Between Comrades

A Dialogue between Comrades: Some afterthoughts concerning the PCR-RCP’s ‘Defense’

September of 2014: I published an essay called “Idealizing PPW: A Response to the PCR-RCP.” The critique dealt with the program of the Revolutionary Canadian Communist Party (PCR-RCP)’s conception of waging protracted peoples’ war (PPW) within imperialist nations, (specifically) how its application would take shape within Canada. Although the paper was only marginally propagated throughout online venues, the reception of the piece was larger than I expected[1]; I received several noteworthy responses from people who enthusiastically gave thought-provoking commentary; these people helped me realize the mistakes and missteps of my piece while providing illuminating insights into history and practice. I am thankful to these individuals. Additionally, I received some emotionally wrought commentaries from people who did not take too kindly to my critique. In all though the piece did manage to initiate a minor debate among the Maoist inclined which I believe saw some remarkable topics being discussed and acknowledged.

Fast-forward to late February of 2015 and supporters of the PCR-RCP issued a response piece. Entitled “In Defense of Protracted Peoples’ War” it is a highly charged essay. As the response piece was penned by an anonymous collective, eschewing even the use of pen names, one would imagine that a level of interpersonal decorum would be maintained, that some of the ill-placed potency of certain members would be moderated by the group or editor, nevertheless, however, the piece represents oversights relating to its voice and purpose; outright declaring that their response only exists to counteract the activities of “certain people[2]” who (evidently) took to distributing my essay to the public, while taking into account the anonymous nature of the animosity directed toward me, the authors of the response successfully connote how they feel as though my critique constitutes of a trash-like substance, which to me, feels as though their response piece was written in bad faith (though they do admit—grudgingly—that my own piece “seems to have been written in good faith”). I will not, nor have I ever, claimed my critique flawless. Far from it! Issues plagued the essay from conception to publication and to truly have made it a memorable piece I would have needed to inject it with far more research than I originally had put in. However, I maintain that although particular problems were seen in the essay, and this brought down its over-all quality, my critique—(pen)ultimately—was written with the intent of initiating a constructive—good faith— dialogue.

In this sense, many of the preoccupations which the authors of the response concern themselves with are real, others, however, are not. Part of this piece’s professionalism will be to initiate a self-criticism of my own paper’s weaknesses. I intend to do this in juncture alongside pontificating on some aspects of their own response. The reason for doing so will be discussed later in this response.

The first and foremost molecule of the article which demands addressing is the response paper’s maintenance of my supposed sectarian conduct. They claim repeatedly that I misrepresent their positions and slander their work, distorting it beyond recognition which in turn constitutes—essentially—a bastardization of their over-all program. Something which they claim is hindering their organizing[3].

This assertion, of my alleged slander, is (mostly) incorrect. Of course I must provide some information on why it is incorrect. Because at the time of writing (my critique) I did not give considerate thought to the language I used, of how certain words hold numerous meanings outside of a specific context and definition, parts of my paper (such as the title), appeared more hostile then I intended. In short, I forgot that not everyone uses words as precise as I often do: that, because of my training in literary interpretation, not everyone uses words devoid of hostility but meant to delineate. When I use words they are to denote a concrete facet of what I perceive to be true. Accordingly, when I use the word “idealizing” or “idealization”, I do not intend it as an insult but rather as a concise representation of what I view as fanciful expectations of a goal expressed without the theoretical insights concerning its application being extrapolated, in the form of in-depth analysis as to why such a position is possible (whatever said theory is concerned with) and communicated to the necessary audience (usually members of the international community in addition to the local class-conscious proletarian constituency). To me “idealization” is not a term meant to drag down: it means judgment, of pushing too hard for concepts, too fast when handling issues which demand protracted study. Idealization indicates the implementation of impractical applications of both theory and its elucidation among the revolutionary. As it is impossible to measure the validity of any theory by a few statement pieces alone, and among the PCR-RCP’s pieces concerning revolutionary strategy and warfare there is but only a small-handful of texts concerning their ideas of PPW as they envision it practiced in the imperialist center, it was, and I still maintain, a proper, non-sectarian use of the word. It was never my intention to slander or engaged in unprincipled assaults. I do not endorse denigrating another revolutionary organization for no other rationale then they abided by a different program of struggle.

However, that being said, there are—in fact—moments in my paper which do degenerate into juvenile quips. Some of these moments find their immaturity from being simply too dismissive of the PCR-RCP’s position without first engaging more in-depth with their idea. Other moments, however, see this former idea in action as expressed through trite, condescending remarks better saved for hostile exchanges then the mature interexchange of opinion. For these moments of neglect, brought on by simply not taking enough care to have a fresh set of eyes look at my words, and believing that certain passages were clean of unnecessary vehemence, I apologize sincerely and deeply. It is after all hypocrisy on my part to desire a peaceful interexchange while clinging (unintentionally) to hostile nips.

This being said, however, a good deal of my paper abided by my educational discipline: of the road utilizing a specific definition of a word, in a specific setting whose essence is attributed to a concept which I was critiquing. Although the authors of the PCR-RCP response was under the impression, at the time, that these exact definitions were sectarian slander, few in actuality were slander. Ergo, if my essay, in this vein, caused them some displeasure in organizing for an event or demonstration, while I can apologize in the abstract sense for causing certain cadres ire to be stifled, I cannot apologize for the concrete: for an opposing side of the international line struggle, which they are both a part of and on the opposite of me, of gaining something resembling what is made out to be an upper-hand; I cannot apologize for this because certain individuals new to Marxism must become accustomed to the shifting allegiances of a revolutionary group as it grows and branches out to new locales and communities. As the response authors note, “these people are not, as a whole, what we call the ‘hardcore of the proletariat’… they are still allies” which means an apology to the PCR-RCP for the supposed convincing of a select grouping from the masses of the validity of one side of a line struggle over the other, would be construed, in the eyes of the masses, as an insult to whoever from the working and petty-bourgeois classes sided with the growing dominant in the line struggle. Any principled supporter of my article would be disappointed to see an apology for nothing more than the dialectic of struggle shifting in the sands of struggle.

~

At points in their document, the PCR-RCP authors question whether I am an active revolutionary. They express a feeling of confusion toward my status since my critique’s positions fall outside of their usual dealings. Fundamentally I believe this is an important question to ask. Participation within the struggle is a vital qualifier in terms of how theory, written or applied, is utilized and grown; practical application of theory and how the practitioner struggles to realize the potential of theory, can sometimes determine whether a written piece reflects the truth of materiality. After all, if Ivory Tower intellectualism supersedes concrete truth, as defined by the history of the application of theory and organization to a specific arena of struggle, then the end-product is bound to be divorced from contemporary practice, thus rendering the piece itself, worthless.

In problematizing my essay in such terms the authors of the response piece are providing a much needed segway into the hard-hitting question of theory. At the same time, however appropriate it is of them to ask such a question, it is also an attempt to de-legitimate my argument by asserting my pieces deficiencies as evidence of a total lack of engagement– I being based in the United States thus forcing inexperience of Canadian social-material life, therefore, becomes the basis for a questioning of the validity of my materialist criticism: are the social and material conditions so different between the U.S and Canada as to render null and void any critique which was written outside of those very specific conditions?

Basic Marxist positions will say no. It is possible to write a critique while living outside of those exact conditions so as long as the author remains committed to understanding the differences, in both an intellectual capacity as well as a day-to-day capacity, of how the differences effect and affect the objective and subjective reality of the proletarian class; that, as long as the required research is placed into any investigation (something which my critique, admittedly, could have used more of), the end-result will be able to offer insightful opinions into the dynamics of theory and revolution (of course, such an avenue becomes problematic should not enough information be available) It is of poor practice to conflate material conditions as universal across the board. Understanding the differences between realities is therefore intrinsic to synthesizing practical revolutionary theory, while the determinant of this understanding being an agent’s participation within the struggle itself, acts as the truth acquiring device. By questioning my participation within the struggle the authors are in actuality asking if I am conflating material realities.

The answer to this question is, again, no—I am not conflating material conditions. I may not be a Canadian citizen and may not understand every peculiarity of the objective material reality as it presently exists in Canada, thus rendering certain aspects of any piece by me lacking in the knowledge needed to bring the piece as a whole to an all-knowing conclusion. But no piece is perfect. No critique is meant to be absolute in terms of its written quality. The point of any piece of literature is to provide a space where discussion and action can be created, where new possibilities emerge on the horizon or around the corner. A close reading of a text, therefore, necessitates that the bulk of the valid be removed from the invalid aspects, those which through ignorance or sectarianism, a knowledge dispute develops.

An additional factor in this process of applying critique exists within a critiquing agent’s specification, of their area of theoretical and practical concentration. Some comrades are highly proficient in some areas more than others; a cis-hetero-male comrade might be advanced on questions concerning national liberation yet hold sexist and patriarchal convictions in relation to women. Some comrades are ignorant of the questions, debates, and controversies of the issue at hand (whether it be on organization, revolutionary war, or women and minorities), thereby causing the agent to infuse their works with innocent mistakes committed out of not being acquainted with either major or more obscure points of the topic; this is not to say it is always the case but on certain aspects of an issue at hand, some mistakes or issues may possess roots from this transition from a strongly suited discipline to a lesser-entangled with one.

To an extent this may provide some of the lacking qualities in my own critique. Before becoming enamored with theory relating to protracted peoples’ war, my concentration was within Queer theory (Queer Equality and the Media, The State of International Queer Liberation, The Future for Marriage Advocates, Reactionary Communism?). It is appropriate to say that my concentration is not within PPW theory. It is also appropriate to speculate that some of the mishaps concerning the words of the critique were based, at least partly, on my still becoming familiar with the various applications of PPW throughout the world, and how they are understood specifically by the RCP-Canada. I do not claim to be an expert in any field. Rather I am a simple revolutionary who, like any anti-capitalist, possess ideas on how to wage struggle and construct socialism; someone who wanted to chime in with thoughtful commentary upon a highly relevant communist issue.

~

I wish to spend a small amount of time discussing camaraderie. One of the more shocking elements of the PCR-RCP supporters’ response to my critique was exactly how infuriated they were at my words. Some of this, as previously explained, was completely justified as they were misinterpreting my precise definitions for unprincipled sectarianism which reeked of hypocrisy. However, this being put out there, most of their response was disappointing. Their response was not a disappointment in the sense of them refusing to spend a great amount of time and effort to clarify their positions; a great deal of their commentary, once divorced from their emotional meandering, held considerable value, and I for one found it enjoyable to contemplate. No. I was disappointed because withholding my own mistakes when writing my critique, I expected a far more mature discussion relating to our differences. Instead I found a response paper littered with melodramatically strung-out tirades against not only me but my organizational affiliate. Comrades have blatantly dismissed the Kasama Project as an internet only think-tank, forgetting the network of real-world collectives, as well as the important role think-tanks play in society, and unabashedly called Kasama and my paper “shit”. All of which is, unfortunately, a common accusation among Right-Wing Maoists. Such accusations were leveled at me in addition to some online-based RCP-Canadian supporters, though not necessarily of the authors of the response piece, as me supposedly being a “national chauvinist” and defender of “settler-colonialism”, both charges being as asinine as the degree and frequency which I saw them leveled on the online platforms; conducted in response to my claim that any revolution in Canada would necessarily depend on a simultaneous revolution transpiring in the United States (and Mexico, Greenland, Cuba) in order to survive, I worry about some of the Leftism of my comrades[4].

Let’s make this clear right now: I have never intended to denigrate, slander, or assault the PCR-RCP and its supporters. They are comrades-in-arms in a struggle which is going to require revolutionary anti-capitalists from all tendencies and organizations to fight for the common good during a revolutionary situation if we have any chance of building communism. Those moments which this desire appears to the contrary, as I have said previously in this section, I apologize for: lingual differences unearthed some unsavory issues which I have self-criticized myself for including. Repeatedly in my critique I—yes—use some harsh words to describe my comrades position, but I also use some very reverential words; on more than one occasion I uphold the PCR-RCP over similar organizations which promote first world PPW. Near the end of my critique, taking a page out of classic fantasy, I even go as far as to say that “if the Canadian RCP does not find a way to make revolution in North America possible utilizing protracted peoples’ war, than no one will.” Additionally, despite my difference with the PCR-RCP I never at any point in my critique dismissed them as being “shitty” or irrelevant to the struggle, both words which have been applied to either myself or Kasama.

Another charge which they level at my paper is that it does not draw upon a wide range of sources throughout its range; admittedly, I did not have a great amount of different historical sources; figures, theoretical tracts, examples from history and so forth were lacking in quantity. This is something, part of the imperfect nature of my critique, which I would rectify could I go back. However, this is besides the point: although I would cite more authorities and draw upon a wider range of information, the authors of the article specifically take notice with my usage of only a few of their texts on PPW, arguing that I did not draw upon all that they wrote concerning the theory.

To this I can only say the following: I utilized the PCR-RCP pieces on PPW most relevant to my critique; I drew upon their central PPW documents. The ones most advertised on their website and which contained the kernels of their stance on PPW. I did not scrounge through every newspaper and article they posted; I simply didn’t have the time. Although some of the authors seem disturbed by this, I am not disturbed and refuse to be as my position is sound—had there been another piece by the PCR-RCP which was so vital to their approach on PPW then it should have been listed with the other pieces concerning their conception of revolutionary strategy, not filed away in an obscure place where no one but the hardened supporters or incurious readers would find. So to conclude: yes, I wish I did utilize a more refined engagement with the revolutionary tradition when writing the piece, but my path, of focusing on the pieces most demanding of attention, remains a solid platform.

So I guess my disappointment is not so much in the quality of their theory as it is in the (almost stereotypical) juvenility of their tone. I would only say that I had wish the administrators and editors of the PCR-RCP organs had kept a higher standard of quality on the responses delivered to theoretical sparing partners. Despite this less than refined response, however, I do not and nor ever will repudiate the intrinsic comradeship which exists between revolutionaries[5]. They may or may not consider me one of their co-fighters for liberation, but that will not stop me from always considering them among the champions for the oppressed.

~

An issue which the defense authors were right to focus on, however, was my use of a strawman logical fallacy. Although my particular use—specifically the manner in which I scapegoated their conception of building revolutionary support by arguing that they didn’t have an idea of what constituted a revolutionary situation—was sound insofar as the PCR-RCP clearly did not have a fully formed idea of what defined a revolutionary situation, it was an incorrect position of mine to extend such findings to their over-all program of PPW.

When such overzealous positions are artificially promulgated for no other purpose then to express an unfinished idea, issues arise. These issues can interrupt a good natured critique or response and coerce participants into giving dodged support to (perhaps) unscrupulous allies. While there was much about my paper which was worthy of publication, there were other aspects which needed more work; a facet of its epistemology which I was aware of before publication, and yet still advanced, knowing full well that the remaining ‘rough’ edges needed more polish. For this aspect, the hurried nature of the piece, I can and will apologize for: sorry. It should have been a more important issue to myself than it was as those unpolished areas caused more than a fair share of confusion and misunderstanding. In the future I will try harder to rectify.

Concerning ‘the future’, however, I want to take a moment and discuss another reason for the posting of this piece (the text you are currently reading). Namely, that it exists partly to demarcate my previous writing style—sweeping pieces with a protracted thesis—with what I am constructing as my new style—smaller theses inclined toward more theoretical and historic matters, posts purposed more as investigative articles rather than lofty affairs.

This shift does not mean, however, that I will no longer pen more protracted pieces; I have several such lengthy pieces planned, especially one or two concerning PPW. Rather, it simply serves to state that my emphasis right now is on matters other than responding to a bad faith response written by some anonymous, and highly upset, revolutionists in Canada. Such a response will come later but as of right now my intellectual and practical efforts are pulling me in another direction and so I will trust my Canadian comrades to have patience when waiting for my retort. Thank you.

[1] Facebook, Rev-Left, the Kasama Project’s open social networking platform, and a few indirect mentions on some friendly blogs constituted the majority of the sites which the project made an appearance. Any appearances beyond these sites I am neither aware of nor reasonable for.

[2] I do not know who these people are, what their activities vis-a-vie my essay have been, what their goal or ideology is, nor if they are even revolutionaries; additionally, I have had no part in organizing any distribution of my essay in Canada (meaning, the contacting of local groups to disseminate my paper).

[3] I wonder to the degree this was meant; meaning, was it truly making an impact on their organizing or was this sentiment spoken more in the larger sense of ‘other ideas polluting the waters’, making a certain line more strenuous to defend. Opposing ideas, on the same-general ideological plain, are concepts which should be welcomed in any group or organization. If a group finds themselves in the position where a single paper is able to disrupt their efforts, then I think such a group has more profound internal contradictions then merely the presence of an opposing viewpoint. My knowledge of the PCR-RCP would make this seem unlikely but I am open to hearing differing opinions.

[4] When I say “I worry” I am, of course, referencing the tendency concerning certain segments on the Left who place too much stock in Stalin’s (still) controversial theory of ‘Socialism in One Country’. Although I do not disparage the concept or practice of such an idea unfolding, I am critical of its historical legacy and warn against any stance which overly emphasis the possibilities of a socialism confined to either a single territory or a conglomeration of territories.

[5] The only scenario in which I could envision myself dismissing the comradeship of a fellow revolutionary is if they had made threats against my life. Thankfully no such remarks have been made against me by PCR-RCP supporters or members.

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