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Showing posts from 2009

The Tao of Mao: Episode 21

The Three-Headed Beast: Part 11 (Deciphering Semi-feudalism)

This is a continuation of a dialogical essay between myself and BF of The Workers Dreadnought . In his last entry , BF expanded on some of the concepts I briefly mentioned and thus provided a more coherent background for the international contradiction between the imperialist centres [the capitalist modes of production] and the global peripheries [capitalist formations that have disarticulated and pre-capitalist modes of production].  Moreover, he provided a more specific analysis of the class contradictions that inform both of these contexts.  In this essay, then, I would like to dialogue with his recent contribution by focusing on the concept of semi-feudalism that BF has mentioned at various points.  We must remember that, despite this concept’s popularization with Maoists, it was initially conceived by Mariategui.  It is my contention that Mao’s use of the concept possessed more depth, going beyond its surface and simplistic meaning.  For Mao the label semi-feudal was less an a

The Three-Headed Beast: Part 9 (The Analysis of Class and Nation in Peripheral Capitalist Formations: Mode of Production, Social Formations, Imperialism and National Struggle)

This is the ninth part of an interblog dialogue between myself and BF of The Workers Dreadnought .  The eighth part of this dialogical essay, written by BF, can be found here .   In his last entry, BF provided an introductory summary of the first category of our generalized definition of the Maoist development of marxist theory.  He conceptually separated the basic points of what we are calling the analysis of class and nation in peripheral capitalist formations , clarifying “different levels of analysis.”  For this entry, I want to simplify his broad brushstrokes and, beginning with his first level of analysis, try to approach this part of Maoist theory in a manner that renders it less opaque.  That is, I want to focus primarily on what BF called “the inter-national level” because I think this will help us to simplify what we mean by the Maoist analysis of class and nation in peripheral capitalist formations. First of all, we need to understand what is meant by peripheral capital

The Tao of Mao: Episode 20

The Three-Headed Beast: An Interblog Dialogue Part 7

This is the seventh part of an dialogical essay between myself and BF of Workers Dreadnought .  You can read his previous contribution here . At the end of BF’s last contribution to our dialogue he wrote: “[u]nfortunately in the years after Mao’s death this profound insight has been lost and there has been a retrenching of Mao’s dynamic concepts into a stagnant static form.”  I want to start by recognizing this statement because I believe it is important to note that this is the very reason we have begun this essay dialogue––to reopen Maoist theory, rejecting its ossification.  BF has done a good job of further de-ossifiying the field by rearticulating the categories I put forward at the conclusion of my last entry . While I intend to quibble with his rearticulation of the third category (by following his example and rearticulating it even further), I want to first indicate the four categories of discussion we have, after his intervention, so far: 1. Analysis of class and nation

Fantasy Literature and Mystification (Part 1)

I - mystification in fantasy literature What China Mieville once called “ feudalism lite ” still forms the backbone of much fantasy literature. Whereas Mieville rightly criticizes many of the symptoms (ie. boys and magic rings or swords, etc.), I find that the most pernicious aspect of this literature is the mystification of feudalism as a mode of production. Although Mieville does mention this problem, I want to examine it in more detail. I am interested in examining that extremely popular fantasy literature where a distorted and ahistorical version of feudalism is celebrated. While it is true that there has been a recent trend of grittiness (reviled and called a “fad” by those who want a return to sterile feudalism), feudalism lite still dominates fantasy. The spectre of Tolkien has not been completely exorcized. The “idiocy of rural life” in this literature is depicted as honest and robust. Heroes come from small villages where, aside from a few bad apples, everyone is g

The Tao of Mao - Episode 19

The Three-Headed Beast: Inter-blog Dialogue Part 5

This is the continuation of the interblog dialogue between myself and BF of Workers Dreadnought . This part of the discussion follows his entry Science and the Concept , which you should read first. Indeed, it is probably best to begin with my first entry , and then work your way forward, back and forth, between our dialogical essay. At this point in the inter-blog dialogue, I think it is worthwhile to move the discussion towards the meaning of the Maoist theoretical coherency we have been circling around for the last four entries. Originally I indicated that there was something that we could properly call “Maoism”, or something that gave the M-L-M equation a general theoretical meaning. BF noted that, while this may be true, we also have to take into account the heterogeneity marked by competing Maoisms: he drew our attention to the concept of a “living science” and indicated that the Maoist development of marxist theory was connected to what he called the displacement of Mao.

The Three-Headed Beast: inter-blog dialogue continued

This is a continuation of a dialogue between BF of Workers Dreadnought and myself about Maoism. Since I am responding to his response to my previous posting, the careful reader should read his entry here . When I ended my last contribution to the inter-blog dialogue, I thought that BF would begin to excavate the theoretical territory that we can call Maoism. Thankfully, he has provided a much more fruitful response––one that narrows in on the issue of coherency in general. Thus, I think it is important to engage on this level of theory so as to provide a basis for a discussion of what we mean when we say Marxism-Leninism-Maoism: BF’s entry has done a good job of describing the general characteristics of this basis. Here, I hope to show that his analysis coincides completely with what I meant by Maoist coherency. First of all, I want to agree with his insightful statement: “perhaps an important component of Maoism is the displacement of Mao being our single theoretician and revolu

The Three-Headed Beast: interblog dialogue

This entry will begin an inter-blog dialogue between myself and BF of The Workers Dreadnought that is aimed at discussing the theoretical contributions of Maoism to the Marxist canon. The title comes from a statement by John Hutnyk in Bad Marxism where he speaks of drawing upon “that three-headed beast” of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. Our intention is to demonstrate how the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist tradition should not be understood simply as a sectarian species of Marxism but, rather, as a tradition that has produced a very important development of Marxist theory. Thus, instead of relying on dogmatic diatribes that bash other marxisms, we are concerned with what can be used productively for the reinvigoration of a Marxist politics. When the Cultural Revolution failed and the “capitalist roaders” became the directors of China’s national destiny, Mao’s rich and revolutionary legacy was obscured behind successive waves of reactionary historiography, both from the centres of capitalism an

The Tao of Mao - Episode 18

The Lost History of Mary Gentle's Ash (book review)

"There must be a human history… It will become a ghost-history, as all your species vanish and become impossible." -Mary Gentle, Ash: A Lost History - I want to imagine Mary Gentle’s Ash: A Lost History as the mythic Burgundy and mythic Carthage that, according to the novel, have been irrevocably lost––written over by our history and recalled only as rubble strewn throughout our past. The book within the book, the “Fraxinus” manuscript and the notes of its translator and editor, is described as being pulled from circulation, disappearing into myth like the lost history it was meant to excavate. Is it really strange, then, that Gentle’s award-winning Ash would vanish behind the wavefront of publication, following the fate of her novel’s subject matter? Ash appears in the late 1990s to much excitement and acclaim. Like the archaeological manifestation of Visigoth Carthage and its golems, Ash is a revelation. Over 1000 pages, a footnoted book within a book, a cunnin