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No Investigation, No Right to Speak

Yesterday, in a conversation with a friend on the bus, I once again encountered one of the typical arguments raised by a certain sector of student and trade union socialists whenever they hear the words marxism-leninism-maoism: "why maoism, isn't that just something that applies to third world movements––what does it have to do with Canada or the United States?"  The friend who brought it up this time, I should point out, was only curious and, after hearing this dismissal of maoism from others, was only asking the question because he honestly wanted to know what I thought.  Unfortunately, I feel that most people who ask this question are doing so rhetorically in order to dismiss a revolutionary theory that they know nothing about but imagine, as is typical amongst self-proclaimed "radical experts", that something they've never honestly investigated can be dismissed with a snide comment.  Without investigation there should be no right to speak, we maoist-influenced commies are prone to say, but unfortunately we live and work in a context where everyone thinks they are an expert in areas they fail to investigate.

Of course there are also other asinine and idiot understandings of maoism, all produced by a failure to properly investigate, and all from the usual "intellectual left" sectors overly populated by privileged academics.  There is, for example, the strange and whacky belief that "maoism leads to capitalism" which, promoted by dogmatic Trotskyist groups who have the worst historical analysis of the Chinese Revolution (which includes, most importantly, the Cultural Revolution), seems to have grabbed hold of some academics.  I'm less annoyed with this because I generally find it juvenile and a sublimated acceptance of the capitalist "end of history" ideology that imagines all revolutions inevitably return to capitalism.  After all, to assert that maoism leads to capitalism, when the Chinese Revolution went further than the Russian, is to assume that the victory of the capitalist roaders is an eternal fate––if it applied to the most revolutionary moment, it will apply everywhere.  Moreover, I know this understanding of maoism is juvenile because one of maoism's key and universal insights is that since class struggle continues under socialism, capitalist restoration is always possible and even the party can be used a vehicle for this restoration.  To assert that maoism "inevitably" leads to capitalism is the same as asserting, reductio ad absurdem, that all communist attempts at revolution "inevitably" lead to the restoration of capitalism because, as any bourgeois ideologue will tell you, every communist revolution has eventually failed.  Maoism, however, has developed a theoretical understanding of why, while granting the successes of these revolutions, these failures have happened.

In any case, I am generally more frustrated with the dismissive belief that maoism only applies to the global peripheries and is a useless revolutionary theory at the centres of capitalism.  Keeping in mind that I also understand that any revolutionary movement worth its salt shouldn't just be (as one commentator pointed out) about repeating a name that is merely a cipher for a theoretical understanding, and keeping in mind that on this blog I'm also interested with investigating a theoretical terrain, I want to re-emphasize that I have often discussed the universal importance of marxism-leninism-maoism in a manner that rejects the notion of maoism as nothing more than a particularist theoretical development that only applies to peripheral revolutions.  In my long and unfinished inter-blog dialogue with BF of Workers Dreadnought there has been an attempt (though sometimes convoluted) to explain the universal applicability of MLM theory, and in a recent post I re-emphasized the importance of this theoretical understanding, so I'm not going to repeat myself here.  (Also, the essay by Shashi Prakash that the PRAC has been promoting is a good explanation for anyone who wants to understand the reason why MLM theory is universally applicable.)  Generally, I'm more interested in the ideological mindset that tends to maintain, without any investigation, that maoism has nothing to do with revolutionary agitation at the centres of capitalism.

Despite all arguments to the contrary, despite consistently bringing up the point that maoism's key insight is about the importance of class struggle under socialism (and that this clearly applies everywhere), I keep encountering people who persistently emphasize that maoism is a useless communist ideology at the centres of capitalism because (insert snide chortle here) there are no "peasants" to organize.  "Are you going to run to the fields and work with the Canadian peasantry?" is a typically rhetorical and mindless question.  And though no one who upholds the MLM line at the centres of capitalism has ever suggested such an ahistorical application, and though there is so much written by MLM theorists at the centres of capitalism that doesn't at all talk about the peasantry at the centres of capitalism, this is the supposed brilliant point that is always made as an argument against maoist theory.

So when some of us begin examining the possible universal applicability of Protracted Peoples War (PPW) as a revolutionary strategy (as distinguished from simplistic concepts of Insurrection), we again face this knee-jerk reaction about our imaginary first world peasantry.  Or that we are talking about "surrounding the cities from the countryside" and all this particularist language that has nothing to do with the strategic implications of PPW.  The fact that the theoretical reasons for this position have been outlined in a manner that has nothing to do with these asinine critiques (check out the PCR-RCP's essay on PPW in imperialist countries, for example), and that any arguments against the theory of PPW as universally valid should deal with the actual theoretical position rather than a straw-person variant, is usually ignored.  It is always better, I suppose, to cling to a dogmatic understanding of what has never been investigated rather than actually taking the time to understand what you seek to reject.

Amongst socialist committed to a Marxism-Leninism the rejection of maoism as a "particularist" variant of the more robust Marxism-Leninism seems rather hypocritical.  They accept that Leninism is universally applicable regardless of the particular concrete realities of Russia.  So should they not also argue, in order to be consistent, that Leninism is only relevant to countries similar to early 20th Century Russia?  There appears to be an unquestioned eurocentrism being applied to maoism: universal applicability for Leninism since Lenin was a "european"; only particular applicability for Mao, regardless of the world historical Chinese Revolution, because Mao was an "oriental".  For if we believe that new universal developments of revolutionary theory emerge from world historical revolutions, then it seems the only reason maoism is rejected is because of eurocentric exclusion.  (And from this exclusionary discourse, and an attempt to keep Marxism-Leninism "pure", we are led to the position I attacked above regarding the Chinese Revolution's inevitable capitalism, the fact that it "doesn't count" as a world historical revolution, etc.)

Obviously this asinine rejection of maoism speaks to the dogmatism I critiqued in my previous post.  This is not to say that debating and rejecting maoist theory in itself is dogmatic, but that the juvenile ways in which it is often rejected clearly demonstrates an uncritical mindset that is not interested in actually making sense of what it seeks to reject.  When the supposed rejections of maoism continue to have nothing to do with marxist-leninist-maoist theory––and are nothing more than rejections of an imaginary maoism––the debate ends up becoming like a debate with a capitalist ideologue about communism.  Again, I'm all for theoretical debate, but I am getting a little tired of what feels like a dishonest debate where a straw-person maoism is used as a red herring to prevent any critical dialogue.


  1. What? You mean there's no Canadian Peasantry? Have we moved on from a semi-feudal mode of production? Oh dear, I guess my plans for encircling the cities for just outside the GTA ain't gonna fly, eh? Glad to have this newsflash...because here I was trying to figure out where to establish a red base in the glorious Canada countryside...

  2. The real irony behind the sarcasm, unfortunately, is that some people actually think, after tuning out our comments to the contrary, that we think this this way...

  3. I can see this joke going on indefinitely...

  4. Apocyrphal story that Trotsky visited NYC before the October revolution and addressed the crowd, "Workers and peasants of the Bronx!"

  5. And the joke continues because now I just encountered a blog post that is arguing that Canadian maoists want an agrarian revolution. "Workers and Peasants of Toronto!"


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