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The People and the People Alone

Despite my previous posts on the intifadas in Tunisia and Egypt, I think it is also important to be reminded of Mao's statement: "The people, and the people alone, are the active force in the making of world history, while we ourselves are often childish and ignorant."  We should note that when Mao says we ourselves he means the party, the bureaucracy that had become enshrined in the party, and that the masses were often running ahead of the party's ossification: hence the requirement for the mass line and the germ-theorization of Cultural Revolution, the call to "bombard the headquarters."

Although I stand completely behind my previous statements, and feel strongly that this post needs to be balanced by what I have already argued, I want to be clear that I also support the uprisings (but still qualify that the word "revolution" is conceptually inappropriate) and that we should all support the uprisings just as we should support any revolt, regardless of the inability to transform into a full-fledged revolution, on the part of the oppressed.  The Palestinian intifadas could not become revolutionary, and were hijacked by collaborationists (and now Wikileaks has confirmed Fatah's collaborationist ideology for all to see), but they were still great moments of revolt.  And the Spartacist Uprising, which was far more revolutionary in its aims than the developments in the Middle East, was also doomed to failure but Rosa Luxemburg supported it with her life.  Moreover, when the Social Democrat revisionists in Germany poured scorn upon Luxemburg for her supposed "mistakes", Lenin, who was often polemically opposed to Luxemburg, wrote in her defense: "sometimes eagles may fly lower than hens, but hens will never rise to the height of eagles."  Meaning that Luxemburg was an "eagle" and that the class collaborationists in the German SDP were hens "in the backyard of the working class movement, among the dung heaps."

Since the people and the people alone are capable of making history, the rebellions that are spreading throughout the Middle East prove that even though the state of affairs will lead to a realignment of imperialist contradictions, this realignment is not due to the decision of imperialism but because of the masses.  History does not change because the people who attempt to straight-jacket history will it so, but because they have to compensate for the often unfocused revolutionary sentiments of the masses who feel the need to rebel and, even when lacking coherent revolutionary organization, force the imperialist masters to compensate.  Realignment rather than defeat is obviously the result of a lack of revolutionary organization, but the very fact this realignment exists––the very fact that it can open up new possibilities for organization––is due to the fact that history is made by the slaves and not the masters.  I already briefly argued in my initial post about spontaneity that these rebellions proved that "[w]hen the masses take the streets… the limits of the state are exposed [and] we are shown that it is not the government apparatus and its special armed bodies, nor the market and its reified forces, that allow society to function; we are forced to admit that society is determined by the masses."

This is an important point and one I feel I need to reemphasize because I am tired of arguing with friends and comrades, who have consistently misinterpreted what I have written, that I am not disrespecting the intifidas and being some sort of heartless cynic.  Perhaps the intifadas are opening up new revolutionary possibilities, perhaps they are causing the imperialist powers to open a new stage of anti-imperialist potentiality, but to accept this is the case should not paralyze us from analyzing Egypt and Tunisia, along with the next wave of intifadas, in the context of actual history.  I am an historical and dialectical materialist and believe we have to examine these events in context, rather than ignoring history and making up idealist myths, and I find it entirely strange that the lack of historical materialist analysis is being encouraged amongst historical materialists themselves.

(Generally speaking, if these uprisings end up becoming actual revolutions and lead to the next socialist break in world history then I will more than happily accept that there is a new and universal development in revolutionary theory and that we should figure out how to make sense of this, connecting it to the failures and successes of the past.  But so far the threshold was set by the last world historical revolution, the Chinese Revolution, and I do not see these rebellions even beginning to approach its successes and overcome the point where it failed.  We are taught by failures and setbacks, but this understanding of both failure and setback is lacking in the general direction of these intifadas––that is my point.)

But the uprisings in the middle east prove once again that history is moved by the victims, not the victimizers, of history.  China Mieville (sci-fi and fantasy novel-writing genius, as well as theorist of anti-imperialist legal theory, but unfortunately an SWP-monger) recently pointed out in his blog that the imperialists' blather changed, during the course of the Egyptian intifada, from pro-Mubarak to anti-Mubarak and we were suddenly expected to forget the former.  And though this may warn us that the American imperialist machine is already dealing with the post-Mubarak government, it should also again remind us that this imaginationless imperial system cannot conceive of anything beyond its own limits and is always forced to compensate in the face of slave rebellions.  It should teach us that militantly organized rebellions might  even prevent it from compensating, forcing it into a truly defensive position.

When these intifadas conclude, hopefully sewing the seeds for a prolonged and protracted anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist rebellion, and the new pro-imperialists are enshrined, we should be ready to state, as Rosa Luxemburg wrote from prison in support of the failed Spartacist Uprising: "'Order reigns in [Egypt and the Middle East]!'  You stupid lackeys!  Your 'order' is built on sand.  The revolution will 'raise itself up again clashing,' and to your horror will proclaim to the sound of trumpets: I was, I am, I shall be."