Just a simple point I’d like to make so that I don’t forget it:

If you believe that a society has achieved even a moment of socialism, it doesn’t make sense to believe that all socialism is doomed to return to capitalism. If a country can move in the direction of socialism once, it can move in that direction again; and even once it has already moved some distance in a socialist direction, it can continue moving in a socialist direction.

In practice this has been proved by China’s cultural revolution. I guess what I’m saying is that for those who are skeptical, there is ample theoretical reason to believe that cultural revolution is possible.

How we can actually bring socialism to the united states

Note (April 28, 2016): I haven’t had a chance to edit this article in any substantial way since I originally posted it, so I wanted to make an addendum here. While I absolutely still agree that there is a labor aristocracy (the “bought off” subsection of the u.s. working class described in section I of this post), and that this subsection is very disproportionately composed of euro-descended workers, I think my formulation of it below is mechanical.

In short, while nearly all euro-descended workers in the united states do have a short-term interest in aligning with capitalism, their long-term interest lies with the destruction of capitalism everywhere. How the euro-descended working class is split between these two interests at any given time is not set in stone–it depends on many different unpredictable historical factors, including the strength of the communist movement.

* * *

I. Currently, a large majority of the U.S. population is “bought off” to capitalism.

So, there were socialists before Marx and Engels. Most of these early socialists thought that all we had to do to get socialism was come up with a well-thought-out blueprint for how it would all work, it would go viral, and we’d all just switch over because it would be an obviously superior system. That plan did not work.

So then, Marx and Engels came along and recognized that the most fundamental factor that drives history is the economic self-interest of large masses of people. They recognized that historically, those who live off of the labor of others (the ruling class of each era), statistically speaking, tend overwhelmingly to justify and guard their privileged economic situation by any means necessary. Likewise, the main military force that eventually overthrew the government that upheld every previous economic system was always the exploited population—for instance, the laborers and peasants against monarchic feudalism.

So, Marx and Engels took a look at capitalism and observed that the group of people who were exploited under capitalism was the working class—those who have no financial investments and have no way to survive but to work for someone else. So they declared that to overthrow capitalism and bring about socialism, the working class, who have nothing to lose but their chains, must organize and seize governmental and military power.

HOWEVER, modern marxists have noted that a sizeable proportion of people who survive solely on wage labor in the Global North, especially light-skinned and euro-descended workers, do not seem to think of themselves as being exploited. Rather, they seem to overall think of themselves as getting a generally acceptable deal, especially as compared to the rest of the world’s workers. And are they wrong? Materially speaking, they are consuming many times more value than they would be able to if the rest of the world weren’t there to produce it. Whether or not they are technically being exploited, they receive a huge flow of value being created in the Global South by people being paid very low wages. Without imperialism, this flow of value would vanish. Furthermore, because things like stock ownership and so on are promoted among these workers and included as part of their retirement plans, they have a significant ongoing material interest in the success of capitalist enterprise worldwide.

This sizeable proportion of workers in the Global North currently act as though they believe their greatest incentive is to PROTECT their global economic position—and that means protecting global imperialist capitalism and opposing socialism. And historically speaking, that is in fact how they have actually behaved—as the foot-soldiers of imperialist capitalism.

II. Revolutions happen at the weak links in global imperialist capitalism.

By the same token—and this has held true ever since Marx declared his theory—successful socialist revolutions have occurred only in regions where a large proportion of the population is very heavily exploited and oppressed. Hence the people’s wars (that is, armies under the direction of a maoist communist party waging guerrilla warfare against the capitalist government) in India, the Philippines, and to a lesser extent Nepal and Peru.

III. Every country socialists liberate from imperialist capitalism decreases the bought-off-ness here in the Global North.

Every territory that is liberated by socialists rearranges its economy to benefit the people there (as opposed to the people HERE). That means that every territory liberated by socialists is one whose back the Global North can no longer stand on, a territory that is no longer being used to raise the standard of living for people here, including workers. Because it lessens the flow of “free money” to imperialist countries, and thus lessens the total pool of money available to bribe the labor aristocracy, it invariably will shrink the material benefits the labor aristocracy and its allies are receiving, and thus has a good chance of weakening people here’s loyalty to global imperialist capitalism because there’s less to lose, materially speaking.

IV. Every country socialists liberate from imperialist capitalism drives more people in capitalist-controlled areas toward communism.

Relatedly, because the logic of capitalism demands that profits never fall and only rise, once socialists have removed a country from capitalist control, the capitalist class has no choice but to try to get the same amount of profit from their shrinking worker and resource base. This means that the most oppressed sections of the population that is still under capitalist control will face an increased exploitation and oppression, driving people who were previously on the fence into outright support of the communist movement.

V. Every country socialists liberate from imperialist capitalism weakens the U.S. government’s ability to make war.

What makes the U.S. military so powerful and able to strike all over the planet is the vast quantity of economic lifeblood that the Global North sucks from the rest of the planet. The less wealth that imperialism brings into this country, the less military power the U.S. government has to suppress insurgencies, whether here or abroad. It also reduces the number of operating bases and airspace the U.S. can use to launch attacks.

VI. Every country socialists liberate from imperialist capitalism increases the power of socialist and anti-imperialist movements everywhere.

Now, it’s clear that after a certain point for each, the Soviet Union (1950s) and the People’s Republic of China (1978) began to return to capitalism. However, before this point, both of them provided material aid to socialist and anti-imperialist movements elsewhere. That’s what socialist countries do, as much out of the self-interest of having more allies as out of a desire to reach global communism. Additional factors here include the boost to morale that each working example of socialism provides to socialists around the world, the power that it gives their arguments in convincing others that it can be done and is worth struggling for, and the large contribution in theory and knowledge that each successful revolution provides that can be studied and expanded on to make revolution in other places.

VII. The more upheaval and instability there is within an imperialist country, the more difficult it is for that country to impose control and order on another country.

While it is clear that the great majority of the credit for ending the Vietnam War lies with the Vietnamese people for their incredible resistance to U.S. aggression, it is worth noting that the widespread dissent against the war in civilian U.S. society helped demoralize U.S. soldiers, making the military less and less effective as time went on.

Furthermore, as Stokely Carmichael said,

The question may be asked, how does the struggle to free these internal colonies relate to the struggle against imperialism all around the world? We realistically survey our numbers and know that it is not possible for black people to take over the whole country militarily. In a highly industrialized nation the struggle is different. The heart of production and the heart of trade is in the cities. We are in the cities. We can become, and are becoming, a disruptive force in the flow of services, goods and capital. While we disrupt internally and aim for the eye of the octopus, we are hoping that our brothers are disrupting externally to sever the tentacles of the US.

What’s more, seeing large struggles here not only provides disruption, but it also provides morale to revolutionaries in literally the rest of the world, because they see that if it can happen and grow here even in the belly of the beast, then they can feel emboldened that we collectively can take the whole world.

The broader and more radical the dissent of the oppressed and exploited within an imperialist country becomes, the more difficult it becomes for the imperialist capitalist leadership to fight the growing number of upheavals, both domestic and international, all of which become more intertwined as time goes on.

VIII. The fight for socialism in an imperialist country has two parts.

Until there is a protracted people’s war in North America communists will not be taking up arms against the imperialist capitalist government. It would be extremely counterproductive. We live where imperialist military power is at its very strongest. What we can always do is analyze our specific situation in the global context and act accordingly. The most productive work for socialism here has two parts.

(a) The empowerment, defense, and organization of those here who are oppressed and exploited to the point that they actually have nothing to lose but their chains

Probably the most successful communist party in U.S history was the early Black Panther Party. They (and similar revolutionary communist organizations of oppressed-nation people) worked directly among the people by serving people’s unmet needs and organizing them to meet those needs for themselves and resist oppression and police terror. They were operating roughly according to a strategy called the mass line, is very effective, because it produces a positive feedback loop where the party grows because it serves the people and wins their trust and support, and the bigger it gets, the more people it can serve and the bigger impact it can have on society at large and, most importantly, the truer it will be a genuine party of the whole people. The existence of such a group not only improves the daily lives of the lowest and deepest sections of the working class within an imperialist country, but it also necessarily disrupts capitalism’s business as usual, dividing and confusing the imperialist leadership, and, as discussed in (VII), it makes it harder for them to stop the anti-imperialist struggles happening elsewhere. This will all the while be building toward a protracted people’s war.

For a more detailed discussion of what that looks like in the united states today, see Red Guards Austin’s position paper, Condemned to Win.

(b) Total opposition to U.S. military and intelligence operations abroad

We here must use the most effective means possible to block the U.S. government’s attempts to further its own agenda internationally. This means supporting radical anti-war movements and opposing all U.S. military intervention abroad. Because of the effects described in (III) through (VI) above, the more successful we are at blocking the U.S. government from growing more powerful and suppressing socialist and anti-imperialist revolutions elsewhere, the more potential socialists there will be here, the stronger we can make socialist movements elsewhere, and the weaker the forces that oppose socialism everywhere will be. Each new revolution elsewhere strengthens us here, allowing us to increase our organizing, which also helps more revolutions elsewhere, repeating the cycle.

It may seem a long way off, that’s how we can really do it. These factors mean that we can in fact steadily increase our power and decrease theirs until the day comes when we can win even here in the belly of the beast.

I did a little to tidy my digital archives today and just now found this fragment/outline of a poem. I intended to write a great deal more for it, but it seems pretty likely I won’t be getting around to it. It is from no later than January 17, 2012.

good day, I have been waiting ages to see you,
through grass,
through brothers,
through tv screens,
   [situation at 14] even while memento moris on black tendril once a day,
      even in the dim daylight of the dull material world
         peopled by unlovely one-sixty-fourth satyrs
      where I would clutch my own chest in small lonely rooms and hold back sobs
   and even while my heart took over the screaming,
   
   [change] as night fell, I found myself in darkness dark as the sun is bright [change] until my screaming ripped flames into the torches of the lamplights
      [situation at 18]
         [where at 18] lonely street at dusk in the city of god,
            [who] who was [____] in the [____]
         [where]
      [change] and then a scimitar of fire struck the moon
            insert full
      [change] and I was shattered by holy cannonfire from the moon
      [change]
         [situation at 22]
            [where] the island of [ ] in the sea of lifetime
               [who]
            [where]
         [change] sailed out
      [change] beyond the black iron prisonbars
   [change] and out past the limits of Babylon
[change] into your green and swiftly-flowing waters

and even while you just told me to awake and realize that I am now and have ever been on a river [this “awake!” ties in nicely with the meeting the person and saying good day. it puts the whole poem in that eternal moment.]

[if you’re throwing the porch in there, have your penfinale be an analogy between all the joys of life even in pain and the delicious tastes of the potluck, chocolate bitter dark, ]

and perhaps a rose the color of fire floating on the surface [somewhere inconsequential? on the infinite run of the river], not different or separate, but lovelier, and through your windy pinhole iris a window into a world of molten numbers and algorithms, where cauldrons bubble over with lips, language, and light, still floating on, where we are all on the course bonded, circumscribed by elocution, caught now and ever in a self-tasting babbling tide, free never to escape it, free only to broaden and deepen it, passing other travelers, passing power cords between us, under the ageless tired bronzeness of the inverted period that is the sun hanging in the smoldering sky to say

On Maoism and Nonviolent Communication

I read most of the book Nonviolent Communication today, and I cried several times. It helped me get back in touch with many parts of myself, and to forgive myself, and to feel much more alive than I had been feeling. I hope to keep returning to this book and the wisdom in it for the rest of my life. It is one of the best books I’ve ever read.

I advocate Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. One of the things that I mean when I say that I advocate maoism is that I advocate a certain type of war. I advocate a long war, called protracted people’s war, across almost all of the planet.

I believe there is room in the wisdom underlying nonviolent communication for the necessity of protracted people’s war in every country in the concept of “the protective use of force.” According to Rosenberg, the author of Nonviolent Communication,

.

“In some situations, the opportunity for dialogue may not exist, and the use of force may be necessary to protect life or individual rights. For instance, the other party may be unwilling to communicate, or imminent danger may not allow time for communication. In these situations, we may need to resort to force. . . .

The intention behind the protective use of force is to prevent injury or injustice. . . .

When we exercise the protective use of force, we are focusing on the life or rights we want to protect without passing judgment on either the person or the behavior.”

.

Class society is a self-reproducing pattern in the global human population that systematically generates circumstances that leave no time or room for nonviolent communication. To derive an understanding of the necessity for protracted people’s war in every country from this principle of the protective use of force, there are a couple of things I have in mind. These two concepts are definitely closely linked, but I also think they’re distinct.

1.

a. Class society systematically raises a portion of the human population to want to rule. Capitalism-imperialism has only intensified a dynamic that is now around 15,000 years old. Those who are less ready to use violence, deception, and manipulation (and other things that completely subvert nonviolent communication) to rule are pushed down the hierarchy by those who are more ready to use those things. What’s more, the lower one is in the hierarchy, the more likely one is to suffer the power being wielded by those higher up and be pushed even further down–so everyone has a very strong incentive to climb and thus to harden themselves. In this way, the structure guarantees that those making the biggest decisions–that is, those with the most power–are those who are hardest, who are most resistant to nonviolent communication. So, yes, there are those who are unwilling to communicate.

b. Class society gives the most power to people who are ideologically as far as possible from the communist mindset. For similar reasons to those in (a), those who less fully accept the precepts of capitalism are nudged aside by those who accept them more thoroughly. For this reason, those who are making the biggest decisions are also the most difficult to make allies of the people. Hard-hearted or no, willing to listen patiently or no, they are the least likely to be convinced. To put it another way, they will take the longest to convince of anyone. And yet they are the ones with both the greatest power to do violence and the greatest desire to do so to shore up capitalism. This ties in to (2), because we are talking about thwarting imminent violence.

2. The violence of capitalism-imperialism is always imminent. There is never a time when the war against the poor, against non-euro-descended people and darker-skinned people, against non-men and trans people and queer people is not being waged in some individual or collective fashion. The war that is white supremacist, patriarchal capitalism-imperialism has not let up for centuries. And in order to thwart the violence of the would-be wagers of this war, yes, there is not time to communicate with them. Not with enough of them to thwart any meaningful fraction of the violence.

The long and short of it here is that to protect humanity, to protect as many of those living as we can and to protect the future of humanity, there is no time for total nonviolence in the defeat of capitalism-imperialism. We must fight with loving hearts, but a massive, world-historic level of protective use of force is completely called for.

A letter on the difference between intentional communities and socialism, between communes and communism

I was writing a friend of mine a letter and decided that, since it was already written, I’d post it publicly. So here it is. I am still staying off of the internet (or trying, at least, and definitely off of FB), so if you want to get in touch, email or text me.

Hey, _____.

I wanted to say something when you offered “intentional community” as something that might be understood as being similar to or the same as socialism when _____ briefly brought it up earlier. As I’ve often found myself after a social situation has ended, I felt a little slow on the draw. But that’s okay. Anyway: I think it is a mistake to conflate these two things, socialism and intentional community. You may have meant something different by the term “intentional community,” but I’m going to assume you intended the most common use of that specific term. You may not have, but if nothing else this will help us get on the same page.

To start: socialism is by definition something that can’t be achieved until capitalism has been defeated in a given country. Socialism is a situation in which the working class and its allies are in power in a given territory and are working to consolidate that power and liberate all other territories from capitalism. This is related to but also in contrast to communism, which is a stateless, classless, moneyless society. While socialism can (and must) be achieved in certain places while capitalism prevails elsewhere, communism is not something we can achieve until all of the capitalist governments have been overthrown. At its most fundamental level this is because capitalism is in utter contradiction with communism, and capitalist governments literally make war on the communist movement wherever they find it, so the communist movement necessarily has to employ a state–an armed body to enforce a specific social order–in order to defend itself and defeat capitalism. Socialism is a society with a state that is trying to become more communist in the here and now but is simultaneously trying to win the global war against capitalism.

This is in contrast to intentional community, which is something that attempts to immediately make as close a thing to communism as possible in a confined region (and often a confined timespan). I think communes, Rainbow Gathering, and Burning Man all exemplify both the possibilities and the enormous limitations with what is most commonly meant by the term “intentional community.”

Intentional communities may create something wonderful, but they are by definition only available to the privileged. They try to create, at least materially (that is, in being stateless and moneyless), a kind of communism-in-miniature, but they constitute a withdrawal from the world, one that people without resources (e.g., the working class) can’t partake in. In doing so, they abandon the communist project in order to seek to immediately enjoy the fruits of their privilege. Intentional communities also invariably suffer from the fact that the consciousness of the people who try to create them was created and shaped by the desperately fucked up world we live in. It is for this reason that they invariably fail to become truly classless–and by “class” here I do include the domination of non–straight cis male people as a class by straight cis men as a class, and of non-Euro-descended/nonwhite people as a class by Euro-descended/white people as a class. Intentional communities are not a solution for abolishing cisheteropatriarchy and racism. All sorts of hierarchies live on in deep and subconscious (and even sometimes totally explicit) ways in these communities. If we’re going to move on from these things, it will have to be because we as a species move through many generations in which literally everyone on the planet has literally everything they need to be fully empowered.

Don’t get me wrong, there may be room for intentional community here and there. I know that seeing the good parts of Rainbow Gathering helped convince me that global communism was indeed a real possibility–and “room for it” or no, intentional communities will definitely keep springing up anyway until we actually get to communism, if we do.

So, socialism is necessarily a global and universal political movement, in contrast to intentional community, which is necessarily local and exclusive. That is not to say that we as socialists should not immediately and always try to be as communist in mentality as possible. But that doesn’t mean we all should feel obligated to immediately share everything material with each other; it means trying to adopt and put into practice the attitude and ethic of true equality and true respect that we hope the material conditions of communism will reinforce–in other words, actually thinking and behaving like a comrade.

When I first got involved, a lot of the history of the communist movement (and the history of opposition to the communist movement) felt like most history did to me—very distant, and in a major sense very unrelatable to me given the socioeconomic conditions I grew up in.

But then there are certain things I’ve discovered that have sort of brought it home to me and made me realize I’m in the middle of something that is actually alive, that is not all set in stone. It’s not a big thing (but whatever this is my blog). That thing is the continuity of participants.

  • Marx and Engels published the Communist Manifesto in 1848.
  • Then Karl Kautsky, when he was 27, visited Marx and Engels. Kautsky became the most influential marxist after Marx and Engels died and helped found the German communist party.
  • It was the blueprint of the party Kautsky helped to build and lead that Lenin used in beginning to build the Bolshevik party.
  • And then it was Lenin’s theory and blueprints that Mao used in helping to organize the Chinese communist party, putting forth his own ideas as he put them into practice in a colonized Third World country.
  • And it was Mao more than any other political philosopher and practitioner, so far as I can tell, who influenced Huey Newton in the strategy and methodology of the Black Panther Party, the most successful truly communist organization the U.S. has ever seen.
  • And of all the people who uphold, understand, and continue Newton’s work, the best, in my opinion, are today’s marxist-leninist-maoists, for example the Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons (who are actually mostly anonymous).

I don’t subscribe to the Great Man theory of history, so don’t misunderstand me. It’s not so exactly about these specific people—and instead what these famous connections prove about the billions of connections I don’t see. It’s that through these links I can see myself as actually connected to a living movement made of real human beings at every step. It’s not that I just read some philosopher’s words written 160 years ago and try to make them work today—it’s that every day, month, and year since February 1848 when the Communist Manifesto was published, countless people have been doing the hard work of renewing and expanding these concepts and updating the practice, adapting it to a very swiftly changing world.

I already knew all that, so what really caught my attention (and prompted this post) was something in Huey Newton’s War Against the Panthers: A Study of Repression in America—there is a continuity of our enemies, too:

In 1908, the attorney general under … Roosevelt created the Bureau of Investigation within the Justice Department to fill the gap caused by congressional prohibition of using the Secret Service for investigation and intelligence activities.

During World War I, the bureau, aided by the volunteer American Protective League, began to operate as a secret political police force. … The Espionage and Sedition Acts were invoked, resulting in 2,000 prosecutions for “disloyal utterances and activities,” aimed mainly at socialist and labor groups critical of the government and its policies. During 1917-1918, bureau agents raided offices of the Socialist Party and the Industrial Workers of the World across the country in a concentrated effort to gather evidence for a mass trial of 166 IWW leaders.

In late 1919, strikes spread throughout America. In Europe there were socialist- and communist-led uprisings. Using these events as justification for increased funding for the bureau, Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer told Congress, “The bureau is confronted with a very large and important task in connection with social and economic unrest … and radicalism.” As the Bureau shifted its attention from critics of the war to the activities of political groups, a special division on radical activities was organized. … Instead of performing their statutory mission of tracking down and apprehending criminals, federal directives were mounting a massive and unfocused intelligence gathering operation involving the whole field of left wing dissent.

Information collected by bureau agents was given to the Justice Department’s General Intelligence Division (GID), an office established by Palmer after a series of bombings in 1919. J. Edgar Hoover was appointed as head of the new division.

And it was precisely Hoover who headed up that war on the BPP. The same man who had seen Lenin’s party come to power in Russia—whose immediate predecessors founded the U.S. secret police and waged war on the most revolutionary of U.S. movements before the BPP’s time—was intent to stomp out the best communist organization we’ve ever had here in the United States.

The struggle is so long, but it is real and alive.

At the great Washington March of 1963, the chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, John Lewis, speaking to the same enormous crowd that heard Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream,” was prepared to ask the right question: “Which side is the federal government on?” That sentence was eliminated from his speech by organizers of the March to avoid offending the Kennedy Administration. But Lewis and his fellow SNCC workers had experienced, again and again, the strange passivity of the national government in the face of Southern violence, strange, considering how often this same government had been willing to intervene outside the country, often with overwhelming force.

I get this via Wikiquote. It’s Howard Zinn in You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, Zinn’s autobiography. It’s so close to perfect I want to cry when I read it. It’s so simple and clear. These are the specific questions to ask:

  • What social and economic conditions does the U.S. government intervene to preserve, for whom, and with what force?
  • What social and economic conditions do the U.S. government’s actions impose (intentionally or “as a by-product”), for whom, and with what force?

The complete and correct answers to these questions reveal that the actual pattern of the application of force on the part of the U.S. government is utterly disconnected from one that would preserve life, liberty, and the ability to pursue happiness for all U.S. citizens, let alone all humans. Instead, the pattern reflects very clearly that it is only about preserving life, liberty, and property for the ruling class (owning), nation (european, and specifically euro-amerikan), and gender (male). In order to preserve those things for those people, the more distant, physically as well as socioeconomically, that a person or group of people is from those protected groups, the more completely the U.S. government is willing to destroy that person’s or that group of people’s life, liberty, and ability to pursue happiness.

Despite all their muddling, concealing, distracting, and deceiving, it is not one bit more complicated than that, and it has not been for centuries.

But one more thing. The ruling circle isn’t just 10,000 super-rich euro-amerikan men ringed by 10 million well-paid and well-armed mercenaries. It is concentric. Those 10,000 don’t need it to be so stark because they have the allegiance of the unrich but well-off and privileged. They have almost the full allegiance of the white nation here in the USA in defending white supremacy at home and imperialism abroad. And they have the allegiance of almost all the males here in defending male supremacy everywhere. In order to protect their life, liberty, and property rights, the vast majority of unrich euro-amerikan people in the USA, especially men (and their property rights include their unofficial but currently well-respected right to act like they own most women along with the rest of the universe), are all about the specific pattern in which the U.S. government uses force. Compared to those whom force is used against (again, in physical as well as socioeconomic distance), they are the ruling circle.