Armed with a Pen

Views from a worker and student

Category: Opinion

It’s Time to Ditch the Leninist Aesthetic

Nothing screams “communism” more than Cyrillic letters and a strong Russian jaw. At least, that’s what comes to mind when one imagines the communist brand. Socialist realism, the iconic style of Soviet propaganda, is an enduring staple of the communist aesthetic and has and continues to inspire countless artists. But the thing about art is: it has its time. For socialist realism and the Leninist aesthetic, that time is not 2018.

In Russia’s Shadow

In late December, 1991, decrepit Soviet revisionism finally collapsed, taking the first socialist state with it. This, the fall of the Eastern Bloc, and the resultant crisis in or liberalization of what remained of the world socialist camp was undoubtedly the greatest moral defeat ever dealt to communism as an ideology. How could the very nation founded by Lenin, the international vanguard of the proletariat, fall? This is a question which still haunts communists and indeed every class of toilers to this very day.

The fall of the Soviet Union, in the eyes of the world, was the fall of communism. And while communists have attempted to explain away or distance themselves from the Soviet Union, she and communism are forever intertwined. Thus, it was 1989 when Francis Fukuyama, a State Department propagandist, began experimenting with “the end of history.” Something he finally declared in 1992 in his The End of History and the Last Man.

The triumph of the West, of the Western idea, is evident … in the total exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to Western liberalism.

– Francis Fukuyama

Nonsense, cries any half-wit honestly looking at the state of Western liberalism. But, as an other half-wit can see, honest looks are in short supply. This “end of history” narrative, teamed of course with over a century of anti-communist propaganda, stains any conversation about a post-capitalist world. It’s difficult enough even to get certain self-proclaimed socialists to discuss the abolition of private property, let alone dialectical and historical materialism. Why is this?

For starters, scientific socialism has long been entombed in the inaccessible works of dry academics and the self insulating book clubs that read them. New developments are all but unknown and few can even name a Marxist that isn’t Marx himself. Some have tried to change this. But how many are still using sixty year old agitprop?

It’s no wonder the liberals and charlatans are cashing on the word “socialism.” We sure as hell weren’t using it for anything!

The communist brand has been ignored. A travesty! At every opportunity to advance the proletarian movement, Western communists were too busy rehashing old arguments and venerating the dead to wage a relevant struggle.

As is, we still have to prove to people that communism is relevant. Trying to bring back the Soviet Union isn’t helping. We’re on the defensive, fighting just to be heard. Why shouldn’t we at least look good while doing it? It’s time to start caring about our image. Communism desperately needs to rebrand.

Don’t be a nerd

I hate to say it but very few people like Stalin or Mao. Fewer still are gonna vibe with anything involving North Korea. We need to get it through our heads that the anti-communist orthodoxy is stronger than we think. It might not be a good idea to make our most demonized figures the faces of our movement.

Now this does not mean we have to demonize them too. The self-flagellating pseudo-leftists like those at Jacobin who spend more time criticizing socialism than advocating for it are actively harmful to our movement. But should we really make our job harder than it has to be for nostalgia’s sake? Of course not.

We need to understand that how we look and act is a reflection of our cause. If our art is old, we’re old. If our style is irrelevant, we’re irrelevant. This clinging to old icons shows an unwillingness not only to move forward but also to actually serve the people.

The nostalgist is self-serving. They put their own preferences above mass work. It’s not that their jargon and niche historical aesthetic is off putting, it’s the proletariat that’s wrong. You can talk history all you want, if it doesn’t resonate with and inspire the working class, then it’s as good as any piece of bourgeois decadence.

The nostalgists need to realize that their aesthetic is for themselves. And that’s fine. Everyone needs a hobby. But art history is of little importance to the working class and its conquest of power. If you really want to just recreate the experiments of old, what you need is a time machine, not a revolution.

The Leninist aesthetic, in addition to be completely anachronistic, has been parodied so many times it’s all but useless now. No one takes it seriously except other communists. We need to make something new, something with mass appeal, something that isn’t the butt of a joke.

Just make it stop…

Don’t be edgy

Lifestylism, something expounded upon by the anarchist Murray Bookchin, is a problem not only for anarchy but for the entire spectrum of left politics. Communism necessarily means opposition to the status quo, support for the powers to come and not the powers that be. Anti-communism necessarily means just the opposite. For this reason, communism, like anarchy, is extremely attractive to the edgy-on-purpose contrarian. These types have no interest in actually doing anything productive or even reading theory, they just want to be cool.

Misinformed, childish, and destined to just become liberals later on, lifestylists make us all look bad. I know I certainly get secondhand embarrassment when I see lanky teenagers in Che Guevara t-shirts posing with their fists raised. It may be something the lifestylists get to look back on and laugh at, but for anyone actually trying to get educated and organize, it’s a stereotype you do not want to be associated it.

The old propaganda attracts the wrong kind of people. The last thing we need is more losers playing revolutionary. They’re only going to make us look bad and repel any serious people who might otherwise be ripe for radicalization.

Don’t be reactionary

There is one other person still holding onto the old look. But where the nostalgist and even the lifestylist mean well, this one is much more insidious. These are the dogmatists and defeatists who fetishize not only the old industrial proletariat but also the regrettable conservative attitudes of those long dead communists.

Pale faced Europeans in heteronormative scenes of production have the same appeal to reactionary “Marxists” as Rockwellian nostalgia has to the Make America Great Again crowd. They vary between simple disdain for identity politics and “social justice warriors” to outright bigotry, but it’s all the same in the end. Their hundred year old aesthetic has aged about as well as their politics.

These reactionaries have a narrow minded, romanticized, and inaccurate image of the working class. Anything that differs from this, such as reality, is disregarded. Anyone who points out their reactionary character is labelled a liberal. These are by far the worst and most harmful of those archaic communists.

Among these we often find Hoxhaists or third-worldists with nothing to offer anyone. Their dogmatism is a barely distinguishable from liberal respectability politics. They consider anyone not working with actual hammers and sickles to be petty-bourgeois and will frequently go off on some tirade blasting feminism, racial equality, or queer liberation, misquoting actual revolutionaries, completely unaware of how ridiculous they look. Unsurprisingly, they don’t realize how ridiculous the ushanka or the old Chairman Mao suit looks either.

Sorry guys, some white kid said identity politics were liberal and divisive.

We are neither Bolsheviks nor Red Guards. We are not twentieth century factory workers or Asiatic peasants. Our faces aren’t black with soot and our children aren’t sweeping chimneys. We are the tired, disillusioned peons of the twenty first century. We toil with smart phones in our pockets and caffeine in our blood. Some of us are not white, straight, cisgendered, or able bodied and, if history has taught us anything, the best of us will be none of those. The dogmatists and defeatists would deny our very proletarian character; but we own no more than those who stormed the Winter Palace or beat, killed, and threw their landlords out into the streets of Hunan and we’re no less angry.

Get with the times

If a picture really is worth a thousand words, we’ve been talking a lot of shit. Socialist realism and the Leninist aesthetic served the proletariat well during the heyday of the Cold War when it seemed anything was possible. But just as Soviet revisionism has been relegated to history, so must the old style of art. Neither our art nor our movement can advance if we’re stuck in the past. We need a fresh look that resonates with the popular masses, a real alternative to both liberal respectability politics and the impotency of the nostalgists and the contrarians.

The end of history is not here; but neither is Lenin. It’s just us, the enemy, and the present. We accept this or we die.

Liberalism, Race, and the Rise of Trump

Most in the US attribute Trump’s 2016 election to one of two reasons: economic anxiety or racism. Either analysis however is incomplete. It would seem that conservatives and liberals alike, both so entrenched in their own right-wing worldviews, retreat into the comfortable shade of ideology before any meaningful conclusion can be arrived at. Thinkers on all sides of the mainstream political spectrum have touched upon the truth of the matter but, having reached the absolute limits of their ideology, immediately pull back, writhing in agony like a man having touched a sore wound.

Two Forms of One Ideology

The conservatives which seeks to erase the obvious racism of Trump, his administration, and his supporters are the most shameless, brazen, and arrogant of ideologues. The bad faith which has come to so characterize the conservative faction is never more displayed than when the Bill O’Reilly’s and Ben Shapiro’s come out to defend white supremacy. Adept dog-whistlers, they babble on endlessly about criminality and welfare queendom, making careful efforts to avoid using the n-word (usually by substituting it with “thug” or something similar). More often than not their “debates” consist of logical and rhetorical fallacies shouted over an increasingly frustrated opponent who somehow never gets a word in. Of course, this is intentional. Few of their claims stand up to the facts, even fewer to history.

That being said, they are damn good at what they do. No finer ideologues have ever existed than those conservative pundits under Obama and Trump. Their dedication to ideology is matched only perhaps by their liberal counterparts.

Whereas the conservative ideologue is essentially a snake oil salesman, deep down aware of their absurdity or at least their dishonesty, the liberal ideologue has a childlike naivety that could actually be endearing in another time. The liberal ideologue attempts to make sense of a fluid world with “woke” pseudoscience and an unwavering righteousness that fails to recognize its own ideological constraints. Nothing can be understood through the liberal lens precisely because it is so riddled with ideology. The ABC thinkers–that is Anything But Class as the Marxist Michael Parenti calls them–fail to note even the most obvious economic relations inherent to racism. They relegate the realities of racism to moral failings in much the same way early human tribes described the sun as a god. Having no science available to them, they created comforting narratives to explain the things that scare them. The difference is that the tribes were afraid of being eaten and did eventually figure out the sun was a star. Liberals, on the other hand, are afraid of being called out on their privilege and have not yet developed even the rudiments of a scientific world outlook.

What they end up with is highfalutin and admittedly very well written opinion pieces that contain nothing in the way of substance. They grasp at eclectic theories and pseudoscience, unable to create anything coherent. But that’s exactly what makes a liberal a liberal. Liberalism can be characterized precisely by its lack of science, its idealism. Ignoring the material realities of class, it latches onto the most superficial elements of a given issue. This is especially the case with racism.

Liberalism, of course, is the ideology of both conservatives and liberals. It’s so intricately woven into the fabric of mainstream political discourse that it’s effectively invisible. Class becomes a nonissue as the focus is shifted onto liberal identity politics uprooted from any material base in substance but maintaining the existing economic relations in practice. The conclusions may differ ever so slightly but the exact same methods were employed to get there and the result is the same: class is ignored and whites continue to benefit from the exploitation of black people.

In the middle of all this is the precariously situated centrist, the social liberal, fiscal conservative. All this means is they’re a liberal when times are good and a conservative when they aren’t. When push comes to shove, the centrist moves further right. They don’t like divisiveness though, it’s uncomfortable, and so they too entertain the idea of “post-racial America.” Centrists are often the most vocal on this.

Obama, Trump, and Post-Racial America

It is only once one has become so thoroughly diluted as to consider their ideology common sense, as nonideological that the question of “post-racial America” can be asked. Is the US post-racial? Of course not! The question isn’t even worth asking, the answer is so obvious.

Yet liberals, that is liberals, conservatives, and centrists, all saw evidence of this in the election of Barack Obama. A black man in the highest office in the country obviously changes none of the actual economic relations which keep black people impoverished and disenfranchised, which necessitate racism. Did Obama stop the plundering of Latin America, Asia, and Africa? No. Did Obama not detain and deport millions of innocent people? No. Did Obama not support Blue Lives Matter over Black Lives Matter? No. Did Obama even attempt to create a healthcare system which put people over profit? No. He moved to phase out federal private prisons, yes, and he blocked the Keystone XL pipeline, yes, but only in the final half of 2016. It took him a full seven and a half years to do this? Really?

Both moves, by the way, he so clearly knew would either be reversed by Trump immediately upon entering office (which they were) or would sweep the issues under the rug, giving Clinton room to reverse them without provoking much backlash. Is that a speculative claim? Sure. But nothing else in his presidency was in line with either of these. Obama had never disempowering corporations, he worked with them. Just look at his support for fracking, for example. Indeed, his and Trump’s policies are more aligned than they are opposed.

So why are liberals so horrified by Trump? In a purely logical world, they’d support him about as much as they supported Obama. But liberals, and again I mean both liberals and conservatives and even centrists, do not exist in a logical world. Obama was black and that in of itself was supposed to change things. For liberals, it was the end of racism. For conservatives, it was the intensification of racism against whites. For both, it was an opportunity to advance the cause of white supremacy, either by covering it up completely or justifying its active advance.

So why’d Trump win?

It is correct to say that people voted for Trump due to economic anxiety; but one must first recognize the racial lines these economic issues fall upon. Conservatives and centrists were vindicated by Trump. Here was their man, the staunch defender of white interests. McCain was their white man, Romney too, but neither were as vocal about it. Neither made it their cornerstone. None could sweep on this alone like Trump did. The issue was economic. The economic relations have long been racialized. So, economic anxiety caused by racism which is the result of the exploitation of black people for the benefit of whites is what caused people to vote for Trump.

It was both racism and economic anxiety. The two are linked. One cannot exist without the other.

Conservatives and centrists want to deny the racial element and liberals want to deny the economic element, either by ignoring the class struggle completely or putting the obviously secondary identity struggles on par with it. By doing so, all obfuscate the issue so much that they can continue to benefit from class and race exploitation in peace, dealing only with what are effectively nonissues.

Worse than that, all opposition to the bourgeoisie, to capitalism, is cast aside. Conservatives throw themselves to the feet of the bourgeoisie, begging, “Please, slash my wages, bust my union, divide my class, I’ll do anything to stay white!” Liberals, a bit less afraid of change, approach the bourgeoisie and demand, “Let the exploiters be as diverse as the exploited!” As for the centrists? They all pick a side eventually. Thus, the class interests of the bourgeoisie and the racial interests of all whites find protection, insulated by the inescapability of liberal ideology.

Mao on Maoism: The Dialectical Case for Mao Zedong Thought

Maoism has been around, at least in name, since the mid-1940s. Numerous attempts were made to elevate Mao Zedong Thought to the level of an “-ism,” much to Mao’s displeasure. In 1948, in a correspondence with Wu Yuzhang, then president of North China University, he refused to allow his name to be listed alongside Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin, writing, “there is no Maoism”.  In 1955, at a conference, again it was suggested that Mao Zedong Thought be elevated to Maoism. Mao replied simply, “Marxism-Leninism is the trunk of the tree; I am just a twig.” This was not mere modesty, this was dialectical.

What’s in a name?

To uphold Maoism is to hold the theory and practice of Mao Zedong as a new, higher stage of development in socialist science. Historian Hu Angang described this Maoist tendency as a precursor to the cult of personality which would emerge around Mao in the events of and leading up to the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. In the decades following Mao’s death, however, Maoism was given the proper scientific treatment and thoroughly systematized. The exemplar of this and the ideological predecessor to most Maoist parties today was the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement [RIM]. The publishing of their declaration, Long Live Marxism-Leninism-Maoism!, is considered by many to be the moment when Maoism was crystallized as a theory, taking in the experience not just of the Communist Party of China, but other parties such as the Communist Party of Peru, the first to lead a revolution using Marxist-Leninist-Maoist theory.

In order to examine Maoism as an -ism, we must first understand the theoretical and practical “ruptures” that supposedly make Maoism a higher stage. I will now quote Long Live Marxism-Leninism-Maoism! at length.

Mao Zedong developed Marxism-Leninism to a new and higher stage in the course of his many decades of leading the Chinese Revolution, the world-wide struggle against modern revisionism, and, most importantly, in finding in theory and practice the method of continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat to prevent the restoration of capitalism and continue the advance toward communism.

Mao Zedong comprehensively developed the military science of the proletariat through his theory and practice of People’s War.

Mao solved the problem of how to make revolution in a country dominated by imperialism. … This means protracted People’s War.

Mao Zedong greatly developed the proletarian philosophy, dialectical materialism. In particular, he stressed that the law of contradiction, the unity and struggle of opposites, is the fundamental law governing nature and society. He pointed out that the unity and identity of all things is temporary and relative, while the struggle between opposites is ceaseless and absolute, and this gives rise to radical ruptures and revolutionary leaps. He masterfully applied this understanding to the analysis of the relationship between theory and practice, stressing that practice is both the sole source and ultimate criterion of the truth and emphasizing the leap from theory to revolutionary practice.

Mao Zedong further developed the understanding that the “people and the people alone are the motive force in the making of world history.” He developed the understanding of the mass line.

Mao taught that the Party must play the vanguard role – before, during, and after the seizure of power … He developed the understanding of how to preserve the proletarian revolutionary character of the Party through waging an active ideological struggle against bourgeois and petit bourgeois influences in its ranks.

In short, according to the RIM, Maoism teaches that: 1) socialism is class society and so class struggle and the revolution continue under the dictatorship of the proletariat; 2) People’s War is a universally applicable strategy and necessary for the success of the revolution; 3) the party must follow the mass line method of leadership and become a mass party; 4) the struggle against revisionism will take place within the party. Setting aside for now the question of the correctness or incorrectness of these theories, it must first be asked: why did Mao insist that “there is no Maoism,” that Mao Zedong Thought was “just a twig” on the tree of Marxism-Leninism? Because nothing truly new is created in Mao Zedong Thought, there is no rupture.

Refinement

The theories themselves were not yet elaborated when Mao began formulating them, of course, but the foundation was already inherent in Marxism-Leninism. Mao’s theories arose not as a result of any new developments in the objective conditions of the world and their subsequent analysis, but rather from the application of Marxism-Leninism to the objective conditions of semi-feudalism in general and Chinese semi-feudalism, semi-colonialism in particular.

Mao’s theories are also anti-revisionist, criticizing both the revisionist strains within the Communist Party of China and, later, the Khrushchevite revisionism of the Soviet Union. He writes:

It does happen that the original ideas, theories, plans, or programmes fail to correspond with reality either in whole or in part and are wholly or partially incorrect. In many instances, failures must be repeated many times before errors can be corrected and correspondence with the laws of the objective process achieved … when that point is reached, the movement of human knowledge regarding a certain objective process at a certain stage of its development may be considered completed.

It often happens, however, that thinking lags behind reality; this is because man’s cognition is limited by numerous social conditions. We are opposed to die-hards in the revolutionary ranks whose thinking fails to advance with changing objective circumstance and has manifested itself historically as Right opportunism.

We are also opposed to “Left” phrase-mongering. The thinking of “Leftists” outstrips a given stage of development of the objective process; some regard their fantasies as truth, while others strain to realize in the present what can only be realized in the future.

In Mao Zedong Thought we find not new developments but new refinements and applications of existing theories. His elaboration on the dialectical materialist conception of knowledge is not new in anyway. He is pulling entirely from Marx, Engels, and Lenin before him. Though the RIM credits Mao with these theories, it is Mao himself who points out in On Contradiction that Lenin was the one who long ago defined dialectics as “the study of contradiction in the very essence of objects,” and referred to the law of the unity of opposites as the “kernel” of dialectics. Moreover, we can find everything from the Two World Outlooks to the law of the transformation of quantity into quality just in Engels’ Dialectics of Nature.

Any serious study of Marxism could’ve concluded the same things. No new developments gave rise to Mao’s contributions. He is more than anything taking Stalin’s advice and reiterating the “so-called “generally-known” truths” of Marxism, so as to “educate [these comrades] in Marxism-Leninism.” Thus, Mao’s theories are rightfully considered an anti-revisionist thought, not an -ism.

Quality and Quantity

Mao examines the dialectical materialist conception of knowledge in On Practice, explaining that all rational knowledge and correct thinking is resultant first on direct experience and perception, then on cognition. “Rational knowledge depends upon perceptual knowledge and perceptual knowledge remains to be developed into rational knowledge.” Before any concept can be synthesized, there must be the perceptually knowledge of the objective world. And once there are conceptions, they must be tested, for “It is only when the data of perception are very rich (not fragmentary) and correspond to reality (are not illusory) that they can be the basis for forming correct concepts and theories.” In doing so, he elucidates also the law of the transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa, wherein a quantitative change leads to a qualitative change.

He touches upon the proof of this law in the historical development of Marxism in On Contradiction, noting that “As the social economy of many European countries advanced to the stage of highly developed capitalism, as the forces of production, the class struggle, and the science developed to a level unprecedented in history, and as the industrial proletariat became the greatest motive force in historical development, there arose the Marxist world outlook of materialist dialectics.” He expands on this further in On Practice:

Marxism could be the product only of capitalist society. Marx, in the era of laissez-faire capitalism, could not concretely know certain laws peculiar to the era of imperialism … because imperialism had not yet emerged. … only Lenin and Stalin could understand this task. … the reason why Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin could work out their theories was mainly that they personally took part in the practice of the class struggle and the scientific experimentation of their time.

By “their time,” what is meant is the objective conditions of the world at the time they were studying. Both Marx and Engels and Lenin and Stalin made legitimate theoretical ruptures because they had begun analyzing an entirely new period.

In Marx and Engels’ time, a scientific, dialectical materialist conception did not yet exist, nor had a dialectical materialist analysis of capitalism been undertaken. The closest to these at the time was Hegel’s idealism and the bourgeois mechanical materialism of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. By the mid-nineteenth century, however, with the industrial revolution having come to a close, great industrial factories and mills had been erected employing armies of proletarians. Small artisanal producers had finally been banished and so went with them many of the last ideological and economic vestiges of feudalism in Western and Central Europe. New objective conditions arose which the ideology of the previous centuries was unable to comprehend and which necessitated a new theoretical rupture. “No genius could have succeeded,” Mao writes, “lacking this condition.” Their theoretical rupture, the crystallization of dialectical and historical materialism, was only made possible due to the fact that Marx and Engels were studying capitalism in the era of capitalism, science in the scientific age.

But Marx and Engels, in their time, studied a different kind of capitalism than Lenin and Stalin practiced in. In Lenin and Stalin’s time, imperialism had emerged and capitalism was qualitatively transformed; thus, a new theoretical rupture in continuity with the Marxism of Marx and Engels was needed to make dialectical materialism correspond again with the objective laws of the new stage. We must note that imperialism emerged in accordance to the law of the transformation of quantity into quality. Capitalism underwent a quantitative change with the increase in the concentration of production which resulted in the rise of finance capital, a qualitative change. (Hence why the first thirty or so pages of Imperialism are just statistics, i.e. quantities.) And so it is accurate to declare that Leninism emerged in and from the era of imperialism and that it is a rupture in continuity with Marxism because it brought Marxism back into accordance with the objective laws of the new imperialist stage of capitalism.

The Maoist J. Moufawad-Paul, however, rails against this in his Continuity and Rupture, calling Mao’s conclusion “pseudo-science” (though he does not credit Mao for this conclusion and instead gives credit to the New Communist Movement). He writes:

The fact that old “Maoism” could not think beyond its Marxist-Leninist limits was demonstrated in the clichéd formula that Leninism was “the Marxism of the imperialist era”. Such a formula … was ultimately unscientific.

The first problem with this formulation is that it is an impoverishment of Leninism. … Leninism thus becomes a phenomenon that is important because of a time … not because of the theorizations it has produced regarding this time. The formulation … explains nothing of itself by a reduction to the unscientific notion of a zeitgeist.

The second problem … is that it fails to recognize that imperialism existed prior to Lenin and that the Marxism of Marx and Engels was also a “Marxism of the imperialist era” but, clearly, a different era of imperialism.

In this sense, Maoism could be called the communism of the socialist era.

It seems Moufawad-Paul has completely forgotten the law of the transformation of quantity into quality. If not, then he has knowingly destroyed his argument in the very sentence with which he makes it.

He notes that imperialism did exist beforehand but admits that it existed in another form. “Of course,” he writes, “Lenin’s discussion of imperialism is an examination of an imperialism transformed by capitalism,” i.e. imperialism which had undergone a qualitative transformation since Marx and Engels’ time. By acknowledging this and yet still denying the start of an imperialist era distinct from the time of Marx and Engels, he has thrown the law of the transformation of quantity into quality to the wind.

We see this again when he declares that: “socialist revolutions alter the meaning of global imperialism.” Indeed this is true, but, to date, socialist revolutions have only ever altered imperialism quantitatively. A few liberated nations or independent blocs have not changed in any qualitative way the nature or function of capitalist imperialism. It is clear that we are very much still in the same era as Lenin and so there have not yet been grounds for a new theoretical rupture. All analyses since Lenin and Stalin up to this point have only ever operated within the framework of Leninism and within the objective conditions of imperialism.

Moreover, Moufawad-Paul, despite denying actually existing socialism (and thus bringing to a swift end the era of socialism), says that Maoism can be considered in a sense a product of “the socialist era.” When, I must ask, was this socialist era? If it emerged with the first socialist state then did not Lenin and Stalin practice under the socialist era as well? Are not their theoretical and practical developments operating in the era of socialism? If that is the case, then The Foundations of Leninism it can be said serves to crystallize Marxism-Leninism both as the Marxism of the imperialist era and the socialist era. And it must be according the dialectic of continuity and rupture.

Again, it must also be noted that Mao made no theoretical ruptures in the Marxist understanding of socialism, since Lenin and Stalin had long since understood socialism as class society. For example, in State and Revolution, Lenin states: “The proletariat needs state power both for the purpose of crushing the resistance of the exploiters and for the purpose of guiding the great mass of the population-the peasantry, the petty-bourgeoisie, the semi-proletarians-in the work of organizing a socialist economy. By educating a workers’ party, Marxism educates the vanguard of the proletariat, … capable of leading the whole people [Lenin’s italics] to socialism, of directing and organizing the new order.” Thus we see his conception of Maoism as a theoretical rupture crumble before the vast theorizations of Lenin and Stalin, especially during their time leading the October Revolution down the path of socialist development.

Lenin’s understanding of the state again highlights the failure of Maoists to retain and understand the law of the transformation of quantity into quality. For, as the state changes qualitatively from a bourgeois dictatorship to a proletarian dictatorship, the foundation of all bourgeois ideology is gradually pulled out from under it, first with one great tug (revolution) and then gradually with the eventual disappearance of capitalist production altogether and its replacement by socialist production. By understanding this, as well as, as Stalin puts it, that “the history of the development of society is above all the history of the development of production,” we come to realize that continuing the revolution during the dictatorship of the proletariat is entirely unnecessary.

Did the bourgeoisie continue the revolution against feudalism after they’d already emerged victorious? No. Feudalism suffered its great defeat at the hands of the young capitalists and was eventually relegated to history by the inevitable development of capitalism. The presence of feudal classes under capitalism forms a contradiction but it is not an antagonistic contradiction. “Difference itself is contradiction.” says Mao. “The question is of different kinds of contradiction, not of the presence or absence of contradiction. … unlike the contradiction between labor and capital, it will not become intensified into antagonism or assume the form of class struggle.”

As socialist development goes forward, the small quantity of bourgeois producers will be reduced, just as the feudal lords were, to impotency and finally death, taking whatever’s left of the bourgeois ideological superstructure with them. By the diminution of their numbers and economic output, they will have been qualitatively transformed into a class without intense, antagonistic opposition to the proletariat. The same applies even more so to the peasantry and the semi-proletarians.

Maoists like Moufawad-Paul insist, against Stalin’s warnings, that the party of the proletariat must be a mass party in order to eliminate prejudice. What they do not grasp is that, as prejudice is a product of capitalism, it too will be gradually destroyed simply because it is incompatible with the new socialist system. Moufawad-Paul is correct to say, “Class is always clothed in the garments of oppression” and that “there is never an instance of purely abstract class struggle that is stripped from its ideological trappings,” but he is wrong to say that since “Capitalism has never been a pure mode of production” (Louis Althusser’s revisionist assertion) the “final instance” of capitalism’s lingering effects on the ideological superstructure “never arrives,” that bourgeois ideology will not or cannot eventually wither away.

Moufawad-Paul uses capitalism’s few remnants of feudal ideology to demonstrate the lasting effects of class hegemony on ideology but fails, again, to see the qualitative transformations which have taken place. The remaining ideological trappings of feudalism have survived only because they’ve served the interests of the now ascendant bourgeoisie. Even then, it has long been noted that all tradition and ideology has fallen before the hunt for profit.

It must be asked, what is the usefulness of prejudice, of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc., to the proletariat? The proletariat does not have its very class survival vested in the exploitation of another class and thus has no need for ideological justifications for oppression and exploitation. What reactionary attitudes we will surely see survive the revolution will just as surely die off as the economic base for such reactionary thinking disintegrates. To deny this is to deny the very possibility of communism.

All the Wrong Lessons

The last thing which must be addressed is Maoism’s claims of universality and necessity. It is clear that the mass line method of leadership and People’s War are very useful. But the simple fact that revolutions have succeeded in the same objection conditions as the Chinese Revolution (the age of imperialism and socialism) without employing these methods and strategies proves that they are not prerequisites for revolution.

This makes Maoism distinct from similar strains of thought. Mao Zedong Thought, the ideological parent of Maoism, is not in of itself all that unique. Strains like Fidelismo and Ho Chi Minh Thought exist and have proven just as successful as Mao’s theories have, if not moreso. Why then are there no “Ho-ists”? Where are the great international movements upholding “Castroism” as the third stage of Marxist science? What makes the Maoist phenomenon different? The difference is that Chinese ultra-leftism arose in opposition to Soviet opportunism and grafted itself onto the world communist movement due to the significance of the Sino-Soviet split (much in the same way Trotskyism forever left its mark not due to its success in practice but to Trotsky’s expulsion from the Party and the rise and fall of the Fourth International).

Like Trotskyists, Maoists have learned all the wrong lessons from the historical experience of Mao Zedong Thought. They have been blinded by Mao’s criticism of the Soviet Union and so they dogmatically cling to an outdated post-split mindset. Mao was correct to oppose Khrushchevite revisionism, but his Three Worlds theory was incorrect and he was horribly wrong to support CIA stooges, butchers, and anti-communists across the world for no other reason than to oppose the Soviet Union. The modern belief in the “degeneration” of all actually existing socialist states, Soviet “social imperialism,” and, for some, the descent into defeatist third-worldism all bare the scar of a post-split defensiveness.

This sectarian and ultra-leftist tendency manifested itself clearly in the cult of personality which formed around Mao and survives today in the belief in Chinese “imperialism” and “capitalist restoration.” This is illustrated even further in the sectarianism and wrecker activity of so many Western Red Guard organizations. But by far the worst of Maoism was demonstrated in the extreme dogmatism and cultishness of the Communist Party of Peru who lit their Shining Path with the flames of the Cuban, Soviet, and Chinese embassies they destroyed in pointless terror attacks.

The sad part is that Mao saw it coming. He fought against every attempt to elevate Mao Zedong Thought to Maoism or to his literal thoughts. He prohibited the naming of streets and buildings in his honor, rejected idolization, and encouraged criticism of himself and his policies at all levels of Party and governmental work.

“Men are not sages,” he said. “Even saints make mistakes.” As with all things, we must look critically at Mao’s successes and failures just as he encouraged for most of his life. We must reject what is wrong and chase what is right. We must be objective. We must reject all dogmatism and cultishness. We must reject Maoism as Mao himself did.

I’m Callin’ It Now — Trump Will Win in 2020

The 2016 presidential election was one of the biggest political upsets in American history. Everyone, even Trump supporters, were shocked when Hillary Clinton was defeated by Donald Trump. At the time, I was floored. I still remember sitting in front of my computer watching Google’s real-time election map, my jaw dropping with every new state turning red. Looking back, I’m surprised Clinton did as well as she did. So I’m calling it right now, Trump will be reelected in 2020. Here’s why:

1. Trump’s surprisingly popular

Go on to Twitter, go on to Facebook, go on to Instagram, go anywhere, and search “Trump.” A flood of (well deserved) vitriol and criticism will pour out. People hate Trump. That’s why he has such low approval ratings right? Let’s check.

According to Gallup polls, 40%. Hmm, that’s actually not bad. But okay, maybe they’re wrong. What’s CNN saying? 44%. Oh jeez. Uh… Reuters? 47%. Shit.

Real Clear Politics, taking every poll into consideration, puts Trump’s approval rating at about 44%. That’s astounding. To put that into perspective, by the Summer of 1994, Bill Clinton had a mere 38% approval rating; and that’s a whole point higher than Barack Obama had in the summer of 2010.

Moreover, Trump is untouchable at this point. He said it himself. Remember when he said he could shoot someone and not lose support? Remember thinking that was the end of him? The fact is, his supporters drank the Kool-Aid a long time ago and everyone in the middle has only had time to get used to him.

2. That Blue Wave may not be as big as Democrats think

The moment Trump was elected, it was immediately assumed that, come November, Democrats were going to crush the midterm election. This “Blue Wave” was predicted like the weather. No one doubted it. But Democrats, instead of striking while the iron was hot and showing that they could oppose Trump and stand on their principles, have appeased the man at every turn and done literally nothing to actually appeal to voters. Sure, they’ve gone on and on about the Mueller probe and some Russia nonsense but what has it actually uncovered? Trump’s not a nice man and is mean to women.

Wow. What a bombshell. Who would’ve thought the pussy grabber might mistreat women? Throw that on the pile of things to hate about Trump.

Now I am in no way trying to downplay what Miss Daniels went through. Trump threatened both her and her baby’s life. That is unacceptable and Trump’s dangerous misogyny is symptomatic of a much greater problem which affects every woman in America and which has literally killed women, as well as men.

But what has actually been done here to oppose Trump? His supporters stuck by him through all the “locker room talk“, through all the sexual assault allegations, through Ivana Trump’s claim that Trump raped her. This is all just an attempt to stoke some sense of liberal outrage.

And nothing will ever match conservative outrage.

There’s still no reason to vote Democrat. For all their talk, Democrats have let Trump do whatever he wants. For example, appointing war criminal Gina Haspel as CIA Director. Maybe they’re trying to enrage liberals even more, maybe they’re just spineless, maybe they’re looking forward to the day there’s a Democrat in the White House and they can torture people in peace. Either way, they’re so arrogantly certain they’ll sweep in November that they haven’t done anything to actually earn a Blue Wave.

When Republicans took the House in 2010, they earned it. They had a plan and they obstructed Obama at every turn. They didn’t just talk, they acted. They got voters riled up and then they showed they could take on Obama. As of now, Democrats have only sort of gotten around to that first part.

3. Republicans can’t get rid of Trump and Democrats don’t know how to win

In 2016, Donald Trump should’ve been the easiest man in the country to soundly thrash out of politics. A little organization would’ve easily secured the pretty darn popular Ted Cruz the Republican nomination. Even taking into consideration his unpopularity on Capital Hill, Marco Rubio too could have won. And John Kasich even had some crossover appeal, being pretty moderate by GOP standards. Instead of uniting behind one candidate and saving themselves the embarrassment (and the loss of funds caused by Trump disturbing major Republican donors), the party fractured and had Cruz, Rubio, Kasich, and Bush competing against each other and, oh yeah, Donald Trump. They had a brief window to shut him out but, as Lindsey Graham would later bemoan, they screwed it up. Now, Trump is terminal. There’s no pushing Trump Republicans to the back the way the Tea Partiers were anymore.

The Democrats, on the other hand, have the opposite problem. The Democratic nomination quickly came down to only two serious candidates: Bernie Sanders, the one who legitimately inspired working class, minority, and younger voters, and Hillary Clinton, the one with the lifeless eyes, the bad record, and who every non-Democrat abhorred.

As we now know, the Democratic Party “rigged” the election in favor of Clinton, to use Elizabeth Warren’s words. Many have speculated that Sanders would have won if he was nominated. Maybe he would have, maybe he wouldn’t’ve. That much is unimportant. In fact, focusing on it kind of misses the point. He probably would’ve won and the Democrats lost a lot of needed votes with how they handled things, but they should have swept no matter what.

In 2016, Trump did not win. Clinton lost. She spent most of her time campaigning in states that were pretty much guaranteed to go blue. Her campaign simply ignored key battleground states.

Worse yet, there was no reason to vote for Clinton. Much of her campaign was anti-Trump and that was about it. Her most inspiring points were lifted from Sanders. That’s why, even among white women, she failed to get the kind of support Obama had in 2008 or even in 2012.

The Clinton campaign (and, of course, the Democratic Party) was fighting for the status quo. This was a disaster, a completely avoidable, utterly idiotic disaster. The “let’s keep doing what we’re doing” thing barely even worked for Obama who saw a greatly diminished turnout in 2012.

And, as if to alienate and bore voters even more, Clinton chose Tim Kaine, some unknown pro-lifer, to be her running mate. If she had any sense, if she stood for anything besides outward respectability, she would’ve chosen a woman, a feminist, to be her running mate and it would’ve been a huge deal. Her opinion about Clinton aside, it’s not like Elizabeth Warren would’ve turned down a shot at the vice presidency. If she had a woman running mate, maybe did some photo ops with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, it would have actually been pretty cool (ya know, by liberal standards) and very well could’ve galvanized women voters. Instead, we got some moderate man.

Which, speaking of…

4. Joe Kennedy III

Let’s talk about the Massachusetts Representative who’s shaping up to be a major contender for the Democratic nomination in 2020, Joe Kennedy.

This asshole

Joe Kennedy is the human embodiment of why Democrats are going to lose and why they deserve it. Yeah, yeah, he’s a fresh-faced young Kennedy just like John and Bobby who the only kind of looks like Conan O’Brien. But guess what? He’s boring!

Joseph Kennedy III is the blandest human being to ever be considered for the presidency. This saltine cracker is the kind of kid who’d run for student council president every year and lose to the same quarterback who shoves him in his locker. He had one or two decent speeches before absolutely botching his response to Trumps State of the Union address. Yet many liberals still continue to dream about this nerd ending up the president.

Worse than that, ginger boy over here is vehemently against legalizing marijuana, including for medical purposes. And why is that? Because, “If you smelled [marijuana] in a car, you could search a car. When it became decriminalized, you couldn’t do that.” You hear that? White kid thinks it’d be a shame if police were given less of a chance to randomly search your property. In one swift motion, Kennedy has completely alienated young people and minorities.

Joseph Patrick Kennedy III, you will never be president. You don’t deserve it. You’re boring, you’re behind the times, you’re racist, and you’re part of a political dynasty, something which really turned people off to Clinton. Go home.

5. Liberals have abandoned the people

Ultimately these are all parts of one main problem. The Democratic Party has defected from blue-collar America. And this is not just a problem for Democrats, liberalism as an ideology has left workers, students, and especially marginalized peoples without anything to hold onto and nothing to rally around.

What have Democrats done for working people, for minorities? They’ve never opposed tax cuts for the rich. The Clintons were instrumental in beginning the War on Drugs and the mass incarceration policies which have and continue to devastate black and Latinx communities. Hillary Clinton herself is a vocal warmonger. Obama never supported Black Lives Matter until it was politically impossible not to, and even then he still supported Blue Lives Matter legislature. He never fulfilled his promise to close Guantanamo Bay, hugely inflated military spending, escalated military presence overseas, especially in Africa, and ICE under Trump is little different than it was under Obama.

And when Democrats finally faced some consequences for their actions in 2016, did they ever once turn inward and look at themselves and their platform? No. What did they do instead? They placed all the blame on workers. They claimed Trump won by appealing to the “white working class” and was helped by people “wasting their vote” on third-party candidates. Objectively, this wasn’t true. It was wealthy landed whites who voted Trump into office. Workers were more likely to vote for Clinton than rich voters. But this didn’t matter. It was all too easy for liberals to retreat into classism.

As for the handful of liberals attempting to actually do anything, the #Resistance has been laughable. The Women’s Marches, perhaps the largest and most well-organized protests against the Trump administration were extremely problematic. The pink pussy hats alienated trans people and, when this was brought up, white TERFs came out of the woodwork to promptly shout out trans people and allies, using transphobic and racist slurs with shocking regularity both in person and online. Moreover, it cannot be overlooked that the majority of attendees were, in fact, white, well-off, and took it upon themselves to speak over people of color.

Hey look, liberals and Trump agreeing on something!

Indeed, liberalism’s most repugnant offspring was the first on the scene, opposing Trumps hate with its own. This bastard child is, of course, white feminism or what I would prefer to call bourgeois feminism. In addition to being trans-exclusionary, transphobic, and more often than not racist, the goal of white/bourgeois feminism is not to liberate women from sexist oppression and inequality but simply to replace the boot on our necks with a high heel. Case in point, the dogmatic support for the historically anti-feminist Hillary Clinton and even the fascist Marine Le Pen.

More recently there’s been the March for Our Lives protests which, as a movement, has remained wholly unaware of its privilege. It’s only as well known and respected as it is because it has white faces up front and it’s completely left black kids behind. Cops and military personnel were an active part of March for Our Lives for god’s sake! Liberals were fine with Obama’s Shadow War and a militarized police force. Why is it that arming the citizenry, the people of color, the women, the LGBTQIA communities, and the workers, the line not to be crossed? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, any movement to disarm citizens but not the police and the military is white supremacist. Liberals might know this if they didn’t abandon Black Lives Matter the minute it actually challenged their privilege.

Liberals have outright refused to do anything for workers and marginalized peoples. This isn’t anything new. It’s certainly not Clinton or Obama’s fault. Martin Luther King Jr. himself said just that in Letter from a Birmingham Jail back in 1963.

The Democrats are done. They have no appeal. They have nothing to offer workers or minorities but more sensitive oppression and exploitation. All they do and have ever done is appeal those privileged few who worry about looking respectable. And, as we’ve seen with Trump, most of the privileged don’t care that much about respectability.

At the end of the day, there’s no one working for the workers, there’s no one representing the unrepresented. Until liberals stoop down to the level of us plebeians, they can expect nothing more than defeat and irrelevancy. That is why Trump will win in 2020.

Liberals Need to Get Real on Russiagate

With the utterly unsurprising reelection of Vladimir Putin and the ever plummeting approval rating of alleged Kremlin puppet Donald Trump, Russia has been put in the cross hairs of western politicians and media outlets yet again. Not since the McCarthy era have Americans been so worried about Russians meddling in American affairs. Let’s not mince words, Russiagate is birtherism for liberals. It was ridiculous to suggest that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. It’s ridiculous to suggest that, as Huffington Post columnist Robert Kuttner put it, “Trump literally became president in a Russia-sponsored coup d’etat.”

Of Memes and Money

According to Advertising Age, political campaign ads in the 2016 presidential election cost a whopping $9.8 billion. Meanwhile, the Russian propaganda that’s apparently destroying US democracy cost about $100,000 in a span of years to put up on Facebook.

These ads were little more than memes, grainy stock photos with misspelled captions. “Hillary is Satan!” “Sharia in America!” “Democrats for open borders!” “They’ll kill patriots and Christians!” It was nothing different than what right wingers have whispered for years and been made fun of for. Not exactly Russia’s best work

But what of their tactics? Former Hillary Clinton press secretary Brian Fallon told the Washington Post, “It seems like the creative instincts and the sophistication exceeds a lot of the US political operatives who do this for a living.” So what did they do exactly?

Well, they tried to target disillusioned Bernie Sanders supporters, workers in Middle America, and anyone in battleground states. Ignoring the fact that Trump himself said that was his strategy, all they managed to figure out was that some voters were more persuadable than others.

I honestly don’t understand how people aren’t embarrassed to suggest that thirteen dudes with an okay grasp of the English language ran a better campaign than a former secretary of state and her team of moneyed professionals.

Going Low

By far the most disturbing aspect of the Russiagate scandal is that liberals have proven themselves to be exactly as bad as conservatives.

Every liberal in America felt disgust and amusement as conservative zealots blamed climate change and gun violence on Black Lives Matter and George Soros, alluding to some vast communist conspiracy. Now they’re doing the same thing. Where conservatives saw Muslims controlling Obama, liberals see Russians controlling Trump.

Guess which sign was made by a liberal and which was made by a conservative.

This kind of thing is all too familiar and shows us the hard truth about the Cold War – it never ended and it was never about ideology.

The Cold War was only ever about controlling the eastern European and Eurasian markets. Hell, Putin likely would not be president today if the International Monetary Fund didn’t facilitate the pillaging of the former Soviet Union, creating the perfect conditions for a strong man to take power and challenge US and NATO imperialism.

Though the Russian Federation is unabashedly capitalist, their foreign policy motivations have remained nearly unchanged since 1949. When we see the conflict in Ukraine and Syria, when we see spy dramas play out in real life, when we see Americans (and Brits) across the political spectrum being called Russian or communist agents, this is simply a continuation of the Cold War. Russiagate and all related controversies are just more battles in our war of words.

And the blatant Russophobia goes back even further.

Left: cartoon by Steve Bell, 2018. Right: Nazi anti-Bolshevik propaganda, 1935.

Liberals have once again shown their true colors. Actual injustice, the exact things so-called “progressives” should be outraged over, are being dismissed as hoaxes, fabricated stories made by Russian operatives.

Take the continued controversy surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline. Violating a treaty with Native Americans, having had five spills after only six months of operation, and having Trump’s express approval, this should be a huge rallying point for environmentalists, civil rights activists, and Democrats across the country. The violence against protesters by the police alone should inspire the same kind of outrage Black Lives Matters was able to harness.

And for a brief moment it did, Obama actually blocked the pipeline before leaving office. But this was only to protect his image. He knew Trump would unblock it as soon as he took office. Of course, this was extremely unpopular but, fortunately for them and the oil companies, the entire thing was chalked up to a conspiracy spread by Russian trolls.

But that’s nothing compared to the shameless hypocrisy of crying at the possibility of a foreign power interfering with US politics while supporting violent regime change in Syria, Venezuela, and the DRP of Korea. Just during the Cold War the US attempted to change at least 72 governments, most of which were democratically elected reformist governments.

Democrats have stood right beside Republicans during all of it. Whether it’s Vietnam or Iraq, going to war has been almost exclusively a bipartisan effort. Hillary Clinton herself was an outspoken war hawk, supporting military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan, the overthrow the government of Libya, and military intervention in Syria and Yemen. Though less outspoken about it, President Obama only increased US military presence in Pakistan, Syria, and especially Africa.

Liberals, I’m speaking directly to you now

If you actually want change and progress then you have to stop it with the conspiracy theory nonsense which has so isolated the Republican Party and embrace principled resistance to the right wing. Return to the anti-war platform. Return to social justice. Embrace actual leftist ideology.

Stay away from baseless accusations and xenophobia. You’re only hurting yourself as well as every marginalized people, the working class, and the world.

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