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Charles Post Writes Another Shitty Article for the New Socialists

Charles Post's Actually Existing 'Socialism' – A Critique of Stalinism is such a mess of ideological nonsense, category mistakes, and predictable Trotskyist adages that, as one of my comrades pointed out, it must have been rushed to publication since Post, regardless of his flaws, is usually much more rigorous. In a context where people are turning to variations of Marxism-Leninism that are decidedly not Trotskyist I suppose it is natural that academic Trotskyists, who have worked hard to control the discourse about Marxism in the imperialist metropoles, would react with alarm. Post's article thus functions as a banal work of confirmation bias in that it repeats what Trotskyists have told themselves for decades, which just so happens to run parallel to the "common sense" of bourgeois ideology.

As I've been arguing for a while, "Stalinism" has to be one of the worst conceptual categories and Post proves, yet again, that this is the case. Generally it serves a catch-all pejorative for any party-building communist tendency that is not Trotskyist and thus ends up lumping together a number of positions that are not identical. In the third paragraph of his article Post indeed lumps multiple tendencies together––from Brezhnevites to Marcyists to Maoists (later he will include Ba'athists as well)––but, perhaps realizing how tenuous such an association is, attempts to unify their identity by declaring all of the revolutions these tendencies have supported or have launched to be identical and thus distorts reality to fit the Platonic concept of "Stalinism."

Hence, aware that Maoists are critical of "actually existing socialism", one of Post's aims is to show that this criticism is misplaced because Maoists are secretly as "Stalinist" and about a "socialism from above" as the rest of the non-Trotskyist Marxist-Leninists. To do so he asserts that China was identical to the Soviet Union under Stalin (not that his understanding of the Soviet Union under Stain is very good either) and was not "socialist in Marx's sense" because "state bureaucracies,  masquerading as 'Communist Parties', ruled over the working class." The only leftist source he uses for this claim is Elliot Liu's Maoism and the Chinese Revolution––which is not an academic source and in fact does not even engage with the academic work on China––and a bunch of reactionary historians (such as Dikotter, whose argument was torn to shreds by Monthly Review, and Mann). The fact that he doesn't deal with William Hinton, Mobo Gao, Dongping Han, Minqi Li is to be expected because his confirmation bias would prevent him from wanting to look at their work in the first place. The fact that he doesn't engage with any of the academic authorities on the Chinese Revolution, and instead chooses Liu and some dyed in the wool anti-communists should make us wonder about Post's academic credentials: Maurice Meisner, Arif Dirlik, Rebecca Karl––all are absent from his authoritative description of China. And of course they are because, even if they were not Maoists, they would not accept his tale of "state bureaucracies". Point being: everything Post writes about China in this essay is garbage that echoes: i) what the anti-communist narrative says about the Chinese Revolution; ii) what the current leadership of China says about the Mao period. This is pretty telling since it is akin to writing about economics by referring solely to the Chicago School and some libertarians, an error that Post would never make. When it comes to revolutionary history, a history that Trotskyism has never been an actual part of, Post falls back on bourgeois sources… It is interesting how Trotskyism's narrative of this history accords with cold war ideology, isn't it?

So despite all of the messy category conflations of this piece, where Maoism and every other non-Trotskyist Marxism-Leninism is supposed to be seen as cut from the same cloth, it seems pretty clear that Post is interested in targeting Maoism. This is because Maoism is Trotskyism's main contender for the legacy of Leninism and, unlike Trotskyism, can refer to actual revolutions. Post's intention, then, is to deny that Maoism has any revolutions that it can speak of by rewriting its history according to the narrative of bourgeois ideology, repeating age-old Trotskyist bullshit about the Chinese Revolution, and packaging it with an authoritative gloss that is unearned. The fact that this article has been published on the New Socialist website is unsurprising: New Socialist ideologues in Canada have often been upset by the growth of Maoism, unable to grasp that the popularity of this ideology is due to the fact that Trotskyism has done shit for the working class and that Maoists actually do mass work. Post's article is a work of ideological maintenance, and a piss poor one at that.

Therefore, his messy history of "Stalinist" policies from the Soviet Union through Mao's China and into the present of revisionist defenses of actually existing socialism––what is actually a patchwork of contradictions, a reality that defies his simplistic explanations––is an attempt at a unity designed to undermine and belittle the Maoist experience. Take, for example, his strange attempt to connect the People's War in Peru with the Third Period of the 1930s. They are the same simply because they are both "ultra-left"! Although the failed revolutionary movement in Peru has nothing to do with the Third Period (Maoists are usually critical of both the Third Period and its other extreme, the Popular Front) it is dismissed wholesale by Post:
The Maoist 'Sendero Luminoso' guerrilla movement in Peru, predisposed to the ultra-left politics of 'people's war' and unable to win support from either the peasantry and urban working class, launched a war that targeted both the Peruvian state and the leaders of independent peasant associations and workers' unions.
The claim is unsubstantiated and, in fact, quite wrong. The People's War waged by the PCP, in point of fact, did win support from the peasantry and urban working class which is why it resulted in a state of emergency. Even the Senderologists, who manufactured the claim that the PCP targeted independent peasant associations and workers' unions (in point of fact they targeted those associations that were bulwarks of state and imperialist power and not at all "independent"), have claimed that the People's War in Peru was endemic and close to taking power because of its mass base. The failure of this People's War thus had nothing to do with its lack of popularity but because, as even the most reactionary expert recognizes, the Central Committee was captured and a letter bearing the name of Gonzalo––that demanded the end of the People's War––was widely circulated.

The fact that Post calls the strategy of "people's war" ultra-leftist is quite revealing. Perhaps he thinks it is the same as Guevarist focoism, hence his use of the term "guerrilla", and thus he completely misconceives the situation––perhaps he is conflating the PCP with the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement that was Guevarist. Most probably, however, this is just another instance of an opportunist declaring anything that is not opportunist "ultra-left". In Post's world it might indeed be the case that anything that militantly pursues revolution is "ultra-left" because revolution should biste something that is either negotiated through social democracy or the hour that never comes, an imaginary moment of spontaneous insurrection.

But this imaginary moment of spontaneous insurrection is precisely the way that Post understands organization and strategy. His conclusion, which should be no surprise for anyone familiar with the New Socialists or Solidarity, is to uphold Hal Draper's "socialism from below"––which sounds good as a slogan but, as an actual theory, is complete shit. Hal Draper, the Zionist post-Trotskyite who declared Black Nationalism to be "Jim Crow in reverse", and who had no purchase in either the New Left or the New Communist Movement, is taken to be some sort of authority by Post and his ideological colleagues. "Socialism from below" sounds good as a maxim but it is utterly meaningless as a theory; it is an excuse for spontaneism (wait until the the working class builds up its own institutions through unions), and is in fact the worse form of economism (labour unions organized by capital will be the site of the party), that is not at all "from below" in a meaningful sense. This approach is only "realistic" for people who think according to the end of history, do not want to do anything except run talk-shops, and have no revolutionary experience to call their own. That is, the Draperite fantasy is precisely this––a fantasy imposed on workers, a delirium from above. Indeed, I discussed the problems with this Draperite delirium in the sixth chapter of Continuity and Rupture, a book that Post also avoids dealing with because it would complicate his argument.

In the end it should be clear that Post is peddling garbage, and that he is doing so without the rigour that his has applied to his books. The fact that the New Socialists are trying to capitalist on impoverished claims about "Stalinism" demonstrate that they are behind the organizational work that cannot be recaptured by Trotskyism. At the very least Post's article proves that the Trotskyist sequence is completely out to lunch.