In response to Jason Unruhe’s second attempt at a rebuttal of my critique

After publishing my polemic “On ‘Maoist Rebel News’ and the Folly of Ultraleftism-Third Worldism”, Jason Unruhe (the man behind Maoist Rebel News) was quick to offer a rebuttal: “Daniel Buntovnik’s Hurt Feelings and Non-arguments”, which I replied to here. A short while later, Unruhe retracted his first attempt at rebutting my criticism, conceding that his argument was weak. My “non-arguments” were then elevated to “pseudo-intellectualism” in his second essay. What follows is my response to that essay.

The main argument which Unruhe advances in his rebuttal is that “Third Worldism” is not “a First World thing”. His point is to minimize the fact (which I’ve highlighted) that the persons who are the most vocal proponents of “Third Worldism” and its chief tenet that revolution is impossible in the First World, come from the First World.

Unruhe parades a series of photographs of Bengali villagers who the Leading Light Communist Organization (LLCO) is apparently working with in Bangladesh. This is supposed to lend Third World street cred to the organization. He claims that the people in these images are “invisible” to me, despite the fact that I talked about them, their role in the LLCO, and linked to the same photos in my polemic. He claims that “the majority of Leading Light’s top leaders are from the Third World.” Even if that were true, it wouldn’t change the fact that the LLCO’s “Supreme Commander” is a dude from Denver, Colorado.

The LLCO acknowledges the organizational method known as “democratic centralism” as one of the prime theoretical contributions of Lenin to revolutionary science. Not only does the title “Supreme Commander” mesh poorly with the idea that “the minority must obey the majority”, it also implies hierarchy within the LLCO leadership, whose authority is ultimately centralized in the First World. Democratic centralism means differences in thought and opinion, unity in action. Let’s review what unity in action necessitates:

It is inescapable that effective coordination in action presupposes leadership which is obeyed without question. Consequently, unity in action necessarily [involves] an acceptance of leadership. (“Democratic Centralism.” In Marxists Internet Archive, Encyclopedia of Marxism)

In other words, Unruhe and the LLCO can post as many photos of Bengali villagers as they please; it still won’t change the fact that what they propose is for the people of the Third World to follow a script written for them in the USA and Canada. Any group of American missionaries can take their message and their money and their merchandise to desperately poor people in the Global South, find an audience, and take some photos. And that is easier to do if they go somewhere where the ideology they seek to export, or a variant of it, already has a long history there, such as that of Maoism in South Asia.

Unruhe says that the LLCO “Bangla Zone” emerged from the unfortunately named ‘National Socialist Party’ (Bangladesh). However, the genealogy of the “Maoism-Third Worldism” concept of the LLCO variety can ultimately be traced back to Harvard University.*

Unruhe says:

[Daniel K. Buntovnik] says he’s only seen myself and Commander Prairie Fire involved in Third Worldism. This is only because he hasn’t looked. A wealth of third world people have made Third Worldist arguments. (…) The first prime minister of India is a simple example. Although he was a reformer and a social democratic, he had Third Worldist political economy.

Why do I focus my criticism of “Third Worldism” on Unruhe and Prairie Fire? They are just the self-proclaimed “#1 Marxist on Youtube”, the largest and most popular video hosting website in the world, and the “Supreme Commander” of the “Global People’s War”!

Unruhe further contradicts himself, claiming that I haven’t “even bothered to look at actual third world intellectuals” after he’s already noted that I reference Lin Biao, Edward Said, Gayatri Spivak, “and who cares.”

So who are the “Third World writers and revolutionaries” Unruhe chooses to point out in his attempt to disavow the First World basis of  “Third Worldism”? Reformists and social democrats, the first leaders of postcolonial India and Tanzania; one whose country has literally been waging war on Maoist rebels for almost half a century and the other whose “hand-picked successor” sold the country to the International Monetary Fund. Unruhe exploits their words as if articulating the basic idea of imperial plunder makes a person “Third Worldist”, as if acknowledging that imperialism is a thing is the same as being “Third Worldist”.

No, the facts have been established.

“Third Worldism” is:

  • the denial of class antagonism between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat in the First World, making proletarian revolution impossible there.
  • the denial of class antagonism between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat in the Third World, making people’s revolution possible there through the alliance of the national-bourgeoisie and the urban petty bourgeoisie with the working class and peasants against the comprador/monopoly bourgeoisie.
  • based on an outdated confounding of the Western “Three-World Model” with the Maoist “Theory of Three Worlds”, using terms derived from a ternary conception to describe a binary worldview.

Unruhe seems to bask proudly in philistinism, closing his essay by deriding my polemic as “overly long”. I will be the first to admit that there is a lot to unpack when it comes to making sense of the incoherence in “Maoism-Third Worldism”. But this just shows that Unruhe is too lazy to address my argument in full, dismissing the rest of my points as “BS”, “angry”, “false”, and “sophomoric” with zero reasons given. If my posts are too long, then I invite Unruhe to get back to me on Twitter.

mrndebatetweets


* Marcel the Maoist, “A Brief History of Maoism Third Worldism” (September 25, 2015), http://marcelthemaoist.blogspot.ro/2015/09/a-brief-history-of-maoism-third-worldism.html.

“The Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM)

This is undoubtedly the roots of MTW, though similar ideas had existed before.”

Leading Light Communist Organization, “Interview: Origins” (May 26, 2014), http://llco.org/quotes-from-a-recent-conversation-on-the-history-of-llco-and-other-fun-stuff/.

“Some people connect Leading Light in North America to the Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM).”

“The Maoist Internationalist Movement”, MIM Notes, 88 (May 1994), http://web.archive.org/web/20070929102750/http://www.etext.org/Politics/MIM/mn/mn.php?issue=088.

“The RCP then raised a number of criticisms of the new-born Maoist forces–which had existed for a long time as an organization named the RADACADS before changing its name to RIM and finally to MIM.”

“Banner Stolen?” The Harvard Crimson (August 9, 1983), http://www.thecrimson.com/article/1983/8/9/banner-stolen-to-the-editors-of/.

“The H-R RADACADS (Radical Academics) vow to expose the ways of the Harvard Administration until the banner is paid for or returned. We call on others who have been harassed to contact us so that we may add to our forthcoming compilation of examples of political harassment. There will be a rapid escalation of exposure of the Harvard Administration in the coming months. Only in this way–not by the old idealist arguments for free speech–will revolutionary and progressive groups be relieved of a pattern of political repression. Henry C. Park ’84   RADACADS spokesperson”

Advertisements

Daniel Buntovnik’s Hurt Feelings and Non-arguments

[Notice: This post was originally a comment on a reblogged post from Jason Unruhe’s “Maoist Rebel News” blog. Unruhe has since retracted his first attempt at rebutting my critique of Ultraleftism-Primitivism-Orientalism-Third Worldism, which I responded to below. He conceded that his first attempt was poor, and upgraded my “non-arguments” to “pseudo-intellectualism” in a second attempt at rebuttal.]

In response to Jason Unruhe’s knee-jerk reaction to my criticism of “Third Worldism”:

1) Scare quotes imply skepticism, but I do not use them in place of arguments. Seems like you are the one whose feelings are hurt that someone is skeptical of your ideology.

2) LLCO does use campy aliases. That they may have come out against text-to-voice software is knit-picky beyond the scope of my criticism. This is not an attack or a complaint. I actually found some of the Shubel Morgan videos inspiring. The introduction to my post begins with description to ease persons who are not familiar with this discussion into it. The description of the low profile of most Third Worldists serves to demonstrate that you are a public figure when it comes to this idea, and there is not one, that I know of, prominent Third Worldist from the Third World, with comparable influence to the First World “Third Worldists”. Similarly, the Warren Montag quote is entirely descriptive, included because it is a nice summary which gets at the crux of Third Worldism and its origin.

3) I considered that including further examples of “the subaltern cannot speak” (besides the Prairie Fire imagery) would be superfluous and off subject, given that this is a common place notion in postcolonial theory for decades. But one obvious example is indigenous peoples. For example, some recently contacted tribes or uncontacted tribes do not speak any Western language, and of course no one in the West speaks their language. And yes they are subjects of capitalism.

4) You and the First World-based LLCO leadership refered to Bengali people who disagree with you as “French”. This is psychological projecting.

I do not think you have taken adequate time to fully take in my arguments and you are clearly quote mining in at least a few instances. For example, the fetishization of identity politics refers to the idea that self-acknowledged bourgeois individuals can simply “remold” themselves as “pure proletarians”, as if one’s upbringing, class background could be undone just like that. And Prairie Fire did explicitly endorse cults as a more efficient organizing method in the First World in another quote which you skipped over. I would suggest rereading and reflecting more, because you have not addressed the crux of what I wrote.

On “Maoist Rebel News” and the Folly of Ultraleftism-Third Worldism

If you are not already familiar with the Maoist Rebel News brand, then it will suffice to say here that it first began as a Youtube video channel whose scope was to provide current events analysis from an ostensibly Marxist perspective. It is maintained by a Canadian man named Jason Unruhe, who upholds a pseudo-revolutionary political doctrine known as “Third Worldism”, or “Maoism-Third Worldism”. In this critique, offered from an authentically revolutionary left-wing perspective, I will demonstrate why this erroneous political line (which is by no means exclusive to Jason Unruhe’s Maoist Rebel News) is not what it purports to be. It is neither a coherent nor scientific worldview.

Claiming to be Youtube’s “#1 Marxist” for six years running, Unruhe is perhaps more of a public face for “Third Worldism” than anyone else in the Anglosphere. This is especially true since followers of the “Third Worldist” line generally place a high value on anonymity.

The use of campy aliases like “Serve the People” and text-to-voice software in propaganda messages are ubiquitous strategies of “Third Worldist” security culture. Ostensibly these measures are taken to mitigate the risks associated with being identified by the surveillance state, lending credence to their pretensions of being “serious” revolutionists–but it is also likely that in not divulging basic elements of their “real” identities, “Third Worldists” avoid revealing the awkward fact that, like leading proponents of “Third Worldism” Jason Unruhe and “Prairie Fire” (the self-described “Commander” of the Leading Light Communist Organization [LLCO], which Unruhe is a fellow-traveller of, hailing it as “the preeminent Third Worldist organization”), most “Third Worldists” are actually denizens of the so-called “First World”, making them, by their own definition, bourgeois (1).

It follows that this English-speaking “Third Worldism” constitutes a quintessentially Orientalist worldview, wherein the Westerner’s “Third Worldist” gaze constructs the East as Red Bastion of “revolutionary potential”, and in the same time, the Western man positions himself as the expert on that Orient, the one who knows what’s best for “those people” (2). Western, First World men are the Orient’s “leading lights” (read: glorious saviors) due to the fact that the material privilege which their self-acknowledged social parasitism provides them better allows them to study geopolitics, advance the so-called “science” of “Third Worldism”, and produce propaganda than the subaltern “Third World” masses, who, of course, cannot speak truth to power (3, 4).

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s thesis that “the subaltern cannot speak” is illustrated visually when, in a Maoist Rebel News interview with “Prairie Fire”, as we listen to the LLCO’s leader, a native of Denver, Colorado who refers to himself as “Supreme Commander” of the “Global People’s War”, we see his opaque cutout photo superimposed over a blurred image of Bengali people who are alleged LLCO cadre of the organization’s “Bangla Zone” (5). The Third Worlders’ faces have been punched by text, a slogan reading “our sun is rising, our day is coming.” Meanwhile, a translucent red halo peeks out from behind the Supreme Leader’s head, as if to convey the idea that he is their sun. Without Commander Prairie Fire’s scientific wisdom, darkness prevails. The astrological metaphor of science and wisdom as white light, embodied in illuminated white persons, reflects the underlying cosmology of “Third Worldism”, a convoluted reworking of the mission civilisatrice (6). (Cosmology: “theory of the [world or universe] as an ordered [system], and of the general laws which govern it.” [7])

LLCOrientalism

White power in yellow face. The LLCO logo serves the people fiction by displaying the sun as yellow, despite the scientific fact that the sun appears white to the human eye.

(It should be noted that the pretension to be “waging war” is nothing more than bravado, as the so-called “Leading Lights” only claim to be preparing for such a war, noting that, “To romanticize the gun prematurely or to romanticize it to such an extent that it interferes with actually winning is a big focoist, adventurist error.” [8])

The rantings of the “Commander” reflect the LLCO’s conception of “Leading Light” not as a vanguard born from within the revolutionary class, but posited in the framework of an Us-Them dichotomy wherein the “most advanced scientific core” is alien to the proletarian masses the organization purports to be waging “Global People’s War” on behalf of (my emphasis):

Real revolution is led by the most advanced scientific core, Leading Light Communism. There are plenty of cheerleaders who turn themselves into useful idiots in the process. It is good to support the broad anti-imperialist united front against imperialism. However, we should not lie to the proletariat. We must put the most advanced revolutionary science, Leading Light Communism, in their hands. We must understand that both high science and low science are weapons. We must master both. Serve the people truth, not fiction (9).

“Commander Prairie Fire” also claims in the same interview that a popular LLCO adage goes, “It does not matter how much chess strategy you know if you have no board and pieces.”

“Leading Light” Orientalism displays a strange contradiction in presenting itself as an organization whose cadre’s badass outlaw status is the “obvious reason” for which their work is “semi-clandestine”, while at the same time posting propaganda photos of its alleged members in Bangladesh, where actual Maoist guerrillas are known to operate, decked out in LLCO t-shirts, their faces clearly discernible (10). For the LLCOrientalists, the Western masterminds are the chessmasters and these people are the pawns–“useful idiots”–who serve to build the organization’s street cred, or rather, web cred.

In the LLCO’s millenarianism and white savior industrial complex vibes, one hears echoes of Jonestown. Bizarrely, the so-called “Commander Leading Light” has even openly endorsed cultism. This would actually explain a lot about the way the organization presents itself to the public, its “Supreme Commander” even sometimes (with tongue-in-cheek, we can hope) identifying himself as being at the helm of a “gangster cult”:

If your conception of activism is First World bound, I don’t even see why you need an openly communist party. You might need a cult to organize people effectively, but why a *communist* cult? Just build any old cult and direct people into anti-war, anti-militarism, and other progressive activism. It seems like if your conception of activism remains in the First World, flying a communist flag will only hurt your efforts to be effective at aiding Third World struggles in an objective way. I just don’t see the point of the red flag where there is no social base if your conception of activism is traditional stuff (11).

and

[Our beliefs] may seem otherworldly or “culty,” but this is how we are (12).

Below we see the conflation of science with religion–a phenomenon known as scientism, which I will explore later–and the fetishization of identity politics.

We must all become living examples of revolutionary purity. All should be able to see our revolutionary purity in everything that we do. We must strengthen our revolutionary character, our spiritual selves. We must remold ourselves as pure proletarians, Leading Lights (13).

Because LLCO Ultraleftist-Orientalist-“Third Worldists” view themselves as alien to the world proletariat, they must atone for their original sin as First Worlders by undergoing the alchemical sacrament of remolding through proletarian purification. “Third Worldists” obfuscate materialism and embrace obscurantism to arrive at the conclusion that socio-economic class is determined not by one’s position relative to the modes of production, rather it is the reward of Bildung (14).

In a recent exchange of polemics between the LLCO and a trio of anti-“Third Worldist” Stalinist groups, we see how Canada and U.S.-based “Third Worldist” individuals’ disavowal of their own self-implied bourgeois identity is complemented by projecting First World status onto Third World persons who oppose them. LLCO and Unruhe deride their Stalinist opposition as French Gonzaloists to tie their identity to the First World, despite the fact that the polemic they were responding to was jointly issued by Stalinist groups from France, Belgium, and Bangladesh (15). Obviously if these Orientals are so Occidental in their outlook, it must be because their identity has been corrupted, remolded by “First Worldist” values! Thank Mao for our “Third Worldist” American and Canadian Leading Lights putting those damn “First Worldist” Bengalis back in their place!

Looking beyond the LLCO, which originated in the United States and whose verifiable actions seem to be entirely limited to producing online propaganda, we see that the other organized entity promoting “Third Worldism” is the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement (RAIM), which, as if by happenstance, is limited in its “on-the-ground” presence to England, Ontario (Canada), and the United States (16).

But what do these “Third Worldists” actually believe?

“Third Worldists” maintain that wealthy countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, and France lack sufficient internal class antagonisms to allow for the possibility of revolution. The global capitalist system, they argue, is not merely tolerable for the vast majority of these nations’ populations, who will sooner fight to keep poorer nations impoverished and underdeveloped than join them in the struggle for socialist liberation; it actually better serves their interests than would global redistribution of wealth. In this optic, mass exploitation, which provides the social basis for revolution, only exists in parts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America (17). In other words, “the general population of the First World [is] comprised of the class enemies of the global poor of the Third World (18).” So-called “Third Worldists” decry efforts to escalate the class struggle and engage in activism in wealthy countries as “First Worldism”.

In “Can the Subaltern Speak and Other Transcendental Questions”, Warren Montag notes that the elevation of “the contradiction between the First World and Third World as opposing blocs to a position of strategic and political dominance, as if the working [class] in the West (…) is structurally allied more closely to its own bourgeoisie than to those forces traditionally regarded as its allies in the nations outside of Europe, North [America] and Japan: workers, rural laborers, landless peasants, etc.” is “hardly a new position: on the contrary, it has a long history in the socialist and communist movements. Lenin flirted with it in his attempts to explain the capitulation of European social democracy in the First World War, Stalin embraced it and its very language derives from the period of the Sino-Soviet split and the consolidation of Maoism as an international current (19).”

One text which is particularly fundamental in anchoring much of “Third Worldist” thought is a pamphlet from 1965 called “Long Live the Victory of People’s War” by Lin Biao, who was a prominent Chinese military and political leader and a contemporary of Chairman Mao Zedong. Lin died in 1971 in a “mysterious” plane crash after allegedly plotting to stage a coup d’état against Mao. In the pamphlet, Lin wrote the following, describing “The International Significance of Comrade Mao-Zedong’s Theory of People’s War” (with my emphasis):

Taking the entire globe, if North America and Western Europe can be called “the cities of the world”, then Asia, Africa and Latin America constitute “the rural areas of the world”. Since World War II, the proletarian revolutionary movement has for various reasons been temporarily held back in the North American and West European capitalist countries, while the people’s revolutionary movement in Asia, Africa and Latin America has been growing vigorously. In a sense, the contemporary world revolution also presents a picture of the encirclement of cities by the rural areas. In the final analysis, the whole cause of world revolution hinges on the revolutionary struggles of the Asian, African and Latin American peoples who make up the overwhelming majority of the world’s population. The socialist countries should regard it as their internationalist duty to support the people’s revolutionary struggles in Asia, Africa and Latin America (20).

Lin’s distinction between the proletarian revolutionary movement and the people’s revolutionary movement is in line with the Maoist theory that in “backwards”, underdeveloped nations, aspects of capitalism are beneficial, and not harmful, to the “national economy and the people’s livelihood” (21). Workers should unite with a section of their exploiters, the petite bourgeoisie and the national-bourgeoisie, Mao argued, to end the rule of the comprador bourgeoisie (also known as the bureaucrat-bourgeoisie or the monopoly capitalist class), the part of the capitalist class which was tied to foreign interests. Mao thus defined “the people” in the People’s Republic of China as “the working class, the peasantry, the urban petty bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie” (also known as the “bloc of four classes [22]”), admitting from the get-go of Communist Party rule in China (i.e. 1949) that the policy was “to regulate capitalism, not to destroy it (23).”

The leitmotiv was the same in the following particularly doublespeak-esque speech made eight years later. Mao foreshadows “socialism with Chinese characteristics (24)” as he announces his hope, not for the abolition of class-based exploitation or the withering away of the state, but for the transformation of the relationship between the Chinese boss class and workers into a “non-antagonistic”, non-adversarial one (my emphasis):

The national bourgeoisie differs from the imperialists, the landlords and the bureaucrat-capitalists. The contradiction between the national bourgeoisie and the working class is one between exploiter and exploited, and is by nature antagonistic. But in the concrete conditions of China, this antagonistic contradiction between the two classes, if properly handled, can be transformed into a non-antagonistic one and be resolved by peaceful methods. However, the contradiction between the working class and the national bourgeoisie will change into a contradiction between ourselves and the enemy if we do not handle it properly and do not follow the policy of uniting with, criticizing and educating the national bourgeoisie, or if the national bourgeoisie does not accept this policy of ours (25).

Continuing from “The International Significance of Comrade Mao-Zedong’s Theory of People’s War”, Lin Biao elaborates:

In the struggle against imperialism and its lackeys, it is necessary to rally all anti-imperialist patriotic forces, including the national bourgeoisie and all patriotic personages. All those patriotic personages from among the bourgeoisie and other exploiting classes who join the anti-imperialist struggle play a progressive historical role; they are not tolerated by imperialism but welcomed by the proletariat (26).

Lin’s pamphlet was first published in 1965, right around the height of the biggest decolonization wave, that which occurred during the Cold War. Much of the decolonization of this period followed this confused logic of bosses subordinated to their workers and yet remaining bosses, with national liberation movements envisioned as being the joint project of the workers and ruling class capitalists of each colonized nation. It is now clear, observing the instauration of neocolonialism in virtually all the countries in which such national liberation movements won nominal independence, that this contradictory strategy was unfortunately, though not unforeseeably, doomed to failure.

Lin Biao’s ideas differed however from modern “Third Worldists” in that he did not deny the existence of a proletariat (“significant” or otherwise) in the United States, or that U.S. imperialism adversely affects the general population of the U.S.; in fact, he called for unity between the people of the United States and the so-called Third World (my emphasis):

U.S. imperialism is stronger, but also more vulnerable, than any imperialism of the past. It sets itself against the people of the whole world, including the people of the United States (27).

All people’s suffering from U.S. imperialist aggression, oppression and plunder, unite! Hold aloft the just banner of people’s war and fight for the cause of world peace, national liberation, people’s democracy and socialism! Victory will certainly go to the people of the world (28)!

Where modern “Third Worldists” do not deviate from their source material is in their denial of an antagonistic contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, promoting instead the viability of collaboration between wage-laborer and industrialist classes in the name of patriotic national interests. They view this collaboration as viable both in the First World, where it is the reason for proletarian revolution’s impossibility, and in the Third World, where it is the reason for people’s revolution’s high potentiality. In other words, in no part of the world do “Third Worldists” envision workers wresting control of the means of production from the exploiting industrialist class. In no part of the world do “Third Worldists” regard socialism as a viable possibility.

In addition to his Youtube channel, Unruhe’s social media presence also includes a blog hosted at maoistrebelnews.com.

After one of his most recent articles, published on November 30, 2015 and entitled “How is Trotskyism Winning over Maoism?”, I (Daniel K. Buntovnik, author of the 21st century proletarian novel Raving Radicals Bathed in Blax) had the chance to engage with Unruhe in the comments section of his blog. We wrote back and forth for a full week, exchanging two dozen or so messages. Eventually I made myself stop, as he was seemingly only capable of responding to the citations, historical examples, and questions I provided him with evasion, strawmen arguments, dogmatic statements, and political slander. Considering Unruhe’s lamentations that “no one really wants to honestly debate [‘Third Worldist’] ideas”, and his standing “open challenge” for “anyone who thinks they can [debate him]” to “bring it”, his generally lackluster, short, typo-ridden responses were truly disappointing (29). However, it is my hope that in examining this exchange more closely, and bolstering it with further facts and commentary, some light may be shed on the glaring errors and distortions which plague “Third Worldist” political thought.

Where We Begin: Trotskyism vs. Maoism

In “How is Trotskyism Winning over Maoism? (30)” (the article which triggered our discussion), Unruhe evaluates the strength of a variety of left-wing activist groups in the U.S., arguing that the relative popularity and recent electoral success of Trotskyist activist groups vis-à-vis Maoist ones is just another piece of evidence to add to the mountain of support for the “Third Worldist” thesis that there is no hope for revolution in the belly of the beast.

According to Unruhe’s exercise in confirmation bias, Trotskyists receive more support in the U.S. because they “reject the idea of revolution.” They are not revolutionaries, but reformists due to the fact that “they call for social democratic reforms.” Not only is Trotskyism not revolutionary; it is, Unruhe pompously asserts, “a terrible reactionary, racist ideology, and social imperialist on a theoretical level.”

Unruhe attempts to solder the connection between reformism and Trotskyism by highlighting the success of Kshama Sawant (herself from the so-called “Third World”, where she has spent most of her life) in being twice elected to Seattle City Council on behalf of Socialist Alternative (S.A.), a left-wing activist group in the U.S. which is identified with the Trotskyist tradition.

Sawant’s endorsement of Bernie Sanders, the self-proclaimed “Democratic Socialist” now competing for the Democratic Party nomination for U.S. presidential candidate is another piece of evidence put forward by Unruhe to support his argument that Trotskyists “reject the idea of revolution.” He even credits Sawant’s endorsement of Sanders for having “driven a lot of people towards [him],” which is perhaps a bit overgenerous as an evaluation of her real level of influence. It should nevertheless be acknowledged that the dubiousness of the decision of a Marxist socialist to endorse Sanders, a pro-capitalist warmonger, scapegoater of immigrants, and sheepdog for the two-party system is certainly worthy of calling into question. However, the opportunistic positions of prominent members of S.A. cannot be said to represent the totality of Trotskyite-esque thought, anymore than the recently exposed Workers’ Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought human trafficking and sex slave cult of Aravindan Balakrishnan in London can be said to be representative of the whole of Maoism. Other Trotskyist groups are running their own U.S. presidential candidates (e.g., the Party for Socialism and Liberation, which although it is seldomly keen to use the label, actually emerges from the Trotskyist tradition).

What follows are some annotated and lightly edited excerpts from our discussion. For a full record of the exchange, visit the comments section of the article in question on the Maoist Rebel News blog.

Phase 1: The “Transitional Program” and “Permanent Revolution”

Given the article’s focus on Trotskyism as the object of critique, our discussion begins by touching on the ideas above: the “transitional program”, sometimes known as the “transitional method”, and “permanent revolution”. These are two key concepts associated with the political theory of Leon Trotsky, founder and leader of the Red Army during the Russian Civil War.

As I read the article, it became apparent to me that Unruhe had no concept of the idea of “transitional program”. The basic idea of the “transitional program” is that radicals, avant-garde thinkers who for whatever reason have a more lucid of understanding of social dynamics, must bridge the gap between present demands and consciousness (e.g. “$15 per hour now!” or “End stop and frisk now!”) and the program for the revolutionary overhaul of civilization (e.g. “Lay utter waste to bourgeois hegemony!” or “Abolish whiteness!”). In other words, radicals must make the realm of possibility collide with that of the realm of phantasy. Ultraleftist-Third Worldists like Unruhe reject the realm of possibility and thus operate only beyond it, in the realm of phantasy, projecting an Orientalist construction onto the Third World and claiming to be revolutionary without actually being there. True radicals must straddle both realms.

I began by pointing out some of the inaccuracies conveyed in the article.

Calling for reforms does not necessarily a reformist make. (…) I think you misrepresent groups like Socialist Alternative’s position. The concept of the transitional program is what they work with. Both revolutionists and reformists call for reforms, with the difference being that the end game for the reformist is to save capitalism and for the revolutionist it is to side with workers struggling to implement popular reforms as a way to build momentum towards more radical change and raise consciousness. For example, if workers are demanding an end to child labor, a revolutionary can, and should, support that demand, while at the same time drawing attention to [the inadequacy of merely reforming capitalism and] the need for more profound system change.

And I was curious to see if Unruhe could back up his bold claim about the despicability of Trotskyite thought:

Can you explain what makes Trotskyism reactionary, racist, and imperialist?

Unruhe said:

First world people refuse to do revolution. And yes, reforms actually harm revolutionary potential. No revolution has been born from gettign concessions. Permanent Revolution alone almost insures imperialism. [Trotsky’s] belief was that the most backward countries had to be forced by the advanced to progress. I’d also show that Trotskyism leads to neo-cons.http://llco.org/who-and-what-are-trotsky-cons/

Of course, what Unruhe really meant was, “I’d also let the LLCO show that Trotskyism leads to neo-cons.” As far as the argument about certain individuals abandoning whatever Marxist tendency discrediting the ideas of said tendency goes, we could also look at a number of former Maoist radicals who have since turned to social democracy, neoliberalism, and even naked imperialism. For example:

  • Bernard-Henri Lévy, Maoist activist and journalist who made pro-Naxalite reports from Bangladesh during its war for independence only to later denounce Marxism as ”the opium of the people,” proclaim, “Socialism is dead!”, voice support for the NATO military intervention in the Balkans, and actually play the decisive on-the-ground role in the NATO orchestrated overthrow of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi by brokering the first meeting between the Benghazi-based National Transition Council and French president Nicolas Sarkozy (31, 32, 33).
  • André Glucksmann, leader of the Nouveaux philosophes, a large group of former Maoists who embraced right-wing politics. Alain Badiou notes in a 2008 interview, “we are now seeing an equally bizarre phenomenon, that of ex-Maoist intellectuals who made a complete about-turn and whom you hear on television railing against any kind of progressive politics (34).”
  • Serge July, former Maoist militant and co-founder of the newspaper Libération, originally a Maoist publication, which now embraces free market liberalism and is bankrolled by a Rothschild (35).

Soon I wrote back:

I must say I disagree with your view on the harmfulness in getting concessions. Would you tell ~5 million Bengali children [to] remain workers because them going to school harms their “revolutionary potential”? [This was a question I would repeat several times, but which he would ignore continually.]

Revolution is ultimately the big concession of the bourgeoisie surrendering its power to the proletariat. But revolution is also like a war in which you must win smaller scale battles to win the war. For example, the expulsion of US imperialism from the RoK [South Korea] and the unification of Korea under socialist leadership would ultimately only be a reform, since if this was done in isolation and US imperialism was not undone elsewhere there would always be the danger of a reintroduction of imperialism into the region and as a system it would continue to exist. [I thought this would be a swell example since Unruhe is a staunch defender of the DPRK.] Another example: the February Revolution, establishment of the Provisional Government, resignation of Prince Lvov, could all be seen as concessions on the part of the Russian nobility made on the path to the Bolshevik Revolution.

I see Permanent Revolution as being less about dragging the Third World to catch up with the First, but actually quite the opposite; it’s about recognizing the possibility of a path of development to socialism that does not mirror that of Western Europe (passing first through a stage of development resembling bourgeois liberal democracy). The idea isn’t that it’s pointless to start developing socialism in one country (this is actually very necessary!), it’s that that country can’t forever, or even for very long at all, be an island of socialism in a globalized capitalist system. Ultimately, the idea of ‘socialism in one country’ logically flows into that of ‘peaceful coexistence’ with capitalist states. ‘Socialism in one country’ can only survive if your revolution does not threaten the global capitalist system, otherwise the bourgeoisie will wage war on you.

The language of that LLCO article [“Who and What are Trotsky-cons?”] actually betrays a rather ethnocentric view; the idea that the ability of “backward” countries to “match” the West’s atomic bomb technology is an indication of [the independence of] their elected path of development suggests a game of catch-up. Socialism, being a higher state of social organization than imperialism, naturally surpasses capitalism. If the measure of [a] country’s advancement and progress is relative to the technology and living standards of Western capitalist societies, is that not a case of imperialism? the West using its military might to define the gold standard of what it means to be “civilized”?

Also, I’m curious, where does the former Second World (e.g., Eastern Europe today) enter into the Third Worldist equation? [Another question which Unruhe would ignore.]

I was actually a bit off base in asking that last question, as my idea of the Three Worlds was that of the Three-World Model, a Western political concept, rather than the Maoist political concept of the Three Worlds Theory (36, 37). Ultraleft-“Third Worldism”-Orientalism actually shares more similarity with the Western political concept than the Maoist one.

The Western “Three-World Model”, having its origins in the Cold War, posits a First World constituted by the Western neoliberal states axed around NATO, a Second World made up of the Soviet Union, its allies and/or Communist Party-led nations, and a Third World comprised by other nations which are not aligned with either the Western or Eastern blocs.

Mao’s Three Worlds Theory, on the other hand, places the USA and the USSR in the First World realm. The Second World is defined as the militarily weaker imperialist nations such as Western Europe, Japan, and Australia, and the Third World were non-imperialist nations (colonized, semicolonized, or neocolonized).

Given the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the Western Three-World Model has limited 21st century applicability. In the sense in which the model is employed nowadays, the terms “First World” and “Third World” might better be replaced with “Global North” and “Global South” or “developed world” and “developing” or “underdeveloped world”, because it reflects a binary world structure rather than a ternary one. The Second World has ceased to exist and many apparently use its analogue terms without even realizing that at one point the model incorporated it (38).

Like the evolving meaning of the “Three-World Model”, the “Third Worldist” (or as some would say “Lin Biaoist”) Theory of Three Worlds also differs in a significant way from how it was originally conceived by Mao (39). Whereas Mao’s envisioning of the First World as comprising the two superpowers, measured primarily in terms of their nuclear arsenals, but also in terms of wealth, led to a view of the Cold War as an inter-imperialist conflict, “Third Worldists” and some hackneyed “anti-imperialists” take Lin Biao’s thesis of a unipolar imperialist world structure to suggest that inter-imperialist conflict can no longer exist; there is only one monopoly. Lin Biao casts the Soviet Union of the 1960s not in conflict with the West or U.S. imperialism, but actually “[coming] to [its] rescue just when it is most panic-stricken and helpless” and “working hand in glove” with it. The Theory of Three Worlds has thus been altered from a ternary conception to a strictly binary one by Lin Biao and the “Third Worldists”.

This view leads some on the Left, including Unruhe, to cheerlead 21st century Russian imperialism (or, they allege, merely some beneficial form of capitalism which has been pushed back to a lower stage so that it cannot be considered imperialist), which wraps itself in the iconography of tsardom and–perhaps out of ignorance–white supremacy, in lieu of building genuine anti-imperialist movements (40, 41, 42). This is no different from the quintessentially petit bourgeois “trust-buster” hope for a “more competitive” capitalism.

Phase 2: Reform or Revolution?

Our exchange then veered towards the question of whether concessions granted by the ruling class in response to demands made by those whom they dominate can help lead to proletarian revolution or if revolutionary sentiments and actions are supposed to just pop out of thin air. Throughout our exchange Unruhe basically conveyed the idea that any improvement in living conditions, rights, or social status attained by the working class, women, ethnic or sexual “minorities” under capitalism is bad for “revolutionary potential”. In other words, if the oppressed fight to improve their condition under the system in place, they are actually harming themselves because they are not fighting to immediately instaure a new system.

History is replete with examples demonstrating the dubiousness of Unruhe’s Ultraleftist-“Third Worldist” idea. In our exchange we focused in particular on the Russian Revolution of 1917 and on the U.S. Civil Rights Movement era. But we could look elsewhere, such as at the example of the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804), to see how reforms often precipitate and accelerate revolutions.

The Haitian Revolution began with enslaved persons demanding abolition of whipping, not slavery

The Code noir, or Black Code, was a set of regulations drafted in 1685, designed to maximize the French profits extracted from their slave colonies. In Saint-Domingue (now known as Haiti), the Code was overhauled and reimposed in 1784. The Code noir granted a number of rights to slaves, including land entitlement: it “legally obliged owners to provide slaves with small plots of land to grow food exclusively for [the slaves’] personal use (43).” Royal ordinances also made it possible for slaves to “legally denounce abuses of a master, overseer, or plantation manager.”

While these reforms were obviously not even remotely adequate (slavery was still in place and in reality the Code noir itself was sparsely enforced), the rights it granted in principle were central to the demands enslaved persons made during the revolution of the following decade.

In The Old Regime and the Haitian Revolution, Malick W. Ghachem illustrates the fact that these reforms were granted, not unilaterally out of the kind-heartedness of King Louis XVI, but in response to the uprisings and rebellions which gripped the island colony throughout the years (my emphasis):

These and earlier rulings testify to the powerful obstacles, legal and practical, that remained in the way of slaves who sought to avail themselves of the cover of law in Saint-Domingue. On December 3, 1784, almost exactly a century after Louis XIV promulgated the Code Noir, the monarchy finally took decisive steps to overhaul the edict. A confluence of factors made action possible at this time: the efforts of military officers and administrators in Saint-Domingue to convince officials in the Colonial Bureau of the Naval Ministry of the urgent need for reform of the status quo; predictions of an impending crisis in the colony prompted by isolated reports of small-scale uprisings on the plantations; and a climate of opinion (both colonial and metropolitan that had begun to swing decisively against the most notorious of the planters. The rising influence of antislavery sentiment notwithstanding, it would be too much to say that the demands of abolitionists forced the hands of Louis XVI and the French naval minister, Charles-Eugêne de la Croix de Castries. Rather, the 1784 ordinance represented the culmination of the same prudential anxiety about planter brutality and its potential to incite a slave revolution that had characterized the thinking of administrators and judges in Saint-Domingue for decades (44).

And when the slave revolution did begin to unfold, the slaves did not immediately demand the instauration of a new system. Rather than beginning as a struggle to annihilate the slave system, the Haitian Revolution begins with slaves making reformist demands, such as “freedom for their leaders, additional free days during the week, and abolition of the whip as punishment (45).”

Reformists’ reign was required to secure the triumph of Bolshevik Revolution

In response to my previous statement of disagreement with his view on the harmfulness in getting concessions, Unruhe wrote:

Okay, please show me a revolution that came from concessions.

I reiterated what I had already said since he ignored the bulk of my comment, which already contained the example he was asking for:

Take the example of the Russian Revolution that I already mentioned. After its February phase (which could hardly be considered a revolution in the Marxist sense any more than the coups d’etat in February 2014 in Ukraine or December 1989 in Romania or the kind of ‘revolution’ Bernie Sanders is calling for in November 2016 in the USA), Tsar Nicholas II gave up power to Prince Georgy Lvov, a nobleman who wanted to continue Russian participation in WWI and who even sat in the royal court. The demission of Prince Lvov was then proffered under circumstances resembling the recent resignation of Victor Ponta (lack of support expressed via demonstrations), leading to the ascension of the reformist/unscientific socialist Kerensky who began initiating liberal reforms (such as freeing political prisoners, extending voting rights, and suppression of the death penalty).

Unruhe replied in his most typical fashion, dismissive non sequiturs superficially sprinkled with Marxist jargon-mongering:

You actually think that lead to revolution, and not the war and material conditions themselves? That’s utter nonsense.

So I elaborated:

The “war and material conditions” led to both the February Revolution and the October Revolution. Do you think the workers didn’t learn anything from the events throughout 1917? Did the February Revolution and its reforms make the October Revolution less likely to happen? I would reckon it made it more likely because they saw that the reforms were not enough, but they had also gained confidence, experience, organization, skills, awareness, etc. in fighting for those reforms.

I want to ask you again, would you tell ~5 million children in Bangladesh that they shouldn’t go to school because it would harm “revolutionary potential”?

Unruhe:

How do you confuse going to school with concessions?

Me, the Buntovnik:

Reformist demands to institute universal public education and abolish child labor require(d) concessions on the part of capitalists who profit from children working for them instead of getting education. Capitalists have historically been very resistant to laws limiting or abolishing low-wage child labor because it gives them a competitive advantage over firms employing adults, who are also generally more capable of organizing and demanding higher wages.

Unruhe:

Actually basic education was instituted because capitalists needed better educated workers, like basic reading and math skills.

Me, the Buntovnik:

Then why do capitalists still employ child laborers? And why were Afro-American children given de jure inferior education until mass protests pressured the US bourgeoisie to concede that “separate but equal” needed reform?

Unruhe:

Because of racism. Generally workers needed to be better, but they also excluded Blacks. Which BTW was a bad idea, later they changed it to inflate the labour supply to lower it’s cost.It’s a balance, they want more labour, but they also have to play into racist sentiment to divide.

Me, the Buntovnik:

Obviously it was because of racism. But it also shows that reforms around issues like education, child labor, 8 hour work day, etc. aren’t just unilaterally instituted by the capitalist class after their risk managers calculate the odds of revolutionary overthrow. Rather they are concessions won through bitter class struggle. And even if the capitalists do hope to de-escalate the class struggle and pacify the proletariat in granting them concessions (and they surely do hope this), this de-escalation/pacification is not guaranteed, as the reformist phase of the Russian Revolution shows.

Next Unruhe seems to imply that Kerensky’s reformist provisional government was meeting the people’s basic needs. I wonder why the October Revolution happened then?:

You’re not demonstrating how reforms make people ore revolutionary. FDR pretty much proved the opposite. Western social; democratic Europe proved the opposite. And don’t; compare basic needs with Russia to welfare the state.

Happy to oblige, I provided examples that were decidedly unrelated to the Russian Revolution of 1917 (the New Deal, mai ‘68, the Civil Rights Movement, and the current era of austerity measures):

I’d actually venture to say that history demonstrates the opposite; it’s not so much the reforms that make people revolutionary, but more-so the revolutionaries who trigger the reforms. So reforms are a sign of greater revolutionary potential rather than lesser.

The New Deal occurred at a time when Communists were leading major general strikes in US industrial centers. [For example, the Minneapolis general strike of 1934 (46).]

The point at which Maoism exerted its highest level of influence in Western European social democratic society was perhaps during “mai 68”, after the post-WWII welfare state had increased living standards [in France].

And it’s not a coincidence either that [the] heyday of revolutionists like the Black Panthers [is] correlated to the time significant reforms to American capitalism were enacted.

Contrast these with the last period, when there is less revolutionary organizing and agitation [and the capitalist and neoliberal bureaucratic class is more confident in waging war on the proletariat]. We are seeing the erosion of social protections in Western societies–cuts in “entitlement spending”–and virtually no significant reforms being made.

Unruhe then ignores all the examples I gave and pedals back to the Russian Revolution that I had made no mention of after him telling me not to compare it to Western welfare states:

Then you’d venture wrong. World War 1 was what sparked the prairie fire. The immeseration of the working class brought on by the war, even Lenin acknowledged this.

Okay so let’s go back to Russia, I guess.

Me, the Buntovnik:

“The prairie fire” being the Bolshevik Revolution? I already said that I agreed with you about WWI being the spark. I simply contend that the February Revolution didn’t make the October Revolution any less of a potentiality.

Indeed, in this passage from “Left-Wing Communism[: An Infantile Disorder]”, Lenin acknowledges that experiencing (and becoming disillusioned with) the reformist Kerensky government was a necessary phase without which the Bolsheviks would not have brought about the instauration a Proletarian Dictatorship.

[QUOTE, p.65-66] “(…)the fact that the majority of the workers in Great Britain still follow the lead of the British Kerenskys(…) and that they have not yet had the experience of a government composed of these people, which experience was required in Russia (…)to secure the mass passage of the workers to Communism, undoubtedly shows that the British Communists should participate in parliamentary action, that they should from within Parliament help the masses of the workers to see the results of a [reformist] government in practice(…). To act otherwise would mean placing difficulties in the way of the revolution ; for revolution is impossible without a change in the views of the majority of the working class, and this change is brought about by the political experience of the masses, and never by propaganda alone.” [END QUOTE – Lenin (47)]

Lenin goes on to say that British Communists should work to help the “British Kerenskys” (Hendersons and Snowdens, i.e., petit bourgeois reformist socialists) defeat the conservatives, then show workers that they (the revolutionists) were right about the reformists being bankrupt and the workers overthrow the reformists, same as it happened in Russia in 1917!

We can leave it at that if you don’t want to address my points: why do we see reforms being granted during periods of heightened revolutionary activity and social protections being eroded during periods of generally stagnating class struggle?

After utterly misinterpreting the statement made by Lenin which I cited him, Unruhe senses it’s time to begin phrase-mongering. (If there’s anything that can refute Lenin, surely it’s more Lenin!):

You literally are trying to claim that reforms spur on revolution. This is false. Material conditions do, what you propose is anti-Marxist. No amount of “yea well there was reforms in Russia” means that reforms created it. By this logic Western Europe today would be the most revolutionary place. You;re trying to justify doing reforms instead of revolution when every communist theorist has said otherwise and history has demonstrated otherwise. First World people are refusing to do revolution, and reforms, a bigger slice fo the imperialist pie does not make them anymore revolutionary. Trying to compare feudal Russia to modern day First World countries is nonsense. Lenin’s point was to vote anti-imperialist war. You’re only trying to justify not doing revolutionary struggle.

“The industrial workers cannot accomplish their epoch-making mission. . .if they. . . smugly restrict themselves to attaining an improvement in their own conditions, which may sometimes be tolerable in the petty-bourgeois sense. This is exactly what happens to the ‘labor aristocracy’ of many advanced countries, who constitute the core of the so-called socialist parties of the Second International; they are actually the bitter enemies and betrayers of socialism, petty-bourgeois chauvinists and agents of the bourgeoisie within the working-class movement.”

“To tell the workers in the handful of rich countries where life is easier, thanks to imperialist pillage, that they must be afraid of ‘too great’ impoverishment, is counter-revolutionary. It is the reverse that they should be told. The labour aristocracy that is afraid of sacrifices, afraid of ‘too great’ impoverishment during the revolutionary struggle, cannot belong to the Party. Otherwise, the dictatorship is impossible, especially in West-European countries.”

– Lenin

It would be good here to examine a non-dit implicit in Unruhe’s last statement. If people in the First World are “refusing to do revolution”, then it is implied that people in the Third World are engaging in revolution. But when “Maoist-Third Worldists” speak of there being an abundance of revolutions and revolutionary activity in the Third World which stand in testament to that part of the world’s brimming revolutionary potential and the lack thereof in the First World, they are referring primarily to the national liberation struggles that induced the great decolonization wave of the Cold War era. It is a question of so-called “people’s revolutions”, not proletarian revolutions.

The reality is that people’s revolutions are easier to execute than proletarian revolutions. They do not require as high a level of organization or consciousness because the bourgeoisie is not threatened by this kind of revolution, which seeks to “regulate capitalism”, not abolish it. As we have already seen, in Maoist practice, the boss class has been deemed a trusted ally of the workers; there need be no antagonistic contradiction between exploited and exploiter classes. Swallowing this class-struggle-negationist lie guarantees that so-called “people’s revolutions” will always lead to neocolonialism. The progressiveness of the petty bourgeoisie and national-bourgeoisie is a myth; capitalism is a global system and the law of capitalism is to make profits, not serve the people. “Third Worldists” have more in common with Robert Reich and Teddy “The Trust Buster” Roosevelt than with revolutionists; their goal being to break “monopoly capitalism”, not capitalism tout court.

Mao’s theory of “New Democracy” differs from Permanent Revolution in that it envisions socialist revolution as having two stages: one bourgeois-democratic revolution in which the working class seeks to lead the national-bourgeoisie in establishing a “new-democratic state” under the joint dictatorship of the “revolutionary” bourgeoisie, proletariat, and peasants, followed by a second stage revolution at some unspecified future date (48). In this view, the so-called “national-bourgeoisie” (and urban petty bourgeoisie) of a Third World colonized or “semi-colonized” country are revolutionary and the proletariat and peasants of that country should unite with them in the event that they revolt against the “international bourgeoisie”. Permanent Revolution meanwhile repudiates the bourgeoisie’s having a place in society, much less in the state (which is an instrument of class rule) because this inherently contradicts the very notion of socialism and proletarian dictatorship (49). In no way can a capitalist society wherein any section of the bourgeois class exercises control through the state be considered socialist.

In “First vs. Third World Nationalism”, an article published by Unruhe on his Maoist Rebel News blog in late September 2015, he confirms his belief that the Third World bourgeoisie constitutes a revolutionary social force. Here Unruhe argues that capitalism in the Third World can be “altruistic”, that exploiters can be “allies” (50). When Unruhe identifies imperialism as the “primary contradiction”, he ignores the fact that imperialism is capitalism, in a more developed, “higher stage”. Maoism and “Third Worldism” are thus actually forms of primitivism in that they seek to empower a more primitive form of capitalism. You can’t have imperialism without capitalism, but you can have capitalism without imperialism, because capitalism is the base upon which the superstructure of imperialism rests; therefore it is correct to state that the primary, fundamental contradiction in today’s world remains capitalism more-so than imperialism. Admitting this does not negate the existence of imperialism, but shows a deeper, more accurate understanding of what imperialism is.

There is no impetus in the First World for the kind of class collaborationist “people’s revolution” which is proposed by the Maoists because the American bourgeoisie, the French bourgeoisie, or the British bourgeoisie have nothing to gain from posturing as allies of the working class in this way. There is no comprador bourgeoisie in imperialist countries. In a sense, the “Third Worldist” assessment of revolution in the First World as impossible is correct, but only because they are not interested in proletarian revolution to abolish capitalism, rather people’s revolution to regulate it.

Me, o baro Buntovnik:

So, since Kerensky continued the war, how do you figure that Lenin was telling the Brits to vote against imperialist war by siding with the “British Kerenskys”? [Another question which Unruhe would decline to answer.]

Lenin was describing the Transitional Programme. Workers don’t just wake up one day and say badda bam let’s do a revolution. You engage their consciousness on the level it’s at and help them find the path.

I’m not trying to justify doing reforms INSTEAD of revolution. I’m saying that reforms happen as a consequence of the class struggle. We are back to a point I made in my first comment: Reformists are those who “smugly restrict themselves to attaining an improvement”; Revolutionists support improvements, but do not restrict themselves to improvements!

Improvement is a little bit subjective. Reform does not necessarily equal “improvement”, such as in living conditions, or comfort, or safety. In the US, segregation in schools has actually increased since de jure racism was reformed away. [Though one would be hard pressed to say that doing away with Jim Crow was not an improvement.] And plenty of emancipated slaves died of impoverishment. Lynching increased following the abolition of [chattel] slavery, a reform [of American capitalism] which Karl Marx praised.

Boycotting buses begot bombardment of military recruiting stations

After being schooled by none other than me, o baro BuNToVNiK, on his ignorance of the methods of revolutionary struggle, Unruhe sensed it was time to retreat back to dogmatically repeating Marxian mantras:

Reforms literally do not help revolution. Material conditions are what drives them, this is basic Marxism here. And the civil rights struggle is a bad example.

Me, o baro Buntovnik:

Why is [the U.S. civil rights struggle] a bad example?

Unruhe:

Because the Civil Rights movement never went into revolution. Reforms DO NOT increase the potential for revolution. All history has shown the opposite for the advanced countries.

Here Unruhe contradicts himself and shows his two-facedness. In a gushy interview published earlier this year with Steve Struggle, a former Black Panther Party activist, Unruhe introduces Steve as “one of the original guys that led revolution in the United States during the civil rights era (…) when there was the most revolutionary potential that the United States ever faced.” Unruhe would do well to revisit the conversation he had with Steve Struggle and listen more attentively this time, because Steve begins by informing him that the Black Panther Party’s roots were in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC or “snick”), a group seeking civil rights reform (51).

Me, o baro Buntovnik:

The Civil Rights Movement never brought about revolution, but it did become more revolutionist as it progressed. The founding of the Black Panther Party, easily the biggest and most influential Maoist organization in US history, in 1966, 2 years after the passage of the reformist Civil Rights Act of 1964, shows this. Struggles for reformist demands like desegregation of public transportation and schools led to increasing levels of violence which led many to question the doctrine of non-violence and develop revolutionary politics.

Unruhe:

So the answer is no, it didn’t help revolution.

Me, o baro Buntovnik:

Actually, the unrest on the US home front was a key element in demoralizing US troops in Vietnam and altering public perception, ultimately helping secure the victory of the revolutionary forces there. [Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)], which began as a reformist, explicitly anti-communist civil rights group also turned to Maoism at the tail end of the Civil Rights Movement [e.g. the Weather Underground].

This map (“Gue[r]rilla War in the United States, 1965-1970”) shows that revolutionary potential was growing:http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon2/domguemap.html

Growth in the potentiality of revolution does not however guarantee inevitability.

historyisatool

Visit historyisaweapon.com for an interactive version of the “Guerrilla War in the United States, 1965-1970” map.

Unruhe:

So no, reforms do not lead to revolution.

Me, o baro Buntovnik:

You are simply repeating ultraleftist dogma without sincerely addressing all the evidence to the contrary.

Your line is essentially no different from that of those who claim that the fact the Soviet project ultimately ended in failure means that socialist revolution can never lead to a stateless, classless society.

Cheers and nice talking with you.

Unruhe:

Ultra left dogma? By acknowledging that reforms don’t lead to revolution, they don’t spur on revolution. No, you’re reactionary social democrat. Check out Venezuela now.

Here we get to the childish essence of “ultraleftism”, in the sense Lenin employed it to criticize “Left-Wing Communism”. The ultraleftist finds comfort in assuring himself that his opponent, who advocates global proletarian revolution and building socialism, is more right-wing than himself, who advocates people’s revolution (also known as “bourgeois revolution in red flags” [52]) limited to a certain part of the world where he does not live, to regulate capitalism there.

“Third Worldism” is not scientific; it’s scientism

  • Scientism:
    • 1.) The problematic transposition of theories or methods from the natural (“hard”) sciences onto the terrain of the social (“soft”) sciences, philosophy, or even everyday life (53).
    • 2.) A philosophical position that exalts the methods of the natural sciences above all other modes of human inquiry (54).

A central component of the LLCO’s “Third Worldist” strategy is the attempt to derive authority from proclaiming how scientific their ideology is, even going so far as to say, “In terms of (…) science, we can declare absolute victory over all competitors. (…) All ideological competitors are dead at the level of high science. There is no more real debate (…) Without Leading Light, without genuine science,  [the non-”Third Worldist” Left] have no future. The sooner they see this the better. (…) The global masses have their organization, leadership, vanguard, Leading Light.”

We have seen how they claim that the hopeless futility of attempting to exact social revolutions in the United States of America, Western Europe, and other capitalist metropoles is an objective “fact”, grounded in “science”. They use statistics like per capita GDP to show that these countries’ working classes are a labor aristocracy, allergic to the very thought of revolution.

Of course, the “Third Worldists”, needing to justify their own existence, concede that there are “small pockets of allies spread across all strata of the First World (55).” In other words, there are American billionaires, “bourgeoisified” industrial manufacturing workers, and “unproductive” service sector workers who the glorious Third World masses can considered their allies, Unruhe and “Commander Prairie Fire”, presumably among those super special First World snowflake “anomalies” who are somehow able to see past the great personal benefit imperialism is bringing them and, not only show solidarity with the global poor, but actually become the primary “advanced scientific core” who will arm them with the only theory capable of liberating them, the great high science of the Leading Light Communism, blessed be its name!

The contradiction is obvious, but it must be rendered explicit: if science suffices to explain why we are not currently seeing a great proletarian revolution being carried out in the First World, and why the Third World’s national-bourgeoisie, urban petty bourgeoisie, workers, and peasants represent the only hope for socialism to flower, then how does one explain the anomalies? The messianic Neos who have woken up from the Matrix of “First Worldism” to develop the most advanced high science of social liberation, Leading Light Communism and “Maoism-Third Worldism”?

In Nous et les autres: La réflexion française sur la diversité humaine, Tzvetan Todorov warns us that the scientistic postulate that society and social phenomena can be fully understood by the methodology and theory of natural sciences “leads to the reduction of the human being to the status of an object”. This view leads believers in scientism to consider human beings as overly “determined by their nature” (56). In the scientism of “Third Worldism”, the nature of the masses of the First World is that of a labor aristocracy. The label of “labor aristocrat” serves to negate the agency of inhabitants of the First World as human subjects. “Third Worldists” privilege social structure as the only explanation for human behavior to justify their own social atomism and disengagement from the societies which surround them, selectively applying vulgar determinism to explain the stupidity of others while simultaneously upholding nondeterminism to explain their own virtue, exceptionalism, and tenuous empathy.

Pure science–construed as rote empiricism–is a fundamentally flawed approach to making social revolution. We all know that the conditions today are different than those of the past. We can learn from past revolutions, while at the same time being mindful of the fact that the degeneration of the Bolshevik Revolution ultimately spat out today’s capitalist Russia and the rest of the former Soviet republics, and that only a special kind of dipshit says that Foxconn and its mass suicides are the result of a successful socialist revolution. But we also have to recognize, given that the socialist transformation of human society has not yet been fully experienced (only glimpsed at in a few episodes), that our empirical data is limited to nonexistent.

This is why we must serve the people fiction. Now, more than ever before, as we live in the present period of protracted disenchantment and disillusion with revolutionary politics following the collapse of Soviet-style “Communism”, working class-generated radical systemic change is perceived to be beyond the frontier of the realm of the possible. This is why we must fog of the boundary between feasible and infeasible, embrace the fantastic. This is the basis for 21st century proletarian literature. This is the basis for myth-science and the music of Sun Ra, who said:

There is a message in all of my music. It’s all about people doin’ somethin’ else other than what they have done. Because what they have done is the possible, and the world the way it is today is the results of the possible that they did. It’s the results of the absolute thing, so now (…) there’s always something else in a universe as big as this (57).

In summary

All of the above goes to show that “Maoism-Third Worldism” is a foolish and ignorant political line, its adherents hypocrites of the highest order. While the critique of “Third Worldism” is by no means exhausted, let us review some key points:

  • The scientistic, clichéd, campy, kitsch cultist approach to public relations of “Third Worldists”, in particular that of the LLCO, will never attract the masses to their version of Communism, only anomalous weirdos.
  • It cannot be denied that in “[elaborating] (…) a basic geographical distinction”, “[distributing] geopolitical awareness into [political] texts”, and demonstrating a “certain will or intention to understand, (…) control, manipulate, even to incorporate, what is a manifestly different (…) world,” “Third Worldism” reproduces Orientalism. Their ideas reflect thus less upon the “reality” of life in the Third World and are more a reflection of their own impotency as would-be leftists in the First World (58).
  • “Maoist-Third Worldists” are not legitimate revolutionists of the proletarian sort. Their goal is not to create a dictatorship of the proletariat. The objective of “Global People’s War” is to knock capitalism back to a pre-imperialist stage by replacing the comprador bourgeoisie with the national-bourgeoisie, keeping the capitalist state intact.
  • “Third Worldists” utterly fail to understand the dynamics of social change. History shows that militating for reforms leads to heightened revolutionary potential. Revolutionaries must struggle in the here and now by demanding concessions which reflect the present situation to bridge the gap between the mass consciousness of today and the radical possibilities of a future socialist society.

Down with the pseudo-science of Primitivist-Orientalist-Third Worldism! Down with patriotic bourgeois collaborators, sheepdogs of neo-colonialism and proto-imperialism! Advance global class struggle! The workers’ struggle knows no border!

Notes

All URL’s accessed on December 18, 2015.

1. Jason Unruhe, “Interview: Commander Prairie Fire of the Leading Light Communist Organization” (April 11, 2015), Maoist Rebel News, http://maoistrebelnews.com/2015/04/11/interview-commander-prairie-fire-of-the-leading-light-communist-organization/.

2. Jeanne Willette, “Post-Colonial Theory: Edward Said” (September 6, 2013), Art History Unstuffed, http://www.arthistoryunstuffed.com/post-colonial-theory-edward-said/.

“For [Edward] Said, ‘Orientalism’ or the Western construction of the ‘imaginary Orient’ was fashioned by Europeans through practices of writing, which had the effect of representing the Other, the East.”

3. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” (1985), http://www.mcgill.ca/files/crclaw-discourse/Can_the_subaltern_speak.pdf.

4. “Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak.” In The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, edited by Vincent B Leitch, 2194, http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic200861.files/Spivak.Can_the_subaltern_speak.pdf.

“Because subalterns exist, to some extent, outside power, theorists and advocates of political transformation have consistently looked to them as a potential source of change. Marxists speak of and for the proletariat, feminists of and for oppressed women, and anticolonialists of and for third world peoples. In part, Spivak is reacting against the persistent tendency of radical political movements to romanticize the other, especially against the notion that third world peoples must lead the fight against multinational global capitalism. To assign them that role is to repeat colonialism’s basic violence, which views non-Europeans as important only insofar as they follow Western scripts. Furthermore, when most of the power resides in the West, why should the least powerful of those caught up in globalization be responsible for halting its advance? Finally, Spivak points out that the suggestion that all third world peoples stand in the same relation to global capitalism and should respond to it in the same way is “essentialist.”

5. Leading Light Communist Organization, “Interview: Origins” (May 26, 2014), http://llco.org/quotes-from-a-recent-conversation-on-the-history-of-llco-and-other-fun-stuff/.

6. “What Color is the Sun?” Stanford Solar Center, http://solar-center.stanford.edu/SID/activities/GreenSun.html.

“It is a common misconception that the Sun is yellow, or orange or even red. However, the Sun is essentially all colors mixed together, which appear to our eyes as white. This is easy to see in pictures taken from space.”

7. “Cosmology.” In Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural Anthropology, edited by Alan Barnard and Jonathan Spencer, 129. London and New York: Routledge, 2002, http://ethnoproject.ru/sites/ethnoproject.ru/files/Encyclopedia_of_Social_and_Cultural_Anthropology.pdf.

8. Leading Light Communist Organization, “MUST READ: Tasks, deviations, corrections, an interview with Leading Light Commander Prairie Fire” (April 6, 2015), http://llco.org/must-read-tasks-deviations-corrections-an-interview-with-leading-light-commander-prairie-fire/.

9. Ibid.

10. Leading Light Communist Organization, “Leading Lights of the Bangla Zone” (January 20, 2014), http://llco.org/leading-lights-of-the-bangla-zone/.

11. Leading Light Communist Organization, “Interview: Origins” (May 26, 2014), http://llco.org/quotes-from-a-recent-conversation-on-the-history-of-llco-and-other-fun-stuff/.

12. Leading Light Communist Organization, “MUST READ: Tasks, deviations, corrections, an interview with Leading Light Commander Prairie Fire” (April 6, 2015), http://llco.org/must-read-tasks-deviations-corrections-an-interview-with-leading-light-commander-prairie-fire/.

13. Leading Light Communist Organization, “Destroy the Crooked Soul of the Wrecker” (April 16, 2015), http://llco.org/destroy-the-crooked-soul-of-the-wrecker/.

14. “Bildung.” In Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bildung.

Bildung (German for “education” and “formation”) refers to the German tradition of self-cultivation (as related to the German for: creation, image, shape), wherein philosophy and education are linked in a manner that refers to a process of both personal and cultural maturation. This maturation is described as a harmonization of the individual’s mind and heart and in a unification of selfhood and identity within the broader society, as evidenced with the literary tradition of bildungsroman.”

15. Jason Unruhe, “The French Gonzaloists vs. The LLCO” (December 9, 2015), Maoist Rebel News, http://maoistrebelnews.com/2015/12/09/the-french-gonzaloists-vs-the-llco/.

16. RAIM, “About”, http://www.revolutionaryaim.org/about/.

17. Leading Light Communist Organization, “Our response to a supporter of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist):” (July 29, 2015), http://llco.org/our-response-to-a-supporter-of-the-communist-party-of-india-marxist-leninist/.

18. Leading Light Communist Organization, “School shootings and gun control” (December 17, 2012), http://llco.org/school-shootings-and-gun-control/.

19. Warren Montag, “Can the Subaltern Speak and Other Transcendental Questions” (1998), http://clogic.eserver.org/1-2/montag.html.

20. Lin Biao, “The International Significance of Comrade Mao-Tse Tung’s Theory of People’s War”, in Long Live the Victory of People’s War! (1965), https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/lin-biao/1965/09/peoples_war/ch07.htm.

21. Mao Zedong, “On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship” (June 30, 1949), https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-4/mswv4_65.htm.

22. “Bloc of Four Classes.” In Marxist Internet Archive: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of Terms, https://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/b/l.htm.

23. Mao Zedong, “On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship” (June 30, 1949), in Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung, Volume IV, https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-4/mswv4_65.htm.

24. “Socialism with Chinese characteristics.” In Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialism_with_Chinese_characteristics.

25. Mao Zedong, “On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People” (February 27, 1957), in Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung, Volume V, https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-5/mswv5_58.htm.

26. Lin Biao, “The International Significance of Comrade Mao-Tse Tung’s Theory of People’s War”, in Long Live the Victory of People’s War! (1965), https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/lin-biao/1965/09/peoples_war/ch07.htm.

27. Lin Biao, “Defeat U.S. Imperialism and Its Lackeys by People’s War”, in Long Live the Victory of People’s War! (1965), https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/lin-biao/1965/09/peoples_war/ch08.htm.

28. Lin Biao, “The Khruschov Revisionists are Betrayers of People’s War”, in Long Live the Victory of People’s War! (1965), https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/lin-biao/1965/09/peoples_war/ch09.htm.

29. Jason Unruhe, “Maoist 3rd Worldist Open Challenge” (May 18, 2015), Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSF_UoqPiA8.

30. Jason Unruhe, “How is Trotksy Winning over Maoism?” (November 30, 2015), Maoist Rebel News, http://maoistrebelnews.com/2015/11/30/how-is-trotskyism-winning-over-maoism.

31. Arif Jamal, “Bernard-Henri Lévy au Bangladesh” (April 25, 2014), La Règle du jeu, http://laregledujeu.org/2014/04/25/16832/bernard-henri-levy-au-bangladesh/.

32. Stewart McBride, “‘New Philosopher’; Bernard-Henri Levy” (January 20, 1983), Christian Science Monitor, http://www.csmonitor.com/1983/0120/012034.html.

33. Richard Brody, “Did Bernard-Henri Levy Take NATO to War?” (March 25, 2011), The New Yorker), http://www.csmonitor.com/1983/0120/012034.html.

34. Rosa Harris, “Badiou: On Different Streams Within French Maoism” (November 3, 2008), Kasama, http://kasamaarchive.org/2008/11/03/badiou-on-different-streams-within-french-maoism/.

35. Philippe Corcuff, “«Libé» : libéral et libertaire contre la starckisation” (February 13, 2014), Libération, http://www.liberation.fr/ecrans/2014/02/13/libe-liberal-et-libertaire-contre-la-starckisation_980129.

36. “Three-World Model.” In Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-World_Model.

37. “Three Worlds Theory.” In Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Worlds_Theory.

38. Matt Soniak, “There’s a First World. There’s a Third World. Is There a Second World?” (September 25, 2012), Mental Floss, http://mentalfloss.com/article/12631/theres-first-world-theres-third-world-there-second-world.

39. “Maoism or Lin Biaoism? Defend Mao’s Three Worlds Theory!” (April 1, 2014), Pentru Comunism, https://pentrucomunism.wordpress.com/2014/04/01/maoism-or-lin-biaoism-defend-maos-three-world-theory/.

40. Marlene Laruelle, “Novorossiya: A Launching Pad for Russian Nationalists” (September 2014), PONARS Eurasia, http://www.ponarseurasia.org/sites/default/files/policy-memos-pdf/Pepm357_Laruelle_Sept2014.pdf.

“The Russian imperial flag has often been flown at combat sites in the Donbas and at meetings in Russia to support Novorossiya. In August 2014, the previously adopted flag of Novorossiya, red and blue and inspired by a flag of the Tsarist Navy, was relegated for use as a battle flag to make room for a new state flag, the Russian imperial white-yellow-black tricolor. The secessionist authorities stated that through the adoption of the new flag, used as a symbol of the Russian Empire from 1858 to 1883, they “integrate their own history into the historical course of the Russian state.” Positive memories of Russia’s Tsarist past are getting an unprecedented boost from the Novorossiya mythmaking process.”

41. Alexey Eremenko, “Ukrainian Rebels Channel U.S. Confederates” (June 9, 2014), The Moscow Times, http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/ukrainian-rebels-channel-us-confederates/501789.html.

42. Chriss Zappone, “Are the Ukrainian separatists flying the Confederate flag?” (August 1, 2014), The Sydney Morning Herald, http://www.smh.com.au/world/are-the-ukrainian-separatists-flying-the-confederate-flag-20140731-zz85b.html

43. Shona Ken, “French Rule and Tensions in the Colony, 1750-1784”, in History of Haiti, 1492-1805 (last updated October 27, 2015), Brown University, http://library.brown.edu/haitihistory/2frt.html.

44. Malick W Ghachem. The Old Regime and the Haitian Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 2012), 156-157.

45. Shona Ken, “Slave Resistance Gains Momentum, 1790-1791”, in History of Haiti, 1492-1805 (last updated October 27, 2015), Brown University, http://library.brown.edu/haitihistory/4.html.

46. “Minneapolis general strike of 1934.” In Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minneapolis_general_strike_of_1934.

47. Vladimir Lenin, “‘Left-Wing’ Communism in Great Britain”, in Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder (1920), https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1920/lwc/ch09.htm.

48. Mao Zedong, “On New Democracy” (1940), in Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung, Volume II, https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-2/mswv2_26.htm.

“In this era, any revolution in a colony or semi-colony that is directed against imperialism, i.e., against the international bourgeoisie or international capitalism, no longer comes within the old category of the bourgeois-democratic world revolution, but within the new category. It is no longer part of the old bourgeois, or capitalist, world revolution, but is part of the new world revolution, the proletarian-socialist world revolution. Such revolutionary colonies and semi-colonies can no longer be regarded as allies of the counter revolutionary front of world capitalism; they have become allies of the revolutionary front of world socialism.

Although such a revolution in a colonial and semi-colonial country is still fundamentally bourgeois-democratic in its social character during its first stage or first step, and although its objective mission is to clear the path for the development of capitalism, it is no longer a revolution of the old type led by the bourgeoisie with the aim of establishing a capitalist society and a state under bourgeois dictatorship. It belongs to the new type of revolution led by the proletariat with the aim, in the first stage, of establishing a new-democratic society and a state under the joint dictatorship of all the revolutionary classes.”

49. Leon Trotsky, “The Proletarian Regime”, in Results and Prospects (1906), https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1931/tpr/rp06.htm.

“The very fact of the bourgeoisie being in power drives out of our minimum programme all demands which are incompatible with private property in the means of production. Such demands form the content of a socialist revolution and presuppose a proletarian dictatorship.”

50. Jason Unruhe, “First vs. Third World Nationalism” (September 25, 2015), Maoist Rebel News, http://maoistrebelnews.com/2015/09/25/first-vs-third-world-nationalism/.

51. Jason Unruhe, “Interview: Steve Struggle of the original Black Panther Party” (April 6, 2015), Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DfiMy4VDb0.

52. Loren Goldner, “Notes Towards a Critique of Maoism” (October 12, 2012), Insurgent Notes: Journal of Communist Theory and Practice, http://insurgentnotes.com/2012/10/notes-towards-a-critique-of-maoism/.

53. Peter Schöttler, “Scientisme. Sur l’histoire d’un concept difficile” (2013), http://www.academia.edu/6965956/Scientisme._Sur_lhistoire_dun_concept_difficile_2013.

54. Martin Ryder, “Scientism” (2013), https://carbon.ucdenver.edu/~mryder/scientism_este.html.

55. Leading Light Communist Organization, “Our response to a supporter of the Communist Party of  India (Marxist-Leninist):” (July 29, 2015), http://llco.org/our-response-to-a-supporter-of-the-communist-party-of-india-marxist-leninist/.

56. Tzvetan Todorov, “Scientisme”, in Nous et les autres: La réflexion française sur la diversité humaine (Paris: Seuil, 1989), 41.

57. “Sun Ra Interview (Helsinki, 1971)”, Youtube, 2:20, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMMWNwVhq5k.

58. Edward W Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1979), 12.