Friday, October 24, 2014

Kurds in Kobane resist ISIS and regain ground - latest report from Rojava News

Interview with Borotba leader Victor Shapinov by Greg Butterfield , Part 2

Democracy and Class Struggle publish this second part of Victor Shapinov of Borotba's  interview with Greg Butterfield of Workers World.

Democracy and Class Struggle wish Borotba comrades every success and agree that you should not be reconstructors, you need to develop your revolutionary ideology through two line struggle rather than be eclectic trying to combine Stalin and Trotsky when clearly they split into two.

We urge you to develop the universal ideology of Marxism Leninism Maoism in the particularity of the Ukraine develop the class struggle against the Oligarchs, develop the mass line, not populism and apply Protracted People's War both as a strategic concept and military line.

You need to recognise continuity as well as rupture in the communist movement.

Success to your struggle - Long Live Borotba.

Workers World: Tell us about your background and the founding of Union Borotba. 

Victor Shapinov: I was born in Russia near Moscow, where I also went to school and university. At age 18 I joined the communist movement and the Russian Communist Workers Party (RKRP), which still exists.

For several years, I communicated with Ukrainian leftist and communist militants. In Russia, it was not the best time for left activities. There was a lot of repression. So in 2005, I moved to Kiev and began to organize there, mostly with former members of the Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU). In this way I began to work with Sergei Kirichuk and others who later participated in founding our movement.

In the late 1990s, the Communist Party was very popular. Many people believed that its chairperson, Peter Simonenko, could win the presidency. But the party leadership was very passive and always wanted to make deals with the bourgeois camp of Ukrainian politics. 

Grassroots activists were very upset, especially the young members, and there were a lot of splits from the KPU at this time.

We always tried to bring these forces together in some way. So we formed the Che Guevara Youth Movement, which became famous for organizing a rally against privatization and for renationalization of big factories. It was the biggest anti-capitalist mobilization ever held in Kiev [since the breakup of the Soviet Union — WW].

Afterward, we set up the Organization of Marxists of Ukraine. It was the result of the merger of several groups. It turned out to be very broad and academic, and not very revolutionary.
After assessing the development of this organization, and following further splits in the Communist Party, we were able to found the Borotba movement. We began this work in 2011 and held our founding congress in May 2012.

It’s important to explain about the Communist Party of Ukraine. At that time, its leadership was always seeking alliances in parliament with whichever capitalist party was strongest.

Not many people in the West know this, but before allying with the Party of Regions of [deposed President Victor] Yanukovich, they were partners with the party of Yulia Timoshenko [far-right politician associated with the 2004 “Orange Revolution” and today part of the Kiev junta].

It was an unprincipled position by the KPU leadership, and for us, it meant we couldn’t just be the left wing of the Communist Party. Besides, comrades who wanted to be the left wing of the party were always swept out. Every year groups of good communists were expelled.

Alexei Albu, one of our comrades, was a left-wing leader of the Communist Party and Komsomol, the communist youth organization, in Odessa. He resigned and joined in organizing Borotba. Other militants in Odessa followed his example.

We focused on organizing within the labor movement. But by late 2012 and early 2013, the issue of fascism and radical nationalism came to the fore.

Borotba was the first party to organize a protest against the fascist Svoboda Party entering parliament.

We held a rally of 500 people in Kiev.

We never supported the Yanukovich regime, though, because we knew it was one of the reasons for the rise of the far right. Its politics were directed only to the interests of the biggest businesses, the so-called oligarchy. It bestowed money and power on the oligarchic groups, and these in turn supported the neo-Nazis.

We could see that the fascists were an instrument that they used in politics.

WW: Borotba seems unique in the post-Soviet left in bringing Marxists from many backgrounds and historical currents into a united communist organization. How were you able to achieve that?

VS: We worked hard on it. It involved both theoretical and organizational work.

From the theoretical side, we tried to focus on the contradictions that exist in society now and analyze them from the point of view of Marxism.

We see that the splits that were part of the communist movement in the past are not so important now, or we see them in a very different way. We saw that there were some groups that are like reconstructors [this term refers to people who re-enact historic military battles, like Civil War re-enactors in the U.S.]. They want to refight the old battles.

We don’t want to be like this. We want to make real politics for the working class and oppressed peoples, and not play at being Stalin, or Trotsky, or Mao Zedong, or whatever.

Because those people did not play at being Marx or the Jacobins.

They made revolutionary politics for their times.

From the organizational side, when we started to create Borotba, we decided to try and look upon ourselves and what we were doing through the eyes of the people, not through the eyes of competing leftist groups.

How do the common people see us? That is a practical criterion for our work, not the opinions of some publications that spend all their time critiquing other leftists.

If you don’t waste a lot of time on that, you have more time to observe how the people see you and how to reach them.

Even how bourgeois journalists see us is more important. How will they try to show our activities? Because the majority of people watch television or read the bourgeois press, it is important how we are represented to them.

Even if they write that we are “communist bastards,” it will be very good. Many people who are our potential supporters don’t believe in the capitalist media. But they see only the capitalist media because they don’t have any alternative. So if they read that we are bad, maybe they will think we are good!

It’s a question of how to use the possibilities offered by bourgeois politics and the bourgeois media to promote our work.

Don’t be a sectarian who only goes to a picket line with their own newspaper to sell and tune everything else out.

I can’t say that we were so successful in these things, because the situation in Ukraine gave us very little time to realize our plans.

Next: Part 3 After the coup: Borotba and the AntiMaidan movement


Part 1 of interview with Victor Shapinov

Our constitution says that the land, minerals, forests, water, and air resources belong to the state,” says Boris Litvinov of Donetsk People's Republic

Democracy and Class Struggle says the People's War against the Ukrainian Oligarchs continues on the economic as well as the military front despite the difficulties for the New Donetsk People's Republic.

If comrade Litvinov wants to emulate comrade Lenin he must wage economic war and not just political or military war in the Donetsk People's Republic.

We wish him  well in his transformation from Parliamentarian to Revolutionary Communist in face of the War against the Ukrainian Oligarchs.

Long Live the Donetsk People's Republic.

Rinat Akhmetov’s holdings in eastern Ukraine are themselves an object of contention.

Boris Litvinov, a former Communist Party parliamentarian and now chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic, sits in an office festooned with the rebels’ black, blue, and red flag.

 “Our constitution says that the land, minerals, forests, water, and air resources belong to the state,” he says.

And he should know—he wrote it.

 “The DPR believes that basic industries should be kept under state control,” he says, adding that it will also “nationalize the entire chain of electricity production.”

Steel is a basic industry, meaning Akhmetov’s factories, about half of which are now behind rebel lines, could be nationalized if the DPR lasts long enough to enforce its constitution.

Akhmetov and other tycoons, who have invested hundreds of millions in the region, support the Kiev government.

Source Business Week

Urgent ! Impending Blitzkrieg by NATO backed Ukrainian Army on Donetsk, Makeyevka area and Gorlovka says Igor Strelkov - sign warning has been taken seriously

Democracy and Class Struggle takes seriously the Igor Strelkov warning of impending NATO backed Ukrainian Army Blitzkreig on Donetsk ,Makeyevka area and Gorlovka despite the fact that we oppose his politics.

This attack during the moment of strategic equilibrium is in line with other take downs of People' Wars usually aided and abetted by NGO's.

We sincerely hope the warning of  Igor Strelkov is taken seriously by comrades in the Ukraine especially in the military and political command.

We agree with the recent words of Comrade Shapinov of Borotba that :

The Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics are just pawns in this big game. It’s a pity but it’s true.

The People’s Republics have to sign these treaties because now they cannot survive without humanitarian aid from Russia.

We think that’s the reason [former Donetsk Defense Minister and militia leader Igor] Strelkov was removed was because he was hardline in this conflict.

Now we see that most military commanders don’t support the agreement.

Before Minsk, the people’s militia was advancing, the Ukrainian army was depressed and close to defeat at some points.

One reason the militias don’t support this peace treaty is that there is only a small piece of land in this configuration.

In this way the People’s Republics, or Novorossia, will not survive or will be completely dependent on Russia.

They want to make a real state that can be independent.

Of course, they want friendly relations with Russia, but it would not be a puppet.

The point of a warning is preparation both political and military - we hope the Igor Strelkov message is heard and appropriate action taken by comrades.

Signs that the  warning has been taken seriously by Alexander Zakharchenko

Addressing reporters on Thursday, the prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Alexander Zakharchenko, said "The truce has been observed by us alone.

But the day before yesterday we started to respond as well. It has been quieter since yesterday."

He added that self-defence forces are planning to retake the cities of Slavyansk, Kramatorsk and Mariupol, while Kiev prepares for legislative polls scheduled for Sunday.

“Periods of intense hostilities will follow. We will retake Slovyansk, Kramatorsk and Mariupol.

Unfortunately, it was impossible to make peaceful settlement the focus of negotiations.

We are the only ones who comply with the regime of silence,” he said.

PLEASE NOTE JUNE 2014 STATEMENT FROM - Zbigniew Brzezinski   

Brzezinski advises destroy Kharkov and Kiev


Thursday, October 23, 2014

'Turkey supporting ISIS & fighting against Kurds' Michelle Allison, Women's Representative of the Kurdish National Congress


Excerpt from Comrade Kaypakkaya's work The National Question in Turkey

                                                         Ibrahim Kaypakkaya

Ibrahim Kaypakkaya took a strong stand for the right to self-determination of the Kurdish nation, which suffers brutal national oppression in Turkey.

And he advocated a revolutionary road not a reformist road to Kurdish liberation.

The following is an excerpt from Comrade Kaypakkaya's work
The National Question in Turkey:

In our country, the real champions of national oppression are the big Turkish bourgeoisie, that is, of comprador nature, and the landlords.

The U.S. imperialists support and instigate their policy of national oppression and racism.

But the Turkish middle bourgeoisie, which has a national character, participates with more refined and stealthy methods in the same crime....

Posturing in favour of the equality among nations in words, but in reality extending the recognition of the privilege of forming a state only to the Turks and liquidating the right of the Kurds to form a state with demagogic bourgeois slogans such as "national unity" and "territorial integrity" --is this not to defend inequality among nations and the privileges of the Turkish bourgeoisie?

Socialists [revolutionary communists] oppose even the smallest privilege favoring a nation and inequality.

Whereas in Turkey, to form a national state has always been a privilege of the Turkish nation and still continues to be so.

We the communists do not defend this privilege either, just as we do not defend any other privileges.

We defend and continue to defend the right of the Kurdish nation to form a state with all our might.

We will respect this right to the end; we do not support the privileged position of Turks over the Kurds (and over other nationalities); we educate the masses to recognize this right without hesitation and to reject the right to form a state as a privilege in the monopoly of any single nation....

See Also:

Demonstration to protest IS and solidarity with Kurds in Kobane - Well done Helsinki

Democratic Modernity: Era of Woman’s Revolution by Abdullah Ocalan

Democracy and Class Struggle says despite our reservations about the PKK negotiations with the Turkish Government - the role women YPJ comrades related to the PKK have played in defence of Kobane has been exemplary and is perfectly in line with the ideology of the PKK.

Here is a sample of Ocalan's writing on the Woman Question

Woman, reborn to freedom, will amount to general liberation, enlightenment and justice in all upper and lower institutions of society.
 Woman’s freedom will play a stabilising and equalising role in forming the new civilisation and she will take her place under respectable, free and equal conditions. To achieve this, the necessary theoretical, programmatic, organisational and implementation work must be done. The reality of woman is a more concrete and analysable phenomenon than concepts such as “proletariat” and “oppressed nation”. The extent to which society can be thoroughly transformed is determined by the extent of the transformation attained by women.
Similarly, the level of woman’s freedom and equality determines the freedom and equality of all sections of society. Thus, democratisation of woman is decisive for the permanent establishment of democracy and secularism. For a democratic nation, woman’s freedom is of great importance too, as liberated woman constitutes liberated society. Liberated society in turn constitutes democratic nation. Moreover, the need to reverse the role of man is of revolutionary importance.
The dawn of the era of democratic civilisation represents not only the rebirth of peoples but, perhaps more distinctively, it represents the rise of woman. Woman, who was the creative goddess of the Neolithic society, has encountered continuous losses throughout the history of classed society.

Inverting this history will inevitably bring the most profound social results.
Woman, reborn to freedom, will amount to general liberation, enlightenment and justice in all upper and lower institutions of society. This will convince all that peace, not war, is more valuable and is to be exalted. Woman’s success is the success of society and the individual at all levels.

The twenty first century must be the era of awakening; the era of the liberated, emancipated woman. This is more important than class or national liberation. The era of democratic civilisation shall be the one when woman rises and succeeds fully.
It is realistic to see our century as the century when the will of the free woman will come to fruition. Therefore, permanent institutions for woman need to be established and maintained for perhaps a century. There is a need for Woman’s Freedom Parties. It is also vital that ideological, political and economic communes, based on woman’s freedom, are formed.
Women in general, but more specifically the Middle Eastern women, are the most energetic and active force of democratic society due to the characteristics described above.

The ultimate victory of democratic society is only possible with woman.
Peoples and women have been devastated by classed society ever since the Neolithic Age. They will now, as the pivotal agents of the democratic breakthrough, not only take revenge on history, but they will form the required anti-thesis by positioning themselves to the left of the rising democratic civilisation.
Women are truly the most reliable social agents on the road to an equal and libertarian society. In the Middle East, it is up to the women and the youth to ensure the anti-thesis needed for the democratisation of society. Woman’s awakening and being the leading societal force in this historical scene, has true antithetic value.
Due to the class characteristics of civilisations, their development has been based on male domination. This is what puts woman in this position of anti-thesis. In fact, in terms of overcoming the class divisions of society and male superiority, her position acquires the value of a new synthesis.

Therefore, the leadership position of woman’s movements in the democratisation of Middle Eastern society has historical characteristics that make this both an anti-thesis (due to being in Middle East) and a synthesis (globally). This area of work is the most crucial work that I have ever taken on. I believe it should have priority over the liberation of homelands and labour. If I am to be a freedom fighter, I cannot just ignore this:

Woman’s revolution is a revolution within a revolution.
It is the fundamental mission of the new leadership to provide the power of intellect and will needed to attain the three aspects crucial for the realisation of a democratic modernitysystem: a society that is democratic as well as economically and ecologically moral. To achieve this, we need to build a sufficient number of academic structures of appropriate quality. It is not enough to merely criticise the academic world of modernity–we have to develop an alternative.

 These alternative academic units should be constructed according to the priorities and the needs of all the societal areas, such as economy and technology, ecology and agriculture, democratic politics, security and defence, culture, history, science and philosophy, religion and arts. Without a strong academic cadre, the elements of democratic modernity cannot be built. Academic cadres and elements of democratic modernity are equally important for attainment of success. Interrelationship is a must to attain meaning and success.
The struggle for freedom (not only of women but of all ethnicities and different sections of the community) is as old as the enslavement and exploitation history of humanity. Yearning for freedom is intrinsic to human nature. Much has been learnt from these struggles, also from the one we have been waging for the past 40 years. Democratic society has existed alongside different systems of mainstream civilisation.
Democratic modernity, the alternative system to capitalist modernity, is possible through a radical change of our mentality and the corresponding, radical and appropriate changes in our material reality. These changes, we must build together.
Finally, I would like to point out that the struggle for women’s freedom must be waged through the establishment of their own political parties, attaining a popular women’s movement, building their own non-governmental organisations and structures of democratic politics. All these must be handled together, simultaneously. The better women are able to escape the grip of male domination and society, the better they will be able to act and live according to their independence initiative. The more women empower themselves, the more they regain their free personality and identity.
Therefore, giving support to women’s ire, knowledge and freedom movement is the greatest display of comradeship and a value of humanity. I have full confidence that women, irrespective of their different cultures and ethnicities, all those who have been excluded from the system, will succeed. The twenty first century shall be the century of women’s liberation. I hope to make my own contributions – not only by writing on these issues, but by helping to implement the changes



Edgar Snow Interview of Chairman Mao in 1965

      Edgar Snow and Chairman Mao in 1960
Democracy and Class Struggle re publish this interview with Chairman Mao but particularly would like to emphasise the section on China's population and the reply of Chairman Mao below:
The censuses in the 1950's were notoriously inaccurate and even in 1960's misleading - it was this data that the US State Department was later to use to exaggerate the deaths during the famine in China at the end of the 1950's and early 1960's and give professors lots of work - has Chairman Mao says what kind of professors are they ? we know the answer today. 
“Can you give me a population figure resulting from the recent census?” asks Edgar Snow

The chairman replied that he really did not know.

Some said that there were 680 to 690 million, but he did not believe it.

How could there be so many?

When I suggested that it ought not to be difficult to calculate, on the basis of ration coupons (cotton and rice) alone, he indicated that the peasants had sometimes confused the picture.

Before liberation they had hidden births and kept some off the register out of fear of having them conscripted.

Since liberation there had been a tendency to report greater numbers and less land, and to minimize output returns while exaggerating the effects of calamities.

Nowadays a new birth is reported at once, but if someone dies it may not be reported for months.

(His implication seemed to be that extra ration coupons could be accumulated in that way.) No doubt there had been a real decline in the birth rate but the decline in the death rate was even greater.

Longevity had increased from about 30 years of age to a life expectancy of around 50.

That was the kind of answer, I said, which was calculated to give foreign professors lots of work to do.

What kind of professors were those, Mao asked?


This piece originally appeared at The New Republic on February 27, 1965.

In a rare interview which lasted about four hours, Mao Tse-tung conversed with me on topics ranging over what he himself called shan nan hai pei, or “from south of the mountains to north of the seas.” With China’s bountiful 200-million-ton 1964 grain harvest taxing winter storage capacities, with shops everywhere offering inexpensive foods and consumer goods necessities, and with technological and scientific advances climaxed by an atomic bang that saluted Khrushchev’s political demise, Chairman Mao might well have claimed a few creative achievements. I found him reflecting on man’s rendezvous with death and ready to leave the assessment of his political legacy to future generations.

The 72-year-old warrior greeted me in one of the spacious Peking-décor rooms of the Great Hall of the People, across the wide square facing Tien An Men, the Heavenly Peace Gate of the former Forbidden City. During our conversation he repeatedly thanked foreign invaders for speeding up the Chinese revolution and for bestowing similar favors in Southeast Asia today. He asserted that China has no troops outside her own frontiers and has no intention of fighting anybody unless her own territory is attacked. He observed that the more American weapons and troops brought into Saigon, the faster the South Vietnamese liberation forces would become armed and educated to win victory. By now they did not need the help of Chinese troops.

At the start of our conversation Chairman Mao agreed to be photographed informally in a film I believe to be the first ever made of him for foreign television. From this film political clinicians may make their own diagnosis of his condition, lately rumored to be much deteriorated. On January 9, coming at the end of strenuous weeks of daily and nightly conferences with many regional leaders drawn to the capital for the annual National People’s Congress, his talk with me might have been more speedily terminated by a sick man. He seemed wholly relaxed throughout our conversation, which began before six, continued during dinner and went on for about two hours after.

One of the chairman’s doctors informed me that Mao has no organic troubles and suffers from nothing beyond the normal fatigue of his age. He ate moderately of a peppery Hunanese meal shared with me and drank a glass or two of wine, rather perfunctorily.

It was reported abroad that other “government officials” were present during my interview. These officials were two friends from pre-revolutionary days in China: Mme. Kung Peng, now an assistant to the Chinese Foreign Minister, and her husband, Chiao Kuanhua, an assistant minister in the same department. I submitted no written questions and took no notes during the interview. Fortunately I was able to refresh my memory by reviewing the conversation with one of those present who had kept a written record. It was agreed that I might publish, without direct quotation, some of the chairman’s comment as is given below.

“Some American commentators in Saigon have compared the strength of the Viet Cong there with the 1947 period in China, when the People’s Liberation Army began to engage in large-scale annihilations of Nationalist forces. Are the conditions comparable?”

The chairman thought not. By 1947 the People’s Liberation Army already had more than a million men, against several million troops on Chiang Kai-shek’s side. The PLA had then used divisional and group army strength, whereas the Vietnamese liberation forces were now operating at battalion or at most regimental strength. American forces in Vietnam were still relatively small. Of course, if they increased they could help speed up the arming of the people against them. But if he should tell that to United States leaders they would not listen. Had they listened to Diem? Both Ho Chi Minh and he (Mao Tse-Tung) thought that Ngo Dinh Diem was not so bad. They had expected the Americans to maintain him for several more years. But impatient American generals became disgusted with Diem and got rid of him. After all, following his assassination, was everything between heaven and earth more peaceful?

“Can Viet Cong forces now win victory by their own efforts alone?” Yes, he thought that they could. Their position was relatively better than that of the Communists during the first civil war (1927-37) in China. At that time there was no direct foreign intervention, but now already the Viet Cong had the American intervention to help arm and educate the rank and file and the army officers. Those opposed to the United States were no longer confined to the liberation army. Diem had not wanted to take orders. Now this independence had spread to the generals. The American teachers were succeeding. Asked whether some of these generals would soon join the liberation army, Mao said yes, some would follow the example of Kuomintang generals who had turned to the Communists.

The “Third World”

“United States intervention in Vietnam, the Congo and other former colonial battlefields, suggests a question of some theoretical interest as seen within Marxist concepts. The question is whether the contradiction between neo-colonialism and the revolutionary forces in what the French like to call the ‘third world’the so-called underdeveloped or ex-colonial or still colonial nations of Asia, Africa and Latin Americais today the principal political contradiction in the world? Or do you consider that the basic contradiction is still one between the capitalist countries themselves?”

Mao Tse-tung said that he had not reached an opinion about that but he recalled something that President Kennedy had said. Had Kennedy not declared that as far as the United States, Canada and Western Europe were concerned, there was not much real and basic difference? The President had said that the problem was in the Southern Hemisphere. In advocating “special forces warfare” training for “local [countersubversive?] warfare” the late President may have had my question in mind.

On the other hand, contradictions between imperialists were what had caused two world wars in the past, and their struggles against colonial revolutions had not changed their character. If one looked at France one saw two reasons for de Gaulle’s policies. The first was to assert independence from American domination. The second was to attempt to adjust French policies to changes occurring in the Asian-African countries and Latin America. The result was intensified contradiction between the capitalist nations, but was France part of its so-called “third world”? Recently he had asked some French visitors about that and they had told him no, that France was a developed country and could not be a member of the “third world” of undeveloped countries. The matter was not so simple.

“Perhaps it could be said that France is in the third world but not of it?”

Perhaps. This question which had engaged the interest of President Kennedy had led Kennedy, Mao had read, to study Mao’s own essays on military operations. Mao had also learned from Algerian friends during their struggle against France that the French were reading his works and using his information against them. But he had told the Algerian Prime Minister, Abbas, at that time, that his own books were based on Chinese experience and would not work in reverse. They could be adapted only to the waging of people’s wars of liberation and were rather useless in an anti-people’s war. They did not save the French from defeat in Algeria. Chiang Kai-shek had also studied the Communists’ materials but he had not been saved either.

Mao remarked that the Chinese also study American books. For instance, he had read The Uncertain Trumpet by General Taylor, the United States Ambassador in Saigon. General Taylor’s view was that nuclear weapons probably would not be used, therefore non-nuclear arms would decide. Taylor wanted priority given to the Army. Now he had his chance to test out his theories of special warfare. In Vietnam he was gaining some valuable experience.

The chairman had also read some articles issued by U.S. authorities to their troops on how to handle guerrillas. These instructions dealt with the shortcomings and military weaknesses of the guerrillas and held out hopes for American victory. They ignored the decisive political fact that whether it was Diem or somebody else, governments cut off from the masses could not win against wars of liberations.

Since the Americans would not listen to Chairman Mao, his advice would do nobody any harm.
“In Southeast Asia as well as in India and certain countries of Africa and even Latin America, there exist some social conditions comparable to those that brought on the Chinese revolution. Each country has its own problems, and solutions will vary widely, yet I wonder if you agree that social revolutions will occur which may borrow much from the Chinese?”

Anti-feudal and anti-capitalist sentiments combined with opposition to imperialism and neo-colonialism, he replied, grew out of oppression and wrongs of the past. Wherever the latter existed there would be revolutions, but in most of the countries I was talking about, the people were merely seeking national independence, not socialismquite another matter. European countries had also had anti-feudal revolutions. Though the United States had had no real feudal period, still it had fought a progressive war of independence from British colonialism, and then a civil war to establish a free labor market. Washington and Lincoln had been great men of the time.

“Among the roughly three-fifths of the earth which belongs in the third world category, very acute problems exist, as we know. The gap between the ratio of population growth and growth of production is growing more disadvantageous. The gap between their every-falling standard of living and that of the affluent countries is rapidly widening. Under such conditions, will time wait for the Soviet Union to demonstrate the superiority of the socialist systemand then wait a century for parliamentarianism to arise in the underdeveloped areas and peacefully establish socialism?”
Mao thought it would not wait so long.

I asked whether the question did not perhaps touch upon the nexus of China’s ideological dispute with the Soviet Union. He agreed that it did.

“Do you think it would be possible to complete not only the national liberation of emerging nations of the third world, but also their modernization, without another world war?”

Use of the word “complete” must give one pause, he said. Most of the countries concerned were still very far from socialist revolutions. In some there were no Communist Parties at all, while in others there were only revisionists. It was said that Latin America had 20 Communist Parties and of these 18 had issued resolutions against China. One thing was certain. Where severe oppression existed there would be revolution.

China and the Bomb 

“Do you still believe that the bomb is a paper tiger?”

That had just been a way of talking, he said, a kind of figure of speech. Of course the bomb could kill people. But in the end the people would destroy the bomb. Then it would truly become a paper tiger.
“You have been quoted as saying that China had less fear of the bomb than other nations because of her vast population. Other peoples might be totally wiped out, but China would still have a few hundred millions left to begin anew. Was there ever any factual basis to such reports?”

He answered that he had no recollection of saying anything like that but he might have said it. He did recall a conversation he had had with Jawaharlal Nehru, when the latter visited China (in 1954). As he remembered it, he had said China did not want a war. They didn’t have atom bombs, but if other countries wanted to fight there would be a catastrophe in the whole world, meaning that many people would die. As for how many, nobody could know. He was not speaking only of China. He did not believe on atom bomb would destroy all mankind, so that you would not be able to find a government to negotiate peace. He mentioned this to Nehru during their conversation. Nehru said that he was chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission of India and he knew about the destructiveness of atomic power. He was sure that no one could survive. Mao replied that it would probably not be as Nehru said. Existing governments might disappear but others would arise to replace them.
Not so long ago, Khrushchev said that he had a deadly weapon capable of killing all living beings. But then he immediately retracted his statementnot only once but many times. Mao would not deny anything he had said, nor did he wish me to deny for him this so-called rumor (about China’s millions’ power of survival in a nuclear war).

Americans also had said very much about the destructiveness of the atom bomb and Khrushchev had made a big noise about that. They had all surpassed him in this respect, so that he was more backward than they, was not that so? Yet recently he had read reports of an investigation by Americans who visited the Bikini Islands six years after nuclear tests had been conducted there. From 1959 onward research workers had been in Bikini. When they first entered the island they had had to cut open paths through the undergrowth. They found mice scampering about and fish swimming in the streams as usual. The wellwater was potable, plantation foliage was flourishing, and birds were twittering in the trees. Probably there had been two bad years after the tests, but nature had gone on. In the eyes of nature and the birds, the mice and the trees, the atom bomb was a paper tiger. Possibly man has less stamina than they?

“Nevertheless, you would not exactly consider nuclear war to be a good thing?”

Certainly not, he replied. If one must fight one should confine oneself to conventional weapons.
Indonesia had withdrawn from the United Nations, I observed, accompanied by applause from China. Did Mao Tse-tung think the move would set a precedent and that other withdrawals would follow?
Mao said that it was the United States which had first set the precedent, by excluding China from the United Nations. Now that a majority of nations might favor restoring China’s seat despite U.S. opposition, there was a new scheme to require a two-thirds majority instead of a simple majority. But the question was, did China gain or lose by being outside the U.N. during the past 15 years? Indonesia had left because she felt that there was not much advantage to remaining in the U.N. As for China, was it not in itself a United Nations? Any one of several of China’s minority nationalities was larger in population and territory than some states in the U.N. whose votes had helped deprive China of her seat there. China was a large country with plenty of work to keep her busy outside the U.N.
“Is it now practicable to consider forming a union of nations excluding the United States?”
Mao pointed out that such forums already existed. One example was the Afro-Asian conference. Another was GANEFOGames of the New Emerging Forcesorganized after the United States excluded China from the Olympics.

(Preparations for the Afro-Asian conference scheduled to open in Algiers in March had been plagued by many problems. These included the Indonesia-Malaysia dispute, and insistence on the part of pro-China Bandung powers that the USSR must be excluded from the conference, as a strictly European power. There is reason to believe that China regards the Afro-Asian organization as the potential center of planned development of a third world largely independent of neo-colonial or Western capital. Following Chinese principles of “self-reliance” in internal development, and of mutual help between the Afro-Asian states, the process of modernization might be so speeded up as to bypass the slow and painful method of capital accumulation by traditional bourgeois means. Such a theoretical alternative would of course imply more rapid and radical political evolution and an earlier arrival at pre-socialist conditions in the capital-poor Afro-Asian states. Outside the context of this interview, it may be added that it has been obvious for some time that the Afro-Asian conference is also viewed as a potential permanent assembly of the have-not nations, to exist independently from the American-dominated United Nations from which China and her closest allies have long been excluded and which Indonesia has recently left.)

“In fact, Mr. Chairman, how many people are there inside China’s own ‘United Nations’?” I asked. “Can you give me a population figure resulting from the recent census?”

The chairman replied that he really did not know. Some said that there were 680 to 690 million, but he did not believe it. How could there be so many? When I suggested that it ought not to be difficult to calculate, on the basis of ration coupons (cotton and rice) alone, he indicated that the peasants had sometimes confused the picture. Before liberation they had hidden births and kept some off the register out of fear of having them conscripted. Since liberation there had been a tendency to report greater numbers and less land, and to minimize output returns while exaggerating the effects of calamities. Nowadays a new birth is reported at once, but if someone dies it may not be reported for months. (His implication seemed to be that extra ration coupons could be accumulated in that way.)

No doubt there had been a real decline in the birth rate but the decline in the death rate was even greater. Longevity had increased from about 30 years of age to a life expectancy of around 50.

That was the kind of answer, I said, which was calculated to give foreign professors lots of work to do. What kind of professors were those, Mao asked?

He was interested to hear that I had attended a conference where professors had debated whether he had or had not made any original contributions to Marxism. I told him that I had asked one professor, at the close of such a conference, whether it would make any difference in their controversy if it could be shown that Mao himself had never claimed to have made any creative contribution. The professor said, “No.”

Mao was amused. More than 2,000 years ago, he remarked, Chuang Chou wrote his immortal essay on Lao Tzu (called the Chuang Tzu). A hundred schools of thought then arose to dispute the meaning.

Mao’s Writings

In 1960, when I had last seen Mao Tse-tung, I asked him whether he had ever written or had any intention of writing an “autobiography.” He had replied in the negative. Nevertheless, learned professors had discovered “autobiographies” written by Mao. The fact that they were fraudulent did not in the last affect their documentary terminology.

A question currently exercising the professors was whether Mao had in fact written his celebrated philosophical essays On Contradictions and On Practice in the summer of 1937, as asserted in his collected works, or whether they had really been composed later.

He replied that he had indeed written them in the summer of 1937. During the weeks preceding and immediately following the Liukouchiao incident, there had been a lull in his life in Yenan. The army had left for the front and Mao had found time in which to collect materials for some lectures on basic philosophy for use in the anti-Japanese academy. Some simple and yet fundamental text was needed for the young students being prepared, in brief, three-month courses, for political guidance during the years immediately ahead.

At the insistence of the party Mao prepared On Contradictions and On Practice to sum up the experiences of the Chinese revolution, by combining the essentials of Marxism with concrete and everyday Chinese examples. Mao wrote most of the night and slept during the day. What he had written over a period of weeks he delivered in lecture form in a matter of two hours. Mao added that he himself considered On Practice a more important essay than On Contradictions.

As for a treatise entitled On Dialectical Materialism, which has been attributed to Mao’s authorship by foreign Sinologists, he said that he had no recollection of having written any such work and he thought he would not have forgotten it had he done so.

“Youths who heard you lecture at Yenan later learned about revolution in practice but what could be the substitute for youths in China today?”

Mao said that of course those in China now under the age of 20 had never fought a war and never seen an imperialist or known capitalism in power. They knew nothing about the old society at first hand. Parents could tell them, but to hear about history and to read books was not the same thing as living it.

“Is the current emphasis on indoctrination of students with revolutionary principles and manual labor practice intended primarily to safeguard the future of socialism inside China or to teach Chinese youth that that security can never be guaranteed until socialism is victorious everywhere? Or are both aims inseparable?”

For the moment he did not directly answer the question. He asked what nation could really be said to have security? All the governments were talking about it and at the same time talking about complete and total disarmament. China herself had proposed general disarmament since a long time past. So had the Soviet Union. The U.S. kept talking about it. What we were getting instead was complete rearmament.

“President Johnson may find it difficult to settle problems in the East one by one,” I said. “Perhaps if he desired to expose the world to the real complexity of those problems he might do worse than cut to the heart of the matter by accepting China’s proposal to hold a summit conference to consider the total destruction of nuclear weapons.”

Chairman Mao agreed but concluded that it would be quite impossible. Even if Mr. Johnson himself desired such a meeting, he was after all but a steward for the monopoly capitalists, and they would never permit it. China had had only one atomic explosion and perhaps it had to be proved that one could divide into two, and so ad infinitum. Yet China did not want a lot of bombs, which were really quite useless, since probably no nation dared employ them. A few would suffice for scientific experiments. Even one bomb was not liked in China’s hands, however. Mao feared that his reputation was against him. The imperialists did not like him. Yet was it really right to blame China for everything and start anti-Chinese movements? Did China kill Ngo Dinh Diem? And yet that had happened. When the assassination of President Kennedy occurred, the Chinese were quite surprised. They had not planned that. Once more, they were quite surprised when Khrushchev was removed in Russia.

The View of Khrushchev

“Western commentators, and especially the Italian Communists, severely criticized the Soviet leaders for the conspiratorial and undemocratic way in which Khrushchev was thrown aside. What is your view?”

He replied that Mr. K had not been very popular in China even before his fall. Few portraits of him were to be seen. But K’s books were for sale in the bookstores before the fall and they were still for sale here but not in Russia. The world needed Khrushchev: his ghost would linger on. There were bound to be people who liked him. China would miss him as a negative example.

“On the basis of your own 70/30 standardthat is, a man’s work may be judged satisfactory if it is 70 percent correct and only 30 percent in errorhow would you grade the present leadership of the Soviet party? How far is it still below passing?” I asked.

Mao said he would not choose to discuss the present leaders in those terms. As for any improvement on Sino-Soviet relations, there was possibly some but not much. The disappearance of Khrushchev had perhaps only removed a target for polemical articles.

“In the Soviet Union, I said, “China has been criticized for fostering a ‘cult of personality’.”
Mao thought that perhaps there was some. It was said that Stalin had been the center of a cult of personality, and that Khrushchev had none at all. The Chinese people, critics say, have some (feelings or practices of this kind). There might be some reasons for saying that. Was it possible, he asked, that Mr. K fell because he had no cult of personality at all?

“Naturally I personally regret that forces of history have divided and separated the American and Chinese peoples from virtually all communication during the past 15 years. Today the gulf seems broader than ever. However, I myself do not believe it will end in war and one of history’s major tragedies.”

Mao said that forces of history were also bound, eventually, to bring the two peoples together again; that day would surely come. Possibly I was right that meanwhile there would be no war. That could occur only if American troops came to China. They would not really get much out of it. That simply would not be allowed. Probably the American leaders knew that and consequently they would not invade China. Then there would be no war, because the Chinese certainly would never send troops to attack the United States.

“What of the possibilities of war arising over Vietnam? I have read many newspaper stories indicating that the United States has considered expanding the war into North Vietnam.”

No, Mao said, he thought otherwise. Mr. Rusk had now made it clear that the U.S. would not do that. Mr. Rusk may have earlier said something like that, but now he had corrected himself and said that he had never made such a statement. Therefore, there need not be any war in North Vietnam.
“I do not believe that the makers and administrators of United States policy understand you,” I said.
Why not? China’s armies would not go beyond her borders to fight. That was clear enough. Only if the United States attacked China would the Chinese fight. Wasn’t that clear? The Chinese were very busy with their internal affairs. Fighting beyond one’s own borders was criminal. Why should the Chinese do that? The Vietnamese could cope with their situation.

“American officials repeatedly say that if United States forces were withdrawn from Vietnam, then all Southeast Asia would be overrun.”

The question was, said Mao, “overrun” by whom? Overrun by Chinese or overrun by the inhabitants? China was “overrun,” but only by Chinese.

No Troops Outside China

In reply to a specific question, the chairman affirmed that the were no Chinese forces in Northern Vietnam or anywhere else in Southeast Asia. China had no troops outside her own frontiers.
(In another context, it was said that unless Indian troops again crossed China’s frontiers, there would be no conflict there.)

“Dean Rusk has often stated that if China would give up her aggressive policies then the United States would withdraw from Vietnam. What does he mean?”

Mao replied that China had no policies of aggression to abandon. China had committed no acts of aggression. China gave support to revolutionary movements but not by sending troops. Of course, whenever a liberation struggle existed China would publish statements and call demonstrations to support it. It was precisely that which vexed the imperialists.

Mao went on to say that on some occasions China deliberately makes a loud noise, as for example around Quemoy and Matsu. A flurry of shots there could attract a lot of attention, perhaps because the Americans were uneasy so far away from home. Consider what could be accomplished by firing some blank shells within those Chinese territorial waters. Not so long ago the United States 7th Fleet in the Taiwan Strait was deemed insufficient to reply to the shells. The U.S. also dispatched part of its 6th Fleet in this direction and brought over part of the Navy from San Francisco. Arrived here, they had found nothing to do, so it seemed that China could order the American forces to march here, to march there. It had been the same with Chiang Kai-shek’s army. They had been able to order Chiang to scurry this way and then to hurry off in another direction. Of course when Navy men are warm and have full bellies they must be given something to do. But how was it that shooting off empty guns at home could be called aggression, while those who actually intervened with arms and bombed and burned people of other lands were not aggressors?

He continued: some Americans had said that the Chinese revolution was led by Russian aggressors, but in truth the Chinese revolution was armed by Americans. In the same way the Vietnamese revolution was also being armed by Americans, not by China. The liberation forces had not only greatly improved their supplies of American weapons during recent months but also expanded their forces by recruiting American-trained troops and officers from the puppet armies of South Vietnam. China’s liberation forces had grown in numbers and strength by recruiting to their side the troops trained and armed by the Americans for Chiang Kai-shek. The movement was called “changing of hats.” When Nationalist soldiers changed hats in large numbers because they knew the peasants would kill them for wearing the wrong hat, then the end was near. “Changing hats” was becoming more popular now among the Vietnamese puppets.

Mao said that the conditions of revolutionary victory in China had been, first, that the ruling group was weak and incompetent, led by a man who was always losing battles. Second, the People’s Liberation Army was strong and able and people believed in its cause. In places where such conditions did not prevail the Americans could intervene. Otherwise, they would stay away or soon leave.

“Do you mean that the circumstances of victory for the liberation front now exist in South Vietnam?”
Mao thought that the American forces were not yet ready to leave. Fighting would go on perhaps for one to two years. After that the United States troops would find it boring and might go home or somewhere else.

“Is it your policy now to insist upon the withdrawal of United States forces before participating in a Geneva conference to discuss the international position of a unified Vietnam?”

The chairman said that several possibilities should be mentioned. First, a conference might be held and United States withdrawal would follow. Second, the conference might be deferred until after the withdrawal. Third, a conference might be held but United States troops might stay around Saigon, as in the case of South Korea. Finally, the South Vietnamese front might drive out the Americans without any conference or international agreement. The 1954 Geneva conference had provided for the withdrawal of French troops from all Indochina and forbade any intervention by any other foreign troops. The United States had nevertheless violated the convention and that could happen again.
“Under existing circumstances,” I asked, “do you really see any hope of an improvement in Sino-American relations?”

Going to See God Soon

Yes, he thought there was hope. It would take time. Maybe there would be no improvement in his generation. He was soon going to see God. According to the law of dialectics all contradictions must finally be resolved, including the struggle of the individual.

“Judging from this evening you seem to be in good condition,” I said.

Mao Tse-tung smiled wryly and replied that there was perhaps some doubt about that. He said again that he was getting ready to see God very soon.

“I wonder if you mean you are going to find out whether there is a God. Do you believe that?”
No, he did not. But some people who claimed to be well-informed said there was a God. There seemed to be many gods and sometimes the same god could take all sides. In the wars of Europe the Christian God had been on the side of the British, the French, the Germans, and so on, even when they were fighting each other. At the time of the Suez Canal crisis God was united behind the British and French, but then there was Allah to back up the other side.

At dinner Mao had mentioned that both his brothers had been killed. His first wife had also been executed during the revolution and their son had been killed during the Korean War. Now he said that it was odd that death had so far passed him by. He had been prepared for it many times but death just did not seem to want him. What could he do? On several occasions it had seemed that he would die. His personal bodyguard was killed while standing right beside him. Once he was splashed all over with the blood of another soldier, but the bomb had not touched him. There had been other narrow escapes.

After a moment of silence Mao said that he had, as I knew, begun life as a primary school teacher. He had then had no thought of fighting wars. Neither had he thought of becoming a Communist. He was more or less a democratic personage such as myself. Later on, he sometimes wondered by what chance combination of reasons he had become interested in founding the Chinese Communist Party. Anyway, events did not move in accordance with the individual human will. What mattered was that China had been oppressed by imperialism, feudalism and bureaucratic capitalism.

“Man makes his own history, but he makes it in accordance with his environment,” I quoted. “You have fundamentally changed the environment in China. Many wonder what the younger generation bred under easier conditions will do. What do you think about it.”

He also could not know, he said. He doubted that anyone could be sure. There were two possibilities. There could be continued development of the revolution toward Communism, the other possibility was that youth could negate the revolution, and give a poor performance: make peace with imperialism, bring the remnants of the Chiang Kai-shek clique back to the mainland, and take a stand beside the small percentage of counter-revolutionaries still in the country. Of course he did not hope for counter-revolution. But future events would be decided by future generations, and in accordance with conditions we could not foresee.

From the long-range view, future generations ought to be more knowledgeable than we are, just as men of the bourgeois-democratic era were more knowledgeable than those of the feudal ages. Their judgment would prevail, not ours. The youth of today and those to come after them would assess the work of the revolution in accordance with values of their own. Mao’s voice dropped away, and he half closed his eyes. Man’s condition on this earth was changing with ever increasing rapidity. A thousand years from now all of them, he said, even Marx, Engels and Lenin, would possibly appear rather ridiculous.

Mao Tse-tung walked me through the doorway and, despite my protests, saw me to my car, where he stood alone for a moment, coatless in the sub-zero Peking night, to wave me farewell in the traditional manner of that ancient cultured city. I saw no security guards around the entrance, nor can I now recall having seen even one armed bodyguard in our vicinity all evening. As the car drove away I looked back and watched Mao brace his shoulders and slowly retrace his steps, leaning heavily on the arm of an aide, into the Great Hall of the People.


Democracy and Class Struggle also recommends the following for those interested in question of  the Great Leap Forward :

Did Mao really kill Millions in the Great Leap Forward ? by Joseph Ball

The Great Leap Forward was not all bad by Henry CK Liu

See also the Battle for China's Past by Mobo Gao

Also :


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Without Revolutionary Strategy There Can Be No Revolutionary Movement : Response to Zak Brown by Joshua Moufawad-Paul

Democracy and Class Struggle finds this exchange between Zak Brown and by Joshua Moufawad-Paul illuminating and we have republished for our readers.

The comments on the universal and particular resonate with our own experience of our application of Marxism Leninism Maoism which we have mediated into the particularity of Welsh National life.

Our strategy also bypasses many of the traditional left who do not operate on our terrain of the Land Question in Wales.

Recently, Zak Brown at wrote a response to my claim that Protracted Peoples War (PPW) should be understood as a universal revolutionary strategy, particularly focusing on the problematic of universality.

I am going to try to keep my response constrained and limited, but first some qualifications:

1) Brown's article is written as if, and this might not have been his intention, I am a theorist of PPW who has spent an inordinate amount of time putting forward this theory.

This assumption is inherent in his claim, near the end of the article, where he talks about "the concerted efforts of JMP and his immediate allies" as if I am leading some revolutionary movement and am its principal theorist.  I am not.  My comments about PPW (and they have generally been comments and reflections) have to do with philosophically thinking through the already existing theory of PPW as universal that is something I encountered, but did not write, and obviously found it convincing.  If he really does want to engage with the theory itself, he should not be citing what I have written on my blog (which is commentary on this theory that, at previous points, I have linked to), but on those articles that express the theory itself.  There was a response to this theory of PPW published on Kasama a while back, which was pretty horrid and I hope the PCR-RCP responds, but at least it realized that my articles were not expressions and elucidations of this theory.

2) Brown's article references only one of my articles that discusses PPW which is not, at least in my opinion, a very good article.  Honestly it was a rant about the lacuna of thought surrounding revolutionary strategy amongst marxists at the centres of capitalism that was expressing itself through the strategy to which I happen to adopt.

Moreover, it was a rant guided by a much more thorough and less polemical journal article I submitted three days earlier for publication (damn jury process takes month), as well as my annoyance about asinine comments on another blog post.  While I did set up an antimony between PPW and insurrection, I also wrote "this [article] is not a defense of PPW as a universal strategy, though it takes this position as a departure.

I am well aware that others, including some of my readers, may have thoughtful disagreements with this argument either because they subscribe to some version of insurrectionism or another theory of strategy. This is why I have not, at any point, attempted to defend PPW and explain its significance as I have in the past."

Thus, when I wrote within that article that there was nothing that actually provided any real defense of PPW or a proper explanation of its significance, it is somewhat confusing that Brown's critique of my position would focus solely on an article that cannot answer his questions.  And because it cannot answer them, this absence allows him to prove that my position is erroneous and find in it some "methodology".  Again, if he had focused instead on some of my other articles, and more importantly the theoretical work that claims PPW is universal itself (i.e. the work by the PCR-RCP, its forerunner Action Socialiste, as well as the nPCI), he would have a stronger critique.

With these qualifications in mind I will respond to the areas in Brown's critique that I think are worthy of some response.  Again, the fact that he is focusing on something that (as qualified above) was not meant to be rigorous defense of PPW is a serious problem, but there are some things he says that demand engagement.  Generally, and with all due respect to Brown (who has written some great articles that I have linked to in the past), I feel that this critique, though long, is hampered by a vagueness and impressionist interpretation of an already less-than-stellar blog entry (more of a rant) that seems designed to provoke debate that, beyond this response, I'm not really interested in having.

To be honest, I don't see why this critique even exists because, as noted above, it doesn't address any articles that are actually about the theory of PPW but instead expends a lot of space focusing on my style and perceived claims.  He can conclude that he has proven my methodology wrong, when there is nothing in his article that explains what my methodology is or where it is in the article in question except for his own thoughts about universality, that will be discussed below, justified by a Deleuze quote.

But okay, despite the difficulty of having to respond to a critique that is somewhat scattered (possibly due to the fact that it is responding to a quickly written rant that was even more scattered), I'm going to respond as best as I can.

1) Am I Closing Space for Dissent within Left Groups?

Brown claims that I am closing a space for dissent around strategy within left groups because I am actually arguing that "those who reject PPW as a strategy for revolution in North America, or as a universal strategy par excellence, are unfit to carry the banner of communism or [are] fearful of socialism."  While it is true that I argue that those who are unwilling to engage with the question of revolutionary strategy are unfit and/or fearful (hence my reference to the Derbent quote), as the quote above should demonstrate I am not arguing that those who differ when it comes to the theory of PPW belong in this category.  In the context of PPW, and in reference to the quotation he uses to make this hasty derivation, I was referring to the people who dismiss PPW without offering anything else in that insulting and rhetorical manner––the people who say "good luck with that" without understanding the theory––because I feel this attitude demonstrates a rejection of strategizing revolution.  The paragraph above talks about individuals who care little about any theory of strategy, the kind who pop into left spaces to troll in a particular manner.

Apparently it is "lashing out" to respond forcefully to this kind of attitude, but I'm sure that Zak Brown and other participants on would respond just as forcefully, and with as much legitimate disdain, to a trolling comment about third worldism that demonstrates something more (perhaps first world chauvinism, in this case) than just a difference in theoretical line.

With this in mind, Brown's statement about "closing space" is rather strange.  Although I agree that there are times when polemics do close down dialogue, for him to assume that I was doing this.  I'm closing space for those who are already hostile, or at least demarcating a line.  Moreover, I do not possess the power to close such space, unless he thinks that the space of my blog (that I close and open according to my politics) is somehow a significant political space that is the same as an organization where criticism/self-criticism does function between comrades.

Although Brown began his article by claiming that he wants to have a "civil" discussion, this seems designed to prevent a pointed response despite the fact that he has arguably violated the laws of civility with statements about how I "lash out", don't understand criticism/self-criticism, haven't thought about any of the things he brings up as counter-arguments, etc.

Hell, he basically implies that I misunderstand historical materialism.  This is as much a way of "closing space" as what he claims I am doing.  The thing is, if you are going to make a pointed comment about anything you are going to end up closing off areas necessarily, or at least demanding that they be closed.

Theoretical terrains develop in this way of closing, not that I have done a very good job of closing anything mind you, because certain spaces can and should be closed and no longer "open for debate" much in the same way that we should not go back to areas now understood as pseudo-science and say that these areas are open for debate.

2) Am I wrong about the refusal of strategy?

Brown claims, despite agreeing that the theory of insurrection is normative, that marxist groups at the centres of capitalism do talk about strategy and that I am wrong to claim that there is a refusal.  This is not the case; revolutionary strategy is the most under-theorized region of revolutionary communism at the global centres.  All you need to do is look at every group's program and attempt to locate where they talk about seizing state power and how it will be done strategically.  At best there are vague comments; at worse there is nothing.

Every single conference and book that claims to deal with the "Question of Strategy" (such as the edited volume by the Socialist Register, or countless marxist conferences I've attended) have treated this question as the question of organization.

Those papers in the academic sphere I have encountered that do try to talk about this are rare and unsatisfying because they end up reifying either insurrection or a vague movementism (such as D'arcy's theory of "a strategy of attrition").

Regroupment is often taken as a method of strategy, but again this is about organization––pulling people towards a communist pole, okay––and the question remains: what do we do with this organization?

Thus, when Brown's assertion that "those communists and anarchists (be they from whatever organization) influenced by insurrectionary theory are ultimately doing the same activities as those who criticize [insurrectionary theory]" is just dead wrong.  While there are obvious overlaps in our activities, they are also quite different in their aim and focus.

If I organize in a group that is dedicated to the theory of insurrection (and not in an unquestioned sense) than I begin with the assumption that I need to organize primarily within particular spaces of an already organized left and an already organized working class.

This is precisely the organizational thrust that limited the New Communist Movement in Canada and produced the internal collapse of organizations such as the Workers Communist Party (WCP) that was once quite large: its activities were economistic, it destroyed itself with where it focused its organizational activities precisely because of its theory of strategy.

Indeed, the reason why PPW was theorized the way it was in Canada is because of this experience. In any case, one only needs to look at the activities and campaigns of the PCR-RCP's mass organizations, and how they are actually invested in a style and focus that is different from so many other groups, to recognize that a theory of strategy produces a different focus.

 Its entire analysis of the Canadian "social formation" is affected by this strategy and vice-versa (i.e. a summary pamphlet the PCR-RCP recently produced, What Is "Canada"? links these things together).  And if its theory of strategy is incorrect, then it is probably the case that it might have chosen the wrong activities on which to focus.

With this in mind, Brown's comments about the ambiguity of the situation at the centres of capitalism seems more like a side point than anything else.  Everything he cites about a general opportunism is something we can agree on.  The difference, however, is that I happen to be part of a camp that feels the strategy of PPW, and an organizational form that is connected to this strategy, can better answer this general opportunism.  Most situations where the accumulation of forces is a necessary step are ambiguous and dynamic, but to claim this is also ambiguous.

I also feel that Canada possesses some very non-ambiguous aspects that are very concrete, and the aforementioned PCR-RCP document, as well as its older How We Intend To Fight, goes to great length to lay out a concrete analysis of a concrete situation.  Point being, sometimes what appears ambiguous is not as ambiguous as one might thing; sticking to the level of appearance, seeing only multiple trajectories and confusion, is what every marxist analysis has attempted to demystify.

3) Universality and Particularity

It is unclear to me whether or not Zak Brown understands how the concepts of universality and particularity have functioned within the theoretical terrain of historical materialism.  While it may be the case that I am wrong for assuming that PPW is universal, to dismiss my basis for making this claim as some form of religious thinking––and to partially justify this dismissal on a quote from Deleuze––is to step outside of historical materialism.  Indeed, the fact that Brown argues that my assertion of universality somehow ignores the fact of ruptures and exceptions demonstrates is shifting the argumentative landscape.  Something that is universal is always mediated by the particular, the exceptions in which universal is expressed, and so yes the norm is demonstrated through the exceptions.

Moreover, if he does want to claim that a dialectical approach is one that recognizes how "[s]hifts, moments, events, exceptions, […] are the pivots upon which history turns," and "[n]ot the modal consistency put forward in any given historical or theoretical continuity," then he also needs to recognize how this "theoretical continuity" is interrelated with this fact of rupture.  This cannot be done by only "highlight[ing] the inconsistency, the fragmented, the 'empty space' wherein history transpires" but in understanding that the openness to the future is not simply an "empty space"; it is informed by the possibilities of the present that themselves carry the weight of the past.

This sounds like a post-modern approach to history, or at the very least the "everything is rupture" position put forward by thinkers such as Badiou.  I happen to believe that history is not made as we please but according to the weight of all those dead generations, as Marx put it, and that this weight provides us with lessons and a universal truth process that is still in development because it is open to the future.

In those moments of possible rupture (are these "revolutionary situations"?) there are indeed multiple paths open to us.

But some of these paths are ones that, based on the universal concepts developed through the history of revolution, we should be able to predict.

What will happen if a revolution happens and there is no revolutionary party in command?  We receive the answer to this question time and time again, which has reinforced the fact that Lenin's theory of the party and the state are universal.

Although I agree that these universal concepts are often applied in a dogmatic manner without a recognition of particular concrete circumstances––that the continuity of the science is often held up without regard to the ruptures––I also feel that an approach that focuses only on particularities, ruptures, and contingencies is the antithesis of historical materialism.

 And I think, if he really reflects on this, Zak would agree with me.  After all, there is a reason he calls himself a Marxist despite the fact that Marxism can be accused of being a particularity that should not be able to speak to our future, let alone to non-European contexts.  Mao, it needs to be said, did a good job of explaining the connection between universality and particularity in his "sinification of marxism" texts.

4) Universality of PPW?

As noted at the outset of this response, there is nothing in the article that Brown takes as authoritative that is actually about proving that PPW is universal.

While I do mention that I believe it is universal because I think x about revolutionary history, I do not go into significant detail.

Mainly this is because: a) I've explained why I think this elsewhere and don't like rewriting everything I've written in the past; b) it's not my theory to begin with and I don't like rewriting what others have written better than I.

When Brown claims, however, that there are clear differences between the revolutions in Russia and China, so that "neither were continuities of an existing universal notion" he is obviously met with an absence in the article he cites because it does not address this problem.  To be fair, in one sense he is correct: a universal notion does not pre-exist the revolutionary moment of continuity-rupture.

As an historical materialist I do not believe that there are Platonic truths that have existed eternally waiting to be discovered (an error, I believe, that Badiou makes with his "communist hypothesis"), because truth is a process determined by an accumulation of universal notions.

In another sense, however, I think that Brown is wrong to assume that the theory of PPW-as-universal is something only gleaned from the Chinese Revolution because the Russian Revolution held that insurrectionism was universal.

Rather, I think the successes of a latter world historical revolution, when read back on former moments of world historical revolution, produce universalities in the past by explaining what could not have been explained at that historical conjuncture.

To understand what I mean, here, we only need to look at other aspects of revolutionary science that are considered "universal".  Take, for example, Lenin's theorization of the dictatorship of the proletariat in State and Revolution.  There is a reason that anti-Leninist Marxists are able to find a lot of evidence as to why Lenin's theory of the party and the dictatorship of the proletariat isn't "true Marxism" and that Lenin was a complete break with some authentic and "pure" marxism; they read those aspects of Marx and Engels that talk about state power and the dictatorship of the proletariat in a wholly different manner from the Leninist.

Indeed, it's not until the Russian Revolution, with Lenin as its principal theorist, that we have justification for arguing that the theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat is universal.  Now, all of those aspects that could not have been fully theorized (though they were theorized to some extent) in Marx and Engels about the dictatorship of the proletariat are given a different meaning because of Lenin.  On the one hand they were called into being by the Russian Revolution but, if history had taken a different turn, we might still be having a debate about these things (and to some extent we are, obviously, because people deny this universality as well); the continuity is grasped because of the rupture.

Thus, I do not think that the theory of insurrection is universal simply because Lenin assumed it was universal, but because Maoism produces this theory as a way of solving a problem that could not be solved by Leninism and that this theoretical solution can also make sense, and thus prove the particular aspects of its universality, in the way that it illuminates our revolutionary past.  As I have noted elsewhere, and following the nPCI, the theory of PPW explains the Russian Revolution better than the theory of insurrection.

Here the argument is that there was an untheorized PPW that took place in Russia, beginning in 1905, where the insurrection was just part of a larger chain of revolutionary struggle.  Karl Liebknecht's Militarism, as I noted elsewhere, can be read, in light of the theory of PPW, as arguing that this was precisely the case: in 1906, examining the guerrilla struggles in Russia and without the benefit of 1917, Liebknecht argues that this revolutionary struggle might reveal something about the proletarian method of making revolution.  And what does he mean by a proletarian method of making revolution?

He is referring to Engels' document, Conditions and Prospects of a Holy War against the Holy Alliance Against France in 1852, where Engels claims that the "emancipation of the proletariat, too, will have its particular military expression, it will give rise to a specific, new method of warfare."

Following this, Brown attacks me for focusing only on the failures of insurrection and not PPW so as to make a claim for the universality of the latter.  In a certain sense he is correct, but not simply because of the failed German revolution: the argument, here, is that every single revolution following the October revolution that has faithfully followed the theory of insurrection was brutally crushed at the moment of insurrection.

While it is true that many PPWs have failed, he needs to be precise about the reason for their failure: the revolution in Peru did not fail because of its military strategy––indeed, as even the rightist Senderologists claim, it would have succeeded had it continued––but because the PCP splintered, with large parts of the organization acceding to the call for peace talks, due to the arrest of the central committee.

The PPW in Nepal completed its military aim of placing the Maoists in power, but the revolution failed because this party became opportunist and decided to end the PPW and instead collaborate with an imperialist peace process.  The failure of insurrections, however, is within the very theory of insurrection: they were crushed in the revolutionary moment, without even a chance of seizing power, precisely because their theory of revolution didn't work.

Furthermore, it is worthwhile also looking at the successes of a style of revolutionary warfare that is PPW in form but not in political content.  Innumerable partisan struggles that embedded themselves in the masses succeeded in maintaining a revolutionary impetus against overwhelming odds, failing only because of a lack of a clear, theoretically unified, and revolutionary leadership (one example is the Troubles in Ireland)––proving, of course, that PPW is also something that has to be organically connected to a revolutionary party.

We can even think of the Islamist struggles against US occupation in places like Afghanistan as being an example of an anti-communist PPW (the form, but not the content, of the theory) that are successful militarily, and have succeeded in rallying the masses who hate imperialism, but will be defeated because the politics of these forces are such that they will either alienate the masses or end up in the imperialist camp.

And, as aforementioned, we should also be able to read Peru and Nepal as proof of the validity of PPW because the failures of these revolutions was not about their military theory––that worked very well to put them in a position of power––but in the leadership, the two-line struggle within the party (also a Maoist theory), that ended these PPWs from within.

Of course, whether or not PPW is applicable to first world contexts is indeed the hinge upon which this debate swings.  Peru and Nepal were peripheral contexts and, within the worldwide Maoist movement, there is still the argument that insurrection applies to the centres whereas PPW applies to the peripheries.  But this is precisely why those of us who claim that PPW is universal speak of how the theory of insurrection has consistently demonstrated its failures at the imperialist centres, and often before the moment of insurrection!

For, as noted in the second section, the very approach to organizing that is premised on the theory of insurrection (enter the ranks of organized labour so as to produce the situation for insurrection) is often defeated very early on in this theoretical approach: economism prevails, those entering these spaces end up leaving the revolutionary organization because they receive well-paying and secure jobs, the workers they are organizing are not interested in revolution––are not the proletariat.

5) "Disqualification" from the revolutionary camp?

Brown seems to be upset by my claim that an organization's refusal to develop a general strategy of revolution "disqualifies" it from the revolutionary camp.  First of all, this is telling because Brown also claims that, contrary to my assertion, every communist and leftist is concerned with strategy in a way that I argued they were not.  But if this was the case, then he shouldn't be upset about my claim about "disqualification" because, according to his analysis, nobody would be disqualified.  My point was always that the rejection of revolutionary strategy was demonstrated by a refusal to produce a theory of overthrowing the state; Brown's semantic shift, here, just reveals that he wasn't being precise about what I meant by strategy in the first place. (Though again, to be fair, it is not as if the article he is relying on was very precise, either.)

Secondly, this is not my argument or claim but one that I was referencing.  Thus, Brown should send his complaints to T. Derbent, former urban guerrilla and theorist of revolutionary strategy, who is responsible for thinking through the various strategies of making revolution that have been employed throughout history.  Although most of his work is still only available in French (for example, the masterful Clausewitz and Giap), Kersplebedeb recently published a small pamphlet of his, Categories of Revolutionary Military Policy, wherein he makes the comment about disqualification that I will cite, for the interest of both Brown and my readers, in greater detail:
"Every social revolutionary project must think ahead to the question of armed confrontation with the forces of power and reaction. To put off making such a study because ‘the time is not right yet’ for armed confrontation, amounts to making choices… which risk, at that point when ‘the time will be right’ for armed confrontation, leaving the revolutionary forces powerless, vulnerable, with characteristics that will be totally inadequate. Choices which risk leaving them open to defeat. […] Organizations that claim to be revolutionary but which refuse to develop a military policy before the question of confrontation becomes a practical reality, disqualify themselves as revolutionary forces.  They are already acting as gravediggers of revolution, the quartermasters of stadiums and cemeteries."
Personally, I think this is a very important insight.  Derbent has done a good job of defending why this is the case and I urge Brown to read this text.  The overall point is that delaying the work required to think about what you need to do to make revolution until some future perfect scenario is strategically problematic.

6) Mass support?

I'm going to skip over many of Brown's speculations on how the specific tactics of PPW could be carried out in the first world because: a) I am not a theorist of PPW, but interested only in the reasons why it is generally a better alternative (and so also have similar interests in thinking through these particularities, which cannot be done on this blog); b) the Kasama article made similar points but did so by examining the actual PCR-RCP articles that talk in a little more detail about these things, so Brown's thoughts were less constrained by the actual theory (best to wait for a possible PCR-RCP reply, here), and he might have learned something by the past discussions on base areas that are connected to this previously existing theory; c) I don't think that a general strategic theory is proved wrong because of a discussion of tactics since neither Zak nor anyone who would be (unlike Zak) beholden to a theory of insurrection provides their tactical outline yet assumes they are correct; d) some of these tactical problems; d) I think some tactical discussion, which a party leading such a PPW should be working out, is not the thing that I would nor is something that such an organization would ever answer publicly for obvious reasons.

Brown's entire complaint about how a theory of PPW will not have mass support is contained in the question "[h]ow can PPW overcome overwhelming state repression?"  Now, while it is clear that he began his essay by not defining PPW according to the standard and erroneous tropes, this question seems to proceed from such an understanding. (Although, to be fair to Zak, he recognizes that this might be the case and is perhaps asking this question out of interest.)  This is because the theory of PPW is tendered because of the fact of overwhelming state repression.  In More on the Question of Waging Imperialist War in the Imperialist Countries, the PCR-RCP bases its defense of PPW on the rise of the modern, militarized state that is trained to put down insurrections.  The point, here, is that a protracted response embedded in the masses and everywhere in society is necessary.  That is, it is because of the fact of overwhelming repression and capitalist militarism that PPW is an important theory; this was precisely Liebknecht's point in Militarism when he traced the development of capitalist militarization, at his time not yet completed, and argued that the proletariat required a strategy that was capable of waging a dispersed guerrilla struggle, rather than direct head-on collisions, with such a force.

In this context, the question of mass support is not only pertinent but is part of what PPW is about.  The point is to build a dispersed counter-hegemony where the revolutionary forces legitimacy grows in power, from the early period of an accumulation of forces (that is also oriented towards PPW as a whole, and hence a refusal to focus on the style of work determined by the insurrectionist strategy, as discussed above), through every phase.

While Zak might be correct in disparaging the possibility of such a venture, no other revolutionary strategy can provide any answer to this question either.  At the very least, the theory of PPW's concentration on a dispersed and hydra-like method of warfare recognizes the hard work that needs to be done when making revolution.  (We can also cite Deleuze, along with Guattari, here: in 1000 Plateaus they speak of the difference between Go and chess, noting that the former is a superior strategic terrain due to its concentration on multiple positionings whereas the latter, determined only by direct lines of force, is entirely constrained.  PPW is to insurrection as Go is to chess.)

Brown's complaints about the conceivability of PPW in urban settings is easily dispelled by references to those non-revolutionary PPWs in form, discussed above, that proved the possibility of urban base areas despite the might of modern militarization.  The no-go zones during the Troubles, for example, were spaces in which the military and police would not go and the communities that controlled these zones were in complete control.  The problem with this example, though, is that the communities in control were not communist.  The point, however, is that such spaces can exist because they have existed.

His next complaint––how to fund a people's war––seems rather out of place.  He mentions China's war debt to the Soviet Union despite the fact that any cursory examination of the situation in China would demonstrate that the bulk of its revolutionary success had nothing to do with this debt; rather, this debt was accumulated due to Russia's intervention in WW2 against Japan in Mongolia, as well as the weaponry that was given to the Kuomintang forces by the Soviets.  The revolutionary forces during and after WW2 did not receive much support from the Soviets; they accumulated weaponry through the tactics that were determined by their PPW.

Similarly, the Peruvian and Nepalese PPWs accumulated weapons in a similar manner: by raiding the police, military, etc.  Although it is true that fighter jets and tanks cannot easily be accumulated, it is also true that the fact of PPW––as opposed to insurrection––is such that direct warfare against jets and tanks is less of a concern because of its dispersal throughout society in general.

Again, if we look at those examples of urban guerrilla warfare at the centres of capitalism that emerged during the days of the modernized military, it is clear that they were not easily rooted out by tanks and planes.  Indeed, the RAF survived well into the mid-1990s before shutting itself down; if it had possessed a PPW strategy that was interested in embedding itself in the masses rather than a simply urban guerrilla strategy what could it have accomplished?

The arguments Brown makes about state propaganda again simply prove why we need a strategy of PPW.  The building of counter-hegemony is part of this strategy, and part of this building is to undermine state propaganda.  In any case, this is a rather weak argument.

The state propaganda levelled against the peoples war in India is extremely significant, with modern communications apparatuses involved, but it is still being challenged.  By this logic, we should not talk openly about communism because state propaganda is such that it undermines all such attempts.

Finally, Brown makes some strange comments about how, if we want "mass support", we should participate in elections, and how mass support is a "political ritual" that ties the entire left together.

It is unclear why he thinks that the desire for mass support should translate into elections; large portions of the masses, at least in Canada, do not participate in elections––when you speak with them they explain why they don't participate––and the point of a revolutionary movement is to gain adherents to a revolutionary line, something that is not expressed in the electoral theatre.

None of the "marxist" groups that participate in the elections enjoy mass support for the same reason that the bourgeois parties do not enjoy mass support: because the entire process is seen, by a significant portion of the most disenfranchised, as a sham.

As for this "political ritual" business, again, demonstrates that while it is true that "we all want the same thing" it is not clear that this same thing can be accomplished by any group due to the disparate political/strategic lines that lead to different ways of working.

Here Brown sounds like a movementist, or at the very least someone arguing for refoundationalism.

Since I argued against these approaches in my book, I will not deal with this further here.  Yes we want mass support but how do we get it?  By going to the masses so as to accumulate revolutionary forces––and organizations that do not possess a strategy beyond normative insurrectionism do very little accumulation of people who are actually interested in revolution.

7) No alternatives

In the end Brown does not provide an alternative, but escapes from the burden of this question by shrugging it off: "I am not convinced that what we need is a buffet of competing strategies for readers to choose from like Wikipedia pages."  This isn't an argument; it's rhetoric.  The point is that being in a revolutionary organization requires the responsibility of thinking through the most important aspect of Marxism: making revolution.  Here, I'm not certain if Brown is being honest due to the fact that he is devoted to a site that, at least in the past, has pushed the strategy of global peoples war––which would be, at least to my mind, part of his "buffet of competing strategies."

More importantly, however, this statement about "competing strategies for readers to choose from" misses the point of why I care about revolutionary strategy to begin with––why it is even important.  It has nothing to do with online readers picking and choosing, or the already convinced left deciding what pet theory to adopt, but about an organization that is aimed at the masses who are not organized but who are potentially revolutionary giving these masses a strategic direction when they are accumulated into a revolutionary organization.

For those of us who uphold PPW as a strategy in an organizational context, we are not as much interested in proving its efficacy online as we are in applying it as the basis for our organizational activities.  Thus, it ultimately has nothing to do with competing strategies and, when it sometimes does, so what?

One hundred flowers, one hundred schools of thought!  I have never been opposed to the proliferation of competing strategic lines, as long as I can argue about their efficacy, just as I have never been opposed to the proliferation of various marxisms, as long as I can critique those that I find problematic––just as they do with my type of marxism.

I think it is actually a good thing for multiple marxisms to function in a given social context because I feel that the best of these marxisms will demonstrate its efficacy by actually organizing; honest marxists should be willing to liquidate themselves in those currents that fulfill the theoretical demands of revolutionary marxism.  If you think this is a problem, then you're probably too worried that your anti-capitalism brand lacks the strength of others… But sublimating this worry in a rejection of line struggle, an abstract complaint about "Wikipedia pages", generally leads to a refoundationalist way of seeing social reality––it's not very helpful.

Thus, when Brown argues that "building organizations with significant influence and activity, developing comprehensive demands, and developing that 'mass support' we mentioned" is more important that coming up with a revolutionary strategy, he misses the point entirely.  His assumption is that proponents of PPW think that we need to build the mass party before launching peoples war when, in actual fact, the strategy of PPW tells us how to build the mass party (and thus he again misses the point of the theory) and how this mass party should be orientated.  Otherwise, without a strategic orientation, where does one begin?  What are these "demands" that he thinks we need to develop and how are they operationalized?

These are questions that are delimited by the question of strategy, and this question should be considered of primary importance to anyone who wants to build a revolutionary movement because this is what marxism is about––making revolution.  So if you are not going to think through how to make revolution, and leave it to some future moment where you hope it will be spontaneously worked out, then you are not really thinking through the problematic presented by capitalism.  Hence T. Derbent's insistence on the necessity of this question.

In the end, Brown appears to be upset that Maoists "simply swallow" the universality of Protracted Peoples War so "that every contradiction, every success, every failure, and all surrounding questions are filtered through a preconceived dogma; the 'correctness' and 'universality' of their sacred strategy."

But who are these Maoists who are "simply swallowing" this dogma without critical reflection (which would mean it's not a dogma) since, at least to my mind, more marxists swallow the dogma of insurrectionism?

This is a rhetorical flourish, a poisoning of the well, that is about as useful as a Newtonian claiming that people "simply swallow" the theory of general relativity.

What dogma is being filtered, here?

Only the dogma of accepting a state of affairs where we don't have to think about what it means to make revolution and instead accept a situation where we just build organizations, if we are actually building them at all, without any strategic direction.
The irony is here: "[r]ather than see these things as they are, or at least in a creative light, the see them as continuities of an omnipotent system.  This creates a whole host of problems, only one of which is dogmatism."  Indeed: the "omnipotent system" of not having a general theory of strategy because of the assumption that the time is not yet right to embark on revolution.

The uncreativity of not figuring out how to orientate the masses towards revolution in your daily activites.  The dogmatism of seeing any challenge to the normative insurrectionism (even when you admit that it's normative, but hey repressive desublimation) as dogmatic.