Social Revolution Party

"Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways: The point, however, is to change it."

Posts Tagged ‘capitalism’

Meeting the Masses Where They’re At (Without Resorting to Liberalism)

Posted by sorev on 14/01/2010

Meeting the Masses Where They’re At

(Without Resorting to Liberalism)

By Peter Clarke

As communists seeking to build a movement and party capable of overthrowing capitalism, our immediate task is to start building a base amoung working people. In our current context, this can be slow work, but it has to be done one person at a time. The question, though, is how this is to be done. How do you turn someone into a communist?

We know the old strategy of standing on a corner hocking newspapers is bankrupt. There are enough groups doing that already, and if that were the way forward, the revolution would already have happened. The reality is that it isn’t 1917 anymore, and our base has to be built on the personal relationships we build in a sea of atomization. To boot, false consciousness is a lot more well-developed and pervasive, so a one-off interaction with revolutionary proletarian ideas isn’t going to make much of a dent, even in one person. So, again to the original question: how do you turn someone into a communist?

In general, it seems like the path toward becoming a communist follows a few steps: discontent, recognition of communism’s desirability, and recognition of its possibility. The first step is an easier sell these days. A simple conversation that begins around any given failure of capitalism (unemployment, tuition, war, falling wages, massive state and personal debt, shitty working conditions, etc.) and connects those issues to their root cause (including a short but thoughtful dismissal of social democracy) should take care of this. During this first stage, it is important to exchange personal stories about the issues at hand. Remember: these are not details that muddy up the theory, they’re the reason why a person will decide to fight. They humanise both of you, validate your experiences, and give a person the confidence to believe that what they think is worth acting upon.

The next step, getting somebody to recognize the desirability of a society without classes or the state, is relatively easy these days too. Point out the superabundance that exists (in food, electronics, etc.) and how much more free and comfortable we’d all be without a parasitic ruling class sucking us dry. Often here you’ll run into an objection based on a lie or exaggeration about the USSR or China (namely, how poor and starving everyone supposedly was in those places) and it’s useful to point out the differences in development between ‘there’ and ‘here’, but more importantly, that nobody called those societies ‘communist’ aside from the US State Department. That, while the goal of those societies may have been similar, our proposed approach is structurally different and would not allow for “seizure of power by a single person”. The bulk of this phase, though, should be shedding light on the good of our proposals rather than responding to the failures of others. Tap into peoples’ desire to be productive but not to be alienated, to develop use value but not exchange value, to see leadership rather than rulership. In short, take nothing for granted in explaining why the world we want to see would be a far better one than the one we live in now.

The last stage, having people realize not just how desirable, but how possible a communist society is, tends to be a little trickier. People are generally uninterested in what happened in 1871 or 1917 or 1936 or 1968. It feels detached and irrelevant to the world they exist in. It may be necessary to bring up the fact that all these events happened, but your approach shouldn’t rely on them. Instead, tie the conversation in to things you and your comrade-to-be encounter on a regular basis. School, work, neighbourhoods, sports teams, whatever. Illuminate the social, rather than the market basis of these institutions, and pin everything wrong with them on the bosses, the state, and capitalism. And remember: communism will not be a utopia or panacea. It will be a human society populated with human beings. There will be problems and complications, all surmountable, but present. Being unrealistic in this regard will only make you come off as a lunatic or, at best, naive.

Now that the (very) basic steps in a person’s transformation into a communist has been outlined, here are a few things to keep in mind:

* The working class is not an abstraction, nor something external, nor a homogeneous mass. It is you and me and your neighbour and your classmate and your co-worker.
* Understand the history and causes of the current financial crisis, and why those who say it’s over are blowing smoke.
* Think about your personal story and how convoluted your own path to class consciousness was. Think about what pushed you forward and, if relevant, bring that up.
* Avoid preaching. A conversation is a two-way activity.
* Talk about more than just politics. Nobody wants to become a one-dimensional weirdo and social ties (friendships) are what get us all through the winter.
* There is a gap between a person’s level of consciousness on their own and the level it’s at while discussing with a communist. Try to raise the former in your conversation, keeping in mind that it took you more than two hours to gain solid class consciousness.

Happy organizing!


Posted in Pre-Issue #2 of Social Revolution! | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Left With Hope From Pakistan

Posted by sorev on 05/12/2009

Left with Hope
By Umer A. Chaudhry
January 19, 2009

More than 125 years after his death and 150 years after he wrote his most famous piece of work, Karl Marx seems to have managed his return from Highgate Cemetery of London. His specter is no longer haunting merely Europe, rather it has expanded its reach to every corner of the world. All this when only a few years back it was declared and uncritically accepted that there can be no alternative to new-liberal capitalism, history was stated to have ended, and even the human capacity to observe and understand the world was questioned based on, amongst other things, the limitations of language. On the other hand, the world also saw, with the alleged ‘death of Communism,’ a sharp revival of the politics and militancy in the name of religion. Set against this backdrop, even the modest re-emergence of Karl Marx in the political and social discourse is highly remarkable. After all, the modern capitalist class structure, upon whose criticism Marxism proudly stands, did not collapse along with the Berlin Wall.

The return of Marxist discourse is not unaccompanied by a noticeable global upsurge in the political presence of the Left. The victory of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) in the Himalayas early in 2008 gave a major boost to the Leftist political activists around the world. The history and strategy of the Nepali Maoists were critically discussed and appreciated with reference to all accessible records and statements of the Party via various Internet forums and meetings around the globe. The out-pouring of Chinese students in opposition to Free-Tibet protests in many parts of the world just before the Beijing Olympics compelled many to have their first look at the history of China and the Chinese revolution. The mounting strength of Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales added by their increasing confrontations with U.S. Imperialism in Latin America became another source of inspiration for the world’s Left. The communist parties in India entered into a major struggle with the Congress Party, conducting mass demonstrations against the Indo-U.S. nuclear deals. Even in Russia, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation has maintained itself as the country’s second largest party and its largest opposition party. All in all, the global recovery of the Left, though not at a very grand scale, is apparent to every perceptive eye.

In Pakistan, the Left has also made a modest yet a noteworthy reappearance. It was mostly due to the movement against the unconstitutional and illegal imposition of emergency that the Left has been able to gain visibility at a larger scale. Many journalists expressed their surprise at activists robustly raising the traditional slogans of the Left during major rallies of the lawyers’ movement. Many lawyers, who had any past association with the Left, were instantly attracted towards the sight of the red flag and the octagonal Mao caps. Young students, out of curiosity, inquired about the new crimson element on the streets and got to know about the strong tradition of resistance and struggle that Left carries forward. They were even more astonished to know that Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Habib Jalib, whose poetry also returned and was received with great appreciation, were also leading figures of the Left in their times.

Many people, however, are still not clear regarding why the Left engaged with the lawyers’ movement in the first place. It was not a knee-jerk reaction and obviously not an ignorance of the fact that the lawyers’ movement hosts a whole lot of forces, including the staunch right-wing elements of mainstream political parties- traditional foes of the Left. On the other hand, the Left participated in the lawyers’ movement to connect it with other anti-dictatorship movements that occurred in the past eight years, in order to help in building a larger movement for democracy, secularism, social justice, and rule of law – something running contrary to the goals of the religious right-wing. The Left made attempts within its capacity to build a movement that could address the basic question of the Pakistani State and society, and efforts were made to invite groups like Anjumen-e-Mazareen Punjab (AMP), Railway Workers’ Union (RWU), and the striking PTCL workers to the lawyers’ processions. However, it can be a criticism of the Left at the lawyers’ movement that it did not build any bridges with mass working class organizations, as was done during the anti-Ayub movement of the 60’s, though heavy focus was laid on traders’ organizations. The Left may not have succeeded in giving a more progressive and inclusive shape to the lawyers’ movement, despite all out efforts to do so. Notwithstanding, the Left stood staunch as to its goal and, at the very least, floated the right idea.

Nevertheless, a degree of confusion did exist during the course of the lawyers’ movement when many parties of the Left -including Labor Party of Pakistan (LPP) and National Workers’ Party (NWP)- decided to join the All Pakistan Democratic Movement (APDM) and boycotted the elections early in 2008. One of the parties of the Left that did not join the APDM, a noteworthy exception, was the Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party (CMKP), which held that the Left must unite itself as a secular-democratic force in efforts to distinguish itself as a progressive force in the democratic movement, refraining from partaking in an alliance that has known reactionary right-wingers as its leading faces. The APDM-Left, conversely, either argued that the APDM was not dominated by the right wing, or that the alliance helped them in expanding the scope of their political activity. Be that as it may, the Left managed to make unified calls for the struggle against the Army dictatorship and its political cronies during the vital days of the February elections; only to have been responded by threats by elements of the State as a witness to their efficacy.

Another debate that was waged with passion in the circles of the Left, which are accessible to intellectuals and students through Internet forums, was the position regarding the conflict in the tribal areas of Pakistan. The Left that mingled with APDM called for an immediate stoppage of the military operation for the reasons that it targeted civilians, lacked efficiency due to double-dealings of the ISI and was conducted under the directions of the U.S. Imperialism. The CMKP, finding itself alone here as well, took a different stance. Vehemently opposing the civilian casualties, the double-dealings of the ISI, and the U.S. drone attacks, the CMKP argued that history and circumstances have led Pakistan to such a stage where extremism cannot be rooted out through peaceful dialogues and negotiations. Such means, it is believed, have a negative outcome as they allow the militants to get back on the offensive. Hence, it is essential to use force to deal with the threat of religious fanaticism. There are many other arguments, with varying degrees of sophistication, made for or against the afore-mentioned positions; what was most awe-inspiring was the level of thoroughness of some of the debates.

The aftermath of the Mumbai terrorist attacks has appeared as a great challenge for Pakistan’s Leftists. To understand the predicament faced by them, it must be understood that the Left has always directed its efforts against the Military-Mullah alliance: the elements of quintessential mainstream politics in Pakistan. These two institutions have always stood in the path of even the smallest transition of our country towards democracy- both feed on jingoism and excessively anti-Indian hate-mongering, in order to conceal their retrogressive and narrow political stance.

The distressing tragedy of Mumbai was followed by astute chauvinist nationalism, employing the electronic and print media to further its cause. The image of retrogressive forces is being resurrected, in a planned manner, and zealous calls of “unity” are being given. This is responded to with indifference and total underestimation of the unjust and negative politics of the Army and religious fundamentalists. Television channels are opened for people like Hameed Gul to beat their jingoistic drums in the name of religion and false patriotism. The Left, in these circumstances, is left with no option but to end its year by placing a struggle on the cards against the politics of hate-mongering and jingoism. In this, so far with some formal engagement, the Left appears to stand united.

All in all, the politics of the Left has generated great interest fresh circles. The youth and the oppressed, thoroughly disgusted with military dictatorship, religious extremism and the mainstream parties of Pakistan, are eagerly seeking a new alternative on the political scenario. The Left appears as a major hope. The Left must maintain clarity with regards to its political position while becoming as accessible as possible towards those who are willing to struggle for the solution that guarantees democracy, progress, and social justice. The Left must stand steadfastly with its commitment towards peoples’ democracy, secularism, land-reforms, independence from Imperialism, equal rights and opportunities for women, minorities, oppressed nations, and most notably, the emancipation of the workers and peasants.

Posted in Pre-Issue #2 of Social Revolution! | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

We Must Demand Complete & Immediate Withdrawal from Afghanistan

Posted by sorev on 15/10/2009

The following was lifted from the Kasama Project and the original can be found here.

We Must Demand Complete & Immediate Withdrawal from Afghanistan

By Mike Ely

I think what is posed in Medea Benjamin’s interview is a rather simple and important question: Can U.S. imperialism and its troops play a positive role in some circumstances?

Given the history of the last century, how can we imagine U.S. forces as protectors of womens rights?

Given the history of the last century, how can we imagine U.S. forces as protectors of women's rights?

The U.S. invades the remote and impoverished Afghanistan in 2001, topples the fragile regime of Taliban theocrats (which never consolidated countrywide power in the civil war). And now it is argued that the U.S. invaders “can’t” leave in an “irresponsible” way because the survival of a number of people (including women’s activists) would be in danger and because their withdrawal would most likely mean a return of the Taliban.

Should we carefully evaluate U.S. aggressions on a case-by-case basis? Is this U.S. military base good, and that one bad? Is this U.S. bombing helpful, and that one excessive? Is this U.S. nuclear threat helpful, and that one unfair? Is this U.S. drone doing good work, and that one intruding dangerously? Is this U.S. occupation shielding and promoting positive forces — while that U.S. occupation cultivates more negative puppets? Do we support U.S. domination until someone better comes along (who we approve of) to take their place?

Or does the U.S. military (globally and everywhere) represent a coherent means of imposing and enforcing a particular global order on humanity generally — an order that is rooted in horrific oppression and exploitation (including the widespread commodification of women as both workers and sexual slaves, and the traditional domestic servitude of literally billions of women and girls)?

What we need is a clear uncompromising unapologetic position:

We must demand that U.S. imperialism leave Afghanistan immediately and unconditionally — without finding ways to prop up  residual collaborators and puppet forces, without continuing to “provide air cover” for continuing war crimes.

The Afghanistan people need to be left to resolve their political affairs (and develop their own very difficult struggle for liberation) without U.S. domination and violence.

And because this is apparently quite controversial (even on the left): We should deepen our own understanding that these armed forces cannot and will not help the people in any part of the world.

Are there other reactionary forces in the world? Taliban? Al Qaida? Saddam Hussein? Islamic theocrats in Iran? Somali warlords? French colonial troops? Genocidal Israeli settlers and commanders? Turkish military commandos? Russian death squads in Chechnia? Catholic priests and bishops doing their secret crimes against humanity? And so on. Of course.

There are many other reactionary forces in the world. Some of them are U.S. allies. Some of them have sharp contradictions with U.S. imperialism. Some of them flip back and forth.

But U.S. occupation of Afghanistan (or Iraq) is itself a means of strengthening the world’s most odious and oppressive force. And the impact of a successful pro-U.S. pacification of Afghanistan cannot just be measured in terms of how it impacts people or sections of the people in Afghanistan. A victory for the U.S. in Afghanistan or stabilization of pro-U.S. arrangements in Afghanistan will be a major negative influence on the dynamics of the world as a whole.

This is true, objectively. And pointing out this truth is especially important within the U.S. itself — where illusions about the U.S. role in the world are especially strong (even on the left). Far too many people delude themselves that there can be a “more democratic U.S. foreign policy” that “helps” people. No, we have a special responsibility to fight the criminal actions of “our” government — and to expose its nature.

Our goal is not to “more effectively” serve “U.S. national interests.”

We do not seek to “improve the U.S. image around the world.”

We are not worried that “the wrong policies will get even more people to oppose U.S. initiatives.”

We do not want to “preserve and promote the American way of life.”

We don’t want to figure out some “people’s foreign policy” or some way for the fucking Marines to “play a good role.”

We don’t want a “more accountable CIA.”

No. We want to bring down U.S. imperialism from without and from within.

Not only must we demand that the U.S. withdraw immediately and without delay from its many overt and covert wars — but we must put forward a larger vision that the dismantling of all the vicious U.S. armed instruments of power is in the historic interests of humanity. That means the systematic and unilateral destruction of its nuclear arsenals, the disbanding of its armed forces, the abolition of its CIA, the public revelation of its crimes, the dismantling of its global military bases, listening posts and secret torture prisons, the destruction of its schools for coups and torture like the SOA, the scuttling of its imperial fleet and more.)

We should proclaim this publicly — knowing full well that these are not demands that the U.S. government would ever agree to, but they are a much needed program that only the people can carry out through historic actions.

The U.S. government, its military and spy forces, are a central prop of global capitalism at this stage in world history. And any confusion about this, any daydreaming that “maybe they can do some good,” needs to be explored and engaged.

Let’s deal with particulars:

1) Politics and social life in Afghanistan are rather awful.

That country is not a coherent nation-state and never has been. It is scattered and fragmented because of the feudal and tribal-patriarchal character of its social system, and that backward social character is reinforced by the impoverished, remote and mountainous nature of the countryside. Afghanistan has, historically, has one of the most extreme and oppressive traditional treatment of women. It was even mentioned by Marco Polo as he passed through centuries ago, and predates the rise of Islam.

As a result, the Afghani countryside is not ruled by the governments in Kabul, and never have been. The forces that the U.S. media calls “warlords” are (in effect) the modern feudal and tribal lords that rule various patches of land — greatly corrupted and empowered by the repeated arming and financing by imperialist powers.

In short, Afghanistan needs a very radical revolutionary movement — and the existing social conditions (of poverty, male supremacy, feudal agriculture, etc.) are intolerable.

But liberation will not come from the victory of one or another imperialist power.

2) There is a long and sad history of attempting to “bring” changes to Afghanistan by riding on the coattails of some invader. Yes there are some women’s activists in a few urban areas who have emerged from the shadows and operated with some protection from U.S. imperialism. And there were (in the 1980s) similar forces who staked their hopes on the Soviet imperialist invasion. And yes, such forces fear the withdrawal of the U.S. and its allies. And yes some of them may be forced into exile if the u.s. leaves.

But the point to draw from this is that liberation in Afghanistan has to come from a process that is anti-imperialist, and that engages the masses of people in their own liberation.

The theory that “modernity” (including women’s equality) can come from a U.S. imperialist occupation is (to put it mildly) a false theory. U.S. occupation will (at best) bring the “equality” of the Philippines sex trade and the Bangladeshi sweatshop.

And (in case anyone didn’t notice) the U.S. has been straining to cement alliances with “sections of the warlords and Taliban” (which means gathering an indigenous feudal base of support for a reliable puppet government). And (in case anyone didn’t notice) that has included the passage of a theocratic constitution and laws justifying marital rape, and more in areas of U.S. control. It is the U.S. (and its CIA) that empowered, armed, financed and unleashed the ugly theocratic forces in Afghanistan during the 1980s. And it is extremely naive (and tortured) to imagine scenarios where (somehow, somehow) a continued U.S. presence (or a slowed timetable of U.S. withdrawal) will somehow protect or help women.

3) There is a long history of sincere confusion whenever it is hard to find “good guys” opposing U.S. imperialism. We need to speak about this openly, and engage it clearly.

If the opponents of the U.S. seem to be “ugly” (by the standards of people watching from the U.S.) there is a clear tendency (including on the left) to be soft on the U.S. intervention.

“Perhaps the U.S. can do some good in Somalia.”

“Perhaps the U.S. can help drive Serb death squads out of Kosovo.”

“Perhaps U.S. threats against Iran can create openings for more progressive politics.”

“Perhaps delaying U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan will give progressive forces time to regroup and create an alternative to both Karzai and the Taliban.”


Medea said:

“…we also heard a lot of people say they didn’t want more troops to be sent in and they wanted the U.S. to have a responsible exit strategy that included the training of Afghan troops, included being part of promoting a real reconciliation process and included economic development; that the United States shouldn’t be allowed to just walk away from the problem. So that’s really our position.”

No. We must DEMAND that the U.S. “walk away” — and we must be clear that the U.S. imperialism is a huge part of “the problem” and is NOT part of the solution. What kind of troops is the U.S. training? What kind of “reconciliation” process would the imperialists “promote”?

At the risk of being harsh, such views are not new.

In the time of Kipling and the global British empire, it was called “White Man’s Burden.” In the late 19th century, socialists (of a particularly patriotic kind) imagined that French or British or German or American colonialism would bring “progress” to the “savages” of the Third World — and that the arrival of capitalism would be an “advance” over their existing state. And the logic of this led straight into supporting “their” particular imperialists into the horrific trenches of World War 1.

4) People say “well if the U.S. doesn’t confront these awful forces, who will?” (Or “if the U.S. doesn’t promote “real reconciliation” who will?”)

And the answer is that in the absence of revolutionary forces there will often be NO ONE confronting awful forces or solving the horrific suffering of the people. There will not BE “reconciliation” in Afghanistan — and if one happened under U.S. promotion it would be to establish a terrible new order.

Here is a difficult truth of our time: Many many desperate problems of the people will not be solved under capitalism…. that is (in fact) one of the reasons that radical change is urgently needed.

5) Even if there are no visible “good guys” fighting the U.S. in Iraq or Afghanistan or wherever…. it is still wrong (very wrong) to support continued U.S. occupation.

If we mean by “good guys” (a term sarcastically lifted from the know-nothing vocab of rightwing idiots and cops) progressive, secular, radical forces. How do such progressive forces emerge? It is through struggle against oppression. They will not emerge as a byproduct of joining the U.S. sphere of influence. They will not emerge as junior partners of this vicious occupier. They certainly will not gain popular support by acting as collaborators with the American and European invaders.

New radical secular pro-socialist forces can only arise, gain popular traction, and make strategic progress only through consistent opposition to U.S. imperialism, and cannot conceivably emerge under its wing and protection. And we can’t be confused by the pleas of political forces who (however critically or uneasily) serve in the puppet government of Afghanistan or work for NGO’s in the penumbra of U.S. occupation. These forces (however liberal and forward-looking they may seem in comparison to the masses of pepole) are pursuing their own strategies, class interests and not-so-radical view of what progress means.

It strikes me as problematic to wish for a prolonged U.S. presences in order to buy time for people who have rushed to conduct their politics in the protective shadow of U.S. forces. Many are (frankly) collaborators who are helping to prettify the U.S. occupation inside Afghanistan and out, and they will be judged by the people (as well as pursued by the Taliban, which is not the same thing).

6) It is a very tortured argument to say “I am against the war, I was against its initiation, I am against its further escalation by adding new troops, I am against U.S. troops engaging or bombing in the villages in the future, BUT I am now for a slow responsible timetable of U.S. withdrawal.”

Let’s be clear: Obama’s possible plan for Afghanistan may (precisely) be to oppose any major new escalation, and to focus on commando actions aimed at specific “targets.”

In other words, the tortured proposal (raised by Media Benjamin[sic]) may oppose Bush’s policies or General McChrystal’s proposals — but it is exactly support for one of Obama’s most likely guises of continuing an increasingly unpopular and militarily-frustrated episode of U.S. aggression.

We need an uncompromising antiwar movement. And we need to build a conscious and determined new revolutionary movement.

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Why China Went Capitalist

Posted by sorev on 30/08/2009

The following was lifted from the Kasama Project‘s webpage (who lifted it from the MLMRSG).  The original article can be found here or here.

Why did the Chinese Communist Party turn into a capitalist party so quickly once Mao died?

Why was it so easy for Deng and supporters to kick out the “Gang of Four”, Mao’s closest supporters and most “left” among the leadership?

Why was there no mass rebellion against this among the members of the Party?

Why did the “cadre” – full-time Party officials – go along with this swift move back to capitalist production, distribution, and property relations?

How was it that Deng himself had so much support among the Party cadre that he was able to control the Party behind the scenes and then, in a couple of years, openly take over? Along with Liu Shaoqi Deng had been one of the main targets of the GPCR.

The proximate roots of the overthrow of Chinese communism lie in the question of “cadres” that arose again and again during the Cultural Revolution.

One side – ultimately, it was Mao’s side – in the GPCR claimed that the vast majority of the Party cadres were either “good” or reformable. Here are some quotations:

The “Sixteen Points” of August 8 1966, one of the basic statements of the GPCR, stated that most cadre were good. Point Eight reads:


The cadres fall roughly into the following four categories:

(1) good;
(2) comparatively good;
(3) those who have made serious mistakes but have not become anti-Party, anti-socialist rightists;
(4) the small number of anti-Party, anti-socialist rightists.

In ordinary situations, the first two categories ( good and comparatively good ) are the great majority.”

Badiou has noted, though superficially, incompletely, the problem with this statement.

“First of all, it is held, as if axiomatically, that in essence the party is good. Point 8 (“The Question of Cadres”) distinguishes four types of cadres, as put to the test of the Cultural Revolution (let us remember that in China, a “cadre” is anyone who dispenses authority, even if minimal): good, comparatively good, those who have made serious mistakes that can be fixed, and lastly “the small number of anti-Party and anti-socialist Rightists.” The thesis is then that “the two first categories (good and comparatively good) are the great majority.” That is, the state apparatus and its internal leadership (the party) are essentially in good hands, which renders paradoxical the recourse to such large-scale revolutionary methods.”

-Alain Badiou, “The Cultural Revolution: The Last Revolution?” Positions 13:3 (2005), 492.

A common way of stating this in GPCR documents is that only a “handful” of cadres are bad and must be removed.

Lin Biao speech October 1, 1966

“Today, we are celebrating this great festival amid an upsurge of the great proletarian cultural revolution. This is a great revolution, an entirely new and creative revolution carried out after the seizure of political power by the proletariat. Its aim is to overthrow through struggle the small handful of persons within the Party who are in authority who have taken the capitalist road,…” –

“June 1, 1966, Chairman Mao decided to publish in the press the first Marxist-Leninist big-character poster in the country, posted first in Peking University. This kindled the raging flames of the great proletarian cultural revolution and set in motion the mass movement which has as its main target for attack the handful of persons within the Party who are in authority and are taking the capitalist road….”

“It is a fact that in our army there are a handful of persons in authority taking the capitalist road and an extremely few diehards clinging to the bourgeois reactionary line …. ” (209)

“This great cultural revolution means precisely the arousing of hundreds of millions of people to liberate themselves and to seize power from the handful of people within the Party who are in authority and are taking the capitalist road.” (212)

“The handful of representatives of the bourgeoisie are vicious and dare to bully people to such an extent precisely because they still have power!” (213 – Peking Review, January 27, 1967).

“is entirely wrong to adopt a policy of opposing everything, casting out everything and striking down everything. It should be noted that some of the leading cadres are on the side of Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line and are resolved to wage a struggle against the handful of persons in authority in the Party taking the capitalist road. We must have full confidence in these cadres and fight side by side with them. As for the leading cadres who have swerved or made errors in line, we should also unite with them to fight together, so long as they are willing to mend their errors and return to the Party’s correct line and to Chairman Mao’s line.” – People’s Daily Feb. 2 1967 (216)

“The firm implementation of the great alliance of the proletarian revolutionaries and the solidarity of the broad masses of people are the most important conditions for achieving victory in the struggle to seize power from the handful of persons in power in the Party who are taking the capitalist road. At a time when the great proletarian cultural revolution has entered a stage of launching a struggle to seize all power from the handful of persons in power in the Party who are taking the capitalist road,…” – Red Flag editorial (217)

“Only by doing so will it prove helpful to the greatest extent in isolating and attacking the handful of persons within the Party who are in power and taking the capitalist road,…” — ibid, 218.

“3) Sufficient importance must be attached to the role of revolutionary cadres in the struggle to seize power. The leading cadres who uphold the proletarian revolutionary line are the precious wealth of the Party. They can become the backbone of the struggle to seize power and become the leadership in the struggle to seize power. These leading cadres have, for considerable time in the past, waged a struggle against the handful of persons within the Party who are in authority and taking the capitalist road. They are now appearing before the masses, openly indicating before the masses that they are on the side of the proletarian revolutionaries, integrating with the revolution- ary masses, and fighting together with them. Workers, peasants, revolutionary students and revolutionary intellectuals must believe in them.” ibid, 218

“The overwhelming majority of cadres in general in the Party and government institutions are good and want to make revolution. The proletarian revolutionary rebels among them are the main forces for seizing power within their respective units.” ibid, 219.

“…renegades, special agents, counter-revolutionaries and diehard capitalist-roaders who have managed to sneak into the revolutionary ranks are but a handful. This should be our basic estimate of the cadre ranks.

– People’s Daily May 13, 1967, CQ Jl-Sp ‘68 p. 184.

Many more such quotations about “handfuls” can be found.

Many statement, like some of those quoted above, go far beyond merely stating that most cadre are good or reformable, to insist that cadre must be in the leadership of the GPCR.

“..the revolutionary leading cadres rise together with the masses in the struggle to seize power from the handful of those within the Party who are in authority and are taking the capitalist road, the revolutionary mass organisations must support them. They must see that the revolutionary leading cadres have acquired comparatively richer experiences in struggle, are more matured politically and possess greater organisational strength. It is quite advantageous to the struggle for seizing and grasping power to have them participate in the core leadership. As for cadres who have committed errors, we must deal with them correctly and must not knock them down. Regarding those inexcusable anti-Party and anti-socialist elements and those who persistently refused to reform and failed to undergo reform after being educated repeatedly, we must allow them to repent and encourage them to redeem their crimes with meritorious deeds.” – ibid, 218.

If cadre are in the lead, then the masses are not in the lead. The masses are to follow the cadre.

The Left

Why was there so much insistence from the Party leadership that “most cadre are good”, even that “cadres should lead”, and that only a “handful” or an “extremely few diehards” were “persisting in the bourgeois reactionary line?”

The answer is: because there was a mass movement – a number of mass organizations – that were claiming the opposite of this: that most of the Party cadre were reactionary.

The statement “Whither China?” by the Shengwulien organization is the expression of the Left – derided as the “ultra-left” by the Party leadership and cadre and that often described itself as such, as “ultra-left” – is the best known statement that draws this conclusion.

“The rule of the new bureaucratic bourgeoisie must be overthrown by force in order to solve the problem of political power.

“Facts as revealed by the masses and their wrath told people initially that this class of “Red” capitalists had completely become a decaying class that hindered the progress of history, and that the relations between them and the people in general had changed from relations between the leaders and the led to those between the rulers and the ruled, the exploiters and the exploited, from the relations of revolutionaries of equal standing to those between the oppressors and the oppressed. The special privileges and high salaries of the class of “Red” capitalists was built on the basis of the oppression and exploitation of the broad masses of the people. In order to realize the “People’s Commune of China”, it was necessary to overthrow this class …

“We really believe that ninety per cent of the senior cadres should stand aside, that at most they can only be objects to be educated and united. This is because they have already constituted a decaying class with its own particular “interests”. Their relation with the people has changed from the relation between the leaders and the led in the past to that between exploiters and the exploited, the oppressors and the oppressed. Most of them consciously or unconsciously yearn for the capitalist road, and protect and develop capitalist things. The rule of their class has completely blocked the development of history … However they (the bureaucrats) hit back at and carry out counter-reckoning against the revolutionary people with increasing madness, pushing themselves nearer and nearer the guillotine. All this proves that no decaying class in history would voluntarily make an exit from the stage of history.

“In the new society of the Paris Commune type this class will be overthrown.”

We also know of this Left position by the attacks of its enemies.

“Recently, a sort of so-called ‘new trend of thought’ prevails in society. Its principal content is to distort the major contradiction of socialist society into one between the so-called ‘power-holders’, i.e., the ‘privileged persons’ who hold ‘property and power’ and the masses of the people. It demands an incessant ‘redistribution’ of the social property and political power under the proletarian dictatorship. The new trend of thought has equated the current GPCR with a conflict for wealth and power ‘within a reactionary ruling class’. It has equated the headquarters of Mao/Lin with that of Liu/Teng/Tao. It has branded all leading cadres as privileged persons and thrust them all into the position of objects of revolution.” (CNS, No. 188. Quoted at )

Official statements make clear the fact that the official insistence that “most cadres are good” is in direct opposition to the Left position that most cadres needed to be overthrown.

“…[R]enegades, special agents, counter-revolutionaries and diehard capitalist-roaders who have managed to sneak into the revolutionary ranks are but a handful. This should be our basic estimate of the cadre ranks….The outstanding revolutionary cadres who have gone through the trials of the struggle of the classes and lines can then be placed in key positions where they will be able to give full play to their role of backbone in the revolutionary three-way alliance. . . .

Only by setting out from such a basic estimate will it be possible to avoid Right or extreme “Left” errors in handling the cadre question. …It will also prevent us from regarding the cadre ranks as thoroughly rotten — a view which suspects all and overthrows all, and ruthlessly smashes cadres down for any error committed, no matter how minor it may be (FE/2783).”

– People’s Daily May 13, 1967, China Quarterly Jl-Sp ‘68, 184.

Jiang Qing, a member of the Cultural Revolutionary Group around Mao, attacked this “ultra-left” in a speech in Anhui on September 5 1967:

“It looks as if they come out in the guise of either extreme “leftists” or rightists who oppose the Central Committee headed by Chairman Mao. This is quite impermissible and they are doomed to failure. At present if you take Peking as an example you have this kind of thing. I call it a thing because it is a counter-revolutionary organisation. It is really called the “May 16th” group. They don’t have a very large membership. On the surface they are young people and these young people have been misled. They are a minority of bourgeois elements and are filled with hatred against us; but these are only individuals. The vast majority are young people and they are using the instability of young people’s ideology. The real manipulators behind the scenes are very bad people. This “May 16th” group appeared first of all under the guise of extreme “leftists.” They concentrated their aim against the Prime Minister [Zhou Enlai, attacked by the Left as the defender of the reactionary cadre] and in fact they collected material about us to send abroad. Naturally we are not scared. Why should we be frightened by this? You can go and sell it if you like. If you have had a good meal and feel like doing something and don’t want to do revolution, no matter what you do, we are not scared. From the point of view of the rightists, at the end of January and February there was an atmosphere of opposition to the proletarian cultural revolution. At present this atmosphere is one of “leftism.” They are opposing the Central Committee. This is the guise of extreme “leftists ” who are opposing the Prime Minister….

– CQ Oct-Dec 1967, 212.

The Shanghai Commune was perhaps the main high point of Left influence. Mao had praised the Paris Commune. In February 1967 editorials appeared in Red Flag praising it and the efforts to form a Chinese Commune. Like the Paris Commune, its leaders were to be subject to immediate recall. In fact Zhang Chunqiao took control of it with the support of the Beijing-based Cultural Revolution group.

Zhang made the founding speech of the Shanghai Commune on February 5 1967. A week later he and Yao Wen-yuan went to Beijing where Mao explained to them that the Commune was a bad idea. Other cities wanted to form Communes. As in Marx’s day, direct recall of officials proved to be a popular idea! Mao suggested that power be vested instead in “three-in-one” committees, or “three-way alliance” – the Army, Party cadre, and “revolutionary rebels” like Wang Hongwen.

This was spelled out in the pamphlet “On the Revolutionary Three-in-One Combination.” This document repeats over a dozen times the formula that “only a handful” of cadres were reactionary. The “three-in-one” committee idea was specifically intended to counter the Left.

“In some localities, a few persons have proposed that “all persons classified as leading cadres should stand aside”. This view is devoid of class analysis. It counterposes the masses to all cadres. It does not direct its spearhead against the handful of persons in authority taking the capitalist road but against the great number of cadres. It therefore runs counter to the basic spirit of the 16-point decision of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party concerning the great proletarian cultural revolution, to the general orientation of the struggle and to Mao Tse-tung’s thought. To act in this way is objectively helping the class enemy. Those comrades who committed such mistakes unconsciously should immediately correct them. It is dangerous for them to persist in their own view. All revolutionary cadres should welcome the comrades guilty of such mistakes, as soon as they correct them, and in no circumstances should retaliate against them.” –

Before long the “hunt” was on for Leftists. Yang Xiguang, author of “Whither China?”, was singled out for special attack and went into hiding. According to Yang he was safe as long as he remained in his home province, but was turned into the police when he left it. He spent 10 years in prison. Dongping Han discusses the persecution of former “rebels” under Deng in the late ‘70s and ‘80s (“Negating the Cultural Revolution,” in The Unknown Cultural Revolution. MR Press, 2008).

Who Was Right? Who Was Wrong?

Were Mao and his high-level supporters correct when they insisted that the Party cadre were 90% good, “wanted to make revolution”, and those “on the capitalist road” were “a small handful”?

Or was the “ultra-Left” correct when they wrote, quoting Shengwulien,

“We really believe that ninety per cent of the senior cadres should stand aside, that at most they can only be objects to be educated and united. This is because they have already constituted a decaying class with its own particular “interests”. Their relation with the people has changed from the relation between the leaders and the led in the past to that between exploiters and the exploited, the oppressors and the oppressed. Most of them consciously or unconsciously yearn for the capitalist road, and protect and develop capitalist things. The rule of their class has completely blocked the development of history …”

In historical hindsight it is obvious. The “ultra-Left” were right. Mao was wrong.

The same Party cadre who, with Mao’s support, retained power in the Party supported the overthrow of the “Gang of Four” as soon as Mao died; then supported Deng’s swift reversion to open capitalism.

My point is not to say that the so-called “ultra-left” – really, the Left – were “correct” in all respects. But they were correct about the BIG issues.

A new Communist Party was needed. “Whiter China?” stated:

“The July 1st editorial of 1967 raised the question of Party building. During the violent class struggle in July and August, a very small number of “ultra-Leftists” put forward the demand that the “ultra-Left should have its own political party… To make revolution it is necessary to have a revolutionary party.”

“As a result of the practice of struggle having gained rich experience and entered a higher stage, the maturity of the political thinking of the revolutionary people of China has also entered a higher stage. A new trend of thought (called “ultra-Left trend of thought” by the enemy), including “overthrow of the new bureaucratic bourgeoisie”, “abolition of bureaucratic organs”, “thorough smashing of the state machine”, etc. wanders among the revolutionary people like a “spectre” in the eyes of the enemy.”

Yang Xiguang’s statement saw the future of China very accurately:

“The 9th National Congress of the Party about to be convened is not expected to be able to thoroughly settle the question of where the Chinese Communist Party is going. The political party that is produced in accordance with the provisions promulgated by the Centre for rehabilitation, regulation and rebuilding of the Party (if such a party can be formed) will necessarily be a party of bourgeois reformism that serves the bourgeois usurpers in the revolutionary committees.”

This is, in fact, precisely what happened.

“Whither China?” also pointed to the fact that the roots of this bourgeois restoration went back to the very foundation of the Chinese People’s Republic:

“To really overthrow the rule of the new aristocracy and thoroughly smash the old state machinery, it will be necessary to go into the question of assessment of the past 17 years…. The real revolution, the revolution to negate the past 17 years, has basically not yet begun, and that we should now enter the stage of tackling the fundamental questions of China’s revolution …”

The Cult of Mao Was the Achilles’ Heel of the Left

A glaring contradiction in “Whither China?” is the insistence of its authors that Mao was on their side, the side of the Left.

Yet Mao had come out against the Shanghai Commune. Mao had supported the “three-in-one” committees that the Left recognized as window-dressing, a form of rule in which the revolutionary forces – supposing they actually got representation at all – would be second in every way to the old cadre and the Army. And “political power flows from the barrel of a gun.” Ultimately it was the command of the Army that held state power under this system.

“Why did Comrade Mao Tse-tung, who energetically advocated the “commune”, suddenly oppose the establishment of “Shanghai People’s Commune” in January? That is something which the revolutionary people find it hard to understand.

“Chairman Mao, who foresaw the “commune” as a political structure which must be realised in the first cultural revolution, suddenly put forward “Revolutionary committees are fine!” (“Whither China?”)

In order to “explain” Mao’s actions “Whither China?” has recourse to a strained and very economic-determinist view of Mao’s actions. It suggested that Mao was choosing a “zig-zag path” because history must proceed that way.

“Revolution must progress along a zigzagging way. It must go through a prolonged course of “struggle-failure-struggle again-failure again-struggle again till final victory”.

“… the wise supreme commander Comrade Mao Tse-tung once more made a big retreat after September, in disregard of demands by impatient revolutionaries for victory. A political situation of bourgeois usurpation of power came about with the establishment of revolutionary committees or preparatory groups for revolutionary committees.

“Chairman Mao’s rousing call, “Arm the Left!” was an intensive concentration of the courage of the working class. But the September 5 order completely nullified the call to “arm the Left”. The working class was disarmed. The bureaucrats again came back to power …

Shengwulien suggests that somehow Mao did not openly support the Left because the people were not ready for it:

“Revolutions often take various reformist, unthorough roads. It is only when all panaceas are proved useless that the revolutionary people would resolve to follow the most painful and most destructive, but also the most thorough and revolutionary road. The struggle in the transition period of revolutionary committees will inevitably disillusion the masses about the panacea of bourgeois reformism which they love so much. Chairman Mao says: “Buddhist idols are set up by the peasants. When the time comes the peasants will throw away these idols with their own hands. There is no need for others to do it too soon.” In the not far distant future the revolutionary people will surely smash to pieces with their own iron hands the newborn red political power which they have secured with their own blood and lives …”

In reality Mao never supported the Left. Mao played a centrist role. He opposed the open reversion to capitalism, but never dismissed those who, like Deng, were its main proponents.

Understanding Mao’s centrism is key to understanding why the GPCR was basically decided by 1967. With the left in defeat and centrism, in the form of Mao and the “Gang”, in charge, China’s policies began to move to the right. This is most obviously seen in “ping-pong diplomacy” and then “Nixon in China”. Mao and Zhou warmed up to the USA when the US imperialists were still bombing the hell out of Vietnam and funding the South Vietnamese fascists to the hilt.

This isn’t the place to review all the contradictions in China’s political history between 1968 and Mao’s death. Certainly many left initiatives remained. Mao placated the right and smashed the “ultra-left” but never let the right seize power completely. His leadership, including the “Gang”, was centrist, meaning: right in essence but with a left cover.

During this time the pro-capitalist right was consolidated. There is no way Mao’s policies could have been so quickly reversed, capitalism so swiftly re-established and with so little opposition from within the Party, unless the Right became thoroughly consolidated while he was still alive. These were those Party cadres that Mao had insisted were “mainly good” and that the “ultra-left” had correctly viewed as the enemy.

The “ultra-left” could not see past the “cult of Mao.” They could not see Mao’s centrist role – that he actually opposed them and supported the cadre; that he opposed a Paris Commune kind of state in which Party cadre would have to win election from the working class or be deposed.

Something similar had happened in the USSR during Stalin’s lifetime. Khrushchev would not have been able to take over the Party and country so swiftly, and then Gorbachev able to restore capitalism in the name of “back to Lenin”, “back to ‘real socialism’”, if the roots of this reversal did not reach far back into the Stalin and even the Lenin years.

So the “cult” of Mao helped mislead and defeat the “ultra-left” and reinstall the Right. Maybe that is why Mao’s body still lies in state in Tienanmen Square, as Lenin’s does in Red Square.

Lesson: Criticize the “cult”, criticize Mao’s writings, criticize Maoism.

No truths are true forever. No leader is “always right.” Mao was a great leader. Under his leadership the Chinese Revolution was won and the Chinese People’s Republic established. He also initiated the GPCR, without which the mass “ultra-Left” movement would never have come into being.

At the same time Mao’s failure to support the Left and conciliation of the Right – of which Deng is just the most obvious example – guaranteed China’s reversion to capitalism once he had passed from the scene.

The “cult” of Mao facilitated that. It was a disgusting display of adulation, idolatry, lack of criticism, mass manipulation, cynicism. Even if Mao had represented the Left the “cult” would have been bad, like the “cult” around Stalin had been bad, because it disempowered the masses.

The “cult” of Mao stands in the way of the critical assimilation of the lessons of the Chinese Revolution. As long as Mao and his writings are regarded as “beyond criticism” any attempt to understand why the Chinese Revolution was reversed is condemned to go around in a circle. In that way it serves a similar purpose to the “cult” around Stalin. Khrushchev, who had risen to the leadership of the USSR by participating in this “cult” (along with lots of other Party cadre) then attacked it. Likewise Deng began the criticism of Mao’s legacy.

If “everything had come out all right”, if China had gone on to progress in a communist direction after Mao’s death, then we’d have to conclude that Mao’s judgment that “90% of the cadre being basically good” was basically correct. After all, “90% of the cadre” are more than enough to determine which direction the Party is going to take. Instead, China moved sharply towards capitalism immediately Mao died. This could not have happened without the support of “90% of the cadre”.

So Mao and the others were wrong. The “ultra-left” were correct. A new communist party was necessary. And it was necessary not in 1976, when Mao died, but long before Mao died. It was necessary, at the latest, when the “ultra-left” recognized the need for it.

I don’t fault the “ultra-left” like the Shengwulien, the May 16 group, and others we know little about. They achieved a lot. It would have been very hard to reject Mao during the GPCR, no matter how necessary we can now see that this was. The “ultra-Left” did not have the benefit of hindsight. They could not know what we now know, thanks in part to their experience.

But today, we ourselves have no such excuse.

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