turn the page of this book we find a much more coherent and realistic assessment of these campaigns as detailed by F. Chernov in his article: "Bourgeois Cosmopolitanism and it's reactionary role" as published and featured in Bolshevik, the theoretical and political magazine of the central committee of the All Union Communist Party (Bolshevik). It begins by reporting that Soviet newspapers
"unmasked an unpatriotic group of theatre critics of rootless cosmopolitans, who came out against Soviet patriotism, against the great cultural achievements of the Russian people and other people in our country."
Chernov's article then states:
"Cosmopolitanism is the negation of patriotism, its opposite. It advocates absolute apathy towards the fate of the Motherland. Cosmopolitanism denies the existence of any moral or civil obligations of people to their nation and Motherland..."
"Present day bourgeois cosmopolitanism with its call for the repudiation of national sovereignty, with its notions of 'one-world government,' the creation of the 'United States of Europe,' etc. is an ideological 'basis' and 'consecration' of the assembling under the aegis of American imperialism of the union of imperialists in the name of the struggle against the toiling masses, against the Soviet Union and peoples democracies, against the irresistible growth over the entire world of the forces of socialism and democracy.
"The party unmasked the anti-patriotic, bourgeois-cosmopolitan essence of servility before the capitalist West. It revealed that this cringing before foreign countries inevitably leads to national treason and betrayal of the interests of the Soviet people and the socialist fatherland. The unmasking of unpatriotic groups of bourgeois cosmopolitans, the struggle against the ideology of bourgeois cosmopolitanism, is a striking expression of the concern of the Bolshevik Party about the education of the toiling masses of our country in the spirit of life-giving, Soviet patriotism."(8)
This portion of the essay and the book then end with the statements that: "With the start of 'de-Stalinization' in Kruschev's Soviet Union, the eyes of many communists were opened; more accurately, their mouths were opened, as it is difficult to believe that they had not been aware of the realities they denounced when the green light finally came from Moscow..."(9)
"With the end of the Stalinist campaign, 'cosmopolitanism' faded away as a major issue in communist circles, as well as in the public debate in general..."(10)
Of course it did, but only because the cosmopolitans and other revisionists were now in power and the Soviet Union was starting on the capitalist road. The final pages of this book then shift back to Trotskyist political line as Gilbert Achcar outlines how Marx, Engels and Lenin thought cosmopolitanism, i.e. proletarian internationalism charts the course towards communism, i.e. "socialist globalization" and how national liberation struggles in the Third World "can fit perfectly in the cosmopolitan struggle for global transformation as necessary moments of this struggle, as components of the global struggle..."(11)
But when the oppressed nations finally rise up in revolt against imperialism these national liberation struggles won't just be "necessary moments" or "mere components" of the global struggle: but instead will mark the beginning of a long stage of socialist transition and development in which the people of Africa, Asia and [email protected] America will band together in a Joint Dictatorship of the Proletariat of the Oppressed Nations against the former oppressing and exploiting nations.
In summation, the author opens this book with the chauvinist First World belief that Western domination of the world brought progress to the hordes of uncivilized savages and barbarians thru the spread of Christianity. Apparently, revolution, progress and development are phenomena inherent only to white people and deliverable in the future only thru a multi-nation working class approach, led of course by the workers of the core capitalist countries.
This is why he views with such disgust the success that revolutionary Islam is having in repelling Western forces, because in those movements he sees the reactionary and backward Islamic fundamentalists doing what he says they cannot; engage and win against the imperialists. Likewise, this is why he cannot stand Stalin and must tear him down, because in his practice and political line he sees the backward national liberation and self-determination movements of the oppressed nations as they came to fruition all throughout the 20th century by using revolutionary nationalism to establish socialism in their countries and then vigorously defending it. While the only thing that Trotskyists could do was complain and criticize that the Soviet Union was moving contrary to what the young Marx and Engels had envisioned in their early years. Such is the hallmark of Trotskyism which holds that socialism is impossible in countries of the Third World before the imperialist countries have had revolutions. Such is the hallmark of Trotskyism which needs but to depart from the reality of material conditions and enter the jungle of idealism to carry out the lofty goals of the white worker elite.
Book Review: Marxism, Orientalism, Cosmopolitanism Gilbert Achcar Haymarket Books 2013
"Thus, as in all idealist interpretations of history, historical phenomena are fundamentally explained as cultural outcomes, as the results of the ideology upheld by their actors, in full disregard of the vast array of social, economic and political circumstances that led to the emergence and prevalence of this or that version of an ideology among particular social groups." (p. 77)
Not too long ago the author of this book appeared on the political news show Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman. During this appearance Achcar made the statement that the people who are joining groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda in 2015 share the same socio-economic background and social alienation from the prevailing system as the people who joined the various Marxist-led movements in North Africa and the Middle East during that region's de-colonization process. The author went on to state that it was the oppressed classes' material existence under colonialism that pushed them towards the communist movement then, and that it is this new generation's similar oppression that has them taking up arms once again, and not some mistaken sense of cultural-religious doom at the hands of the Christian West, no matter what some within the revolutionary Islamist movement might subjectively think.(1) In other words, what we have been seeing happening today within the majority Muslim countries is not Muslim resistance to what some have erroneously labeled a "Holy War" or cultural imperialism as seen thru the rubric of globalization. Rather, what the author says we are seeing is nothing more than the continuation of the class struggle in its religious form. And while at first glance this might seem like a breath of fresh air within an atmosphere dominated by the imperialist media, upon closer inspection what the author puts forward in this book is in fact just a more detailed and eloquent version of Bob Avakian's proposition of the "theory of the two outmodeds"(2); a dogmatic and disingenuous, First Worldist, chauvinist re-phrasing of Engels' negation of the negation.(3)
This book is a collection of four essays which the author describes as a comparative Marxist assessment of the role of religion today, as well as of the continuing development of religious ideology within the class struggle. The author also attempts to provide the reader with a Marxist materialist assessment of Christian liberation theology and Islamic fundamentalism not only in regards to each other but with respect to bourgeois cosmopolitanism and "revolutionary internationalism." The focus of this review however will be on the first and last essays. Where the former offers an incisive look into the topics discussed above, the latter is an in depth and baseless attack of Stalin, in need of its own analysis which I will deal with in part 2 of this review. The following is part 1.
Religion and Politics Today from a Marxian Perspective
In this first essay Achcar introduces us to the general theme of the book: The chauvinist First World belief that Western domination of the world has brought not only progress to the Third World, but created a better overall society compared to what "Orientalism" had to offer. Orientalism is just old terminology used to describe everything east of Europe. It is also used to describe Middle Eastern and Asian societies prior to the rise of Western European colonialism, and liberation thereof. Lastly, the term and concept of Orientalism was also used to describe the re-emergence of Muslim dominance in politics and culture immediately preceding liberation in what we today call the Middle East.
Definitions aside, this book is very much inconsistent on a Marxian level as Achcar does a good job of advocating ideas long since refuted and proven incorrect by Marxist scientists, not only in the realm of theory, but in the social laboratory as well. Paradoxically however, this book has a strong dialectical thrust to it as the author uses dialectical analysis to both inform eir position and present eir thesis; yet ey fails to balance out this dialectical analysis with Marxist materialism, thus presenting us with subjective findings. Therefore, while the author takes a correct dialectical approach to the development of religion vis-a-vis the class struggle, Achcar simultaneously negates the reality of world politics in the "Orient" which of course leads em to the wrong conclusions.
This criticism of Achcar is also applicable to eir failure to locate and define the principal contradiction in the world once imperialism developed. Part and parcel to Achcar's biased position with respect to the progress of the West is eir comparison of Christian liberation theology to Islamic fundamentalism as a philosophy of praxis categorizing both as "combative ideologies arising out of the class struggle" but thru the dominant humyn ideology (religion). However, the author incorrectly posits that the former is inherently progressive due to its origins with the oppressed and poverty stricken followers of Jesus, while the latter is inherently backward and reactionary because of its early beginnings with the Arab merchant classes of proto-feudalism. By comparing these two religions Achcar tries to have us draw parallels between the "communistic tendencies" of early Christianity and the propertied character of early Islam, thereby attempting to produce a divergence in the reader's mind as to what is inherently progressive and what is not.
While an argument can be made to support the thesis of revolutionary Islam as the path forward for those Muslims oppressed by imperialism, less can be said of the social democratic turn that the proponents of Christian liberation theology have taken. Achcar attempts to frame the issue by hypothesizing that the world of today is the inevitable outcome of Christian liberation struggles in Medieval Europe which served as early models for bourgeois democracy through the equalization of power through armed struggle. To prove this the author finds it useful to point to various revolts and peasant struggles in the Middle Ages in which the class struggle began to take on religious overtones with the Protestant Reformation. Prior to this however, Achcar praises liberation theology as the embodiment of what ey refers to as the "elective affinity" in Christianity that can lead the world to communism. In other words, what Achcar is trying to say is that liberation theology is the positive aspect in Christianity which can also play the principal role in bridging together religion with the cause of communism. Furthermore, the author says that this elective affinity draws together the "legacy of original Christianity — a legacy that faded away, allowing Christianity to turn into the institutionalized ideology of social domination — and communistic utopianism."(p. 17)
When pointing out examples of more contemporary struggles the author states:
"It is this same elective affinity between original Christianity and communistic utopianism that explains why the worldwide wave of left-wing political radicalisation that started in the 1960s (not exactly religious times) could partly take on a Christian dimension - especially in Christian majority areas in 'peripheral' countries where the bulk of the people were poor and downtrodden..."(p. 23)
When speaking of Islam's "inherently" reactionary character today Achcar attributes it primarily to what ey describes as
"the tenacity of various survivals of pre-capitalist social formations in large areas of the regions concerned; the fact that Islam was from its inception very much a political and judicial system; the fact that Western colonial-capitalist powers did not want to upset the area's historical survivals and religious ideology, for they made use of them and were also keen on avoiding anything that would make it easier to stir up popular revolts against their domination; the fact that, nevertheless, the obvious contrast between the religion of the foreign colonial power and the locally prevailing religion made the latter a handy instrument for anti-colonial rebellion; the fact that the nationalist bourgeois and petit bourgeois rebellions against Western domination (and against the indigenous ruling classes upon which this domination relied) did not confront the religion of Islam, for the reason just given as well as out of sheer opportunism..."(p. 24)
The author then goes on to say that Islamic fundamentalism grew on the decomposing body of Arab nationalism, citing it as "a tremendously regressive historic turn"(p.25). In reality any ideology that is based on mysticism and idealism will never be enough to defeat imperialism once and for all whether that be Christian liberation theology or Islamic fundamentalism. That said, as materialists we must still make the assessment of what movement is currently doing the most to challenge imperialism today. Is it the Islamic fighters who are engaged in a series of anti-imperialist struggles? I am reminded of something the Maoist Internationalist Movement once said in an article on pan ideologies:
"The measure of any ethnic ideology is whether it focuses its fire on imperialism as the enemy. If the pan serves to fry imperialism then it is progressive. If the pan fries non-imperialist nations, then it is reactionary and should be thrown out."(4)
But things aren't always so clear cut as we might want them to be, which is probably why later in that same article MIM said:
"It is only the struggle against imperialism as defined by Lenin that can really bring global peace. Other wars can bring no net gains to the international proletariat, just more or less dead exploited people. The plunder of the imperialists is much greater than that conducted by any oppressed nation's neighbors."(4)
These statements are liberating because they free us from all the imperialist clap-trap about the evils of Islam. We are hence reminded that there is no evil above that of imperialism and so long as these movements keep their sights trained on the imperialists then they will remain "inherently" progressive.
On that same note, not everything in the book is bad, and we should at least give Achcar some credit for pointing out that even Islamic fundamentalism can be divided into separate entities, instead of simply painting all Islamic fighters with a single brush as most Western intellectuals tend to do:
"Thus two main brands of Islamic fundamentalism came to co-exist across the vast geographical spread of Muslim majority countries: one that is collaborationist with Western interests, and one that is hostile to Western interests. The stronghold of the former is the Saudi Kingdom, the most fundamental, obscurantist of all Islamic states. The stronghold of the anti-Western camp within Shi'ism is the Islamic Republic of Iran, while its present spearhead among the Sunnis is al-Qa'ida."(p. 25)
As student-practitioners of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism we would be wise to keep in mind that Marxist philosophy and methodology is based on the most radical rejections of philosophical idealism with emphasis on revolutionary practice. Therefore our criticisms of religion and religious ideology should remain within the scope of critiquing certain ideological props as used by the imperialists to justify and support capitalism-imperialism along with all of its oppressive structures which made up the world today, for the explicit purposes of changing the world today and certainly not to critique religious believers or religion per se. In addition, organizations like those coming out of Islamic fundamentalism should be viewed by revolutionaries as developing out of the principal contradiction filling the voids left by the Marxists and revolutionary nationalists when those movements were either smashed or capitulated. Rather than denigrating these combative ideologies the way that Achcar does, bemoaning the day that revolutionary Islam stepped in to fill Marxism's shoes, we should instead champion their victories against imperialism while simultaneously criticizing where they fail to represent the true interests of the Muslim people.
As Achcar correctly states, the hystory of Islam in combating Western interference in the Orient is but the natural dialectical progression of the anti-imperialist struggle absent a strong communist movement. However, it is Western nihilist politics in command which fails to appreciate the positive role that Islamic fundamentalism plays in the anti-imperialist fight. Much in the same way that Christian liberation theology did in countries like Nicaragua and El Salvador. While the author raises a lot of good points in this book ey still fails to arrive at the correct conclusions. Real internationalists will not hesitate to celebrate every blow struck against the imperialists when it comes from the oppressed, whereas First World chauvinists hiding under the cloak of communism will continuously cringe at the barbarity of the oppressed for fighting back the only way they can. Achcar admittedly criticizes Islam's inherently "reactionary" character while simultaneously putting forth the concept of "cosmopolitanism" under the guise of anti-Stalin vitriol and so-called "internationalism" reducing revolutionary nationalism as inherently reactionary much in the same way ey does Islam. These final topics will be dealt with at length upon the second half of this review.
One hundred years since the hystoric Plan de San Diego took place does yet another monumental and hystoric event develop; the publication of [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán. [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán is a revolutionary nationalist book that focuses on the revolutionary struggle of the [email protected] nation against Amerikan imperialism. This book is in the service of all oppressed Raza within Aztlán and should be studied by those who are interested in liberating the [email protected] nation from U.$. imperialism, especially Raza who are interested in establishing a [email protected] People's Republic in what is currently occupied and oppressed Aztlán, i.e., California, Texas, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado.
[email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán sheds light on the darkness that is national oppression, a darkness that has shrouded and enveloped Aztlán, by directing its luminous rays onto the shining path that has been paved for us by all the great people's struggles the world over. People's struggles in which the heroic Third World masses continue to prove not only their bravery in the face of disastrous imperialism, but the validity and effectiveness of People's War and the revolutionary ideology from which it sprung: Marxism-Leninsm-Maoism, principally Maoism.
[email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán enjoins us to vehemently attack national oppression and criticize the proponents of national oppression whoever they may be. This means that as revolutionary nationalists and the advanced detachment of the [email protected] nation it is our duty to be the first to openly criticize our own sell-out political and reformist leaders. It does no good to go about praising oppressors just because they have a Spanish surname, speak Spanish, or are Raza by birth, as doing so only confuses the issue for the rest of the [email protected] masses who look to us for theoretical and ideological guidance. As revolutionaries we must constantly blaze the trail in matters of political outlook and awareness and must never give in to complacency which inevitably brings about political degeneration. We must put an end to [email protected] nationalists masquerading as Maoists who in the name of Aztlán would raise the red flag only to oppose it. Communists from the [email protected] nation should therefore take a hard and uncompromising stand against these national chauvinists who with their sophistry would only set back the [email protected] movement for liberation and independence.
That said, real Maoists believe in uniting all who can be united in the struggle to free the nation. This is in accordance with United Front theory and practice as developed by Joseph Stalin, leader of the USSR during the Soviet people's struggle against German fascism, and Mao Zedong in the Chinese people's war of liberation against Japanese militarism and imperialism. As such and in making this statement it is recognized that there is a contradiction between uniting all who can be united and struggling not only against erroneous tendencies within the [email protected] movement and nation, but outright deviations and revisionism within the [email protected] communist movement as well. Maoists from the [email protected] nation should seek to resolve these differences and contradictions now, starting with the more advanced elements of the [email protected] masses, through the method of unity-struggle-unity. We should not wait for the national liberation stage to be completed before taking up this ideological struggle. This should not preclude our breaking with other [email protected] organizations on the basis of principled stands of scientific dispute as "the struggle bursts forth continuously." We should recognize that in such instances what we must do is not unite two into one, but struggle to divide in order to liberate Aztlán and make revolution.
We should also recognize that before the movement can really take shape through the power and strength of the [email protected] masses there must first be a consensus among all the revolutionary elements of Aztlán so as to consolidate the [email protected] national liberation movement; whether that be within a loose united front of various [email protected] and [email protected] organizations, or under one united flag with a single program, cannot possibly be determined at this time. What should be acknowledged however is that the revolutionary forces within Aztlán must begin the process of consolidation so as to continue to move the struggle forward. The principal way of doing this at this current stage of the struggle undoubtedly revolves around Under Lock & Key, the voice of the anti-imperialist movement behind prison walls. It is thus the revolutionary duty of Maoists and other anti-imperialists from the [email protected] nation to unite in order to begin the long and arduous process of liberation and decolonization de toda la gente.
The [email protected] revolutionary nationalist movement should be in firm unity with all genuine Maoist forces the world over as well as all revolutionary forces fighting imperialist backed regimes and lackeys. Clenched fist salute! A clenched fist salute is also extended to all Raza and camaradas currently locked in Amerikkka's prisons who have taken the qualitative leap towards gaining freedom and liberation for our people by engaging and struggling with Maoism; the third and highest stage of revolutionary science.
Comrades should also seriously study the ten point program of MIM(Prisons) as well as the six cardinal points of the Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons before attempting to create their own Maoist organizations as they can help to demarcate between real Maoism and phoney communist organizations. These programs should serve as a general guide to the type of organizing and organization we should aspire to. Revolutionary cells claiming both the mantle of Mao and Aztlán should be open to all [email protected] and should not be contingent on past street or prison organization, but on the deep seated belief that Aztlán is a territory of the [email protected] nation which must be liberated!
On that same note [email protected] Maoist organizations should have very strict admission policies as revolution is not a game or a lifestyle, but a matter of life and death and so only the most committed revolutionaries should be recruited. Comrades should also seriously study the Leninist concept of "better, fewer, but better" for this stage of the struggle. Lastly, comrades should enjoin the oppressed prison masses, in particular imprisoned Raza, to take up struggle and begin working with other lumpen organizations amiable towards revolution in the spirit and practice of the United Front for Peace in Prisons, as this is not only the most effective way of establishing peace in prison but of sustaining it. Peace amongst the lumpen is not only a precursor, but a prerequisite to victory on a strategic level.
The [email protected] and other prison masses must realize that Amerikan imperialism grows increasingly weaker every day, both on a domestic and international level because of its extended, hegemonic over-reach. Instead of gaining the imperialists a greater grasp on the far off and distant periphery this presence is instead met with fierce resistance and hate on the part of the resolute Third World masses. The masses must know that Amerikan imperialism is a paper tiger and on a strategic and long-term level its' show of strength amounts to nothing more than shadow boxing strictly for the benefit of those it would wish to subjugate and oppress; it is a concrete monster with feet of clay and wherever it chooses to plant its feet it gets attacked.
"No rewriting of history can change the fact that it has been the national liberation struggle which has handed imperialism so many military defeats" ("The National Question and Separate Vanguard Parties" in MIM Theory 7: Proletarian Feminist Nationalism)
Revolution in Texas! Revolution in Utah! Revolution in Arizona! And Revolution in California!
It is with these hystoric words once shouted by [email protected] revolutionaries a hundred years ago that we proudly echo this sentiment today as we announce the completion of [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán, on this anniversary of the Plan de San Diego. A hundred years ago, so-called "bandits" and "heathens" in the conquered territory of the United $tates, known as Aztlán, declared their war of liberation from Amerikan imperialism. And just as the Plan de San Diego grew out of heightened national oppression both on a domestic and international level, so does [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán come out of the depths of Amerika's dungeons at a time in which the [email protected] nation, and indeed the world, risks being swallowed whole by various imperialist factions; principally Amerikan imperialism.
Those once thought to be our old guard have come closer and closer to unity with our oppressors than to our own people, yet the [email protected] lumpen pushes through, rises to the challenge and presents us with the most correct political analysis to the most pressing questions facing Aztlán today. Vendidos (sell outs) might say that revolutionary nationalism is an ancient and dead phenomenon no longer relevant in a "globalized world." But it is exactly because of this "globalization" (i.e. imperialism) that this work is more needed than at any other time since the last round of national liberation struggles inside of U.$. borders.
[email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán has been in development for well over three years and is a collaborative effort between [email protected] revolutionaries from northern and southern Califas-Aztlán and MIM(Prisons). Our comrades on the outside facilitated, guided and made possible this manifesto. This work is an example of the political unity between both major regions of Califas-Aztlán that must come to bear by the imprisoned [email protected] lumpen on an Aztlán-wide basis before we are ready to put this ideological unity into practice.
Throughout the creative process of this book there were indeed many times in which we found it difficult to continue this collaboration. This was due not only to the same old tired divisions amongst [email protected] in California that have been keeping the imprisoned Raza from uniting as one, but due to ideological and political immaturity as well. However, through all of this, [email protected] revolutionaries from both major sections of Califas-Aztlán managed to resolve our differences through the tools and weapons refined for us by the great protagonists of oppressed peoples' movements everywhere: Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao. But above all, the reality that bound us throughout this work was not only our common oppression but the want and need to one day see our people free. And so, largely through the method of unity-struggle-unity and the dialectical materialist frame of thought did we finalize this important task. And as great as this work is, and as much of a watershed moment we are celebrating, we remain very much aware that this is just the opening shot to the quickly flourishing revolutionary nationalist movements within Amerika's prisons.
This book is in service to the imprisoned [email protected] lumpen in order that they may finally have a general framework from which to build ideological unity and from which to politically grow and wrest state power from Amerikan imperialism and the white settler nation.
Just as author Benjamin Heber Johnson makes the statement, "In fifty years the projected ninety-six million Latino residents of the United States would, if considered a nation, follow only Brazil and Mexico as the most populous country in Latino America" so will it probably take as long to see the fruits of our labor.(1)
Many prisoners view the organization formerly known as the Mens Advisory Council (MAC), now known as the Inmate Advisory Council as servants of the people behind prison walls. Most of the people believing this fallacy are the new or relatively newer and younger prison population, and even some older prisoners who should really know better by now. However, for those of us who do know better we not only know the true limitations of the MAC but their true purpose within these walls, and so it's not for nothing that some of us refer to the MAC organization for what it really stands for: "Man Against Convict."
The original idea for what came to be known as the Mens Advisory Council can be traced back to the turbulent 60s and 70s inside of California prisons and the violent years that followed which included a relatively high number of staff assaults, prisoner-on-prisoner violence, and both peaceful and violent protests. The Council was initially conceived of by socially conscious prisoners as a way to not only encourage and develop dialogue between prisoners themselves to avert unnecessary violence between the white, [email protected], New Afrikan and First Nations, but also as a way to develop this same dialogue between prisoners and the prison administration. In this way then the precursors to the MAC were meant to function not only as representatives of the prisoner population with prison administrators, but as advocates of prisoner rights.
And for some years this precursor to the MAC org did what they set out to do, maintaining both a level of favorable and positive bias towards the prisoner population as well as enjoying a righteous level of credibility amongst prisoners themselves. Both the precursor to the MAC organization as well as the MAC itself tackled issues ranging from visiting policy and procedure, to basic hygiene and sanitation issues, to quantity and quality of food, to how our mail was to be properly handled.
As time went on however the MAC went from an organization representing the interests of the prison population as a whole to being co-opted by the powerful lumpen chiefs and representing their narrow and counter-productive interests, from which it was then taken and turned into an organization working in the interests of prison administrators. Today the IAC functions as an extralegal means for prison administrators to get from us exactly what they want, which is a highly passive and compliant prisoner population. As such, the MAC/IAC organization has become just another tool of the prison administration used to control us not unlike the tools on a pigs belt; like the pepper spray they use to gas us, or the batons they beat us with — just another tool.
I would like to take this concept even further. One can even liken a MAC rep to a neo-colonial ruler in the Third World who, thru their representation in government, gives the illusion of independence and a real self-determination to their compatriots; a nominal independence or a fictious level of power. This is not to say that the MAC/IAC never get anything done or accomplish anything for us. Quite the contrary, they do manage to accomplish a small victory from time to time. But prisoners get it twisted when they begin to believe that the MAC/IAC reps are there to serve or win anything for us. We must be clear about one thing here, the MAC reps accomplish nothing for us that the administration doesn't allow them to. In other words, in the battle for prisoners' rights, prison administrators do not lose to the MAC/IAC, rather they concede. Concessions in the prison realm are "necessary evils" to prison administrators as they are used to lend a level of legitimacy to the MAC/IAC org and hence continue their support from the wider prisoner population. Just like the system of neo-colonialism in the Third World, nominal leaders are allowed to govern and rule exactly because the imperialists allow them to, but these leaders must also have the support of the masses so that they may keep on ruling, or else the entire system collapses.
Surely there will be some who want to consider my allegations to be untrue, but it is hard to argue with my thesis when you see the MAC/IAC reps actively working against you. All you have to do is look closely at your MAC/IAC reps and ask them, what have they done for you lately? What oppressive and repressive policies have they helped the pigs peacefully implement and transition to with or without prisoners' consent? Not for nothing that a lot of the MAC/IAC reps are flat out hustlers and silver-tongued liars looking to swindle you out of your rights and privileges. Indeed if we look closely at these MAC/IAC reps we can see that they are messenger boys and running dogs to the administration because they have to be.
This is not to say that all MAC/IAC reps are bad. Of course there are some who actually seek out and take up these positions because they are truly interested in bringing positive change to the oppressed prison population, but these people are few and far between. These people however are also naive because they actually believe that they can bring real change to the prison environment thru steady reform, therefore they can also be some of the most convincing and legitimizing aspects of this oppressive prison apparatus and hence the most lethal to the prison movement for they will try the hardest to convince you of working within the system.
For those of you still not convinced of what I'm talking about, let's examine CCR Title 15, Article 3, Inmate Councils, Committees and Activity Groups 3230. Establishment of Inmate Advisory Councils:
(a) Each warden shall establish an inmate advisory council which is representative of that facility's inmate ethnic groups. At the discretion of the warden, subcommittees of the council may also be established to represent sub-facilities or specialized segments of the inmate population.
(2) The council shall operate only under the constitution and by-laws as prepared by the council's inmate representatives with the advice and guidance of designated staff and approved by the warden.
(d) Inmate advisory council representatives shall not, as a council representative, become involved with inmate appeals unless the matter affects the general inmate population and such involvement is authorized by the warden.
(h) A staff person at the level of a program administrator or higher shall be designated as the inmate advisory council coordinator.
(i) Facility captains shall be directly involved in council activities within their respective programs and may delegate specific aspects of supervisor, direction and responsibilities for council activities within their unit to subordinate supervisors.
Now let's look at what is described as the decision making process in matters of foreign policy on an international level and the general rules and concepts of how a strong nation (namely Amerikan imperialism) interacts and deals with weak nations (those in the periphery):
"The structure of a decision making process — the rules for who is involved in making the decision, how voting is conducted, and so forth — can affect the outcome, especially when a group has indeterminate preferences because no single alternative appeals to a majority participation. Experienced participants in foreign policy information are familiar with the techniques for manipulating decision making process to favor outcomes they prefer. A common technique is to control a group's formal decision rules. These rules include the items of business the group discusses and the order in which proposals are considered ... Probably most important is the ability to control the agenda and thereby structure the terms of debate."(1)
Foreign policies are thus described as
"the strategies used by governments to guide their actions in the international arena. Foreign policies spell out the objectives state leaders have decided to pursue in a given relationship or situation as well as the general means by which they intend to pursue those objectives....States establish various organizational structures and functional relationships to create and carry out foreign policies. Officials and agencies collect information about a situation through various channels; they write memorandums outlining possible options for action; they hold meetings to discuss the matter; some of them privately outside those meetings to decide how to steer those meetings. Such activities, broadly defined are what is meant by the foreign policy process.'"(1)
The Machiavellian implication of all this is all very apparent then, and one must be a special kind of naive to not see the resemblance between imperialist foreign policy and how prison administrators choose to deal with the prison population; the majority of whom come from the oppressed nation lumpen.
Amerikan imperialism is hostile to the oppressed global majority and their foreign policies are reflective of this hostility. Likewise prison administrators' dealings with the prison population mirrors Amerikan foreign policy exactly because prisons are extensions and tools of national oppression and social control, and so it is logical and to be expected that Amerikan foreign policy and the policy of prison administrators are two sides of the same oppressive coin. Whereas one deals with the oppressed nations on an international level, the other deals with the oppressed nations on a domestic level. Furthermore, as a matter of foreign policy U.$. borders are the structures used to keep Third World workers out and unable to gain access to their portion of wealth stolen by U.$. imperialism, whereas prisons are used to keep the oppressed nation lumpen in their place and away from this same global metropolis.
It has been said many times before, prison is a microcosm of society and it is time we begin to actively engage in this society. Marxist philosophy holds that we are all products of our environment and just as our environment has the power to influence and mold us, so do we have the power to influence and mold this same environment. We shouldn't be relying on individuals or small cliques of people to speak and act for us. We should rely on ourselves and our sheer numbers to bring change. Therefore, it is time that this whole business of MAC/IAC reps be done with and put to an end. It would be a positive qualitative development for the prison masses to begin relying on themselves. Individuals don't make hystory, the masses do.
"Of all our studies, history is best qualified to reward our research. And when you see that you've got problems, all you have to do is examine the historic method used all over the world by others who have problems similar to yours. Once you see how they got theirs straight, then you can know how you can get yours straight." - Malcolm X, Message to the Grass Roots
The basis of any social movement is unity. Unification is most often formed around a common oppression and recognition of necessity by a sometimes common, sometimes diverse group of people in order to link up together to fight the oppressive powers that be. On this topic perhaps the best, yet least known example of a common, yet diverse group of people coming together to fight off the most oppressive and far reaching power the world has ever known, was the Asian-African Conference of 1955 held in Bandung, Indonesia. This gathering of Black and Yellow nations was the first time in hystory that representatives from 29 Asian and African countries would meet to discuss strategic methods for combating the effects of imperialism on their people. All of the countries in attendance were not only newly independent following the beginning of the disintegration of the old colonial order, but represented a quarter of Earth's land surface.(1)
The Bandung Conference was sponsored by the Prime Ministries of Indonesia, Burma (now Myanmar), Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), India and the Philippines. The most notable and prestigious country to attend however was the then-socialist People's Republic of China. The convocation of these newly emerging forces was an important step towards the creation of the Non-Aligned Movement and it is from the legacy of both Bandung and the Non-Aligned Movement that the concept of the Third World would later be developed. Most notably barred and excluded from attending the conference were any and all Western imperialist powers, including the then-social-imperialist Soviet Union, as the newly emerging forces were looking to make a clean break from all variations of imperialism.
The Bandung Conference considered problems of common interest and concern to the countries of Asia and Africa, and discussed ways and means by which their people could attain fuller economic, cultural and political cooperation. And while to many today, particularly in the First World, the idea of the Third World liberating itself from the artificially-produced poverty of capitalism without the benefit of U.$. "aid" may seem like a pipe dream, those of us who know the mechanisms by which imperialism operates know that what is actually ridiculous is the notion that the United $tates and other imperialist powers would ever sit idly by as the oppressed and exploited organized for their own liberation to the point that they are no longer dependent on such First World aid. As a matter of hystorical perspective, Malcolm X would later explain the social context for the exclusion of the white man at Bandung:
"The number one thing that was not allowed to attend the Bandung Conference was the white man. He couldn't come. Once they excluded the white man, they found out that they could get together. Once they kept him out everybody else fell right in and fell in line. This is the thing that you and I have to understand. And these people who came together didn't have nuclear weapons, they didn't have jet planes, they didn't have all the heavy armaments the white man has. But they had unity."(2)
To be clear, it's not that the oppressed Asian and African countries were excluding the white man out of some sense of racism. Rather they were excluding the representatives of various white nations because the issues being discussed at Bandung were in direct contradiction to Western imperialism and the white nations they are in the service of. Never before had such unity between the oppressed nations played out either before or after the 500 years of colonialism which preceded the conference and which the Bandung 29 were trying to depart from. The United $tates responded to this political snub which they perceived as a threat to their political and military hegemony, as well as to their material interests, with various destructive acts. The most serious of these being the attempted assassination of Chinese Premiere Zhou Enlai and the mid-air explosion of the passenger plane "Kashmir Princess."(3)
Even with such acts of barbarity committed on the part of the imperialists against the oppressed for daring to carve out an existence on their own terms, the Bandung Conference was a success as the final communique of the conference can attest to: economic cooperation on the basis of mutual interest and respect for national sovereignty, technical assistance in the form of experts, trainees, pilot projects; the establishment of the Special United Nations Fund for Economic Development; the stabilization of commodity trade in the region and the stabilization of international prices and demands for primary commodities through bilateral and multi-lateral arrangements, just to mention some of the more groundbreaking methods by which the Bandung Conference sought to break the colonialist stranglehold on their nations.
The Bandung Conference was also convinced that
"among the most powerful means of promoting understanding among nations was the development of cultural cooperation. The Asian-African Conference took note of the fact that the existence of colonialism in many parts of Africa and Asia, in whatever form, not only prevented cultural cooperation but also suppressed the national cultures of the people. From the denial of basic rights in the sphere of education to a peoples basic right to study their own language."(4)
Out in the so-called free world we can see modern day examples in the closing of "ethnic studies" departments and the banning of [email protected] and other Latin American history books in racist Arizona; to the denial of prisoners' abilities to learn their people's true hystory for fear of "Security Threat Group" validation. What the imperialists and prison administrators really fear however is the unity of the oppressed based on common national identities and the creation of revolutionary nationalist organizations that would surely bring most prisoners together, as opposed to the divisive gang feuds that currently mark the reality of many prisons.
In the years following the Bandung Conference, the world saw the rise of national liberation movements all over the Third World, from guerrilla armies to People's Wars in the imperialist periphery, to the fledgling national liberation movements and armed struggles that under-lied the Civil Rights movements in the core capitalist countries, principally the United $tates. Political thinkers attributed these movements in part to the "Spirit of Bandung" and the example set there for the rest of the oppressed nations by the Bandung 29, in particular the People's Republic of China (PRC). The PRC led by example, showing the world what true independence and balanced self-reliant development could look like. For what many oppressed nations could only just begin to aspire to, the PRC was already doing and had to a large degree already accomplished.
"[The Spirit of Bandung] can be summarized in the following five principles: (1) respect for the fundamental rights of people as well as for the goals and principles of the United Nations Charter; (2) respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations; (3) equality of all nations and people both large and small; (4) non-intervention and non-interference in the domestic affairs of other countries; (5) no recourse to acts or threats of aggression or to the use of force. These five principles were also referred to as the "five points" of peaceful co-existence."(5)
The Bandung Spirit Lives On!
Today prisoners from different nations and many different cliques and sets are taking part in the United Front for Peace in Prisons and are hence putting United Front theory into practice. Peace and unity between prison organizations mark not only the beginning stages of national liberation movements within the oppressed internal nations within the U.$. empire, but the embryonic stages of the peoples struggle in the United $tates for socialist revolution in alliance with Third World communist movements. Just as surely, the Bandung Conference marked the entrance on the hystorical scene of the people's liberation movements in Africa and Asia, and represented the first impetuous rising of countries still oppressed or scarcely liberated from imperialism. Thus, from this we take the Five Fundamental Principles for Peace in Prison also known as the "five points of unity":
Peace: By organizing to end needless conflict amongst prisoners we not only struggle against the pigs divide and conquer strategies, but we set a positive example for others and likewise help to begin the constructive reconstruction of our prison and lumpen organizations and nations.
Unity: As against a common oppression we fortify our peace-treaties by using this opportunity to work together in one form or another to both better our conditions and understanding of each other.
Growth: Without growth on an individual level or a group level our newfound unity will not survive. So comrades should take the time to build themselves up and each other so as to aid and push the movement further, as the movement in return will push us all further.
Internationalism: Mao Zedong said that in wars of national liberation patriotism is applied internationalism. Within our conditions this essentially means that in struggling for our own nations now we effectively aid the struggles of other oppressed nations by forcing the oppressors to contend with us. Hence on a strategic domestic and international level our tactics are to pit ten against one.
Independence: Then and now independence has always been the ultimate aim, both at Bandung and in the prison movement. By building our own institutions and programs of the oppressed independent of the U.$. prison administrators and their inmate lackeys we help solidify and consolidate the prison movement. Just as the sponsoring countries at Bandung cut out the white man and found that their unity and movement could only be strengthened as a result, so must we cut out all the prison administrations' officially sanctioned prisoner representatives because they cannot truly serve us, but have only served to better oppress and suppress us.
For all these things to work we need not only unified resistance to oppression, but the one crucial aspect that was missing at Bandung. We need vanguard leadership and mass struggle working together so that the prison movement will truly get somewhere and not merely stagnate and die after a few petty reforms are put in place. Hence we need correct leadership to guide that resistance. Correct leadership and struggle comes from a correct understanding of material reality and of the correct methods for influencing that reality; not sporadic and short-lived rebellions where the masses learn nothing but the taste of defeat with incompetent leadership that has no one's interest at heart except for their own, and who clearly lack the vision of carrying the struggle forward until true change and reform is won. This is the difference between victory and defeat, and it is the kernel of truth which we must all grasp if we want to change our reality.
Connected to this kernel of truth is the fact that the prison movement will be dialectically connected to the streets and to the national liberation movements of the internal semi-colonies. All that is left for us to do is to grasp these truths as part of the objective laws of development for our cause and vigorously build on them. As such there can be no successful prison movement without the help of the rest of the oppressed nation masses and various revolutionary organizations outside of prison walls, just as there cannot be any successful national liberation movements for the oppressed without the help and leadership of the revolutionary lumpen in the semi-colonies and behind prison walls playing a vital and pivotal role.
"The lumpen has no choice but to manifest its rebellion in the university of the streets. It's very important to recognize that the streets belong to the lumpen, and that it is in the streets that lumpen will make their rebellion." - On the Ideology of the Black Panther Party, Eldridge Cleaver 1970
The recent killing of two New York City (NYC) cops must be viewed as a conscious act of war taking place within the context of national oppression, just as the killing of Eric Garner and countless others from the oppressed internal nations of New Afrika, Aztlán and the various First Nations at the hands of filthy pigs were and will continue to be acts of war that the police wage against the oppressed for the dominant white nation known as Amerika. Yet if we listen to the politicians we hear them desperately trying to switch the narrative of these killings as having nothing to do with the wave of recent protests currently being directed against police brutality and police repression since the murder of Michael Brown in Missouri on 9 August 2014. Instead they tell us that these killings are the result of a depraved criminal element who the police have all along been trying to protect us from.
In a recent public address NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio declared the deaths of these pigs to be "an attack on all of us" and asked that protesters put their demonstrations on hold as it was now time to "move forward and heal divisions." Others, including the pigs themselves, have called on protestors to "tone down their language." One reactionary on a CNN roundtable even went so far as to categorize the killing of those cops as "an attack on the very heart of democracy and the people that uphold that democracy"! And that is a very funny statement to make as i could've sworn that the heart of democracy lies with the people and not with the special bodies of armed men. Instead of democracy we have power arising from society which places itself above the people and becomes more and more alienated from them. These arms of the state have been tasked with managing the irreconcilability of both national and class antagonisms.
But why are the politicians so anxious to stop the masses from making the connection between the state-sanctioned murders of Eric Garner (and others) and NYC pigs? Because they know that context is everything regardless of what the pigs, the politicians or any other member of the liberal and conservative white media have to say. The killing of those pigs was carried out by a subjective revolutionary force outside of an objective revolutionary scenario. Therefore, the lesson for us to take away from this is that the killing of those two cops was undoubtedly political, just as sure as all prisoners are political.
Does this however mean that we support such a strategy of attacking the existing power structure absent a revolutionary situation? No, because that is not an effective way of advancing the needs of the oppressed, nor does it advance our own revolutionary agenda. What is for sure, however, is that the death of two of NYC's "finest" is sure to be used as another pretext to round up and spy on political activists as well as to further clamp down on "crime" in the big rotten apple, which directly translates into more repression for the lumpen.
In The Correct Handling of a Revolution by Dr. Huey P. Newton, Minister of Defense for the Black Panther Party, Newton hit on the correct methods of both leadership and struggle within the New Afrikan community of his time. This analysis still holds good today and revolutionaries from the oppressed nations should take note:
The vanguard party must provide leadership for the people. It must teach the correct strategic methods of prolonged resistance through literature and activities. If the activities of the party are respected by the people, the people will follow the example. This is the primary job of the party. ...
There are basically three ways one can learn: through study, through observation, and through actual experience. The Black community is basically composed of activists. The community learned through activity, either through observation of or participation in the activity. To study and learn is good but the actual experience is the best means of learning. The party must engage in activities that will teach the people. The Black community is basically not a reading community. Therefore it is very significant that the vanguard group first be activists. Without this knowledge of the Black community one could not gain the fundamental knowledge of the Black revolution in racist America.
While leaving out some focoist rhetoric characteristic of the BPP which we fundamentally disagree with, this excerpt is part of the most correct aspect of the mass line and how we relate to the masses on a day-to-day and strategic level. V.I. Lenin, leader of the first socialist state, the Soviet Union, from 1917-1924, dealt with one aspect of the lumpen-proletariat in his time quite relevant at the present moment — their tendency to engage in spontaneous and disorganized armed struggle against the state and in "expropriation" of private property. Lenin vehemently condemned those Bolsheviks who disassociated themselves from this by proudly and smugly declaring that they themselves were not anarchists, thieves or robbers. He attacked "the usual appraisal" (2) which saw this struggle as merely "anarchism, Blanquism, the old terrorism, the act of individuals isolated from the masses, which demoralize the workers, repel wide strata of the population, disorganize the movement and injure the revolution."(3) Lenin drew the following keen lessons from the disorganized period of this struggle:
"It is not these actions which disorganize the movement, but the weakness of a party which is incapable of taking such actions under its control. The Bolsheviks (communists) must organize these spontaneous acts and must train and prepare their organizations to be really able to act as a belligerent side which does not miss a single opportunity of inflicting damage on the enemy's forces."(4)
In short, it's not necessarily that we disagree with the actions of Ismaaiyl Brinsley, rather his timing was off. It is exactly these types of actions by the oppressed nation lumpen which make them both the hope of the liberation movements of the internal semi-colonies, as well as the potential spearhead of the oppressed nations against a rising fascist threat here in the United $tates. In the end it doesn't matter whether these pigs wear cameras or not. What matters is how we respond, as that is the difference between liberation and more repression.
Che Guevara, A Revolutionary Life by Jon Lee Anderson Grove Press Books 1997
From de-classed aristocrat, to social vagabond, to communist revolutionary and legend, Che Guevara, A Revolutionary Life takes us from Che's early beginning as a sickly kid with a tremendous appetite for reading to his miserable last days in the Bolivian mountains trying to spark a revolution. As far as biographies of political figures go this one is truly exceptional as Jon Lee Anderson does an outstanding job of focusing this book not on Che the individual but on Che the devoted servant of the people. There are just so many aspects and stages of Che's life which this book covers that I already know I won't have enough space to cover it all. Therefore I will stick to covering not so much what we already know about Che but what hasn't yet been fully understood about him.
With that said, let us travel back in time to Argentina circa World War II, a country caught between Amerikan imperialism and a rising fascist influence. Ernesto "Che" Guevara was first turned on to politics as a young child through his friendships with several other children whose parents were Spanish migrants fleeing the Spanish Civil War. Che's family was also apparently very active in Argentina's petty bourgeois political circles. As a result of all these factors Che soon became semi-political himself, proudly joining the youth wing of Accion Argentina (Argentine Action), a pro-Allied solidarity group.(p. 23) However, he wouldn't really begin developing a critical view of the world until his teenage years when he was shaped further by the political turmoil in his own country as well as by his Spanish émigré friends who had a measurable influence in his life. Years later they would all belong to local anti-fascist youth cells formed by Argentine students organizing against the militant youth wing of the pro-Nazi Alianza Libertadora Nacionalista (National Liberation Alliance).(p. 33) Besides this political organizing the rest of Che's high school years were spent devouring every book he could get his hands on, including Karl Marx's Das Kapital. Che later revealed to his second wife years later that at the time of reading Das Kapital he couldn't understand a thing. Of course this would all change.
After graduating from high school he began to study philosophy, both inside and outside of college. He took engineering classes and enrolled in medical school. He also became fascinated with psychology. It was during this time that he began studying Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin. Yet during this time and the year that followed he continued to avoid any serious political participation. Paradoxically, however friends and family remember that Che began to debate politics with different organizations as well as with his family who were all very political, as if he was beginning to put his reading to the test.(p. 50)
During one of these discussions Che made his first anti-imperialist condemnation of the United $tates, accusing them of having imperial designs in Korea.(p. 50) It was not until his trips up and down South and Central America that Che Guevara would start to become radicalized. And it wasn't books that did it, but "the injustice of the lives of the socially marginalized people he had befriended along his journeys."(p. 63) It was also during this time that Che's criticism and hatred for the United $tates began to grow, as now more than at any prior time in his life he was convinced that it was Amerikan imperialism that was the root cause of all of [email protected] America's problems.(p. 63)
Through subsequent trips up and down the Americas Che met various Marxist intellectuals he had a high opinion of because they were "revolutionary."(p. 118) In addition, he began to openly identify with a political cause, aligning himself and working within the leftist government of Arbenz in Guatemala. Also, very interesting to note that during this time Che began an ambitious project to write what would have been his first book titled The Role of the Doctor in Latin America(p. 135), a project he would unfortunately never finish due to his preoccupation with other revolutionary activities. A shame too as the ideas outlined for his book apparently dealt with the role of doctors during times of revolution, and one can't help but draw parallels with Frantz Fanon's Wretched of the Earth written after, but around the same period of revolutionary upsurge in the Third World. Wretched not only deals with the anti-colonial struggle in Africa, but the role of the revolutionary psychiatrist.
As part of his preparation for this book, Che found it necessary "to take his knowledge of Marxism further, as he deepened his struggle of Marx, Engels, Lenin and the Peruvian Jose Carlos Marategui"(p. 136) founder of the Peruvian Communist Party which decades later would develop the Maoist Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path). He also discovered Mao Zedong and read about the Chinese communist revolution, ascertaining that their road to socialism had been different than the Soviet Union's.(p. 136) Guevara's resolve as a revolutionary would only become steeled in the ensuing chaos that followed the CIA-backed coup against the Arbenz government. This is also when the CIA first took notice of Che starting "one of the thickest (files) in the CIA's global records."(p. 159)
After Guatemala, Che fled to Mexico where his political destiny would become sealed after meeting the leaders of the July 26th Movement after their failed focoist attack on a Cuban military base. The leaders were Fidel and Raul Castro. Soon thereafter, the trio, along with a band of other Cuban exiles, left Mexico and began their historic guerrilla war against the Batista dictatorship. Their point of unification was that "Batista was little more than a pimp, selling off their country to degenerate foreigners..."(p. 170) But physical training and marksmanship wasn't enough for Che in preparation to liberate Cuba. Confident that the revolution would succeed, Che intensified "his study of economics, he embarked on a cram course of books by Adam Smith, Keynes and other economists, boned up on Mao and Soviet texts..."(p. 189) Once in the Sierra Maestra Che kept up his studies as he wanted to have a firm grasp of political and economic theory.(p. 189)
After exhibiting exemplary fighting and leadership skills Fidel made Che his "chief of staff." After the guerrilla victory, and among many other accomplishments and activities, Che concentrated on consolidating the initial revolutionary power base — the new Cuban military. Like Mao, Che sought to "raise the cultural level of the army." In addition to basic literacy and education, the new military academy under Che was designed to impart political awareness to the troops.(p. 384) He even helped start Verde Olivio (Olive Green), a newspaper for the revolutionary armed forces.(p. 385)
Che was also made President of Cuba's National Bank. Indeed, Che Guevara was fully immersed in trying to build up Cuba's independent socialist economy. He recognized that in order to completely liberate itself from imperialist dependency, the Cuban economy would have to break free from the sugar industry which subsumed Cuba, turning it into a one-crop fiefdom. Cuba would also have to industrialize. Che was also for agrarian reform believing that the peasants who worked the land should have more control and reap more from it. Fidel had similar ideas on agrarian reform but not as far reaching as Che's. As a matter of fact, a thorn of contention between Che and Fidel was Che's strong belief that in order to succeed as a free and independent socialist state, Cuba would have to develop its own productive forces and should bow to no one, while Fidel preferred to play various imperialist powers off of one another in order to receive assistance in modernization and military equipment. And while Che would ultimately, though not always, come to echo Fidel's line on modernization, this seemed to be more because of Che's position as a head of state and diplomat.
To Che's credit however he was the principal architect in designing Cuba's economy and re-arranging the military prior to the Soviet Union's involvement on the island. Many just don't realize how much influence and power Che had in Cuba and that the creation of the many progressive institutions in Cuba can be directly attributed to Che's influence on Fidel and Raul. And while Fidel would name Raul as his political successor, it was Che that many noted as Fidel's true right-hand man despite his not even being a native Cuban.
One also gets the sense from reading this book that after the initial seizure of power, and as the political situation worsened for Cuba on an international level, Fidel trusted no one else in certain situations and so he ceded many matters of domestic and foreign policy to Che who had a better grasp of political economy, diplomacy and military affairs. This was the period in which the USSR, which had already taken the capitalist road, began to take notice of Che, not only because of his influence, but because of his strong peasant leanings and independent initiative, for which they would begin labeling him pejoratively as a "radical Maoist." Che denied being a Maoist, but actions speak louder than words.
According to this book Che made two major criticisms of the Chinese Communist Party. The first was in accusing China of playing hardball with their rice for sugar assistance, accusing China of trying to starve Cuba. The second criticism was in berating China for not doing more to aid the Vietnamese in their struggle against Amerikan imperialism. Besides these criticisms it was very well known that Che had a high degree of unity with China which he very much revered for having a "higher socialist morality" than the Soviets, who he would increasingly and with frequency severely criticize over the remainder of his life. Among other things Che criticized the Communist Party of the Soviet Union for their bourgeois lifestyles which he witnessed first hand. More importantly, he later publicly condemned the Soviet Union for what he deemed collusion against Cuba with the United $tates. Later Che would hold up China's socialist revolution "as an example that has revealed a new road for the Americas."(p. 490) Furthermore, after returning from one of his trips to China, Che was "invigorated" with a new sense and deepened understanding of socialism, replicating some of China's volunteer work brigades. He called these programs "emulacion comunista" (communist emulation).(p. 503)
Nearing his departure from Cuba for the last time Che began two more books which like Role of the Doctor he never finished: Philosophical Notes and Economic Notes. The latter being an extended critique of the Soviet Manual of Political Economy. On the eve of his final trek into the Bolivian mountains he sent an outline of the text to the budgetary finance system (BFS) for review indicating that he was ready to put his anti-Soviet line on political economy into practice (Guevara was the head of the BFS). According to the author, what Che had in mind was "a new manual on political economy better applied to modern times, for use by developing nations and revolutionary societies in the Third World."(p. 696) Furthermore, according to Anderson who interviewed former members of the BFS who read Che's critique, Che wrote in the manual that the USSR and the Eastern Bloc were doomed to return to capitalism if they didn't reform their economies."(p. 697) Apparently these documents were left to a comrade who never found the time to push for publication in the increasingly social imperialist dominated Cuba. Today they remain in Cuba locked away along with other of Che's documents, which Fidel deemed too sensitive to publish.(p. 697)
In the end and throughout his career it is very well known that Che was a focoist and was killed because of his ultra-left and idealized version of what a popular war looked like. Yet I was surprised to find out that Che's war strategy for [email protected] America was somewhat similar to Mao Zedong and Lin Bao's conception of global "Peoples War" for the Third World. As Che pointed out in Guerrilla Warfare: A Method, the liberation of the Americas from Amerikan hegemony could only come about through a virtual united front of guerrilla and other peasant forces that would use the Andean mountains which stretch from the top of South America to the bottom as a series of revolutionary base areas which they would use to attack the cities and urban zones of [email protected] American countries, slowly but surely wresting control of one country after another until all of [email protected] America was free. This is akin to the village-encircle-city strategy of Lin and Mao.
The story of Che Guevara and his iconic image has not yet been forgotten by revolutionaries today, as it continues to inspire us in our own struggles. It is truly a pity that Che succumbed to his focoist beliefs. His story should not only serve as an example as to the type of revolutionaries we should aspire to become, but should also serve as an example of what can happen if we pick up the gun too soon. Focoism has taken away too many good comrades, and in Che Guevara it took away a great comrade! Let it not take one more. So on this day the forty-seventh anniversary of the death of Che Guevara, (9 October 2014) and the day commemorating and honoring Che, "The Day of the Heroic Guerrilla" (8 October 2014) let us raise the red banner of revolution just as Che continuously raised it and died holding it. Let us raise the red banner for the proletariat, for our lumpen and for our nations! Let us be like Che! Seremos Como el Che!
"Mao's conviction that Chinese culture was a great perhaps a unique historical achievement strengthened his sentiment of national pride. On the other hand, his explicit aim was to enrich Marxism with ideas and values drawn from the nation's past, and thereby render it more potent as an agent of revolutionary transformation, and ultimately wersternization, not to replace it with some kind of neo-traditionalism in Marxist dress." - Stuart Schram
The sinifaction of Marxism is the adaptation and application of Marxism to Chinese conditions. That was the beginning of Mao Zedong thought, and that was the basis upon which Mao Zedong sought to not only liberate China from feudalist, comprador and imperialist control, but upon which he advanced Marxism-Leninism to the third and most advanced stage of revolutionary science. When traditional Marxists who saw no revolutionary potential past Europe and Amerika regarded Mao as "a mere peasant chief with little knowledge of Marxism", what they were really expressing was their doubt in the Chinese peoples' ability to wage class struggle because they were supposedly "backward" and hence uncivilized, even though Chinese society goes back thousands of years. When Japanese imperialism landed in China, renamed it Manchuria and claimed it as their own, Mao challenged and successfully annihilated that claim. National liberation for self-determination, that is what Mao correctly perceived as his hystoric task to push China forward in the Chinese peoples' struggle for national dignity. That was Mao's hystoric duty as a revolutionary. What will ours be? For revolutionary-nationalists from the [email protected] nation it is the adaptation and application of Maoism to [email protected] conditions.
"In essence, sinifaction involved for Mao three dimensions or aspects: communication, conditions and culture. The first of these is the clearest and least controversial. In calling for a new and vital Chinese style and manner, pleasing to the eye and to the ear of the Chinese common people, Mao was making the valid but previously neglected point, that if Marxism is to be understood and accepted by any non-European country it must be presented in language which is intelligible to them and in terms relevant to their own problems. But how, in Mao's view, was the reception of Marxism in China determined by mentality (or culture), and experience (or concrete circumstances)? Above all, how were both the culture of the Chinese people, and the conditions in which they lived, to be shaped by the new revolutionary power set up in 1949? ... Mao sought to define and follow a Chinese road to socialism. In pursuing this aim, he unquestionably took Marxism as his guide...as well as seeking inspiration, as he had advocated in 1938, from the lessons and the values of Chinese history."
The adaptation and application of Maoism to [email protected] conditions therefore does not at all negate our hystory or reality, rather it affirms it and demands that we are reckoned with. Mao said that Marxism is a general truth with universal application and the science of practice which has now been summed up in hystory proved him right. So now that we know the power of revolutionary science that is Marxism-Leniinism-Maoism works, the question moved from what form of struggle does [email protected] national liberation take, to how do we begin to implement it? How do we adapt and apply Maoism to prison conditions, and then how do we apply this new understanding to the barrio. What does a [email protected] communist vanguard organization look like behind prison walls? What does it look like on the street?
These are all questions that can only be asked and answered by [email protected] in the process of the struggle.
The [email protected] nation is currently at a critical juncture in its extensive hystory. We are beginning to reach a point in which we will either cast our lot with the rest of Latin America, wage our struggle for national liberation and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Third World, or we will perish along with imperialism. As before, so today the choice is ours. Will we continue to send our sons and daughters to die in the periphery for a flag and land that isn't theirs, or will we prime them to fight imperialism and liberate Aztlán? We have the revolutionary imperative. Patria o muerte!