Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Maoist A Drift

"The Communist Necessity,” by J Moufawad-Paul, 2014

This thin volume is intended to make the rounds of young, dissatisfied anti-IMF and Occupy protesters, who realize the spark went out of those prairie lightning strikes.  It attempts to theoretically challenge ‘movementism’ – which is the practice of focusing on the immediate struggle or events, not the goal.  This ultimately results in disorganization, a lack of clear or transitional demands and a lack of theory.   Spontaneity and events, as the debates between Marxists and anarchists starting in the 1830s can tell you, ‘do not last.’ Nor are they irrelevant.  But without an organization of some kind, when struggles erupt, they can only last longer by taking an organizational, preferably mass form.  Certainly many anti-globalization and Occupy protesters, and now ‘Black Lives Matter’ protesters, need to look at history.  Practice and events teach lessons that have parallels in history and eventually contribute to or reinforce certain theories.

The fall of the sclerotic USSR and the crimes of so-called socialism turned many youth away from ‘communism.’  Moufawad-Paul, who is a Canadian PHD adjunct professor, seeks to reinvigorate the communist tradition somewhat, but also by not learning from history.  While a laudable goal, with some accurate insights, his specifics and methods are confused and repeat some of the same forms of abstentionism found in ‘movementism.’  For instance, he opposes any electoral action, any unity between left groups or being involved in trade union work.  What replaces this is an exclusive focus on supporting 4 ‘third world’ guerrilla struggles and a vague nod to 'Leninism.' 

As such, this dull short treatise ‘might’ give every guerrilla-warfare Walter Mitty a warm feeling.  Perhaps those academic Canadians inspired by Moufawad-Paul will start practicing their cold-weather survival skills and First Nation’s language attributes while preparing for guerrilla warfare in the Canadian arctic tundra.  Or those pudgy white Minnesotans riding desks can visualize yurts in the northern woods of Minnesota housing revolutionary fighters.  But wait folks.  There is also the Tupamaro / Baader-Meinhof route too.  Time to learn the dark web, get off Facebook, practice bomb-making, form a cell and finally buy that long rifle!  No? 

The sub-textual appeal in this treatise to ‘first world’ romanticism, guilt and 3rd-world cheerleaderism is obvious.  This is not the first time that North American leftists have been prone to this. 

Some significant quotes in this volume come from what seems like the Maoist Revolutionary Communist Party’s (“RCP”) theoretical journal.  The RCP that I know is an ultra-left pro-Mao/China split from the U.S. SDS in 1969.  It became exclusively pro-Mao and anti-China in 1978 after the defeat of the 'Gang of Four.It has changed little since, except it has become even smaller.  Now that Occupy has petered out, the inspirational sources cited by Moufawad-Paul that we should exclusively look up to are:  The Peruvian Communist Party (aka Sendero Luminoso), the Indian Naxalites – CPI (Maoist), the Communist Party of the Philippines, the Communist (Maoist) Party of Nepal and the ‘proposed’ Communist (Maoist) Party of Afghanistan. What are people in other countries supposed to do, you may ask?  

Anyway, let’s look at the ‘approved’ list.  A.  The Nepalese Maoists actually were voted into office, so were able to change from a guerrilla organization to an electoral front.  A no-no for Moufawad-Paul.  Their victory is a great historic advance for Nepal – especially the overthrowing of the monarchy.  I know of hardly any leftist who opposed this.  B.  Moufawad-Paul dishonestly suggests that Arundhati Roy is now some kind of a supporter of the Indian CPI (Maoist) because of her book, “Walking With the Comrades.” (reviewed below.)  A more careful reading of that book indicates that she defends them, approves of their championing of Adivasi peoples, but does not endorse all of their ideology, organization or tactics.  Similarly, few international left groups criticize the Adivasi for protecting themselves and their land by military and organizational means from the extractive corporations and the bloodthirsty Indian government. 

C.  Sendero-Luminoso (“SL”) was a peasant-based organization in the jungles and mountains of Peru, whose leader, philosophy professor Alberto Guzman, was caught in 1992.  Their name in English – ‘shining path’ – comes from a quote by the great Peruvian Marxist, Jose Mariategui. (“Jose Carlos Mariategui – an Anthology” reviewed below.)  Incidentally, Mariatequi was not an advocate of guerrilla warfare, but of a united ‘workers front.’  SL proclaimed the need for an armed social revolution and began guerrilla war.  In the process they used brutal tactics against anyone who opposed them, not just the Peruvian government or military - this included peasants, trade unionists and civilians. Which was quite different from the approach taken by Che Guevara in Bolivia right next door.  Instead of being a ‘fish in the water of the people’ it was also at times more like a shark.  Yet it has to be defended by the left from attacks by the Bolivian government.  It still exists in a shrunken state, fighting for a peace treaty it can live with.

D.  Most odd of these is the ‘projected’ existence of the Communist (Maoist) party of Afghanistan.  It would take a lot of scrounging (read 'impossible') to come up with one Maoist organization in the world that defended the Afghan Communist Party governments of Karmal and Taraki in 1978-1979 or the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan against the U.S. imperialists and Islamists.  This was back when there actually was a secular population in Afghanistan that had not been killed.  Not a peep from the Maoists at that time.  Instead we get this ‘consolation prize’ 37 years later.  (The secret reason?  The Soviets were ‘capitalists!’)

Moufawad-Paul makes much of the word ‘communism,’ as if it is some kind of talismanic forbidden fruit.  Here in El Norte the post-Maoist Progressive Labor Party in 1982's “Road to Revolution IV” called for going ‘straight to communism’ and bypassing socialism and all that.  I suggest the comrade read that document – if he can stomach it - to see that leftist enthusiasm for a word means little.

There is also a bit of anti-Trotskyist rhetoric that sounds like a rehash of tired 20th Century Stalinism.  History has already decided who was right in that battle.  Moufawad-Paul  says that the Russian and Chinese revolutions (and the Yugoslav, etc.?) failed, but has no clue why.  His pantheon of heroes is “Marx, Lenin …Mao…”  You can put those faces on an internet button and they already have. That somewhat problematic period between 1923 and 1949 seems to be missing, as does the period after 1976. With the collapse of most of the workers states by the actions of those (Party) bureaucracies, another bureaucracy and its ideology is not really a solution.  That is if we are actually learning from the past, and not merely mouthing the words.  The dictatorship of the proletariat and the dictatorship of the party are two different things.  That is the lesson of history, crude as that may be. 

Moufawad-Paul seems to have also made the long march through the word-bound provinces of the Frankfurt School, neo-Marxism, semiotics, metaphysics and post-structuralism.  He cites Foucault, Deleuze, Althusser, Guattari, Badiou, Negri, Hart, Derrida at different times – an ad hoc group of influences to graft onto Mao, Lenin and Marx.   He polemicizes with the Situationists, the Invisible Committee and other irrelevant forces, even using a lack of capitalization to describe ‘marxism’ – just like ee cummings!  This is the face of modern academic confusion – and perhaps of actual unfamiliarity with being a cadre in a centralist ‘anti-revisionist’ party organization. 

With the development of a dominant urban world population which is becoming proletarianized or casualized, and the increasing education of billions around the world, the chances of rural revolution and all-knowing bureaucracies are getting slimmer by the day.  But also the chance of a barbaric response to crisis is increasing, as capitalism gains a choke-hold on the whole world economy and every interstice in it.  This we are seeing recently in Mexico, Yemen and Ukraine, as failed states increase one by one due to the American ruling class's destructive and aggressive foreign policy.  The Americans have their 'sights' set on destroying Belarus next, if sources close to Patrick Smith are to be believed. After that?  Regime change in Russia. 

SYRIZA and Greece

The election results in Greece on Sunday, in which Syriza (Coalition of the Radical Left) won, will encourage the people of Spain to vote for Podemos and the people of Ireland to vote for Sinn Fein, all leftist anti-austerity parties.  Even New Labour in Britain is threatened by the Greens, who have taken up the anti-austerity cudgel.  These mostly new formations, heavily influenced by youth, are to the left of the 2nd International group of Social-Democratic parties in Europe, which have now conclusively failed.   

Something new is aborning.  What the mainstream news organizations miss about Syriza is that it is a ‘coalition’ of forces - Maoist, Trotskyist, Ex-Greek CP, Left-PASOK and Green organizations are all currents in the membership.   The people who say – ‘leftists can never collaborate’ are wrong.  The Greek Communist Party (“KKE”), which has a base in the trade unions, gained 1 less delegate to the Greek parliament than Golden Dawn, yet refuse to work with Syriza.  The KKE’s position is to the left of Syriza, as they clearly understand that Greece has to leave the Eurozone and NATO, and not stay under the domination of the German and international bankers.  Greece should follow Argentina out of the IMF/World Bank nightmare of SAPs.  Yet taking an organizationally sectarian path by the KKE at this particular moment weakens their influence on the left in Syriza.  Syriza itself may be thinking that Greece will be thrown out of the Euro-zone, and then the onus would be on the EU for that.  But it is not clear that is their strategy.  

Syriza itself is not just an electoral party.  It has developed deep roots in local food banks, homeless shelters, land and building occupations, legal aide, rural towns and various economic co-operatives that have arisen in the face of the decimation of the Greek economy. Even some trade unionists are supporting Syriza now.  One could say that Syriza is not based on work-sites, but 'geographic sites.'  Is it proletarian?  I do not think one segment of Greek capital supports it.  But it combines working class and middle class elements, which will definately cause problems down the road.

On Sunday the Syriza Finance Minister said Greece would refuse to negotiate with the "Troika."  Importantly, Syriza has come out against EU sanctions against Russia, which has led the German foreign minister to make noises about throwing Greece out of the EU for that.  Syriza denounced the influence of fascist and billionaire capitalists in the new West Ukrainian regime.  All it takes is for one member of the EU to oppose a policy of the EU and it supposedly cannot be carried out.  If the fascists in Golden Dawn begin to attack Syriza physically, then the stage is set for a civil war in Greece between the classes, and the possibility of overwhelming all of the corrupt pro-fascist Greek oligarchs and expropriating them.

The Syriza victory shows part of the way forward.  It is an organization of a 'new type' that is filling the role of an aggressive left Social-Democracy.  Political activity – which anarchist elements in Occupy refuse to engage in, as does Moufawad-Paul  – and unity of left organizations  - which many small sectarian left organizations refuse to engage in, as does Moufawad-Paul – are needed to combat the assault of capital. Combine this with massive labor strikes and a social reorganization / cooperation of an economic base in society, and the groundwork for a new class-wide resistance can occur.  This might create new, larger authoritative left organizations that can actually gain widespread support from the various sectors of the working class, and impact politics directly. Out of this a revolutionary organization in actual fact may emerge.

If I may paraphrase Mariategui, a world-wide ‘worker’s front’ is needed to overwhelm capital. Not a series of isolated 'leaders' alone in their tiny left organizations, or cheer-leading for 4 guerrilla movements.  A "Left Front" is transitional to that.  Ultimately this process could bring new mass revolutionary parties into being in several countries.  Something new is aborning.

And I bought it at Mayday Books!
Red Frog
January 31, 2015

1 comment:

AA said...

As you say, a "dull short treatise." Some of the Mayday regulars are arranging for a discussion of this book -- damned if I know why.