The last thing Biorgina Guerri could remember from the time of her life preceding her coma was the gnarled lips and pockmarked mug of the Contra comandante as he hammered off bullets, one by one, into her fellow Juventud Sandinista activists.
The year was 1986.
The ultra-reactionary guerrillas, armed and trained by the Reagan administration, had pulled the Sandinista youths from their beds one night, lined them up against a wall. The death squad’s leader, a man with greasy black hair and a sadistic twinkle in his eye, appeared before the bewildered and inexperienced Sandinistas and admonished them harshly for their Leftist beliefs.
“I’ll make an example out of all of you,” he finally spat, before drawing the pistol off his hip. It seemed his lengthy tirade had been intended less for the Sandinista youths before him than it was for the terrorized slum-dwellers listening through the thin tin walls of their makeshift hovels nearby.
Biorgina had known this would be a dangerous mission, but never did she anticipate that calamity should strike quite so soon. She and her compañeros, a handful of young idealists like herself, had embarked upon an aeroplane in Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua, a mere three days earlier. Their destination was the once prosperous, now poverty-stricken Caribbean port town of Bluefields. Naturally, given the war, they had come armed, but the Contras caught them off guard, sound asleep after a long night of mingling with the locals and singing cantos revolucionarios.
The move to Bluefields was part of a strategic Sandinista Youth counterinsurgency initiative to reach out and conquer the hearts and minds of the isolated peoples of Nicaragua’s East Coast. Separated from the Sandinista strongholds along the Pacific by the nearly impassable Central Highlands, Nicaragua’s Caribbean Lowlands were populated by the descendants of a convergence of Non-Hispanic European pirates, fugitive Africans (sometimes known as Maroons), and Indigenous peoples. This lowland area is known as the Miskito Coast and, with its distinct regional identity and history of autonomy, it presented a unique challenge to the revolutionary Sandinista government due to stark cultural differences which the imperialist forces were all too keen to exploit. Indeed, Bluefields had been a British protectorate until it was finally annexed into the Nicaraguan national territory in the late 19th century, and some of its people still held on to the misguided hope that another Anglo-American intervention would restore greater independence and economic prosperity to the region.
* * *
A sprightly nurse inserted a fresh intravenous needle into Biorgina’s forearm.
“Dios mío,” Biorgina croaked as the fog around her seemed to fade at last.
The nurse jumped back in surprise, before shouting, “¡Ay, se despertó! ¡Se despertó la comatosa!”
Biorgina swallowed, feeling dizzy. It was difficult to open her eyes, as the muscles had atrophied, rendering them hypersensitive to the light. Squinting, they followed the cracks of peeling paint on the wall before letting themselves rest on a portrait held within a crooked frame. A charismatic-looking man, vaguely paternalistic and wearing red star-emblazoned combat fatigues, stared back at her.
“Where am I?” she managed to vocalize, her heart beginning to beat faster as she became aware of the liquid feeding tubes occupying her nostrils.
“Mi corazón . . . ” the nurse replied, still in shock at the miracle of it, “you’re in Managua. Lenin Fonseco Hospital.”
Biorgina’s eyes widened in shock, momentarily indifferent to their fluorescent ecology. Her pupils were like black pimientos, bloodshot nexuses wrapped in pallid pickled olive irises. The strands of her charcoal-shaded mane undulated around her head, cradling it like the weaved together pliable reeds of a wicker basket. Overwhelmed by the blinding light, she then passed out. But a basket case she would soon be no more.
Biorgina felt a warm hand touch her on the shoulder as she came to again. This time, not only did she open her eyes, but she turned her head slightly. A handsome young man decked out in scrubs stood beside her bed.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you,” he began. “My name is Doctor Rafael Delgado. Biorgina, you’ve been in a coma for a very long time. I’ve never seen a patient regain consciousness after such a long-term comatose period. This is truly . . . miraculous!”
“What . . . what year is it?” she asked.
“2016,” the doctor replied. He placed his hand upon her palm. “Biorgina, can you squeeze my hand?”
She gave it a remarkably firm squeeze.
“Very good! I must say, it is an honor to speak with a hero of the Revolución,” he said, almost making Biorgina blush as he continued, “You must know that your recovery will take some time. You need to take it easy for now. We will start you with physical therapy soon, focus on that, and then we can eventually enroll you in an outpatient program, get you readjusted to life on the outside. The world has changed a lot since the last time you were conscious.”
“Oh . . . thank you, doctor.”
On the street outside the hospital, the engine of a passing motor vehicle backfired.
“Ay, Contras!Get down!” Biorgina shouted.
Delgado grabbed hold of her. “Biorgina, it’s okay. The Civil War is over! The Contras are defeated!“
* * *
A typical day of treatment in physical therapy for Biorgina Guerri consisted in five hours of light and heavy exercises to rebuild her atrophied muscles and get her acquainted with her now forty-seven year old body. The physical therapists at Lenin Fonseco Hospital were astonished by the rapidity with which Biorgina regained her faculties. After two and a half months, she was lifting four and a half kilogram weights. By four months, she was walking, and by five months, she could run. It was, by all accounts, a miraculous recovery, unprecedented in the history of medicine.
Five months, two weeks, and three days after awakening from her thirty year coma, Biorgina was deemed fit for the next phase of treatment: a rigorous outpatient program. In this phase, Doctor Delgado informed Biorgina that she would no longer be required to stay overnight at the hospital. Moreover, her hours of physical therapy would be greatly reduced, supplemented instead by increased psychotherapy and counselling designed to help her come to terms with the loss of thirty prime years of her life and fully transition her mind to life in the 21st century.
Before signing the papers to officially discharge Biorgina and begin the outpatient treatment phase, Doctor Delgado connected her to a state housing program which would provide her with a fully furbished apartment. Unfortunately, Biorgina had no family left to go to. Her parents had long since passed away, while her siblings, also active in the Sandinista movement, had been made martyrs of the Revolution by the same damn Oliver North-funded, cocaine-peddling death squads that put her in a coma.
Later that afternoon, Doctor Delgado called for a taxi cab to come pick Biorgina up from the hospital and take her to her new apartment, located near Managua’s Xolotlán lake front.
“Alright. What do I owe you?” she asked the taxi driver after they had arrived.
“No jodas,” the driver retorted.
” . . . You don’t need any money?” She took out a handful of Nicaraguan córdobas, minted in the 1980s. The hospital staff had managed to safeguard the belongings she’d had on her when that Contra commando shot her in the head all those years ago.
“You a time-traveller?” the driver questioned with a raised eyebrow. “Nobody pays for anything in the Union of Central American Socialist Republics. Been that way since 1992. You know, when the A Cada Cual Según sus Necesidades Act criminalized monetary transactions?”
Biorgina looked at the taxi driver incredulously for a moment, thinking that perhaps he was joking, but it seemed he was dead serious. “Thanks,” she muttered, and walked up to her new home.
* * *
The next morning, Biorgina left her coins at home and made use once again of Managua’s free public transportation system to get to the mental health clinic to meet her new psychotherapist. His name was Ivan Moreno.
“Tell me, Biorgina, what is the last thing that you remember of the days before your coma?” Moreno said towards the beginning of their first session together.
“I was with my compañeros from the Sandinista Youth,” she said, recalling her teenage years in the thick of the Nicaraguan Civil War. “We had been distributing pamphlets and tortillas in the pueblo of Bluefields. Then, in the night, those malditos Contrascaptured us. I . . . I can’t remember what happened after that.”
“Try,” Moreno said.
“There was . . . this face. This ugly face. Knobbly, covered in bumps, like a gourd.”
Moreno sucked in a wisp of air through his teeth, gasping silently. He knew the man she spoke of: Jorge Peterson-Gonzalez. A US-backed right-wing militarist who had been trained at the School of the Americas, in the state of Georgia. The man with the wart-covered face was infamous in the Union of Central American Socialist Republics (UCASR). After fleeing to the United States in the immediate aftermath of the Sandinista triumph over the Contras in 1990, the Nicaraguans tried in vain to win his extradition. Following the unification of the Socialist People’s Republics of Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Belize, and Panama, the UCASR continued to push for him to be brought to justice, but to no avail.
“The face . . . it went down the line, hammering off rounds into each compañero‘s head,” Biorgina sobbed.
“Jorge Peterson-Gonzalez . . . ” Moreno murmured.
Her brief bout of grief turned suddenly into utter outrage. “Who is this Peterson-Gonzalez fuck?” she shouted.
“Central America’s most wanted criminal,” Moreno explained.
“Where is he? Why hasn’t he been brought to justice?”
“In El Norte,” Moreno said. “Those damn Yankee imperialists have been harboring him for decades. After we finally pushed them out of Latin America, their society turned its depravation inwards. A scumbag like him is perfectly at home there.”
“Ivan, there’s so much I don’t understand about this world. What has happened? I see the people joyous in the streets. Housing and public transportation are free. Commodities are distributed according to human need. But still a murdering prick like this can escape justice?”
“Indeed, it is a travesty,” Moreno replied. “Though there was a bit of poetic justice when Ronald Reagan was executed for crimes against humanity after he was intercepted on his way to a meeting in Switzerland, back in 1994. The bastard thought his status as former head of state would give him diplomatic immunity, shield him from justice. Thankfully the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China used their influence in the United Nations Security Council to push for a stronger application of international human rights law. Reagan was arrested and swiftly brought to trial, judged by the same standards as Nuremberg. But those damn yanqui imperialists grew crafty after that. They did not risk sending their war criminal politicians abroad, where they knew that their pathetic Constitution would be overridden by international human rights law.”
“Híjoles, thank goodness at least one of them got a taste of justice,” said Biorgina. “That was such an uncertain time, 1986. Some people were saying that the USSR would not even last another five years. Dark times, they were. I honestly wouldn’t have been surprised if I’d have woken up in a world dominated by neo-liberalism and free market fundamentalist ideology, God forbid.”
“Yes, I remember the 1980s like they were yesterday,” Moreno replied. “Fortunately, the USSR was bolstered by the spread of Communism to Latin America. After the FSLN and FMLN seized power in Nicaragua and El Salvador, national liberation movements spread like wild fire across the region, thanks to help from our Cuban and Soviet allies, of course.”
“I only wish I could have been conscious to participate in these astonishing political developments myself,” Biorgina remarked. “Please, tell me more.”
“In Europe, the Warsaw Pact quickly took on more and more member states as the façade of liberalism crumbled when the Yankee imperialists were forced to withdraw their occupation forces to enforce martial law on the homefront. You see, the social eruption in Latin America turned Communism into a behemoth, one that they would have to reckon with on their own turf. In 1995, America plunged into its Second Civil War. The leftist forces were defeated in 2001, but at great social and economic cost. Millions of lives were lost, campaigns of ethnic cleansing swept the nation, and the country emerged a virtual fortress: a settler-state enclave of crazed gun-hording white sociopaths surrounded by towering anti-immigrant walls.”
“Ay,” Biorgina croaked. This was becoming upsetting. Her vision became blurred; her head was spinning.
“I’m sorry, Biorgina,” said Moreno. “Surely that was too much information to present you with all at once. We’ll continue bringing you up to speed with the 21st century in our next session. Until then, go out and enjoy life in Socialist Central America.”
Biorgina went back to her apartment. She ruminated on the injustice of it all. Thirty years, almost two-thirds of her life, had been robbed of her, and this Contra scumbag was still living as a free man. Biorgina’s rage-filled rumination quickly led her to the realization that her desire was nothing other than revenge.
The next day she went to her scheduled three hour psychotherapy session with Ivan Moreno.
“Good to see you again, Biorgina,” Moreno said, greeting her as she walked into his quaint office.
“Spare me the flatteries, doc,” Biorgina retorted agitatedly as she took a seat in his chaise longue. She reclined. “We both know what my successful recovery necessitates.”
“Errm, I’m afraid you’ll have to be a bit more explicit,” the psychotherapist said.
“Vengence,” Biorgina throated.
“Ah, sweet catharsis. We’re making progress here,” Moreno replied.
“Can the therapeutic bullshit, doc! All I want is to blast a damned bullet through that rat bastard’s forehead!”
Moreno began to chuckle in a light-hearted fashion.
“I’m gonna do it, doc. I’m gonna waste that rat bastard,” Biorgina said with resolve.
“Biorgina, stop speaking like a blasted teenager. You’re a forty-seven year old woman!”
“Fuck you, Ivan! I am a damned teenager. I was una joven Sandinista when this shit began, and I’ll be una joven Sandinista when this shit is over!” She jumped out of the chaise longue and began pacing the room.
“Biorgina, please, a bit of calm,” Moreno breathed. “Let’s be rational here. If the whole state apparatus of the Union of Central American Socialist Republics has not been able to render Peterson-Gonzalez justice, what makes you think you can? You want to go into the belly of the beast? It’s a suicide mission. The border wall is fifty feet high, topped with barbed wire, and guarded by heavily armed Minutemen and other white nationalist vigilante groups. And even if you did make it in, the populace is racist as fuck, and armed to the teeth as well. Perhaps you could seek refuge in the Negro Reservations, but even that is a gamble.”
“That may well be, Ivan. But I’ll be damned if I don’t give it a try.”
Moreno leaned back in his armchair, a strange chill coming over him. He shivered and recalled how passionately he had detested the Contras back in the day. Was this really what he had become? Some old conservative hack discouraging a militant leftist from exacting revenge on one of the biggest scumbags on the planet?
“Alright, Biorgina. I can help you get into El Norte. It won’t be easy. But you will get in.”
“Ay, gracias, Ivan,” said Biorgina.
“My son, Ignacio, lives in the Autonomous Federation of Indigenous Soviets of Mexico. He is a coyote, smuggling Latinos across the border into the USA. He can help you enter that horrible country.”
“You mean to tell me our people still go there for work?” Biorgina questioned incredulously.
“What, you thought those gringoswould do hard labor themselves?” Moreno laughed.
Biorgina continued therapy for another fortnight. After that discussion, her sessions with Moreno focused more on mental preparation for taking the life of another human being than on recovering her sanity or healing from her trauma.
“There is,” Moreno informed her during their last session, “a clandestine network of leftist radicals in El Norte which is still operational. They’ve been underground since 2001. My son, Ignacio, is familiar with many of them, as a major slice of their revenue comes from human smuggling. With their help, you may be able to track down Peterson-Gonzalez.”
* * *
Biorgina entered Mexico and met with Ignacio Moreno in Nuevo Laredo, close to the Texan border. Ignacio brought her with a fairly large group of Latino migrant workers through a subterranean tunnel which bypassed the border fence. After that she was clandestinely transported in a freight train to Des Moines, Iowa: one of several hubs of the Underground Resistance smuggling network. The journey was harrowing. She was locked in one of the freight train’s boxcars, alone with no food or water for almost a week. She made it, but she was practically emaciated when she arrived at the train depot in Des Moines. Too weak to even stand up. The train stopped and she sat there for hours. This is it, she began to think. This is the end. I’m going to die here, anonymously. Fucking Ignacio, he told me he made all the arrangements.
“This is the one,” she finally heard a muffled voice say through the metal.
“You sure?” another hushed voice inquired.
“Check the graffiti. You see it? The mark of the Underground Resistance sprayed over here.”
“C’mon, let’s do this before the bulls show up,” a third voice chimed in.
Biorgina saw the tip of a crowbar enter through a crack in the boxcar door.
“Goddamn. Let’s get you out of here,” a member of the Underground Resistance croaked as she laid eyes upon Biorgina.
Biorgina was quickly shuttled to a safe house and given food, drink, and a futon in the basement on which to rest. It took four days for her to fully recuperate her strength. At the safe house she got to know several members of the Resistance: the ones who had rescued her. Their noms de guerre were Gizella, Facundo, Zbigniew, and Bladimir.
“So this Peterson-Gonzalez dude,” Biorgina said to them one evening, “y’all heard of him?”
The single light bulb illuminating the basement of the safe house flickered. Cockroaches scuttled across the cement floor.
“We are certainly familiar with him. One of the most infamous figures of the Contra War,” said Zbigniew, taking a sip from a can of beer. “After the Second Civil War broke out in 1995, he was implicated in several anti-Black pogroms. The movement calling for his extradition to Central America became something of an international cause célèbre.”
“We have an idea of his general whereabouts,” said Bladimir. “Somewhere in the vicinity of Langley, Virginia. Rumor has it the militarist sod is working as an Evangelical minister now. Can you believe it? A murderous prick like that?”
“Yes . . . ” Gizella added, “there is a doxxing database, maintained by the Underground Resistance to keep tabs on an array of the petty bourgeoisie’s shock troops: right-wing activists and paramilitaries wanted by the international community for crimes against humanity committed during the Second Civil War. You’d be surprised how many of ’em ended up joining the clerical caste after the war. Must bring ’em some kinda relief, I s’pose, assuage the guilt somehow.”
“Why don’t you simply waste these right-wing fucks now, when they least expect it?” Biorgina asked.
“The preparations are under way,” Gizella replied. “We’ve been underground for fifteen years now. But if we make our move too soon, our whole network could be jeopardized. All that prep for nothing. You don’t even want to know what they do to captured members of the Underground Resistance in the internment camps.”
“Our network is growing more powerful by the day,” Facundo chimed in. “But Gizella is right. For now, we must lie in wait, make preparations silently. Build our organization, our infrastructure. Then, one day, the whole world will see what a miniscule cabal of deranged militants can accomplish!”
“But I know nothing of your Underground Resistance network. I’ve been in a coma for most of the last thirty years. Let me go after Jorge Peterson-Gonzalez. Even if I am captured alive, I will have little information to divulge, even under the severest of torture.”
“This Biorgina chick has a point,” said Bladimir to his comrades. “We could use someone like her. And such a brazen act of propaganda of the deed would surely help boost our numbers.”
“What you say is true, Bladimir,” Gizella conceded.
“Yes,” Facundo added. “If Biorgina were to succeed in carrying out an attack on Peterson-Gonzalez, it would be an incredible boon to the Resistance movement. I’m constantly hearing complaints from our recruitment officers that the recent lull in armed propaganda actions is putting a serious damper on our grassroots growth.”
“Say no more,” Zbigniew croaked, looking up from a somber laptop screen covered in oscillating columns of cascading and glimmering green characters. “The mission is already being prepped as we speak.”
* * *
It was Sunday morning. Biorgina rode in the back of a nondescript, sparsely windowed van headed for Langley, Virginia: the town where Peterson-Gonzalez carried out his ministry. Accompanying her were two members of the Underground Resistance. Their noms de guerre were Philomena and Kleon. The latter drove down Allen Dulles Memorial Parkway, about to exit onto Robert E. Lee Boulevard, while the former sat in the back with Biorgina, giving her all the last minute intel she would need to carry out the brazen assassination of Jorge Peterson-Gonzalez.
“If you want this shit to go down smooth, you’ll need to be quick,” Philomena said in a soothing tone that was, given the circumstances, remarkably calm and reassuring. “We’ll drop you off in front of the church, you run in there, gun the mofo down, we’ll circle the block, and if the coast is clear, pick you back up.”
“And if the coast isn’t clear?” Biorgina questioned.
“Well, you’re on your own.”
Biorgina anxiously swallowed nothing.
“You truly are a brave woman, Biorgina,” Philomena said as she put a warm hand on her shoulder.
Biorgina pulled back the bolt handle on the Cambodian-made Kalashnikov rifle she had been given by Zbigniew.
“Shit,” Kleon could be heard muttering in the front seat. A siren began to blare. He pulled over quickly, hoping to play it smooth and arouse as little suspicion as possible.
Biorgina and Philomena tried to hide themselves as best they could in the backseat during the tense few seconds between Kleon pulling over and the policeman approaching the van.
“Lahcense and registration,” the cop growled.
Kleon reached for his wallet.
“No sudden movements!” the cop shouted, taking a step back and placing his hand on his firearm, though leaving it still in its holster.
Kleon moved his hand more slowly.
“Mind if Ah have a look in back?” the law enforcer questioned.
Kleon knew he had to lie; the odds of the Fourth Amendment being upheld in this day and age were near nil. Flat out denying consent to a search would surely sound alarm bells in the copper’s mind.
“Sir, I’ve got to get to church. I’m taking Bibles to the Sunday school and they start in five minutes. Please don’t hold me up!”
The cop, being a devout Evangelical Christian, was genuinely affected by this appeal, but still wanted to make a quick search. “Step outer the vee-hickle, son. Now git back here an’ opener up.”
Kleon popped the lock, and the officer unhinged the back door of the van.
Biorgina had managed to hide her assault rifle before the officer saw the two women there.
“Step outer the vee-hickle, pleayse! Say, where y’all ladies from?” the cop questioned.
“West Virginia, sir,” Philomena answered quickly, knowing Biorgina’s Nicaraguan accent would be a dead giveaway.
“Say, you look purdy dark, miss. What race’re you?” the cop jeered at Biorgina, unhooking his walkie-talkie and garbling, “Got a racially suspicious individual, possibly a stray off the rez, pro-ceeding to brown paper bag test,” before she could even reply.
“Now listen here, sir,” Philomena began. “This is my cousin! She’s a Melungeon, got Portuguese roots. That’s why she looks funny.”
“Ah’ve heard it a million times,” the hick policeman shot back. “Less let the brown paper bag decide if she’s whiter not!”
The policeman turned and went to his squad car to search for his government-issued brown paper bag, the official means by which the acceptable level of melanin a free individual could possess was measured.
Bam! . . . Bam! . . . Bam! A deafening succession of gunshots rang out like firecrackers on the Fourth of July. In total, Kleon had slammed off seven rounds of pistol fire into the copper’s back.
“Get back in the van!” Kleon shouted.
“Wait a sec,” Philomena replied before going into the police cruiser and kicking the dashboard cam off with her foot. She tossed it on the ground before grabbing the gun off the cop’s cadaver and slamming off a flurry of slugs into it. “Okay,” she breathed.
The trio of radical communists got back in the van and continued to make their way to Nuestro Señor de la Sagrada Contrarrevolución Pentecostal Church, the establishment where Jorge Peterson-Gonzalez carried out his ministry. It wasn’t much further. The church, located a stone’s throw from the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency, served many of the families of the white Hispanic, School of the Americas-trained militarists who, after being driven out of Latin America, called El Norte their home.
“Damn, I don’t like this,” said Kleon. “You heard him radio in. Dispatch is gonna know something’s up when he doesn’t report on the results of the brown paper bag test. Better make this quick.”
Arriving at the church, Biorgina burst out of the van’s rear end. Churchgoers were trickling towards the front door. She raised her assault rifle menacingly and began to indiscriminately pepper the devout with gunfire. Knowing that she was in a Southern state, she just couldn’t run the risk of some armed bystander putting a stop to her. Biorgina then ran up to the front doors of the church, large and looming. She kicked them open and entered the ecclesiastical narthex. There she gunned down several more parishioners before swiftly making her way to the sanctuary doors. She paused a moment and loaded a fresh magazine into her Kalashnikov, ensuring that she would have enough ammo to take out any wannabe heroes.
The wart-faced militarist stood before the congregation, his jaw dropped in shock as Biorgina once again shouldered her rifle and began to pop off rounds into members of the congregation who had stood up and began running towards her, seemingly in an effort to bum rush and disarm her.
“Nadie se mueve!” Biorgina bellowed as another Pentecostal bit the dust. The congregation cowered in fear before the might of this feminine warrior. “Esto es para los mártires de la Revolución!”
Jorge Peterson-Gonzalez turned towards the cross above the altar and raised his arms sanctimoniously.
Ratatatatat! Biorgina went trigger happy, pumping the militarist rat bastard full of lead. She then raised her fist in the air in a gesture once known as a Black Power salute, and hammered off several more rounds into the ceiling in an intense display of bravado.
Another churchgoer got up and attempted to bum rush Biorgina, but she heard his footsteps approaching and was able to turn and slam off a slug into the would-be hero just in the nick of time. Biorgina then kneeled down briefly, made the sign of the cross, and fled the scene.
Outside, Kleon and Philomena were just pulling up to the curbside, having circled the block.
“Quick, get in!” Philomena shouted.
The assault was so brazen, so swift, so unexpected, so close to the belly of the beast, that by the time law enforcement arrived on the scene, the perpetrator and her co-conspirators were already deep in the hills of West Virginia. Kleon pulled over near the peak of a bluff. The trio of left-wing extremists sat on some big rocks. Kleon pulled out a blunt and lit up.
Biorgina basked in the jubilance of successfully exacted revenge. Now that her mission was complete, she could go back to the Union of Central American Socialist Republics and do what she’d always wanted, before being side-tracked by this insane quest for violent vengeance: participate in the construction of a socialist society.
* * *
The Underground Resistance assisted Biorgina in making her way back to Mexico. First shuttled back to Des Moines by van, she was then once again stowed away in a freight train to Nuevo Laredo. Along the way, Biorgina could hear what sounded like acts of mass civil disobedience taking place. Effectively, the assassination of Peterson-Gonzalez had unclenched a wave of unrest and mayhem. Word of Biorgina’s brazen act of premeditated murder spread like a prairie fire among the members of the Underground Resistance. Impressed by her fearless direct action, members of the Underground Resistance began to emulate Biorgina nationwide. Assassinations, roadside improvised explosive devices, incitation to riot, you name it; countless new forms of propaganda of the deed began to shake the country to its very core. Negro and Hispanic Reservations, already overflowing with discontented working class folks, could no longer contain the underclass. The white bourgeois supremacist government responded swiftly with a rigorous implementation of martial law, but this only spurred the masses to fight with more tenacity and lack of sense of individual self-preservation. Instead, a spirit of collective preservation seemed to take over the masses’ consciousness. This proved Gizella’s and Facundo’s concerns about premature launch to be unwarranted: revolution had been long overdue, and now was the time to unleash its terror.
When Biorgina arrived in Nuevo Laredo, Ignacio Moreno was there at the opening of the people smuggling tunnel to greet her.
“Ay, tuviste suerte,” Ignacio began. “Everything’s gone to hell in El Norte! I didn’t think you would make it out alive!”
“Well, I did,” Biorgina croaked, dehydrated from the long boxcar ride.
“Ay, bet you could use some pinche agua,” Ignacio said.
Biorgina stayed with Ignacio for a couple of days, recuperating from the harrowing journey, before continuing on her way back home to Nicaragua.
When she got back to Managua, she took a free cab to her state-provided housing. She climbed up the steps of the apartment building. Neighbors were smiling at her, and she smiled back. She opened up the door to her apartment.
“Surprise!” a crowd of people shouted, Ivan Moreno and Doctor Delgado among them. Others included old members of the Sandinista Youth, some of whom Biorgina had worked with during the Contra War.
“Of course we should have,” Delgado shot back. “You’re a hero, Biorgina!”
“Yes, and it’s bigger than Peterson-Gonzalez. Soon El Norte will succumb to the scourge of Marxian socialism!” Moreno added in a tongue-in-cheek fashion.
An old comrade from the Sandinista Youth approached with a bowl of tortilla chips and salsa, and shouted, “Let’s get this fiesta started!”
The party was pleasant, though not overly raucous. As it began to wind down, Biorgina sat on the couch with Delgado, Moreno, and several activists and watched television. A UCASR journalist was reporting on the ongoing revolution in El Norte, live from Washington DC, having arrived there through the Underground Resistance’s people smuggling network.
“Masses of youths have just stormed the United States Capitol Building. We’re receiving reports that other centers of governance are already under occupation as well,” the reporter spoke.
In the background crowds of rowdy and rough-looking individuals could be heard chanting, “No justice, no peace — fuck the po-lice!”
A strange man then jumped in front of the camera and proclaimed, “Sometimes you gotta get down and dirty, get them low vibrations, before you rise up, like the seed!“
Just then, blood began to splatter all over the screen. The National Guard was massacring the protesters.
Biorgina closed her eyes, a feeling of warmness enveloping her from below.
Meanwhile, back in Fairfax County, Virginia, Jorge Peterson-Gonzalez lay in a hospital bed, deep in a coma.
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.” )
(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.” )
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).
[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 ”), 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?
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”?
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.
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?
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.”
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?
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.
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].
Growth in the potentiality of revolution does not however guarantee inevitability.
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.
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” ) 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
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 “CommanderPrairie 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).
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!
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“You can’t say you a man. If you do, you’re filthy and abominable. And you can’t say you’re a man because if you do you’re like the beast that perishes.”
– Sun Ra
In this article, we will take a look at the life of the African-American musician Le Sony’r Ra (1914-1993), better known by his stage name, Sun Ra, and the opposition to war he exhibited throughout his life, through the contextual prism of current events.
These days, it’s easy to fall under the impression that intensification of imperialist war barely disguised as a humanitarian ‘last resort’ is not just inevitable, but what’s necessary, correct, and just. Across the media and the political spectrum, the supposed righteousness of state-sponsored, socially-sanctioned, extrajudicial killing is being beaten like a drum loud and louder into our collective mind. You’d think maybe ‘we’ would’ve learned something after the debacle of the post-9/11 ‘War on Terror’, but no.
Last Friday the 13th, a mass casualty incident in Paris succeeded in arousing a widespread outpouring of proclamations of sympathy for victims of terrorism and, perhaps more tellingly, belief in and solidarity with ‘universal’ values, which recent bloodbaths of a similar nature in Ankara, Beirut, and elsewhere failed to elicit, the saturation of social media with tricolore profile pics testifying to this fact. Conveniently ignoring the massacre in Paris on October 17th, 1961 of perhaps well over 200 North African immigrants, the selectively amnesic capitalist mass media has widely and erroneously billed the Paris mass casualty incident of November the 13th as “the deadliest violence to strike France since WWII.” Sadly, we’ll never know the precise number of those murdered by Parisian police on October 17th, 1961 since, even when murderous imperialists do acknowledge that they’ve committed crimes against humanity, they “don’t do body counts.” The incident inspired ‘Socialist’ French president François Hollande to declare a ‘state of emergency’, strengthening not only the repressive state apparatus, but also the ideological state apparatuses (by giving the state the power to ‘control’ media). Since then, the ‘state of emergency’ has been extended for at least three more months, the president is calling for reforms to the constitution, and the government has even gone so far as to announce that it will be dispensing with the European Convention on Human Rights. (But don’t worry; human rights lawyers and NGO industrialists assure us that only non-fundamental, alienable, and violable so-called ‘rights’ like due process, privacy, and freedom of movement will be affected. It’s not a carte-blanche to do “whatever”; “human rights violations will simply be judged with more flexibility.” And plenty of other states have already long undone the adage that all rights are “interrelated, interdependent, and indivisible.”)
Meanwhile, in America, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Jeb Bush: everyone agrees, it’s time to contain, degrade, and ultimately destroy these Islamist mofos, they tell ya hwat. Turn on Fox News and you’ll hear folks like Tucker Carlson, Geraldo Rivera, and all the rest of those propagandist pieces of shit railing on about the need to annihilate the so-called ‘Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.’ Tune in to MSNBC and you can hear the same thing, interspersed with timid warnings about why it’s bad to scapegoat migrants. Self-proclaimed anti-imperialists cheerlead the Russian bombing campaign in Syria, and anarchists praise Kurdish fighters, who now collaborate with the U.S. No matter where you stand, it’s virtually never a question of whether or not to wage war, but howaggressive ‘we’ must be in waging war.
On November 20th, 2015, one week after the mass casualty incident in Paris, the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a resolution demanding the entire world join in on the action, seemingly indicating that the ‘War on Terror’ may be escalated to heretofore untold epic proportions and comfortingly promising of a temporary surge in mass casualty incidents which will in the long term reduce the number and frequency of mass casualty incidents.
“This world, with American leadership, can and must come together to destroy [ISIS and Al-Qaeda].” –Bernie Sanders at the 2nd Democratic Debate
It was a little easier to be anti-war about a decade ago; with George W. Bush in charge and waging a war in Iraq that was a bit more blatantly based on criminal pretexts, a more active social movement against militarism meant that there were more sizeable numbers of folks with whom one could link up and plot disruptions of the war machine. In certain milieus it seemed everybody loathed ‘Dubya’. There was a popular meme from those years called “same shit, different asshole,” featuring George W. Bush juxtaposed with Adolf Hitler. I myself managed to, using black permanent marker, draw Hitler moustaches on a poster-sized photo of President Bush which one of my high school teachers, a one time Republican representative in state legislature, kept in his classroom. Hilarious to me at the time, the teacher didn’t seem to notice this unsubtle, perhaps juvenile détournement, since it stayed that way for months. But then, the managers of U.S. Empire elected a new approach public relations: white power in black face. Nobel peace prizes delivered by drones simmered down the anti-war movement quite a bit, but it wasn’t long before the cult of LaRouche had its Hitler Obama posters out. Of course, comparisons to Hitler and Nazism are far from cutting-edge. From reductio ad Hitlerum to Godwin’s Law, Nazifying one’s enemies has, for over 60 years, been a convenient and sometimes powerful rhetorical device; one that even the U.S. government itself employs in propaganda against its current boogeyman, an apparent enemy whose mediatized wickedness is bordering on, if not surpassing, comic book levels.
In an article entitled “The Islamic State and the Cynicism of Nazi Analogies”, Natasha Lennard highlights a fact which we will reiterate here: “the subtext of any Nazi comparison by a US official is to invoke a moral obligation to engage militarily.” Nevermind that the United States of America was the primary exporter of eugenics to Germany, or that American industrialists were enthusiastic supporters of Hitler, that its most beloved amusement park was the brainchild of a goddamn Nazi, that the US actively deported German Jews and would-be Holocaust survivors to Europe, and only entered into the Second World War as a result of a rival imperialist power’s attack on what had less than fifty years earlier been an independent country which Theodore Roosevelt declared to be arbitrarily granted to the USA by ‘manifest destiny.’ WWII was ‘The Good War’, the ultimate just war, “a morally clear-cut conflict between Good and Evil.”
It’s not exactly hard to sympathize with the draft dodgers of the genocidal Vietnam War, but to evade conscription during World War II? That could potentially be scandalous. Surely everyone has a duty to stop fascism. “No Gook ever called me a Nigger,” a popular Vietnam era slogan went; but plenty of Krauts did call the local African diaspora, whom they subjected to forced sterilization, ‘Rhineland bastards.’ Evil shit indeed. Perhaps there was no other time when it was more difficult to be anti-war in the USA than during the Second World War. Though the First World War had its Espionage and Sedition Acts, it was a blatantly inter-imperialist war. But out of the First World War emerged the Bolshevik Revolution, and so the former revolutionary defeatists had some semblance of a stake to defend in the Second. And recent and current U.S. wars have been fought by an all volunteer military, so it doesn’t take a lot of guts to refuse to fight these days.
Le Sony’r Ra, better known by his stage name, Sun Ra, nicknamed Sonny, leader of the Intergalactic Myth-Science Solar Arkestra, is best remembered for his prolific jazz career and pioneering role in the genesis of afrofuturism. However, he was also a conscientious objector to war, for which he is far less remembered. Little public record of this episode of Sun Ra’s life existed until the publication of John Szwed’s 1998 biography Space is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra (not to be confused with the 1974 blaxploitation sci-fi film Space is the Place, which stars Ra). Born Herman Poole Blount in Birmingham, Alabama in 1914, Sun Ra was drafted into the US military in 1942. This marked the beginning of an ordeal which would eventually lead to his jailing in Alabama and internment in a forced labor camp in the middle of a forest in northwestern Pennsylvania. Known as Camp No. 48, it was part of a theocratic gulag system administered by the Civilian Public Service (CPS) from 1941 to 1947, consisting in total of 152 camps and smaller urban ‘units’ across the United States.
Sun Ra couched his resistance to participation in the war in Christian rhetoric, despite lacking membership in any church. This was probably the best bet for anyone seeking recognition as a conscientious objector, as morally-grounded exemptions from forced transformation into a human killing machine were, since the First World War, effectively limited to followers of the ‘historic peace churches’: Quakers and Anabaptist sects (i.e., Amish, Mennonites, Hutterites, and Schwarzenau Brethren). Furthermore, it was not until the 1971 Supreme Court ruling in Gillette v. United States that the possibility would be opened up of conscientious objection based outside of affiliation with a “well-recognized religious sect or organization whose existing creed or principles forbid its members to participate in war in any form” (i.e., ‘historic peace churches’–Quakers or Anabaptists). Gillette called his religious belief ‘Humanism.’ The ‘historic peace churches’ hold state-sanctioned violence as contrary to Christian morality. As religious movements, they were originally conceived in Northern Europe and in North America are rooted in overwhelmingly white congregations. This effectively barred African-Americans from being conscientious objectors. As Sun Ra would note during his draft ordeal, “[my case] has embittered me to such an extent that I am wondering whether a Negro has the right to be a Christian or whether it is even remotely possible that any white man can ever be expected to deal fairly with my race.” During the First World War, conscripted members of these congregations were forced either into ‘noncombatant’ military service or prison, where some were tortured and extrajudicially killed. It was the leaders of these churches, who had united to form the National Council for Religious Conscientious Objectors, and shortly thereafter merged with the Civilian Service Board to become the National Service Board for Religious Objectors (NSBRO), in response to the Selective Service and Training Act of 1940, who actually concocted the plan to set up a network of forced labor camps under their control as a more desirable alternative to either ‘noncombatant’ military service or imprisonment. Camp No. 48, where Sun Ra was interned, was administrated by the Church of the Brethren.
Initially (and surprisingly, since he was not affiliated with a church), the government recognized Sun Ra as a conscientious objector, and the local draft board informed him that he would be granted the right to be detained in a remote forced labor camp as an alternative to military service. But for Sun Ra the musician, the church-run civilian gulag was no more desirable an alternative than ‘noncombatant’ military service or prison. As he appealed this decision, he was in communication with pacifist organizations and the National Service Board for Religious Objectors (NSBRO), whose members were more sympathetic to his case than those of the local draft board. In one of these correspondences, he writes:
My orchestra and the management of it, the arranging and composing, the rehearsing, the developing of potential talent, that is my work and the only earthly pleasure I love. To separate me from music would be more cruel than standing me by a wall and shooting me. I think I would prefer the latter. I hope you understand why I am so staunchly against being in any kind of camp where one must live according to certain rules and regulations and requirements. If it were possible to be in civilian life and be of help I would appreciate greatly this consideration.
In addition to his dedication to his orchestra and his religious objections to killing, Le Sony’r Ra was financially supporting one of his relatives through his musical work, and he was in a poor state of physical health, which made the kind of manual labor required at the work camp dangerous for him. Nevertheless (and despite having been cited Paragraph 652.11 of the Selective Service Regulations which the NSBRO had informed Sun Ra supported his exemption), the all-white local draft board ordered Herman Poole Blount to render himself to Camp No. 48, approximately 850 miles from his home, on December 8, 1942. When Sun Ra informed the draft board that he “would probably not show up at the designated time,” they threatened him with jail. Reporting back to the NSBRO how the local board had handled his appeal, he writes, “Gandhi, Stalin, Christ, and a lot of people who fought for right know of jail.”
As Szwed explains in The Lives and Times of Sun Ra (1998), Sun Ra was shunned by most of his family for his refusal to go and fight the Axis powers. But Ra quite rightly identified the fascist-imperialist ideology as occupying not only Europe and Asia, but also the Deep South he lived in. In his correspondences with the NSBRO, he admonishes the local draft board for “smack[ing] of Hitlerism,” and snatches the wig off of domestic inequities when he writes, “Unfortunately, I am not living in a part of the U.S. but more a section which seems a member of the Axis and which is determined that no Negro will ever receive justice.”
Shortly before Sun Ra’s arrest and forced relocation, Szwed informs us that,
On December 2, he received a sympathetic note from J. N. Weaver, head of the Camp Section of the National Service Board for Religious Objectors, telling him that he would be given another physical examination when he reached the camp, and that he would be discharged if he was not physically qualified. He concluded, “I suggest that you report to camp and we shall do everything in our power to see that you get justice.”
On December 8 Sonny failed to appear at CPS Camp No. 48. A week later they came after him, and took him away to holding rooms set aside for malingerers and subversives at the old post office building not far from his house. His family, still humiliated and angry, refused to have anything to do with him. Only his brother Robert’s wife and daughter came to visit him, where they found him spending his days writing letters to his bedridden great-aunt, the FBI, and President Roosevelt.
One can hardly fault Sun Ra for declining to travel across the country for a physical examination. Three counties southeast of Birmingham, Alabama lies Macon County, where the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments had begun ten years earlier, in 1932, and would continue for another thirty years, until 1972. These experiments, conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service on rural and impoverished African-American men, are remembered as some of the sickest, most fucked up cases of unethical human experimentation carried out by the U.S. government. Black sharecroppers were left with untreated syphilis treatment so that Public Health Service researchers could observe the deadly effects of the curable disease. When some of these human guinea pigs were, like Herman P. Blount, drafted into the military during World War II, draft boards began notifying the men to take penicillin treatment for the disease following physical examinations which were a routine part of induction, only to be prevented from doing so by the Public Health Service.
After he was arrested, Sun Ra remained in jail for 39 days until he was forcibly relocated to Camp 48 in desolate Marienville, Pennsylvania. Szwed writes that “camp life was a daily routine of forestry work followed by evenings of rest, discussions of religious matters, and reading. (…) The camp at Marienville was not segregated, and for the first time in his life [Sun Ra] had daily contact with white people, and he joined in the nightly discussions of the evils of war and the morality of resistance.” Arriving at Camp 48 in early February 1943, Sun Ra’s health rapidly deteriorated under the forced manual labor regime. “Suffering heart palpitations, headaches, backaches, stomachaches, and (…) paralysis on his left side,” he complained to the camp director until he was finally granted medical examinations and the camp’s doctor and psychiatrist both “recommended him for immediate discharge for reasons of physical disability.” At last, in late March 1943, he was set free, classified as a bona fide conscientious objector.
A little over a year after his ordeal had begun, Sun Ra wrote again to the National Service Board of Religious Objectors to request a subscription to their newsletter. “Certain of a sympathetic audience,” Szwed writes, “he went on to talk of morality, and the role of teacher he was assuming in civilian life:”
At all my band rehearsals I talk to the fellows and try to make them see the point of knowing and admitting to oneself whether he is right or wrong and how fine it is to know the ecstasy of being right. Due to many aspects which discourage, the young Afro-American often loses initiative and other valuable principles of life
I never speak of conscience, which makes them listen more eagerly as they think I will. I am beginning to wonder if conscience isn’t like intellect–you either have it or you don’t. The majority of people in the world don’t think, they dodge social problems and many other things which puncture their ego. Is it because they don’t have the brain? Some of them, maybe? Then what about the conscience? … Sometimes I think it is an abnormality to want to help others and to care about anything but self. The world is so selfish that sometimes I don’t care whether I live or die. I’ve tried to be selfish and unthinking, conscienceless, but I can’t.
Since the U.S. military no longer recruits via conscription, the law regarding conscientious objectors is, for now, seemingly irrelevant. But this is actually not such a fortunate thing as it might seem, as what it truly signifies is that there is a large pool of dumbasses who think that Call of Duty or Ghost Recon gameplay and plotlines resemble reality or that spending a couple years as a conscienceless killing machine is a great way to “pay for college” and “get professional experience”, or more desirable than working in a low wage job or being homeless or even suicide.
Unlike another famous so-called, would-be ‘conscientious objector’ named Bernie Sanders, Sun Ra was, legally speaking, an actual conscientious objector. This is because U.S. law on conscientious objectors, clarified by the previously mentioned Gillette v. United States (1971) case, holds that conscientious objectors must be opposed to war in any form. In other words, they have to oppose all war in general, and not only one or more particular war(s). While Sanders refused to fight in the Vietnam War, he later went on to endorse wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Gaza, and now, as if that wasn’t enough to permanently tarnish his reputation as some kind of antiwar icon, displays his warmonger credentials by proclaiming that “[the] military option [against Iran] is always a possibility,” and hypocritically calls on the young people of the Middle East to fight as U.S. surrogates in Syria and Iraq while at the same time claiming to “get very upset at people who are so prepared to send other people’s kids into that war.” Sun Ra, on the other hand, had a lasting conscience, exemplified by work from his later years such as “Nuclear War” (1982).
Late 1942 and early 1943 were surely a transformative time in the life of Herman “Sonny” P. Blount. His avant-garde efforts to assert his civil and human rights and to resist war during those years deserve more recognition.
If you were not familiar with Sun Ra or this episode in his life, then you have never read Raving Radicals Bathed in Blax, my 21st century proletarian novel which is also a satirical geopolitical thriller, because in it Sun Ra makes numerous appearances. In Raving Radicals, I have taken a few creative liberties. Unlike the real Sun Ra, who claimed to be from Saturn, the Sun Ra in Raving Radicals inhabits Rátopia, another ringed gas giant in an alien planetary system orbiting around a star called Szulo. Rátopia is similar to TrES-2b, the blackest planet ever discovered, except that it is even darker than TrES-2b and it has not been discovered; this is why it is called “the darkest planet unknown to Man.” Raving Radicals is a novel about jumping beyond the realm of possibility. Because mainstream political thought has pushed proletarian revolutionary change beyond the realm of possibility, it is necessary to embrace the fantastic, to realize the impossible.
“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.” – Sun Ra
Fantastic literature, in the view of Bulgarian-French literary theorist Tzvetan Todorov, is a present-oriented genre, constantly at risk of vanishing into thin air because it is, in essence, the state of hesitation; it is the occupation of the liminal mental space before one has decided whether the happenings of a tale are feasible or infeasible in relation to a particular worldview. Rather than being an autonomous genre, the Fantastic is situated in between the past-oriented Strange, or the supernatural explained (into which it dissolves when bizarre happenings are better explained in terms previously known conceptions) and the future-oriented Marvelous, or supernatural accepted (which absorbs it when the outlandish overpowers the senses to the extent that a new worldview must be admitted). Raving Radicalsas fantastic literatureis thus highly extroverted towards elements of conspiracist ideation, from weather modification to melanin theory, posited within a constellation of more conventional social facts to build up this tension. In this particular passage, one of the book’s protagonists, Tisha Ulroy, has just arrived in the Uhuru Union, a Pan-Sub-Saharan Africanist proletarian state, to set up a diplomatic mission on behalf of the Socialist Rromani Republic of the Banat, a communist Gypsy state in Eastern Europe which she previously helped to establish along with her comrades of the Radical Book Club, an ultra left-wing activist group.
Eventually the bus went beyond the outskirts, into the countryside. Afternoon faded into night. Many celestial bodies could be seen. The Dog Star, or Sirius–as it is sometimes known–shone darkly upon the savannah as the speeding metallic block traversed it.
The Dogon members of the Uhuru delegation began to recount with pride to Tisha how the elders of their tribe had passed down knowledge to them of the star system Sirius. Dogon cosmology had been a curiosity to Western scholars since the early 20th century, when French ethnologist and honorary Dogon tribesman Marcel Griaule had brought the tribe’s inexplicable savoir of the star system to the world’s attention. Improvements in observatory and space exploration technologies would later confirm Griaule’s findings, demonstrating that a Dogon hogon, or ritual elder, was able to accurately anticipate the layout of the Sirius star system. Some of the Dogon claimed that the source of this astral knowledge was none other than Sun Ra, the alien jazz musician come from the ancient dream of a Black man via Saturn.
The Twa members of the Uhuru delegation disputed the Dogons’ claim. One Twa man instead attempted to convince Tisha that Sun Ra had actually been a 20th century African-American man who had fabricated his extraterrestrial backstory in a dissociative response to torture inflicted upon him near Tuskegee, Alabama during imprisonment for draft dodging during the Second World War. This first Twa man’s assertion was, however, disputed by another Twa man who claimed that, though Sun Ra was a 20th century African-American man, he was the descendent of a Dogon hogon. Furthermore, Le Sony’r Ra’s abundant melanocyte receptors, not to mention his copious amounts of the consciousness-altering hormone melanin, had allowed him to perform ancestor communion at will.
How could they have possibly known these facts? The Twa people, known for their supple pineal glands, which were rumored to be immune to calcification, were said to be adepts in the art of liminal epistemology, able to abstract invisibility from the visible. It was thus that they knew much about late stage capitalist barbarism, and formed well articulated critiques of it, without ever needing to leave the rainforests.