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Showing posts from March, 2012

"All Played Out"

Recently, Workers Dreadnought has been posting a series on Bob Avakian's so-called "new synthesis."  Although many of us in the international maoist movement, just like so many communists and leftists in general, have dismissed the "new synthesis" for being neither "new" or "synthetic", there has not been many sustained attempts at engaging all of its claims.  And though non-engagement might be a viable strategy when it comes to hair-brained attempts at new grand universalizing revolutionary theories (for it is often to pay these theories no attention and let them die as they probably will), there is some worth in engaging with the RCP-USA's "new synthesis."  Not because there is necessarily any worth in engaging with an organization that has degenerated into a religious cabal––you won't convince dogmatists that their dogma is wrong with critical thinking––but because of the damage and confusion this theoretical articulatio


Han Suyin once quoted Mao as saying "to cut off heads changes nothing… it is what is inside the head which has to be changed."  And so those of us who adhere to maoist notions of revolutionary transformation––who understand that class struggle continues under socialism and bourgeois ideas will always return and thus the socialist stage always contains the danger of capitalist restoration––have often argued for principles of "reeducation" rather than executions.  That is, while we believe that it is necessary during the period of the dictatorship of the proletariat to safeguard the revolution against all attempts to restore capitalism, we do not believe that such safeguarding should progress through successive and violent purges. After all, Stalin misunderstood the problem of capitalist restoration by falsely believing that the problem was always one of negative external influence.  That if and when bourgeois ideas emerged, then the problem was not that bourgeois [

The Problematic Forms of Anti-Capitalism Today [Guest Post from a talk by Comrade B.]

[The following is the transcript of a talk delivered by Comrade B. on Wednesday, March 14, 2012 as part of a panel, hosted by the UofT branch of the "Platypus Society", on which she was invited to participate.  She was probably the only revolutionary communist, let alone maoist-identified, activist on the panel but, although this might have made her look "crazy" to some of the people in attendance (predominantly members of the academic/activist community in Toronto), PRAC members and supporters formed around 50% of the audience.   When I asked her if I could post the transcript of her talk, she asked if I could mention that her paper was  partially developed in collaboration with another comrade, D., who is currently out of country but who was apparently a great help in this paper's construction.]  I would like to start with a quote from Ulrike Meinhof of the Red Army Faction who, loosely quoting Fred Hampton of the Black Panthers Party on his position o

The "Precariat" is Not a Class

There is a scene in Gillo Pontecorvo's anti-colonial film Burn!  where a British capitalist agent, played by Marlon Brando, explains the benefits of capitalism to a group of Portuguese slavers.  In order to convince them to accede to a slave revolution in time to co-opt the movement and retain their authority, he asks them to compare a prostitute to a wife.  The latter, he argues, is "property"––the husband "owns" her, pays for her means of existence––whereas the former is paid only for the job, has the precarious duty of paying for her own existence , and thus costs far less.  Aside from being a great comparison of structural gender oppression, the analogy is meant to explain the difference between the slave and waged labour.  The free worker, the proletariat, Brando's character argues, still remains a slave but has to also pay for the terms of hir slavery, bearing the cost of the yoke of capitalism; if s/he starves, if s/he is homeless, if s/he cannot find

Teaching Rawls Again

For some reason, whenever I think of John Rawls' "veil of ignorance" thought experiment, I imagine a bunch of people marooned in a lifeboat discussing politics under a heavy sea fog.  I really don't know why this image pops into my head whenever I have to read and/or teach Rawls––because there's nothing in Rawls'  Theory of Justice  about a lifeboat and a foggy ocean.  Perhaps the image is the result of the shoddy reading and half-assed listening that partially defined my first year as a university undergraduate, way way back.  Or maybe it's the result of the mental synthesis of an unexpected juxtaposition––perhaps I was reading Rawls in one class at the same time I was encountering Turner's paintings in another. defender of welfare capitalism But maybe this way of looking at the veil of ignorance reveals something about the logic of the thought experiment.  This is how we can understand justice, Rawls tell us: take a group of people, render th

"Our struggle in Afghanistan is part of the global struggle of the oppressed…" [Guest Post by Comrade M.]

[Here follows a transcript of the talk that the visiting comrade representing the Communist (Maoist) Party of Afghanistan delivered, in various versions, in Europe and Canada.  Since the promised post about RAWA/ALO will probably not be given to me for a month, I figured it was best to post this general summation of the current juncture in Afghanistan which provides some background to that issue.] In October 2001, when the imperialist coalition led by the United States launched its war of aggression to invade and occupy Afghanistan, the imperialists proclaimed that the purpose of their war was the bringing to justice of the supposed perpetrators of the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. But more importantly they also declared that their war would liberate the Afghan people, particularly Afghan women, and the imperialist occupation would promote democracy and a state building project that would be conducive to human rights, women’s rights and other liberal democratic

Interview with a Comrade from the Communist (Maoist) Party of Afghanistan

(This interview with the visiting comrade from the Communist (Maoist) Party of Afghanistan originally appeared in a recent issue of the Partisan , but was slightly edited to make it more accessible and abide by space/layout constraints.  The comrade has requested that the original form be posted here.) Q: Can provide a basic historical background and explanation of the Communist (Maoist) Party of Afghanistan? The CMPA was formed in 2004 as a result of the unification of several revolutionary groups.  When the imperialists invaded Afghanistan in 2001, the maoist forces realized that, in order to present a strong communist resistance against the occupation, they needed to work together. Q: How does your organization relate to the current situation in Afghanistan? Our party’s understanding is that we’re currently experiencing an imperialist occupation in a country whose character is semi-feudal.  There is a war of resistance against this imperialist occupation but the

Proper Internationalism

Recently, a comrade from the Communist (Maoist) Party of Afghanistan [CMPA] was in Canada as part of a larger trip to drum up ideological support for his organization amongst the left at the centres of capitalism.  Although the CMPA is recognized as the largest secular anti-occupation force in Afghanistan by people living in Afghanistan, the fact that most of its propaganda is in Farsi––and that so far it has not had an obvious international presence––is something it has recently recognized as a problem.  If and when the majority of the Taliban is incorporated into the ranks of the Karzai puppet regime as part of the US 2014 "exit" strategy (where they move to military bases and enforce their will through their puppet government and cheaper Afghan soldiers), the CMPA, left in the field as the only real anti-occupation force, will need international recognition and ideological support from leftists at the centre if it is to succeed in resisting imperialism in Afghanistan––an

Why So Much "Anti-Dogmatic" Dogmatism?

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I've often harped on the problem of dogmatism in the left.  Sometimes I've tried to categorize the various forms of dogmatism that afflict the mainstream left, specifically at the centres of world capitalism, even discussing those dogmatisms that like to imagine they are anti-dogmatic.  Other times I have complained specifically about the most obvious forms of dogmatism, annoyed by what can only be understood as marxist missionary cults .  An interest that has been a common thread throughout all of these discussions on dogmatism, and that I probably need to address very specifically in the near future (though I've mentioned it more places than I can recall), is about maintaining the distinction between adopting a principled politics and adhering to some form of dogmatism: that is, I think it is very important to understand that accepting a principled and specific political perspective is not synonymous with dogmatism and I fe