The Workers Dreadnought

For International Socialism

Reading Lists: Canadian Social Formation and the Crisis in Marxism

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So in my last post, I uploaded a paper that I had written whilst I was a member of my previous organisation. I had said that in a following post I would talk more about the communism I was more in favour of and the theoretical bases for my shift away from Maoism. I have not had an opportunity to write that post and think that I will not be writing that post for a while as I want to think carefully about how I want to articulate my arguments and, in fact, do a lot more study about proffering a series of positions. So in this post, I was going to offer another document that I had written for a study group that we organised for students about the history of Canadian communism. The document is quite flawed in my assessment, but allows me to frame the reading lists I have copied below. So here is the document: The History of the Communist Movement in Canada 1920-2010. This is likely the only other document I will release that I wrote.

Now given that this document is incredibly flawed, which in turn reflects my own admittedly relatively weak grasp of the concrete conditions in which I have been organising for the last 15 years, I have decided to engage in two studies: 1) the history and political economy of Canada and its real movement of history; and 2) the ‘crisis in Marxism’ that came to a head in the late 1970’s, which tried to arrive at a Marxist theory of the modern State and the appropriate strategy in relation to the modern State. The way in which I mean this crisis: 1) is the crisis of the revolutionary left, Maoist or Trotskyist, especially in Europe and North America with the retreat in social movements; and 2) the crisis in the orthodox Communist movement caused due to the events in the late 1960’s in Eastern Europe (like the crushing of the Prague Spring) and the failure of Eurocommunism in Western Europe. These studies are meant to help me first understand the conjuncture better, which in turn hopefully will allow me to articulate what I regard a Canadian communism ought to be in the 21st century. Indeed, I think, for example, the fact that Canada has a long liberal tradition of political thought, which has been reflected in its State institutions, which was not the case in Tsarist Russia or in semi-feudal semi-colonial China, will have a profound impact on the road to revolution in Canada.  Given that this will be in addition to my own academic work and family responsibilities, I do not have time to read more than two books in my spare time. That is why there is one book for the first topic per month, and another book for the second topic per month. In the coming months, my hope is to continuously update this blog with study notes and impressions on these books.

As background reading I have been reading the main texts of “Eurocommunism”, in both its rightist and leftist variations. So I just finished reading Fernando Claudin’s absolutely amazing book, The Communist Movement: From Comintern to Cominform (1975) and his left Eurocommunist work, Eurocommunism and Socialism. Claudin was a leading member of the Communist Party of Spain (PCE), fought in the Spanish civil war, and was kicked out of the PCE for his disagreements towards the pro-Moscow line of the PCE and Moscow’s actions in the Eastern bloc. Interestingly, the RCP,USA cites Claudin’s The Communist Movement repeatedly in their essays in Revolution about Spain and it seems like they cribbed a lot of their analysis of Stalin from him. However, whereas Claudin takes a turn, which I am in favour of, of focusing on the national particularities and articulating national roads to communism, whilst emphasising an internationalism that de-emphasises the defense of one State (the USSR) and emphasising the revolutionary process as a whole through the prior focus on national revolutionary movements; the RCP,USA similarly de-emphasises the defense of one state, but then argues for a new world party that pivots on agitating for revolution in national countries from the worldwide level. Finally, I just started reading what is considered the paradigmatic Eurocommunist book by Santiago Carrillo, Eurocommunism and the State, which I hope to finish reading in the next 2-3 days, before turning formally to the syllabi below. Although I may read Hoxha’s “anti-revisionist” polemic as well before I do so. If people, would like to read along and discuss the books when I post about them, they are more than welcome.

The Canadian Social Formation

The History and Political Economy of Canada:
September: Stanley Ryerson – The Founding of Canada
October: Stanley Ryerson – Unequal Union
November: H. Clare Pentland – Labour and Capital in Canada, 1650-1860
December: William K. Carroll – Corporate Power and Canadian Capitalism
January: Jerome Klassen – Joining Empire
February: Ian McKay – Warrior Nation
The Real Movement of History in Canada:
March: Bryan Palmer – Working-Class Experience: Rethinking the History of Canadian Labour, 1800-1991
April: Peter Newell – The Impossibilists (200 pages)
May: Linda Kealey – Enlisting Women for the Cause: Women, Labour, and the Left in Canada 1890-1920
June: Norman Penner – Canadian Communism: The Stalin Years and Beyond
July: Stephen Endicott – Raising the Workers’ Flag: The Workers’ Unity League of Canada
August: Bryan Palmer: Canada’s 1960’s

The Crisis of Marxism

September: Galvano della Volpe – Rousseau and Marx (1964)
October: Nicos Poulantzas – Political Power and Socialism (1968)
November: 1. Lucio Colletti – From Rousseau to Lenin (1969); 2. Lucio Colletti – Power and Democracy in Socialist Society (1969); 3) Lucio Colletti – The Question of Stalin (1970); 4) Lucio Colletti – Antonio Gramsci and the Italian Revolution (1971); 5). Lucio Magri – Problems of the Marxist Theory of the Revolutionary Party (1970); 6. Lucio Magri – Italian Communism in the Sixties (1971)
December: Louis Althusser – On the Reproduction of Capitalism (1969)
January: Ralph Miliband – The State in Capitalist Society (1969); Miliband – Poulantzas debate: A) Nicos Poulantzas – “The Problem of the Capitalist State”; B) Ralph Miliband – “The Capitalist State: Reply to N. Poulantzas”; C) Ralph Miliband – “Poulantzas and the Capitalist State”; D) Nicos Poulantzas – “The Capitalist State: A Reply to Miliband and Laclau”.
February: Nicos Poulantzas – Fascism and Dictatorship (1970)
March: Nicos Poulantzas – Classes in Contemporary Capitalism (1973)
April: Christine Buci-Glucksmann – Gramsci and the State (1975)
May: Nicos Poulantzas – The Crisis of the Dictatorships (1976)
June: Etienne Balibar – The Dictatorship of the Proletariat (1976)
July: 1. Louis Althusser – “On the Twenty-Second Congress of the French Communist Party (1976); 2. Louis Althusser –  “Some Questions Concerning the Crisis of Marxist Theory” (1976); 3. Louis Althusser – “The Crisis of Marxism” (1977); 4. Louis Althusser –  “What Must Change in the Party”(1978); 5. Louis Althusser – “Marxism Today” (1978); 6. Louis Althusser – “Marx in his Limits” (1978); 7. Louis Althusser – “On Marxist Thought” (1982); 8. Valentino Gerratana – Althusser and Stalinism (1977); 9. Valentino Gerratana – Stalin, Lenin and ‘Leninism’ (1977)
August: Nicos Poulantzas – State, Power, Socialism (1978)

Written by theworkersdreadnought

01/09/2015 at 13:07

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2012 Position Paper on Syrian Conflict

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I have not been updating this blog for a while for a number of reasons. In part because of other responsibilities, especially work and family-related; but also because of a number of political-ideological shifts that I have made. I will not discuss the former as they are of no consequence to any reader of this blog, but will briefly mention the latter, since it does pose a question about the future of this blog. I no longer regard myself as a Maoist. This is not to say that I do not still think that the Chinese Revolution or the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution are not of world historic significance, nor does it mean that I do not think that Mao Zedong was a communist who deserves to be deeply studied, but it does mean that I do not think that Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is the only guide to revolution. Indeed, in the letters between JMP and I, I made it clear that I wanted to bring to bear a rather broad number of voices together to help construct a Maoism proper, however, over the last 1-2 years I have realised that this is not simply possible within the four walls of Maoism, especially as understood by the international Maoist movement broadly conceived (indeed, I have been chided by many for even wanting to even discuss Althusser, Bettelheim etc.). Thus, I now regard myself as a communist.

I intend to talk about what I mean by this in a subsequent post, but in this post would like to simply upload a position paper on the Syrian conflict that I had written in 2012/2013 for consideration of my former organisation (as part of abandoning the moniker “Maoism”, I have also renounced all organisational ties. This latter part dovetails with my own reconsideration of what it means to be a communist in the current conjuncture). The paper attached below was never adopted for reasons that I am still not clear about, although it was adopted by my local group. I was recently re-reading it and felt that it would be a shame to let it just die on an old hard drive, especially given that I spent a lot of time researching and writing it. I still think it was the correct position to hold at the time and think it still could help guide a current position on the situation in Syria. I would appreciate hearing any comments/criticisms people may have. Also, I would like people to tell me if they think in light of my somewhat change in position whether I should continue this blog, but to explore the politics I am myself grasping for, or abandon it completely as a testament to the “Maoist” phase in my communist politics?

Here is the Syria Position Paper. I will likely post 1-2 more documents in the coming days that I wrote as part of my “Maoist” phase, which I regard as being appropriate.

Written by theworkersdreadnought

28/08/2015 at 12:29

Posted in Uncategorized

Historical Fragment: Flyer by Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) that Initiated the People’s War

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On February 13th, 1996 the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) distributed the flyer reproduced below to announce the initiation of the people’s war in Nepal. In the subsequent 10 years the party would be able to capture over 80% of the countryside and win over the majority of the people. It had established dual power through the people’s courts and governments in the revolutionary base areas, and had undertaken projects to ameliorate the lives of the peasantry, including developing small hydro projects, building schools and hospitals, and breaking old feudal traditions and establishing new revolutionary ones. However, in the last 9 years since the beginning of the peace process and 19 years since the initiation of the people’s war, the peasantry has lost many of these gains. Furthermore, the “mother” party, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has completely adopted a reformist parliamentary path. In the pamphlet reproduced below, the CPN(Maoist) stated,

Today the biggest traitors of the people have been those so-called communists, the revisionists, who have gone after crumbs of reactionary state power by licking the boots of feudalism and imperialism. The Nepalese people and Nepalese history will never forgive those traitors who have sat on the chairs of the reactionaries by betraying the people’s faith in radical change and the Communist Party and by stepping on the blood of thousands of martyrs. Again if one talks of limiting oneself to the reformist struggle within the reactionary state, that will be merely another process of treachery. This has now been a historically verified truth.

This has been once again verified when one looks at the actions of the current UCPN(Maoist) leadership. This ostensibly was one of the significant reasons for the split by the current CPN(Maoist) from the UCPN(Maoist), however, they too have become little more than an external opposition to the UCPN(Maoist). Indeed, the tactics of the CPN(Maoist) have been less than inspiring inasmuch that they have largely constituted of making infinite demands on the reformist state, and dangling the carrot of reunification with the UCPN(Maoist) to win members from the latter organisation. One does not get the sense that the organisation actually has a strategy to get from its current quagmire to a revolutionary situation. The newly formed CPN-Maoist, led by Netra Bikram Chand, a “left-wing” split from the CPN(Maoist) has emphasised the return to the people’s war, although it is not clear from what one can read about their line what their strategy is. However, I will reserve judgment until I can properly read their political document, which I believe some comrades are in the process of translating into English.

The situation in Nepal whilst different than it was 19 years ago, in part because of the positive outcomes of the people’s war, is not so different from the analysis put forward in the document below. Semi-feudalism continues to persist, especially in areas which came under Maoist control much later in the revolutionary process and thus were unable to sustain the gains that were made. Capitalist exploitation continues unabated in the urban centres with a growing proletariat and reserve army of labour. Semi-colonialism, similarly, is well-rooted. Indeed, it is more clear today, than ever before, that Nepal has been “Bhutanized” by Indian sub-imperialism. Does this all mean that the time has come for people’s war? I would argue no. Indeed, any return to the people’s war without a proper summation of the experience of the last 19 years and a proper strategy for the path forwards is simply being callous with the lives of the very oppressed classes that the Nepalese revolutionary movement seeks to mobilise. Indeed, it is difficult to know which way to march, when the path itself is not clear. However, the goal remains the same: smash the reactionary state and establish a new democratic state. In closing, I would like to draw a parallel to another famous exhortation to arms, Machiavelli’s The Prince, where he similarly identified the dismissal state of affairs in Italy and the need for a Prince. Today Nepal needs a new Prince who is able to bring with it a new mode of organisation and politics. The situation is excellent, the question is whether there is a Prince with the prudence to make the necessary intervention and to invent new modes and orders.

March Along the Path of People’s War to Smash the Reactionary State and Establish a New Democratic State!

Dear Masses of the People,
Today Nepalese society is in a state of grave crisis, whether economically, politically, culturally or otherwise. Where has the present state that has been harping about development and construction for the last fifty years landed Nepal economically? It has landed Nepal in the position of second poorest country in the world after Ethiopia. This state that does not manufacture even a needle in the name of a self-reliant and national economy has handed over the whole economy of the country to a dozen families of the foreign comprador and bureaucrat capitalists. Whereas this handful of plunderers have become billionaires, the real masters of this country and the national property, the toiling masses of Nepal, are forced to eke out a meager existence of deprivation and poverty. The sons and daughters of Nepalese peasants and workers reeling under unemployment and poverty are compelled to lead a miserable life of dishonour and neglect in India and different parts of the world to earn their daily bread. After piling a massive foreign debt burden even on the future generations of the Nepalese people, the feudal and comprador and bureaucrat capitalist rulers are making merry on it. In the name of privatization and liberalization under the guidance and for the benefit of the foreign capitalists, the process of mortgaging the whole country to the comprador and bureaucrat capitalists is now in full swing.

The burden of this economic degradation has to be basically borne by the peasantry, which constitute ninety percent of the population. That every new government formed under this state structure pushes and will push the country economically into a further state of bankruptcy has been historically verified.

To maintain hegemony of one religion (Hinduism), language (Nepalese) and nationality (Khas), this state has for centuries exercised discrimination, exploitation and oppression against other religions, languages and nationalities and has conspired to fragment the force of national unity that is vital for the proper development and security of the country. On the contrary, it has been prostrating itself before the foreign imperialists and expansionists and repeatedly mortgaging Nepal’s national honour and sovereignty to them. The present state has been shamelessly permitting the foreign plunderers to grab the natural water resources of Nepal and to trample upon our motherland. If this process is allowed to continue in the future, the patriotic, conscious and self-esteemed Nepalese have no doubt that the very existence of Nepal will be in jeopardy.

The present state has declared war against the development of the national culture of the Nepalese people by flooding the country with corrupt, licentious and distorted imperialist culture. The feudal and imperialist forces are doing their utmost to replace the democratic cultural values and ideals with Freudian, nihilist and anarchic values. This is a sequel to the conspiracy of the reactionary classes to corrupt the people culturally and preserve their own heaven of plunder. This corrupt cultural value is no less responsible for the burgeoning of drug-trafficking, smuggling, thievery, black marketeering, looting, murder and rape in the society today.

Within this moribund state structure, a coalition government of Panchas (royalists) and Nepali Congress, defamed in Nepalese history for their anti-national and genocidal deeds, is ruling right now. This government has forced not only the peasants and workers of Nepal but also the people of different categories and professions to live in a state of scarcity, injustice and terror. Whereas this state has been treating women as second-class citizens for a long time, now it has intensified rape, trafficking and the process of commoditization through advertisements against them. The whole educational system is tuned to produce slaves for this state and there is rampant anarchy in it. Thus, be they workers, peasants, women, teachers, students, small traders, lower-ranking civil servants, doctors, professors, or people of different classes including the national bourgeoisie, all are victims of this state of feudals and comprador and bureaucrat capitalists. Except for radical change in all spheres, any possibility of reform has now become a mere chimera.

Reactionary ruling classes, forever swearing by democracy, have been repeatedly using their guns against the political activists or the ordinary masses who hold political beliefs counter to the interests of the rulers. This state which regards itself as the custodian of “democracy” has been surviving on the blood of innumerable sons and daughters of mother Nepal, ranging from infants to the aged, whenever the people have professed and spoken in favour of nationalism, democracy and livelihood. Hundreds of thousands of Nepalese people fighting for justice have been subjected to inhuman physical torture, confinement in jails and mental torture. Not only during the partyless panchayat (absolute monarchy) period but even in the present monarchal parliamentary period, the fascist genocidal and repressive acts have been on the increase rather than decreasing. This is a bitter truth experienced by the Nepalese people in their real life. This process has now developed into an armed repression campaign against innocent people favouring truth and justice. The recent armed operation and state terror let loose in Western Nepal and different parts of the country has testified beyond doubt that the ruling classes have openly embarked upon an unjust war against the people. The heinous game of the reactionary state of enroling the sons and daughters of the poor peasants and workers into the police and the army as mercenaries and forcing them to use arms against their own parents, brothers and sisters, is now crystal clear. With the passage of time those in the police and the army will also come to know the realities. There is no alternative for the people other than to raise the banner of just war against this unjust war.

How did we reach this stage of the critical condition of nationalism, democracy and livelihood and a situation of open warfare of the state against the people? What is clear on the basis of historical and scientific materialism is that the seeds of this state of affairs were sown in Nepalese history a long time back. With the advent of the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution, as in almost all the oppressed nations, in Nepal too, a semi-feudal and semi-colonial socio-economic structure based on the alliance of feudalism and imperialism was established. This gave rise to a process of feudalism prostrating before imperialism and imperialism plundering the masses while protecting feudalism. In Nepal, this process was initiated in concrete form after the conclusion of the Sugauli Treaty of 1815-16 with British India. The inevitable consequence of this process was that it obstructed the development of national capitalism and instead opened the path to the development of bureaucrat capital in the interests of both landlords and imperialism. This long historical period has in fact been the period of the process of the birth, rise and demise of the same bureaucrat capital.

In Nepalese society, the 104 year period of Rana autocracy (between 1846-1950) existed under the same formation as the later partyless panchayat autocracy (between 1960-1990), and the current so-called monarchical multi-party system (since 1990) also continued and continues under the same dispensation. As a result of the struggle of the Nepalese people against this socio-economic structure, principally, and due to the changes in the international political situation, secondarily, the names of the system and the government have been changing, sometimes liberal and at other times conservative, to make a redistribution of the spoils of power. But the basic structure of the state has remained unchanged. The political developments of 1951, 1960, 1979 and 1990 can only be understood in this way. Looking at history just since 1951, it is amply evident that an ever greater crisis for the country and the people has been sprouting from within the womb of the petty reforms carried out within the reactionary state.

The Nepalese people have been constantly struggling against this state of affairs. In the process of such struggles, the Nepalese people have been a victim of not only the repeated repression and intrigues of the reactionaries but also of the betrayal and treachery of the reformists. Today the biggest traitors of the people have been those so-called communists, the revisionists, who have gone after crumbs of reactionary state power by licking the boots of feudalism and imperialism. The Nepalese people and Nepalese history will never forgive those traitors who have sat on the chairs of the reactionaries by betraying the people’s faith in radical change and the Communist Party and by stepping on the blood of thousands of martyrs. Again if one talks of limiting oneself to the reformist struggle within the reactionary state, that will be merely another process of treachery. This has now been a historically verified truth.

The other aspect which should not be forgotten at this point is that the negative recurrence of the reactionary repression and intrigue and reformist betrayal and treachery has given rise to the positive conditions of enhancing the political consciousness of the general masses of the people and of their attaining the sole revolutionary ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism for their liberation, amidst the people’s class struggle and a long and intense ideological struggle against such reformism. Today, the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist Party guided by this all-powerful revolutionary ideology has developed like a beautiful and blossoming flower, through the long struggle of the labouring masses of Nepal, irrigated by the blood of thousands of martyrs. Whereas all kinds of reactionaries and revisionists are madly after it to nip it in the bud, the revolutionary masses are taking care of its preservation and development.

Dear Masses of the People,

What is clear from the above historical and current facts is that the present crisis-ridden condition of the country is the result of the development of contradictions between the exploitation and oppression of the people by the state power of the feudals and comprador and bureaucrat capitalist classes, on the one hand, and the relentless struggle carried out by the people against it, on the other. To defend their moribund and crisis-ridden reactionary state, feudalism and imperialism have openly imposed an unjust war on the Nepalese people. If the Nepalese people cannot raise the banner of a just people’s war against this unjust war and become victorious in it, the Nepalese people and the Nepalese nation will be doomed to a prolonged darkness.

Conscious of one’s duty towards this historical necessity, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), the proletarian party of the sons and daughters of the masses of the people, has resolved to initiate the process of forcibly smashing this reactionary state and establishing a New Democratic state. This resolve of ours is based on the feeling of service and devotion toward the people, on the commitment to the lofty ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism to free humanity forever from the yoke of class exploitation, and on the study of the history of Nepalese society in that light. We are fully conscious that this war to break the shackles of thousands of years of slavery and to establish a New Democratic state will be quite uphill, full of twists and turns and of a protracted nature. But this and this alone is the path of people’s liberation and a great and bright future. This path will unfold by making use of all forms of struggle in keeping with the historical stage of development of Nepal and principally, as we have been saying all along, according to the strategy of encircling the city from the countryside, with agrarian revolution as the axis and from the midst of and in conjunction with the rural class struggle. This process of people’s war in the context of the present balance of forces will move forward through the process of people’s guerilla war within the stage of strategic defence. We are confident that the masses of the people of all classes and categories will extend active support and help to this revolutionary process and that it will be victorious. Besides this, we are conscious and confident that this struggle will win support and help from the communist revolutionaries and struggling masses the world over, and that this will in turn assist all those revolutionaries. Because this struggle of ours will be part and parcel of the world proletarian revolution undertaken with a view to ending exploitation and oppression of man by man and to ending war itself forever. In this context we would like to make special mention of the ongoing people’s revolution in Peru based on Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM) and revolutionary movements the world over based on the same.

Finally, we appeal to the workers, peasants, women, students, teachers, intellectuals and the masses of the people of all categories and trades to march along in the process of people’s war for establishing a people’s New Democratic state and to extend to it all forms of support and help.

It is Right to Rebel!

Long Live the People’s War!

Down With the Reactionary State!

Long Live the New Democratic Revolution!

Glory to Marxism-Leninism-Maoism!

13 February 1996

Written by theworkersdreadnought

13/02/2015 at 23:06

Historical Fragment: Notes on the Impossibilists

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Another interest I have, besides the rise of political Islam/Islamic fascism, has been to develop a better understanding of the history of Canada and the history of socialism and communism in Canada. I would like to note that by Canada I do not mean the history of the First Nations, whose history is deeply linked the history of Canada but also maintains its own autonomy, however does include the history of Quebec. What follows are notes that I took on the Impossibilists. Please, note that again this is not a developed position, but just some preliminary remarks. The focus is on DeLeon and the American experience, rather than the Canadian one. There is a long section on the Scottish Marxist, James Maclean, because these were notes were originally made when the Scottish referendum was going on last Fall.

Impossibilism – DeLeonism – Socialist Labour Party (USA), Socialist Labour Party (UK)

The Impossibilists (especially the Socialist Labour Parties in the USA, UK and Canada) argued that communism cannot be established through the winning of immediate political or economic demands. Instead they completely focused on political action, most notably propaganda, complemented by industrial syndicalism. Indeed, the SLP and Daniel DeLeon, its key theorist and leader, understood the existing trade unions as reactionary bureaucratic organisations, and argued that the working class needed to be organised on a completely different basis.This resulted in a split where the section, in favour of “boring within” the existing trade union structure and using simply the means of propaganda to radicalise workers, split from the SLP and formed the Socialist Party (the left-wing faction of this would go onto form the CPUSA). The SLP’s trade union activities in turn helped form the IWW in 1905, however, DeLeon was subsequently kicked out of the IWW for sectarianism and the debate on the role of the party. Where DeLeon was correct in the debate with the IWW was his argument for the the need of a disciplined socialist party that would complement the revolutionary syndicalism of the IWW. The SLP itself never joined the CPUSA and slowly withered away. The IWW on the other hand would produce a number of key militants of the CPUSA, including John Reed, who argued that the Comintern adopt the IWW as the official trade union in the USA rather, than the bureaucratically run AFL. Unfortunately, Reed lost the debate to Lenin, who attacked such ideas in “Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder”. The three contributions that DeLeonism and Impossibilism made was: 1) an understanding that gradualism would not lead to communism; 2) a militant attitude against the economism of the IWW through an understanding of the need for a revolutionary party; and 3) a correct recognition that communism needed to be based in the formation of militant trade unions.

In Scotland, England and Ireland, the influence of DeLeon allowed for the Socialist Labour Party (they ran the Glasgow Socialist Press) to split from the reformist Socialist Democratic Federation (SDF). Indeed, this newly formed party included such luminaries as James Connolly (Ireland) and briefly James MacLean (Scotland). MacLean had earlier been a member of the British Socialist Party (which itself was a left split from the SDF after the formation of the SLP). Indeed, Connolly would recognise the importance of the IWW and revolutionary syndicalism and upon returning to Ireland connected with the revolutionary syndicalist James Larkin. Unlike DeLeon, Connolly abandoned the role of the party and became occupied with revolutionary syndicalism and the union-based Irish Citizen Army. Connolly’s influenced is marked for the Scottish communist James MacLean. MacLean is important because he recognised, in contradistinction to his former comrades in the BSP, that Lenin’s theses on the colonial question applied to the situation in Scotland and argued that Lenin had been misinformed about the situation in Scotland by Willie Gallacher (who subsequently led the CPGB) thus causing Lenin to argue that the Scottish socialists should join the Unionist CPGB (which had been formed by the majority of the SLP, a section of the Stewards Movement led by Jack Murphy, Sylvia Pankhursts’ WSF and the BSP). MacLean in turn helped form the Scottish Workers’ Republican Party which fought for communism and Scottish independence, but remained aloof of the CPGB because of their continued Unionist position. He also remained in touch with Sylvia Pankurst who had by then left the CPGB because of her principled anti-parliamentarian stance had formed the Communist Workers’ Party. From MacLean we of course recognise the need for self-determination and the choice of any nation to seek its self-determination unto and including secession (it ought to be noted that any given nation can opt for themselves for the kind of self-determination that they want and thus may choose not to opt for secession). It ought to be noted that there is no such thing as MacLeanism or Connollyism, however, both MacLean and Connolly put into effect, to varying degrees, Marxism-Leninist theories into practice.

Written by theworkersdreadnought

05/02/2015 at 16:34

Posted in Communist History

Notes towards an analysis of inter-sub-imperialist conflict in the Middle East and the role of Islamic fascism

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For many years now, I have been interested in better understanding the rise of Islamic fascism/political Islam as a movement (political, social and military) and its ideology, and thinking about what a revolutionary perspective should be towards said movements/ideology. What appears below is not a well-developed position, but in fact a series of notes that I have started to take in my studies of this topic. There are a series of conceptual problems that any such study has to consider: 1) how should one identify these movements ideologically and politically?; 2) how ought one discuss the role of the Iran, Saudi Arabia and Qatar which often fund these movements?; and 3) how ought to discuss these movements in the context of imperialism and capitalism as a whole? As I said, these are notes and I do not have clear answers for any of these questions.

1: I realise that the casual observer will find my use of the term “Islamic fascism” troubling inasmuch that it is a term that is most commonly affiliated to far-right discourses. However, the term, despite its currently dubious currency, especially in the context of the “war on terror”, is useful inasmuch that it reminds us that we are in fact dealing with a reactionary ideological movement which has often targeted quite brutally all opponents including revolutionary leftists. Also, it is vital that we remember that the people must directly harmed in their attacks are other Muslims. Furthermore, I have never hesitated in my political work to speak of Christian fascism (the Bush regime, for example), or Hindu fascism (the BJP in India), and thus feel the term can be extended to political Islamic variants inasmuch that they exhibit all of the same traits. I would like to make it clear that I am not speaking about all Muslims, or even a majority of them, but admittedly a large section of them as will become evident from the list I develop below. The size of this movement should seriously give us pause inasmuch that it begs the question: why has the left been unable to make any in-roads in these countries? Many will argue that it is dangerous to use the term because of the prevalence of Islamophobia in the centres of imperialism, however, as I think will be demonstrated below, the rise of Islamic fascist movements has been closely related to the sub-imperialist interests of a few states like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran. I, however, do recognise that the big exception to this of course is the Muslim Brotherhood movement.

2: I am tentatively inclined to argue that today one can regard Iran, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to be sub-imperialist powers that are currently engaged in varying levels of inter-sub-imperialist conflict. This conflict is not only “cold”, but is actually quite hot in a number of countries, including: 1) Iraq; 2) Syria; 3) Egypt etc. However, I do realise that the term “sub-imperialist” typically is not used in the Maoist milieu, with most groups preferring to use either “imperialist” for countries like Russia, or “expansionist” for countries like India or Brazil. I would be very interested to know what people think about this. I intended to read a lot more about sub-imperialism in the coming months before settling on a properly scientific concept.

3: Regarding the relationship between these movements and imperialism, it seems to me that there is a danger in rendering the problematic to simplistic “clash of civilisations” model in which, to use the terms of the debate on this very theme a few years ago between the International Socialist Organization (USA) and the RCP,USA, McWorld vs. jihad. Indeed, the RCP,USA was correct to point out that we as revolutionaries must pick neither and articulate another road: a revolutionary road that emphases the need for New Democratic Revolution. Indeed, it becomes vital to side with progressive and communist revolutionaries in these countries, and hope that they grow and develop into viable alternatives. However, before we can get to that step we need to examine how jihad fits into the world imperialist system, hence the importance of the question of sub-imperialism and imperialism.

Anyways, here are some notes that I have taken on the specific tendencies that exist in Islamic fascism:

2 main political-ideological factions in Salafi Jihadism (variant of Sunni Islam):

1. Muslim Brotherhood (Ideologues: Hassan al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb): Important groups in Palestine (Hamas), Egypt (Muslim Brotherhood); Bahrain (Al Menbar); Jordan (Islamic Action Front; supported political change in 2011 and has since become estranged from the monarchy); Iraq (Islamic Party; current Iraqi VP is a member); Saudi Arabia (Muslim Brotherhood; has significant influence in the educational and cultural spheres of the country and is considered one of the most significant potential threats to the monarchy. It had a falling out with the Saudi regime when it promoted political reforms in the country in 2002, and disputes over the policy towards the Iraq war. In 2014 declared a terrorist organisation by the Saudi government). Present in serval other countries like: Islamic Group (Lebanon); Hadas (Kuwait), Justice and Construction Party (Libya); National Congress (Sudan); Al-Islah (Yemen). Important to note that while Qatar supported the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, it has recently expelled the Muslim Brotherhood from the country because of their advocacy for democratic government reforms.

2. Wahhabism (Ideologues: Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab and Sayyid Qutb): Ruling ideology of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Is promoted internationally by the Muslim World League which is funded by the Saudi government and spreads the message around the world. The Saudi government through its Wahhabi network is able to spread its political influence. Wahhabism splits into two significant trends: starting in the early 1990s: Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda decide that they no longer need to look to the Saudi monarchy for political and religious leadership, although there continues to be a convergence of interests. Furthermore, the Saudis continue to allow for the movement of monies, support and people to groups like the different Al-Qaeda affiliates, despite the monarchy formally disavowing support for the organisation. Indeed, the Saudi government is caught in a balancing act between its own regional sub-imperialist aspirations which require American military support, but simultaneously rely on the Wahhabi networks – which are anti-American – for domestic stability. The Saudi’s also initially supported ISIS but stopped because of ISIS’s own claims to political sovereignty in Saudi Arabia. Qatar more recently has supported its own armed-military groups, namely: Al-Nusrah Front (Syria)

a. Saudi Arabia Political supporters: Al-Nour Party (Egypt); Islamic Salafi Alliance (Kuwait); Taliban (Afghanistan), Al Asalah (Bahrain);

Financial-military support: Fatah al-Islam (Lebanon and Syria); Lakshar-e-Taiba (Pakistan); Al- Shabab (Somalia); Boko Haram (Chad, Niger and Cameroon); Caucus Emirate (Russia); Al-Qaeda affilitates

b. Al-Qaeda (Ideologues: Sayyid Qutb and Ayman al-Zawahiri): Al-Qaeda broke formally from the Saudi government due to the latter’s support for the US invasion of Iraq. Although the organisation has formally broken from the Saudi government, it continues to receive the majority of its funding from Saudi Arabia, and the Saudi government has tacitly permitted this. It is affiliated to: Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula; Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Algeria);  Ansaru (Nigeria; splinter from Boko Haram); Al-Mourabitoun (Mali); Al-Shabab (Somalia)

c. Islamic State (Ideologues: Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, Sayyid Qutb and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi): a split from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula due to disputes around areas of operation, leadership and strategy. Strategic differences included Al-Qaeda simply wanting to goad the Americans into attacking Muslim states; the Islamic State wanted to build a territorial state piece of land by piece of land. Currently has territory in Iraq, Syria and possibly eastern Libya. Also has active members in Algeria, Egypt, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. The Islamic State has a military alliance with the Baathist “Military Council for Iraqi Revolutionaries” and the Sufi “Supreme Command for Jihad and Liberation” (these two groups are Baathist in political orientation and this alliance is opportunist).

1 main political ideological faction in Shia Jihadism:

1. Islamic State of Iran (ideologue: Ruhollah Khomeini): Ruling ideology of the Iranian government. The Iranian government, like the Saudis, has supported and armed groups in the region to broaden its own sub-imperialist influence in countries with a sizeable Shia population. Furthermore, it tried to provoke armed uprisings in countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in the 1980’s, although it does not seem to be operating in those countries anymore.

Political supporters: Al-Muwatin (Iraq); Al-Sadiqoun Bloc (Iraq); Islamic Dawa Party (Iraq; limited because of political disagreements);

Financial-military support: Hezbollah (Lebanon); Promised Day Brigades (Iraq); Asa’in Ahl al-Haq (Iraq); Kata’ib Hezbollah (Iraq); Islamic Jihad (Palestine); Hezbe Wahdat (Afghanistan).

Written by theworkersdreadnought

23/01/2015 at 01:45

Posted in Maoist Philosophy

Bob Avakian’s “New Synthesis”: The Overlooked Importance of the Critique of Apriorism

with 11 comments

user18970_pic7852_1302745895One aspect of Bob Avakian’s “New Synthesis” that I briefly addressed in the first part of my critique was Lenny Wolff’s argument that Avakian’s “new synthesis” was a break from a form of apriorism that existed in the International Communist Movement (ICM). Wolff defined apriorism as, “imposing categories on the world, rather than drawing these concepts from the world itself, in a complex interplay between practice and theory”. Wolff then provided a historical example of this apriorism: Stalin’s agricultural policies. I argued at the time that Stalin’s agricultural policies, whilst incorrect, were being somewhat unfairly critiqued for apriorism because Stalin could not have any a posteriori knowledge of socialist agricultural policy, and thus necessary needed to rely on an a priori understanding of the problem. Indeed, it was only after the first 5-year plan that it was possible for Stalin to then have a posteriori knowledge about socialist agrarian policy. However, I was encouraged to reflect more Wolff’s discussion of apriorism in Wolff’s speech in the context of a book on the Lin Biao incident that I recently finished reading. Having read the book it became evident to me that Avakian’s critique of ‘apriorism’ was in fact referring to two more historical experiences: the Lin Biao incident and the experience of the Communist Party of Peru. The latter is particularly important inasmuch that one of the main categories that the PCP put forward was “Maoism”, in contradistinction to “Mao Zedong Thought”. Other categories suggested by the PCP proved more controversial, including the “militarised party”, “Gonzalo Thought” and the “universality of people’s war”. Indeed, it becomes clear that the RCP,USA in attacking apriorism seeks to distance the RCP,USA not only from the negative aspects embodied in the example of Peru, but from the entire Maoist process embodied in the historical experience of the RIM.

The book, “Lin Biao and the Gang of Four: Contra-Confucianism in Historical and Intellectual Perspective”, authored by Tien-wei Wu, chronicles the intellectual debates that broke out in the aftermath of the Lin Biao incident. The book is truly unique in the existing literature on Chinese Maoism inasmuch that it is probably the only monograph-length study of the ideological struggles in the social sciences during the Cultural Revolution period. Tien-wien Wu, when providing a general account of the contra-Confucian campaign and Com. Mao Zedong’s basic principles for the forthcoming campaign (the Three Musts and Three Must Nots), writes,

In the spirit of these three basic principles, efforts were made to transform the world outlook of the people – from bourgeois idealism and metaphysics to the dialectical and materialistic historical world outlook of the proletariat – by means of studying Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought.

The initial criticism of the bourgeois idealism centered around “apriorism,” which was opposed to materialistic “reflectionism.” This led to a total attack on the theory of genius, which Lin Biao supposedly had used as a counterrevolutionary platform. In a length article entitled, “The Reactionary Nature of the Theory of Genius Viewed from the History of Philosophy,” Zhe Jun pointed out that in China from Confucius and Mecius to Wang Yang-ming and in the West from Plato to Nietzsche, all reactionary classes promoted a theory of genius, which was nothing but apriorism, the foundation of the idealistic view that heroes created history and of the philosophy used by the exploiting classes to dupe the people. The significance of this article probably lies not so much in its criticism of Confucius as in its revelation, which will be discussed later, that Lin Biao was the staunch proponent of the theory of genius. (21)

It is first evident that the spirit of the anti-Confucius campaign animates the current “cultural revolution” that the RCP,USA internally has undergone and is trying to expand to the larger ICM. For the RCP,USA the study of Avakian’s “new synthesis”, in a manner akin to Mao Zedong Thought in the 1960’s and 70’s, has become vital for any proper communist understanding and serves effectively as a dividing line. However, more importantly, in the context of the Lin Biao incident, apriorism is connected not only to a philosophical tendency that imposes pre-conceived categories onto the world, but also one that is connected to a theory of genius and political authority. This connection between the two aspects of the critique of apriorism are necessary to fully understand because this is a vital step in understanding how Avakian wishes to apply it in our contemporary conjuncture. Effectively, heroes or geniuses could impose, using political or philosophical authority, categories onto the world which were not of the world itself and thus reflected a bourgeois idealist outlook. This in turn has to be opposed by the correct materialist outlook. To do so meant to not only critique the very concept of genius itself, but also the categories that the genius had deployed. Chairman Gonzalo is likely the contemporary target of the charge of apriorism, and perhaps to a lesser extent Prachanda in Nepal (although he is likely more a negative example of pragmatism), because of the PCP’s advocacy of the ‘jefatura’ line. But what is precisely important about the case of Peru and Chairman Gonzalo is that a number of categories are at stake, most importantly “Maoism” itself. It must be noted that this line of argument is not unique, K.N. Ramachandran of the CPI(ML)[Red Star]/[K.N. Ramachandran] has made this very argument. In the RCP,USA’s response to Mike Ely’s “9 Letters” they write:

Yes, in response to Mike Ely’s question, “Can anyone point out any real difference,” we can point to at
least two decisive differences: 1) The PCP actually argued that, although Gonzalo might be capable of
making minor mistakes, he had developed to the point where it was not possible that he could make a
major error that would touch on the course of the whole revolutionary struggle – and specifically that it was impossible that he could be calling for a peace accord to end the people’s war in Peru when that would amount to a defeat for the revolution. For the RCP’s part, not only have we never argued, or suggested, or believed, anything of the kind with regard to Bob Avakian – that he is incapable of making a major, strategic error, bearing on the whole course of the revolutionary struggle – but, as a matter of basic worldview and principle, we regard this kind of thinking, as applied to anyone, as fundamentally wrong and in fact reflective of a metaphysical and idealist, and in effect a religious, view of leadership. Indeed, one of the distinguishing features of the line of the RCP and the body of work and method and approach of Avakian in particular, is opposition to, and struggle against, this kind of religious tendency, including as this takes shape among communists …

And 2) The “jefatura” line of the PCP actually articulated as an organizational principle that someone who had reached the stature of Gonzalo occupied a position that was in fact above the collectivity of the rest of the Party and its organizational structure – something which, again, the RCP’s line not only does not agree with, and does not apply to Bob Avakian, but which once more Bob Avakian has argued and polemicized against.

In this regard, Avakian is correct. The “jefatura line” indeed is modelled upon Lin Biao’s theory of genius and ought to be rejected. Indeed, the incapacity of some very marginal sections of the PCP’s milieu (in particular the Peru People’s Movement (MPP), but also some fraternal organisations) to accept that Chairman Gonzalo was the author of the peace-accords was predicated on the notion that Chairman Gonzalo, as the embodiment of the party’s whole historical experience, could not have reneged on the people’s war because it was in direct contradiction to the entire line of the party. This is despite the fact that Chairman Gonzalo has helped serve as the titular head for the new PCP, or MOVADEF (which is accused of being the Right-Opportunist Line (ROL) by the MPP. Recently a website claiming to represent the PCP and upholds Chairman Gonzalo has been publishing about the PCP’s 4th stage). The rejection of the “jefatura line” is necessary for a thriving revolutionary movement and it is noteworthy that the CPI(Maoist) came to this conclusion in 1980. If it was sufficient to end here, all would be well. However, the accusation of apriorism has another element: it puts into question all of the categories that it had imposed upon the world. I will focus on the category of Maoism.

It is well-known that Avakian and the RCP,USA were never particularly keen on the term, “Maoism”, and that it was imposed upon them by the PCP. The PCP had adopted the line of “Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, principally Maoism” in 1988 and demanded, as a precondition to their joining the RIM, that the RIM similarly accept the term. The RIM would formally do so in 1993, after a period of line-struggle within the RIM which dovetailed with the split in the CPN(Masal) and the TKP/ML. However, part of the difficulty in the debate has been that many, including the Communist Party of the Philippines and the CPI(Maoist) have both argued that there is little semantic difference between “Mao Zedong Thought” and “Maoism”, but had often adopted the latter as a means by which to demarcate an existing military practice. The Avakian and the RCP,USA had been wanting to go a different direction. The RCP,USA have often gestured towards this different direction when they trace a theoretical thread through the oeuvre of Avakian, starting particularly with the document “Conquer the World” and spanning till date, of that alternate line within the RIM. “Maoism”, in effect, becomes a preconceived category that is imposed upon the revolutionary movement by a false “genius”, Chariman Gonzalo, which in turn inhibits the revolutionary movement from realising the truly proletarian outlook.

The Communist (Maoist) Party of Afghanistan notes that the term “Maoism” has disappeared from the lexicon of the RCP,USA and that this is the sign of a “post-Maoism”, however, the RCP,USA had not become post-Maoist it has in fact gone alter-Maoist. They seek to serve as two things at once: 1) the unfortunately neglected cipher for the understandings the defeats of “Maoism” since 1968; and 2) the true charters of the unchartered course and the founders of a new stage of communism. I will admit that I think that the RCP,USA’s emphasis on decoupling “Maoism” from the PCP to be useful inasmuch that it allows us to have a discussion about the category and its content in a manner that is not straightjacketed by one narrow definition.

Written by theworkersdreadnought

30/12/2014 at 01:59

In Memoriam: Cheikh Ahmed Tidiane Gueye (26 Nov 1954 – 12 Sep 2009)

with 20 comments

I recently came to learn about Com. Cheikh Ahmed Gueye through Dr. Robert Biel, a comrade of his, because of a new edition of “Eurocentrism and the Communist Movement” which Kalikot Book Series is going to publish in this coming year along with Kersplebedeb. Com. Cheikh Ahmed Gueye was an important communist activist, thinker and poet who centrally participated in Black radical and anti-imperialist movements in Britain in the 1980s. For example, he helped found Black Action for the Liberation of Southern Africa (Balsa) which worked with the Black Consciousness Movement of Azania and the Pan-African Congress to break the stranglehold of Anti- Apartheid/SACP/USSR/white liberals. He was principally known as a poet and helped form the poetry and music collective African Dawn. They released a couple of LPs and were incredibly important in the development of a revolutionary culture.

His poems were extremely influential, although they have unfortunately been largely forgotten by subsequent generations. He usually employed the pen-name Ahmed Sheikh. His most famous poem was taken up as a kind of anthem by many in the PAC and BCMA. It is called, “Please do not call me South Africa”, and is available below with one other poem that I have been able to find online by him. In this second poem Com. Cheikh Ahmed Gueye draws for us a vivid picture of the revolutionary who is among the masses and notably includes the revolutionary Communist Party of Peru as such an example, alongside the Mau Mau and the Palestinians. However, his commitment was not to the radicalised and Black peoples resident in Britain. Rather, as is evidenced in video interview below, he continued to contribute back to people across the continent of Africa in true Pan-Africanist spirit.

For example, he was known to thousands of Eritreans for reciting poems in commemoration of Comrade Abdurrahman Babu (a leading African Maoist thinker and statesman from Tanzania who was also a strong advocate for the right of self determination of Eritrea) on Eritrean television. Apparently, when Com. Cheikh Ahmed Gueye was introduced, he stood there silently, looking at the audience. He broke his silence with the simple declaration, “I am happy to be in liberated Eritrea and among my people”. Com. Cheikh Ahmed Gueye would never compromise on the rights for people to self-determine their own lives.

For example, he was known to thousands of Eritreans for reciting poems in commemoration of Comrade Abdurrahman Babu (a leading African Maoist thinker and statesman from Tanzania who was also a strong advocate for the right of self determination of Eritrea) on Eritrean television. Apparently, when Com. Cheikh Ahmed Gueye was introduced, he stood there silently, looking at the audience. He broke his silence with the simple declaration, “I am happy to be in liberated Eritrea and among my people”. Com. Cheikh Ahmed Gueye would never compromise on the rights for people to self-determine their own lives.

We ought not forget him as he served as a shining example of the revolutionary tradition and culture that we are perilously in danger of forgetting. Com. Cheikh Ahmed Gueye’s death, definitely heavier than Mount Tai.

Please Do Not Call Me South Afrika

I am Azania land of black folks
Grain grown when stones were
still as soft as butter.
I am Azania land of Zenji
Truth made redudant
by the tyrant´s gang
I am Azania I ran wild and free –
I tamed iron long before the steel-ore
plunderer came.

I have seen kingdoms rise
I have seen kingdoms fall.
I once stretched my hands up to the coast of Somalia.
Deep deep by the great walls of Zimbabwe.
There my name is entombed.
I am Azania once land of hospitality.

I flung my arms to captain Diaz en Vasco da Gama
for I thought them lost.
We sang and ate, danced and laughed.
I had plenty to give for I knew nothing of their design.
Then one day, one infamous day in 1652,
the trecherous seas betched forth.
Three drunken ships at table bay
Dromedaris, Reiger, Goede Hoep.

As dusk was inching
We met
We clushed.
Their ribbs into our Assegais
my sons and daughters
fell too, in a hail of settlers´ bullets.
Battles of yesteryear are engraved in my memory.
I praise you sons en daughters of Thaba Bosio, Isandlawane,
Sandile´s Kap, Keiskamahoek, Bloodriver
I praise you all.

I am Azania – land of Black folk.
I bent but not break.
My name it self – a platform and programme
scattered the white mists over Kliptown.
I am Azania Mangaliso Sobukwe heard my call – then there was Sharpeville.
I am Azania the name reconcilled with itself in deeds of Bantu ka Biko

The name wrapt up a forest of black fists in Soweto.
I am Azania – battered flesh in the Bantustans,
Sturdy voices of Robben Island.
I am Azania – the mind vintilates
back its own breadth, sweat, tears en blood
trapped in gold particles.
I am Azania – mourn made murmuring
murmuring made cry, cry made shriek,
shriek drilling in the settlers´ears.

I am Azania – the feared black bull
in the tomentors dreams.
I am that black dot
on the boers white history books.
Black consciousness unbound only the pure I take for I have no time
I am Azania land of ZENJI – burning truth churns the tyrants- gang
truth made the dream and dream made the truth
Please do not call me South Africa.

When the elements sing

Hail the hurricane, hail the harmattan
Sing and dance with the whirlwind
I am one with nature
I sing of unrest
I sing of passion, of love
I sing of dawn
When the eye of the sky is crimson-red
The very colour of my dreams
I am one with nature
History, geography is on my side
My people too
Mountains, valleys, canyons
Where we ensnare and subdue
The enemy’s metal herd
I am one with nature
Don’t you know?
Ask the Palestinian
Ask the Eritrean
Ask the Mau Mao
Ask Sondero Luminoso in Peru
They will tell you that I am one with nature.
Listen and listen well
What does it say?
I am one with nature
I speak of crops and harvests
To feed the starving
Toiling multitudes
I grew up by the Nile
And spread across the globe
Do not ask me
What I have seen
What do you hear?
What do you see?
What do you feel?
Are you with me?
Are you with nature?
Are you with people?
Are you with people?
I am one with nature

Written by theworkersdreadnought

21/05/2014 at 23:02


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