“Russia is an Imperialilst Country”

Comrades over at Mass-Proletariat recently published a great take on modern Russia’s imperialism; since there is much confusion on Russian imperialism, with some people refusing to believe it even exists, this should be mandatory reading for anyone who considers themselves a Leftist.

Link: http://www.massproletariat.info/writings/russia_is_an_imperialist_country.html

How to Spot a Fake Leftist

No doubt about it, it can be tricky to spot fake news from real news; the sites seem real and the news itself seems real. It can be both a headache and embarrassing when you find that you shared a fake news story. Thankfully, however, spotting a fake leftist is far easier than spotting fake news. So in light of the Holiday season, I have put together this handy list of symptoms which fake leftists espouse. Read and enjoy!

  • Communism is about the eradication of all forms of oppression and exploitation; if the Leftist in question can only talk about the “evils” of Feminism, Queer visibility, and race studies, all while denouncing it as “Identity Politics” and “postmodernism”, then you have a fake Leftist.
  • If the Leftist runs their mouth about needing to “join together” in order to “defeat capitalism” and this “join together” is encoded as a class reductionist analysis, then you have a fake Leftist—there is more to communist theory then the working class versus the exploiting class.
  • If the Leftist spends more time joking about ice-picking Trots then providing cogent deconstructions of contemporary capitalism and its manifold manifestations, then you have a fake Leftist.
  • If the Leftist is a Dengist, then they are a fake Leftist. If they are a Naz-Bol, then they are not only a fake Leftist, but a fascist piece of filth. In either case, struggle will be required for them to be overcome.
  • If the Leftist belittles “SJW logic”, “Political Correctness”, social justice in general, then they are a fake Leftist; communism is more than simple social justice, but it also does, nevertheless, comprise a portion of its ideological drive from social justice thanks to its merciless resistance against all forms of oppression. If the Leftist in question doesn’t understand intersectionality and how social justice is needed to fight against oppression, then they are a fake Leftist.
  • If the Leftist refuses to conduct self-criticisms and investigate communities and theory which they are at odds with, then they are a fake Leftist. Part of being a communist is to learn and create syntheses, to push Leftist theory to a model capable of battling capitalism; when we hold views which run contrary to this fact and discover that they are incorrect, a self-criticism is needed. Refusing to provide one is a symptom of a fake Leftist.

Introducing: “Red Criticism”

As someone with an interest in literature and criticism, but also as someone who is a revolutionary communist, Marxist criticism and theory, specifically in the Humanities, plays a major role in my thought. Or, one would at least think that it would play a major role.

Truthfully, I have spent the last few years since I entered university immersed more in poststructualist and postmodernist works than Marxist ones. This was done on purpose. After all, I figure if there was ever a time to engage with the study of such works, then as an Undergraduate would be the time and the place since, as a possible graduate student, I would return to a full-fledged Marxist praxis.

The downside to this was that though I learned a great deal about postmodernism and its nascent philosophy, my study of Marxism had suffered; I engaged in a plethora of electric theory at the cost of limiting my knowledge of concrete applicable theory.

While my engagements in posstructualism were well founded and will continue under the auspices of seeing how classical Marxist theory may be improved or altered so as to achieve new goals under increasingly stratified new intellectual conditions, I believe now will be a good time, seeing as how it is summer and I have a bit of a breather from university, to dive back into Marxist thought on art and criticism.

As such, I decided to write a series of abstracts. These “red” abstracts focused on Marxist pieces concerning art and artistic practice, will cover a wide range of figures and sources. But, that is the long term goal. At the moment, I am preoccupied with Mao and the Maoist contribution to criticism and practice: how art was viewed, practiced, and criticism wielded.

I start with the Maoist tradition for several reasons. One, because what many people forget is that Mao was not merely a military strategist, or a politician. He was a philosopher and a teacher. Mao was someone deeply concerned about human existence, behavior, and how it dwelt alongside art and culture. He wrote a great deal on philosophy, practice, and humanity as it struggled in revolutionary upheavals. Moreover, as I was at pains to see as I read Mao’s corpus of writings, was that there is a lot of unexplored potential in Mao’s works, potential which could possibly have great resonance if applied to contemporary times and augmented by new theoretical lenses.

The second reason I start with the Maoists is because of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (or simply the Cultural Revolution for short, or the GPCR). It was a world historic event and one which is the high-water mark for revolutionary practice, theory, and ideology. Its impact on how we can now view the Vanguard party, revisionism, capitalist restoration, and practice (both activism and armed struggle) cannot be ignored. To do so would be to throw away a monumental learning experience. Because of this, I feel that a great deal of the GPCR can be studied either directly as artistic practice (in how cultural and artistic units conducted themselves and their ideology and practice) or in the abstracted sense of ‘brainstorming what can be parsed from its triumphs and limitations.’

In sum: Mao Tse-tung Thought, its philosophy and practice contains potential to be realized. So I want to see what I am able to learn from the myriad of writings, polemics, and texts; what can be discerned, extrapolated, and understood from one of the greatest periods of human history. This will be the template by which other Marxist-artistic practices will be judged and what, by extension, can be imparted by an engagement between the two.

So, knowing this, I have devised a simple format for how this series will function: each abstract will feature a specific piece and will be numbered accordingly (i.e., ‘Abstract-1’ and so forth). The numbered piece, however, will only contain a summery and overview of the piece which was read; for the critical engagement(s), those will follow after the numbered pieces as abstracts assigned letters after the numbers. So, as an example, the engagement with Abstract-1’s content will be labeled as ‘Abstract-1(A)’ and so on down the alphabet until the engagements for that particular abstract have been exhausted. This way ensures that should I desire to move on and read and engage with other Marxist-artistic pieces, I can always return to an earlier pieces, engage with it, and post up the engagement without readers becoming confused; everything is, in short, strictly numbered and ordered. Coherency is maintained.

Notes Toward a Contemporary History of U.S Maoism

Presented here is a provisional draft– and I emphasis draft— of a document outlining the last several years of Maoism in the United States (2013-2016). Since this draft is liable for error and bits of misinformation, however, as it was compiled with only the resources available online, should such errors exists, please, comment below and help me rectify them; however, please keep in mind that the spirit of this document is a non-sectarian manuscript and revisions which clearly favor on faction will not be taken into account.

Regarding the document, most of the content is transcriptions of existing articles and pieces published elsewhere. I have included them here, with documentation, in order to illustrate the theoretical divergence as they happened between all of the groups concerned.Plus, I am a fan of ensuring that important pieces such as organizational documents, those already made public, of course, are preserved should an unfortunate occurrence transpire. So keep in mind that only the first three pages is directly concerned about the history. This draft is meant as an overview, not a in-depth account.

(If the link does not open the word document, please comment)

Notes Toward a Contemporary History of US Maoist Movement

(Updated: 7/7/16)

 

Another Look at Safe Spaces

 

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‘South Park,’ a right wing Libertarian show which attempts to rehabilitate White Supremacy, attacks the idea of the ‘safe space’ as part of so-called ‘mental gentrification.’

 

Lately, I have been seeing many socially-reactionary posts from Leftists attacking the idea of a safe space; sadly enough, these Leftists often sound like anti-PC reactionaries and right-wing South Park loving teenagers when they rant against safe spaces as exclusory, postmodern-liberalism, or elitist counterproductive measures. Sometimes, these Leftists are afflicted with a severe case of class reductionism, other times they are suspicious of the idea by viewing such a space as middle-class narcissism. Ignorance of these spaces, of course, plays an additional role. More often than not, however, their hostility is due to a misunderstanding of postmodern identity politics.

What is important to remember about identity politics is that it seeks to supplant class struggle with identitarianism. Instead of seeing revolutionary praxis through the interplay of class forces and socioeconomic power, postmodernism, by its virtue of being a ahistorical force, posits individualism as the defining factor; bringing the oppressed to the forefront only to then channel their yearning for liberation away from emancipatory politics, identity politics is a cannibalizing force denying class consciousness on the grounds that individualism can be the foundation for struggle by interlocking with other forms of activism (in this sense, then, it closely resembles movementism). To identity politics, there is nothing beyond identity: with revolutionary fervor supposedly defeated, it sees cooperation as the best solution and so conjures an engorged identity-complex as its substitution for class politics.

The preceding should be obvious to anyone who has been in the revolutionary movement for any substantial period of time. The issue I have been seeing, however, does not lie in ignorance of how identity politics function, per se, but in its application in today’s revolutionary praxis. Comrades have not taken the time or effort to understand the nuances of identity politics as it appears today, how it relates to safe spaces, and how Leftists can support the minority and disenfranchised—those most susceptible to violence—without appealing to a crass class reductionism.

I will argue something new, instead, that a defanged identity politics—an identity politics subordinated to a materialist analysis—is useful in organizing anti-capitalist resistance.

Identity politics is a massive apparatus and has incarnations in both right-and-left-wing social circles in addition to the bourgeois center. So, to narrow down on this post’s focus, I will be focusing primarily on only the Leftist incarnation with some deviation to the Rightist. To accomplish this, I will offer commentary on both ideas insofar as relate to the concept of a safe space while curbing the social-reactionary Left’s vulgar Marxism concerning the idea of a safe place.

  1. Safe Place as Remuneration

Capitalism is a duality. While being the single best thing to happen to humanity, it is also the worst. The destructive nature of so-called ‘late capitalism’ has produced tremendous amounts of alienation among all sectors of society but most powerfully among working class persons, especially youth. Safe spaces are areas which attempt to counter-act this alienation, if only temporarily. A safe place is an area which shuts down the violence of alienation by both reassuring and welcoming those disparate elements (minority and oppressed persons) that their existence matters and that they are not alone in their struggle to survive; oppressive language, hateful micro aggressions and violent assault and battery, discrimination and ‘mansplaining’ and ‘cissplaining’ are kicked to the curb. Bringing together alienated individuals into contact with one another while in a setting which has delineated a stridently progressive code of conduct, thus promising a risk free socialization, ultimately promotes a kind of restoration by building networks of support and mutual aid, concepts which is vital for the proletariat to survive under an increasingly hostile regime of accumulation. Although alienation can only be ameliorated under capitalism, and never eliminated, such spaces are a step in the right direction in terms of community organizing and organization building.

To pretend that the horrors of capitalism are the same for all persons of a certain class or socioeconomic factor, simply because of their inclusion as a free-waged laborer, is to resort to a base class reductionism that erases the histories of struggle which Persons of Color (PoC), Women, oppressed nationalities, and Queers face on a daily basis, a struggle which is more nuanced than an issue of simply class (in this sense, class reductionism is a form of identity politics in itself). Yes, it is true that class is the pivotal factor which must never be overlooked or lost sight of, but neither can it be trumpeted as the end-all identity which all should strive toward.

  1. Safe Places have always Existed

In one form or another, safe places have always existed. It is here that we encounter the safe places on the right-wing. For what are areas such as country clubs, exclusive neighborhoods, and economic summits, or even gendered codes of conduct (if we want to think in grand terms), if not a safe place for the reactionary elements of society? In a de-territorialized form, safe places can be seen as encompassing a vast array of locales which radically diverge from the clichéd image of a safe place, such as the image of it being nestled within a liberal arts university full of supposedly ‘oversensitive’ youth; to name a few additional– men’s clubs, racially specific (usually White) business clientele, gendered restrooms, etc. But since we are concerned in its territorialized incarnation, of those safe places specific to the oppressed, we can cite, just from revolutionary history, the existence of women’s self-defense brigades, Queer vigilante patrols, and anti-fascist militias all as examples of individuals creating safe spaces against the encroaching violence of reactionary safe places.

  1. Safe Places and the Revolution

Because of the definition in point ‘B,’ we can say that safe places are one in the same with pushing for a revolutionary rupture. In identifying safe places with realms of safety for minority and oppressed persons, the creation of safe places is identical with revolutionary struggle. In this sense, not all safe places should be respected; those areas of safety on the right-wing, for instance, which run the range from conferences, fairs, meetings, demonstrations and the like, should be targeted by the forces fighting for Left-wing safe places. Although somewhat abstracted as a conceptualization of safe spaces—where places are defined outside of the expected middle-class milieu– this macro-understanding is what will eventually be a reality, and so should be approached by revolutionaries as a serious facet of communist praxis; to understand safe spaces, that is, as a cornerstone of intersectionality which is irrevocably tied to revolutionary emancipation. Without doing so, the movement risks falling into class reductionist outlooks and right-wing deviations. In the short term present, however, the safe places of minorities and oppressed persons, in however delimited a form they appear, should be respected as possible nuclei of struggle; after all, during a revolutionary period, should those individuals associated with that safe space convert to an internationalist outlook, as they likely would, considering how the materiality of their interests would push them in that direction, especially, if their own members adhered to revolutionary theory, then the end-result would be a great influx of liberated areas and staging grounds for the continuation of the liberation struggle.

  1. Anti-Infiltration & Self-Determination

By this, I do not imply that safe spaces disavow counterrevolutionary elements from infiltrating the group. This would be absurd. Police and agents of the state will always infiltrate left-wing groups. To believe that any group is free of such agents is to endorse idealism. No, I mean that a safe space is an area where the minority and disenfranchised express their concerns without privileged Leftist saboteurs co-opting the purpose of the group for their own narrow end-game. The safe space is democratic insofar as it is the participants themselves who decide in what manner the group operates, whether it is merely a support group, an activist group, or Leftist cadre. Revolutionary elements which adhere to the safe space’s conceptualization may participate in the direction which the group drifts toward, but those elements which do not adhere, people who identify otherwise, will necessarily be pushed out since they lack the identity principals for which the place exists in the first instance. Such basic codes of conduct prevent the privileged, non-oppressed, elements from wrecking the purpose of the group and enable the downtrodden to exercise their right to associate without being pressured to automate according to some arm-chair revolutionary’s idea of praxis. It is important, especially in conjunction with point ‘C’ to understand that every space and possible realm of revolutionary struggle, but decide for themselves to enlist in the revolutionary movement, and not be coerced or guilt-tripped into it by middle-class dogmatists who view it as the responsibility of every super-exploited and oppressed person/group to join, or otherwise be at risk to be labeled a class collaborator, traitor, etc. When such middle-class dogmatists attempt to enforce such practice from above, they become agents of sabotage to the oppressed liberating themselves as they are forcing a mode of struggle which may not be compatible with the space’s idea of struggle, goals, or purpose.

  1. Anti-Safe Place as Disguised Conservatism

                More often than not, anti-safe place Leftists espouse a conservative ideology disguised as leftism. It is not hard to see this in practice; online, it is common to view memes which compare political correctness and preferred pronouns to fascism. In the real world, it manifests as an anti-Marxist a-historicism which devalues struggle outside of the class struggle (forgetting, in the process, that gender and sexual orientation are directly related to the economic base since capitalism as a mode of production directly relies on biological determinism and heterosexism to defend the nuclear family and the industrial reserve labor army). Often, these Leftists come from privilege (heteronormativity, cis-cum, White mythology, middle-class settlers, racial supremacists, etc.) and so they fail to see how letting the minority and oppressed to speak for themselves is of vital importance to the revolutionary movement. Such Leftists lack the history of struggle and (self-)education to understand how these oppressed histories diverge in forms of struggle from their own histories and in ways other than class; yes, class is shared and is ultimately of paramount importance, but to shut-down the lessons learned from these struggles outside of the purview of class—their victories and defeats, theory and practice—all out of a desire to elevate class to the highest pedestal, is to reproduce bourgeois supremacy; to repudiate revolutionary rupture and stitch together an elaborate mythos concerning class struggle as the only facet of the revolutionary struggle that matters, is to legitimate antiquated ideology: anti-feminism, cissexism, white supremacy, American exceptionalism can all be rehabilitated through the denial of non-class factors since it ignores the real legacies and experiences gleaned from engaging the bourgeoisie in circles of life specific to how the base and superstructure have become intertwined.

When a Leftist falls unwittingly to conservative ideology, it is easy to see. Think of a Men’s Rights Activist ranting against women’s shelters, of them screaming that it is a sign of matriarchal elitism for there to be shelters which cater exclusively to abused women. Now ask yourself this: how is a Leftist belittling the idea of safe places for Queers and racial minorities any different than our MRA? Both individuals see only the surface and ignore the material reality for why these places exist; just as a woman’s shelter exist because of systemized patriarchy, safe places for gay, trans gender, and non-white persons exist because of institutionalized heterosexism and white supremacy. For a Leftist to attack such a safe place is to coopt conservatism while splashing it with a red veneer.

Conclusion

Anti-safe place Leftist want a new conservatism. They want a socialism stripped of its emancipatory qualities and reduced to the class binary; where workers own the means of production, yet the quality of bourgeois civilization, of sexual and gender distinction, racial and ethnic difference, remain. Whether this is a desire that is unconscious or conscious is of little concern since their ideology reproduces the conditions of subjugation (it may be useful here in thinking of the Communist Party of Greece’s (KKE) recent homophobic co-habitation document argues for biological determinism concerning the gender spectrum[1]).

To end, all of these points are merely precursors to future content. In the future, I will be posting more content which deepens the issues raised here. For the time being, then, I hope these points raise some points of discussion and assist in helping people move beyond outdated and reactionary beliefs concerning safe spaces.

[1] http://inter.kke.gr/en/articles/On-The-Cohabitation-Agreement/

A Vague Epoch

There is a uncertainty within the imperialist center. To be accurate there are many uncertainties but if we wish to narrow these uncertainties down then we may say that the uncertainty we are dealing with concerns itself with revolutionaries; communist– theorist— revolutionaries to be exact. Unsurprisingly, this uncertainty is about theoretical uncertainty, of not knowing, of possessing a vague sense of how to navigate the waters, but being unable to know the way forward for sure. It is a conundrum.

I first noticed the deeper implications of this uncertainty as I was reading an exchange between M. Paul and Juarezjuan. It began, strictly speaking, with the birth of each, and escalated as polemics were issues: The latter published, on their own blog “The Rectification Rumpus Room“, a post attacking the “excremental thinking” of the former, by which the former responded to the latter by issuing his own defensive measure.

Now, I am not implying by any means that the exchange of polemics is a bad thing. Not at all. I have my own contribution towards revolutionary theory which, though not without significant issues, I stand by as a measure of contribution towards a debate. It is important to critique and expand upon what we know since otherwise we will never learn (obviously).

However, my issue here is not so much as the theory as it is the stance– of some– who claim a monopoly on theory when despite acknowledging what was the central issue between M. Paul and Juarezjuan, that we live in a vague epoch; one where due to the specific cultural and material realities of living in an advanced imperialist country, there are certain organizing contradictions which pop up as a result. These contradictions are, namely, that the practical application of theory to reality which, in turn, demonstrates the practicality of that theory in relation to resolving contradictions (whether they be among the people or within the party/organization). Contradictions which inhibit the recruitment of members, establishment of cells and branches and educational groups, as well as the launching of campaigns (both military and civilian in nature) against the bourgeois dictatorship (in whatever form or cultural sector it may manifest).

Such contradictions are inter-penetrative in nature, so they are hard to pin down. They deal with culture, perception of the past, ideology and propaganda, and class and social position. They “trickle down” to the proletariat creating a haze of false consciousness, within the “enlightened” revolutionist, however, they manage to manifest as well, only not as false consciousness but as a rigid refusal to admit the limits of theory parallel to material reality; hence, a discussion concerning the lack of a particular theory’s application in a situation, the perversion of a theory, the impracticality of theory, how a theory is revisionist or revolutionary, the degradation of theory (how it has since lost meaning in relation to a time in the past), and how a theory could evolve in the future under certain conditions.

At the end of the day this is what our current efforts have amounted to: wanderings among the historic masses in a fog of confusion, wondering how to proceed forward when we can barely find our feet. No one denies there is a vagueness in our direction: the dogmatic admit to difficulty in organizing due to confusion among the masses as well as difficulty in dispelling such difficulty, while those of us in the regroupment wing openly admit to not knowing what is to be believed (as Mike Ely once commented on a post of mine), or my own uncertainties concerning a practical approach to revolution. No one intended for such disarray to overtake our organizing but the point it that it has. And the goal should be to join and surmount the chaos and confusion.

Obviously not all would agree with my findings as they are presented but they exist, and ultimately exist along with these exchanges, because no one knows the route to socialism; the signpost got hijacked! The red-nosed theory leading the way on comrade Santa’s sleigh is missing, mired somewhere in a sinkpit, while the effort to rescue theory takes place as several teams competing among each other for the scarce amount of resources they have in order to build several different rescue tools. It is a lose-lose situation, one which due to the contradictions of imperialist civilization, even those “enlightened” have a severe inability to even practically cooperate (applying theory of the past towards the resolution of contradictions within the party) with each other (as exemplified by the New Communist Party split).

This is more than slightly ironic since both regroupment and dogmatists call for a “drawing in” of revolutionary organizations to form a sort of whole, pole, party, ad nausem.

Some Remarks on “This Vision is not just a Dream”

Some time ago The Kasama Project published a new statement entitled “This Vision is not just a Dream“. It is, in every conception, what one usually expects when reading about an organization: they have their beliefs all summarized and in a polemical manner. In terms of Leftist milieu it is conventional, but, short and sweet at the same time. Not meant to be a protracted platform, this short post will tell you all you need to about Kasama. However, what it won’t tell you should be expounded upon.

I have always thought Kasama to be a great organization and it still is: there remains within it the promise of developing a original, hope-holding strategy for organizing the masses of the imperialist centers. In many ways this is a strength of Kasama– that while many organizations are caught in unrealistic dogma or romanticize revolutionary struggle and theory, Kasama remains practical and level-headed. Even so, however, there are some quips which should be said. Things which, while basic, need be spoken in order to fully understand Kasama’s nature.

Here is a brief summery:

(1) Lack of progress; and (2) lack of theory.

Each of those are the drawbacks to the Kasama Project. Now, it needs to be said that both of these drawbacks are not for lack of effort, nor because there is a lack of theoretical discussion; Kasama does have collectives in addition to being modestly known in the international revolutionary community (as seen through their participation in Nepal). The website is able to raise the funds it needs without going for want and is able to fend off reactionary hacker rather well, but, for all of this there is very little to show for it on the political scene.

The collectives websites are irregularly updated, outside of some journalistic adventures Kasama is still mostly known as the RCP-USA splinter cell whose internal organization may, or may not be, different from their Cult-father (it is different, by the way). This is in addition to what I view as the more worrying aspect: no stern theory has been seen.

Kasama is constituted from various tendencies. Some are Trotskyists, others Anarchist, but many are Maoists or those new to the Left. As one can imagine there is a great deal of debate regarding subjects of a varied nature. For a project that has been founded on exactly this premise, however, and one which has been going for a number of years, there is a lack of tangible pay-off. I do not mean to imply that Kasama should have a manifesto concretely outlining a theoretical program which should, in turn, be rigidly stuck to; that would be killing the point. No. I imply otherwise: that for a regroupment project basing its self in building new modes of communist organization, there is almost a ineligible net-result.

Certainly not all is to be blamed on Kasama. North America (United States) is a place where, yes, struggles and injustices transpire, but one which, paradoxically, due to some of the most brutal class and ideological warfare in history, have reduced (dramatically) the potential for revolutionaries to practice and subsequently gain from the disturbances and periods of decay. An event comes only to be quickly resolved by the bourgeois state: the aftereffects remain but the period which it may be used to further the construction of organizations and theory passes by like a ship in the night. Even so, it is not at all impossible to build something with the material conditions one has at their disposal. Collectives, yes, theory… not so much.

One may say that Kasama’s theory is rooted in their collectives. To an extent this is true: the collectives do display a theoretical tinge which is not evident in similar sects of the same flavor. That being said, however, most of this originality is merely the surface gleam. On the inside the collectives tend to possess the same filler as is to be expected from the inspired tendencies. This is to say that most of Kasama is still composed of the theory of old. Many critiques have come from Kasama, including several of my own, and questions of organization and theory have come under fire which would not have otherwise been investigated; plus, Kasama has been able to offer itself as part of that anti-dogmatic alternative which still struggles to gain a foothold within the Maoist movement. But–again–despite all this there still is no firm concept of what should be done in terms of organization and theory.

Vague points exist. Theoretical screws and gears which are accepted as part of a basic orientation but not connected to a wider machine. Though this “wider machine” does not have to yet exist, and indeed, the frenzied search for building such a machine can result in a plethora of ill-fated positions and assumptions, it is my feeling that there should just be a bit more in terms of new, solid theoretical showings.

It is not my intend to deride what is by its nature a protracted process made even more onerous by the conditions one has to work with. However, it is my intent to say that something more needs to happen. Admittedly, I do not know that that more is: it could be many different things. I do not claim to know all the secrets of the universe, or even of Kasama, but I do know that a more focused effort should be made regarding the development and practical application of theory; how to do this, however, is the prime question.