On liberal totalitarianism and the the double standard of glorifying Nazi-killing while shaming the killing of fascist landlords

People in the West (especially the united states) ‘get’ and even appreciate it when a people who have faced brutal oppression carry out a violent reprisal whenever they at last rise up against their oppressor. They are willing to cheer on the cruel treatment of slave-owners and overseers in “Django Unchained” and of Nazis in “Inglourious Basterds.”

So when these *very same people*, far from cheering, are instead completely outraged when confronted with the violence that happened during the revolutionary period in China, nothing can explain it besides their total ignorance of the fact that the peasants in China endured the cruelest, most heavy-handed of treatment from the landlords and their allies for hundreds of years. (See the excerpts from “Fanshen” below.)

What’s so frustrating about it is not the ignorance but rather their stubborn refusal to acknowledge that ignorance, let alone correct it, coupled with their eagerness to fly into fits of ill-informed, moralizing rage.

When I think about it, it seems like the other side of the coin of the soft condescension of the hushed-tone, “we are gentler now” anti-“totalitarian” moral education* that happens in u.s. public schools is this rage that goes suppressed most of the time only to erupt uncontrollably whenever they hear anyone defend anything they were taught was “totalitarianism.”†

They are systematically fluffed up with this distinct mindset of moral superiority that has the advantage to the bourgeoisie of making them emotionally brittle, allergic to the truth, and virulently anticommunist.

* i.e., the one that doesn’t make any meaningful differentiation between the Nazis and the Soviet Union.

† as though the civics classes that frame capitalist electoral democracy as the most rational form of political system, shitty history that frames amerika as inevitable and righteous, economics classes that preach deregulation, jingoistic blockbuster movies, relentless commodification of women’s bodies, individualism-glorifying pop culture, etc. etc. were any less a form of _totalizing_, all-around ideology-inculcation than anything that happens in *any* society.

as though the u.s.’s specific totalizing ideology wasn’t actively justifying and concealing the fact that the u.s. plays the primary role in propping up a world order where at least 20 million people die of easily avoidable causes each year and close to a billion people live in chronic malnourishment.

Also, as a comrade of mine pointed out after I made the above post, the u.s. bourgeoisie have created a culture where it is right to rebel against fascism and chattel slavery but totally reprehensible to rebel against capitalist electoral democracy or feudalism–partially because Western capitalism upholds so many feudal values. I think this is a spot-on way of summarizing the specific nature of the hypocrisy I was describing.

cw extreme violence

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“Violence reached its zenith in relations between landlord and tenant, creditor and debtor. The gentry literally held the power of life and death over the peasants and personally carried out whatever punitive measures they deemed necessary when their interests were damaged or threatened. If they caught a thief, he was dealt with on the spot. One famine year a Long Bow peasant child, only six years old, stole some leaves from a tree belonging to his father’s employer. The landlord caught the boy, beat him black and blue with a stout stick, and docked his father $12. This amounted to the father’s earnings for the entire year. He had to borrow money from a relative to get through the winter and was still paying off the debt a decade later.

In the village of Sand Bank, not far to the west of Long Bow, a poor peasant named Hou took a few ears of ripe corn from the field of a rich relative named Hou Yu-fu. Hou Yu-fu caught the culprit, dragged him into an open yard in the village, had him strung to a tree, and personally flogged him until he lost consciousness. Not long afterwards this man died of internal injuries.

Should a peasant attempt to defend himself, affairs could easily take a very ugly turn. One Taihang peasant struck back at a landlord who raped his wife. He was hung by the hair of his head and beaten until his scalp separated from his skull. He fell to the ground and bled to death.

Only if the landlord found it impossible to cope with a peasant did he go to the village government for help. Then the constable, who carried a revolver, and a few stalwarts from the Peace Preservation Corps armed with rifles, soon straightened out the matter. Should the local forces prove inadequate the rifles of the whole district could easily be concentrated on one village and if this was not enough, the county magistrate had at his disposal a standing force of several score armed men in permanent garrison.

Little wonder that the peasants seldom resisted the demands of the gentry. They knew only too well what would happen to them if they struck back. In their own experience and in the history of the region there was no lack of precedents.

When agrarian revolt flared in isolated parts of China after the suppression of the Great Revolution in 1927, neither the legitimate gangs of the village politicians nor the illegitimate gangs of the local despots were enough to suppress them. Then Chiang Kai-shek introduced additional forms of control into every village reached by his power—the pao-chia system of mutual responsibility, and the Kuomintang Party organization.

The pao-chia system was a variant of the traditional hi (neighborhood) and chia (10-family group) system already described. The ten families of the chia and the hundred families of the pao (the lu was an intermediate level) were held collectively responsible for the activities of each and every one of their members. Key individuals were expected to report their neighbors’ every move, and everyone was punished when any member of the group was suspected of involvement in revolutionary activity. Mass executions were carried out under the slogan: “Better to kill one hundred innocent people than to allow one Communist to escape.”

The ruthless way in which the slightest defiance on the part of tenants and laborers was suppressed over the years created in the peasants a deep, almost instinctive, reluctance to mount an attack against the power of the gentry. Revolt after revolt had been crushed during 20 centuries of gentry rule. Those who raised their heads to lead them had either been bought off or had had their heads severed. Their followers had been cut to pieces, burned, flayed, or buried alive. Gentry in the Taihang proudly showed foreign visitors leather articles made from human skin. Such events and such mementos were a part of the cultural heritage of every peasant in China. Traditions of ruthless suppression were handed down in song and legend, and memorialized in the operas which were so popular everywhere. ”

(“Fanshen: A Documentary of Revolution in a Chinese Village,”anticapitalismfaq.com/misc/Hinton_-_Fanshen.pdf)

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On “Fanshen” and the denial of the humanity of the Chinese revolution

I continue to be flabbergasted by the pain–just the tremendous human suffering–of life in pre-revolutionary China, as I read “Fanshen: A Documentary of Revolution in a Chinese Village.”

This book is amazing. The story of life in these times reveals it to be so human, so totally palpable and familiar, even as the book describes a way of life of such great deprivation that I keep wanting to cry as I read it.

When we in the West are told about the Chinese revolution, we are told a story of something bizarre and unreal–like, walking, soul-eating genocide incarnate in the person of Mao, the whole revolution made up of joyless, death-worshiping, hive-minded people (obviously some profoundly racist ideas). If the propaganda caricature of Stalin is as this heartless and brutish leader, he is at least painted as having understandable motives, as being relatable as a human being. But Mao is presented as something non-human: pure ideologue, ideologue squared, a sociopathic childish self-imagined philosopher forcing millions into starvation on a whim just to see what happens.

This is the type of impression I was given of Mao, growing up–and I think it’s the understanding millions of Westerners are given.

I was looking at re-shares of my Sanders article yesterday and found someone commenting on one of them saying,

“praising what Mao did is problematic.”

I can’t help but feel deeply frustrated and impatient with people making statements like that. I want to just sit them down with the first 30 pages of “Fanshen” and see how it was in China before the revolution.

That would explain everything, so vividly, so totally relatably. From the portrait in the book, it is just so utterly obvious why people were willing to fight a people’s war for decades. It humanizes absolutely everything about it. Mao was a really devoted, decent human being who helped utterly transform a deeply miserable way of life into something so, so much better.

The revolution happened because the masses were in appalling suffering and wanted a dramatically better world.

I want everyone to read “Fanshen”–so much prejudice would just completely evaporate and be replaced with deep compassion and fascination, from just picking this book up and reading for a half hour.

link: http://anticapitalismfaq.com/misc/Hinton_-_Fanshen.pdf

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Edit (2016 04 22 0630 CDT): My comrade J Solidaire made a number of really excellent points on top of what I wrote, and I share them here with her permission:

So true and so sad. I see folks who recoil at the mention of Mao Zedong and it’s so often backed by fucked up orientalist tropes, reactionary accounts, KMT right-wingers, things that don’t live up to reality, context, or anything beyond the thinnest veil of moralism imaginable…

Not to mention the utter erasure of the heroic and indomitable participation of the Chinese masses entirely in a narrative that depicts Mao as a person he never was, with an exclusively omnipotent power he never had (outside of that which belonged to the masses themselves bc they fought for it and brought the contradictions of their society to the forefront with a righteous and necessary violence that doesn’t fit into idealist boxes). The “Mao was problematic uwu” folks are some of the worst, whose politics are worth little more than couchside critiques of the world, not actually changing it.

Mao stood alongside the masses through thick and thin, and even the most dire situations of Mao’s China were part of a messy process which was ALWAYS still leaps ahead of and better than the society before that the masses were turning upside down. Mao stood with the masses, with workers, with peasants, with women, with love for the ppl without restraint. Our world is better for him and you should be v suspicious of any analysis that misses that bottom line.

Now that Sanders has lost,

now that Sanders

 

Bernie Sanders has emboldened millions to challenge the wealth and power of what he calls the 1% or “the billionaire class.” For significant segments of the U.S. working class, his campaign is the first mainstream movement to give legitimacy and vocabulary to very deep, long-held frustrations about how the world works.

And now, Bernie Sanders has lost the Democratic primary.

And so this message is for everyone who has been emboldened to work against the power of the wealthy who is now asking, “Now that Sanders has lost, what is the way forward?”

* * *

As you step back and try to answer that question, there is just one fact that is crucial to grasp. It is not a controversial fact. Anyone who was rooting for Sanders noticed it:

The media denied Bernie Sanders a platform and distorted his message.

You know why they did it, too. You know why they helped Clinton take the nomination while doing their best to destroy Sanders and the movement around him.

They did it because he was going to hurt their profits, and she was not.

That is the fact that you must grasp hold of and not let go of. Holding on to that fact will lead you to the truth.

Because if you acknowledge that they did it to Sanders—even though they had to show their hand and be very obvious about doing it—then you must acknowledge that they are doing it all the time, about everything. The media relentlessly covers all issues in a way that protects the ability of the super-rich (who own and run the media) to make a profit.

It’s not just the news media, though—and you already know this, too.

In the countrywide discussion about Confederate history that followed the massacre of nine people in a Charleston, SC, church last year, it became obvious that many millions of people are under severe illusions about the real history of the U.S. civil war and slavery. Why? Because the textbooks they were taught from in the public education system contained the heaviest distortions of the truth imaginable. The textbooks claimed that slavery was not a major cause of the U.S. civil war.[1]

You know it happens in other subjects, too. You probably know that virtually all Intro to Macroeconomics textbooks are written to glorify unregulated markets, even though virtually all mainstream economists will be the first to tell you that fully unregulated markets would cause crisis almost immediately.

You know why this happens, too. Textbooks are published by private corporations. What appears in textbooks is ultimately not based on what best reflects the truth, but according to profitability.

So grasp hold of that, and never let go: the message we hear in all major news, and which we grow up learning even in our public education system, is distorted in order to protect the profits of the super-rich—and the bigger the threat to profits, the more the truth is distorted.

* * *

To carry this struggle against the power of the wealthy forward, Sanders supporters must consider a claim that not even Sanders himself dared to make:

The root of the problem is the continued existence of capitalism itself.

And no, not just “casino capitalism,” as Sanders sometimes put it—which implies that there has ever been a capitalism without absurd speculation and wasteful spending. No, not just “crony” capitalism—which implies that there was ever a time that the super-rich did not control the government.

This is how capitalism always behaves, and it cannot behave otherwise. It cannot be reformed. Capitalism must go.

This is blasphemy. But please ask yourself who taught you that this was blasphemy.

If capitalism were to vanish, there would be no profit for the super-rich.

In fact, there wouldn’t be any super-rich at all.

These people, who control the media *and* write all the textbooks, are infinitely threatened by the claim that capitalism itself is the problem. But you trust them to tell you the truth about it?

Here is the truth:

Under capitalism, there is democracy. But it is democracy only within a small club of capitalists, to settle their disputes with a minimum of disruption to business as usual. And it is a dictatorship of that small club over the rest of society.[2]

These people have always controlled the media. They have always written the textbooks. They have not only been lying to you for your whole life, but they have been lying to your parents, and your grandparents, and everyone else on back for the entire 400 years of capitalism’s existence.

If you think this is some kind of exaggeration, please, before you commit to another year-long campaign, take some time to check your underlying assumptions. Please search through the history of capitalism and try to find even one year when this small club of capitalists didn’t rule like a king over the rest of society, distorting and blotting out any truths that threatened their ability to profit.

* * *

Also, please know that you are right about one thing: there will never be another candidate as good as Sanders.

He represents the very outer limit of the poor excuse for democracy that is the current political system. He reveals its sharp limits and contradictions:

* He had to run within the Democratic Party to have a chance at all, but it is the Democratic Party that helped to destroy him.

* In order to speak a critical word about capitalism, he had to be careful to not speak bad about it as a whole.

* In order to criticize U.S. foreign policy even slightly, he had to refuse to mention the fact that the United States uses its military to maintain a super-modern empire over the rest of the planet, sucking the blood of the Third World through NATO, the World Bank, and the IMF.

* And finally, in order to begin to talk about spreading the wealth from the super-rich downward, he had to minimize mention of the working class (who produce all wealth). And he had to deny any intention to spread the wealth from the First World back to the Third World that it was largely stolen from. And he had to deny any intention to give reparations to the black population for the wealth that the white population stole from them and still holds to this day.

Sanders consistently waved his hand in the direction of a better world. And yet when it came time to point with his fingertip to the exact nature of the problem, he misled his supporters.

This criticism is not beating a dead horse. To the total contrary—to understand how to move forward, we have to connect two seemingly disconnected pieces of the puzzle that was the Sanders campaign.

On one hand, you have the seemingly unbreakable power of the wealthy, and all the concessions that were made to appease this power. In the face of this power, Sanders’ diehard activists claimed that they had to be “realistic”—they had to not demand too much. They limited themselves to hoping to slightly enlarge the predominantly white U.S. middle-income demographic (the so-called “middle class”).

On the other hand, you have the enormous number of people who were ultimately abandoned by Sanders’s campaign, like all the black people in the United States today who feel they have every right to demand full reparations for slavery. Like the Venezuelan, Syrian, Palestinian, and Yemeni working people whom Sanders supports U.S. imperialism toward. Like the 7 billion other people on this planet who would not receive the promised free health care or free college.

In fact, the one is the answer to the riddle of the other. To win, we must flip the script entirely.

To break the power of the U.S. capitalists—who grow strong by sucking the blood of a whole planet—we need a movement of and for the whole planet.

Sanders was right that we need people power. But he would not—and, really, could not—carry it far enough.

Your allies are the billions of other human beings on this planet. These are the people who will help you take down the super-rich who rule the United States. But you must not seek anything for yourself that you do not also seek for them. You must not disconnect the prosperity of Denmark and Sweden from the hellish civil war of Syria—because Sweden’s and Denmark’s economies depend on buying from and selling to the countries who have set the Middle East on fire. You must seek a way to strike at the oppressor you both share, in a way that strengthens you both. Instead of simply leveling the wealth among the citizens of the United States, you must seek an end to concentrated wealth across the whole planet.

* * *

There is a reason so many people don’t vote in the United States, and so many so-called middle-class people do.

One major historic function of the so-called middle class is to help prop up our fake democracy, to help make it seem meaningful, to give the politicians enough supporters to be able to proclaim they represent the will of the people. But the working poor know that no matter who is in office and no matter which laws are passed, police and security guards and vigilantes will keep stalking, harassing, or murdering them; and their bosses will keep underpaying them and firing them without notice; and gentrification (more properly called urban removal) will keep ripping their homes and their entire communities out from under them.

The working poor find it hard to get abortions no matter what the laws are. The working poor see far less benefit to gay marriage, because they earn too little to care about tax breaks, and receive so little medical care that hospital visitation rights matter far less often. The working poor find it hard to care about free college tuition, because what is not free is the additional cost of travel, rent, books, and food—which working poor parents cannot pay for their children, nor is it easy for them to forgo the extra income their child could bring in by staying at home and adding their wages to the family’s. The poorest of the poor even find it hard to care about higher minimum wages—the lowest and deepest segments of the population face the highest unemployment. What good is it if all the jobs are better-paying, if most of the people you know still can’t get steady jobs, or can still only find under-the-table employment, because the system has left them uneducated, or marginalized by the color of their skin or their gender, or made them into felons, or left them undocumented?

This is not to say these gains are fully inconsequential, but only to point out how vastly more significant they are to the so-called middle class.

Throughout his campaign, Sanders would be the first to tell you that he could not begin to make even slight legislative changes without a mass movement behind him.

And yet, the electoral system is by its nature much like a TV show—simply too distant, emotionally and intellectually, for the broad masses of people to center their lives around. The Sanders movement offered, at core, only two types of activity: voting, and trying to convince others to vote. At its core, even the most radical electoral movement is reduplicating **the precise form of passivity and disengagement it is simultaneously working against**.

And for the reasons described above, the pool of potential recruits to such a campaign has sharp limits. It was never going to pull in the very people who are exploited most but who have the least voice—they know voting is a sham.

* * *

How to tie all these pieces together? What sort of movement can engage the most oppressed and exploited, not just in the United States but everywhere? What sort of movement can pull people in where an electoral campaign will never be able to?

We have seen a different sort of mass movement, though not in a while. In the 60s and the 70s, two truly mass movements shook the United States: the black power movement, whose vanguard was the Black Panther Party (BPP), and the New Communist Movement, which had significant overlap with an anti-imperialist movement, specifically against the Vietnam War.

These movements were profoundly different from the elections-centered Sanders movement. Being a part of the BPP or the New Communist Movement meant no limits at all on the type of political actions possible: people involved were free to try anything and everything that seemed like it might work. It offered to those who got involved a glimpse of a society in which democracy is really, really real—democracy that is rooted in people’s everyday lives, and that gives them a way to communicate the *full complexity* of their desires and worldviews and *actually be heard*. This is the stuff mass movements are made of. *This* is what it looks like when the masses move and change society.

It is only *this* sort of organizing—and only a society based on *this* sort of democracy, and not the puppet show now in place—that can solve the monstrous problems that we all see, of white supremacy, of cis male supremacy, of endless war for resources, of the starvation of 7 million people each year and the poverty of billions, of a swiftly collapsing environment.

* * *

If you believe it—if you are willing to draw these hard-won lessons from the ashes of the Sanders campaign—then this is the way forward:

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1. Please study the system we are up against—please study capitalism-imperialism. That is the root of the problem, not simply wealth inequality, which is only a symptom. Read the first five chapters of “Zombie Capitalism.”[3] Without an understanding of how capitalism-imperialism works, all attempts to solve these problems will be in vain.

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2. Learn the history of the movement to solve the problem that is capitalism-imperialism:

(a) If you are not convinced of the necessity of revolution, please read a book like “Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions since World War II” or “Agents of Repression” to find out what we are up against.[4] The powers that be have never, *never* failed to use massive violence against any movement, pacifist OR armed, that threatened their profits. Never. If we want to win, we have no choice but to use a strategy that has the power to resist this violence—we have no choice but to be armed and disciplined. An armed movement that intends to change the system from top to bottom is called a revolution.

(b) Electoral campaigns have only ever led the masses deeper into the belly of the beast: toward an illusory peace—really just a war we do not recognize and therefore cannot fight back in. The oppressor’s system was never ours and can never *be* ours.

Once we have drawn the conclusion that electoral campaigns are primarily intended to seduce and mislead, we cannot take a neutral position. We must call for a boycott on voting, not just for ourselves but for everyone. Every vote cast helps create the impression that the public still supports the system, so we say that the only way to cast a ballot for revolution is to not vote at all.

We must mentally break with their system altogether, or else we cannot effectively break with it materially. To believe we can straddle the line of endorsing a whatever-goes attitude toward voting while also advocating for revolution is to mislead the masses and ourselves.

(c) If you are down with revolution to end capitalism but are skeptical that building a worker’s state, like the USSR from 1921 to the 1950s, or the People’s Republic of China from 1953 to 1978, is the way forward, please read more about how far they made it in building new and decent societies. Please find out how successful they were in building from almost nothing societies without hunger or homelessness, where everyone had their basic needs met.[5]

Not only is another world possible, but it has already leapt into existence for decades at a time in the twentieth century. Please remember the way the media have distorted and denied the truths even of someone like Sanders—and then ask yourself how much further you think they would go to bury the truth about people such as Mao and the Chinese Communist Party, who aimed to totally end their reign on this earth.

(d) And please read over the “Debunking Anti-Communism Master Post.”[6] No one is arguing that some major mistakes weren’t made by these countries; instead, understand that (a) you have not yet begun to hear the full truth about what happened in these countries and (b) the mistakes that really were made have been learned from, and will be avoided in the future.

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3. If you want to know how we can build a new worker’s state, please study Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM). A good place to start would be the “MLM Basic Course.” Then, continue with the “MLM Study Guide.”[7]

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4. (a) If you want to know whether MLM can really work in our day and age, please study the very successful Communist Party of India (Maoist)—you can watch the beautiful and inspirational film about them called “Red Ant Dream”[8]—and Communist Party of the Philippines.

(b) If you are skeptical of whether trying this kind of work in the United States can really accomplish anything, please read the short essay “How We Can Actually Bring Socialism to the United States.”[9]

(c) If you are wondering who is applying MLM in the United States successfully, please look at Red Guards – Los Angeles and Red Guards – Austin. What these two groups are doing could (and should) be duplicated in most cities in the United States.[10]

* * *

We can do it, and we will! There is a place for everyone in the struggle. If you would like to play a role and don’t know how you could help, please get in touch!

POLITICAL EDUCATION SHOULD BE A SOCIAL ACTIVITY! Please find people to read these things with you. If you want to discuss any of these things, please reach out to the communities of communists on the internet, such as the MLM Communism 101 group on Facebook, or /r/communism101 and /r/communism on reddit.[11]

Build up the party! Build up the Red Guards!

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REFERENCES

1. “Why do people believe myths about the Confederacy? Because our textbooks and monuments are wrong.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/07/01/why-do-people-believe-myths-about-the-confederacy-because-our-textbooks-and-monuments-are-wrong/

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2. “Who Rules America?” http://bit.ly/_who_rules_america

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3. “Zombie Capitalism: Global Crisis and the Relevance of Marx” http://bit.ly/zombie_capitalism

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4. “Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions since World War II” http://anticapitalismfaq.com/kh/

“Agents of Repression: The FBI’s Secret Wars against the Black Panther Party & the American Indian Movement” http://bookzz.org/md5/c3c439b9493f13825e1d9b9aad5227b7 (click “Download PDF”)

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5. “Fanshen: A Documentary of Revolution in a Chinese Village” http://anticapitalismfaq.com/misc/Hinton_-_Fanshen.pdf

“Capitalist and Maoist Economic Development” http://anticapitalismfaq.com/misc/Gurley_-_Capitalist_and_Maoist_Economic_Development.html

“Evaluating the Cultural Revolution in China and Its Legacy for the Future” http://www.mlmrsg.com/attachments/article/72/CRpaper-Final.pdf

“Do Publicly Owned, Planned Economies Work?” https://gowans.wordpress.com/2012/12/21/do-publicly-owned-planned-economies-work/

Note: It should be noted that this resource (“Do Publicly Owned…”), like many works linked in resource 6 immediately below, does not agree with the MLM position on which countries were genuinely socialist and at what times—but nevertheless, they are very valuable resources in helping debunk many common myths about these countries.

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6. “Debunking Anti-Communism Master Post” https://www.reddit.com/r/communism/wiki/debunk

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7. “Marxism-Leninism-Maoism Basic Course” http://anticapitalismfaq.com/misc/MLM_Basic_Course/

“Marxism-Leninism-Maoism Study Guide” http://www.massline.org/MLM_Study/MLMstudy.htm

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8. “Red Ant Dream” https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDiACgi7voYuTywWjZ2dHoxXwD697BhYV

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9. “How We Can Actually Bring Socialism to the United States” https://jiminykrix.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/1431/

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10. Red Guards – Los Angeles: https://www.facebook.com/RedGuardsLA/

Red Guards – Austin: https://www.facebook.com/redguardsaustin

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11. Communism 101 (MLM): https://www.facebook.com/groups/communism.mlm/

/r/communism101: http://reddit.com/r/communism101

/r/communism: http://reddit.com/r/communism

On a more dialectical materialist understanding of “be the change you wish to see in the world”

being the change

It’s isn’t that “be the change you wish to see in the world” is outright false–it’s just that it’s not magic. There is no such thing as something like a “personality wave” that floats off of individuals and wafts over society, sight unseen, changing it. The world is not changed whatsoever by the attitude of a hermit, no matter how gracious that hermit may be.

This process, where one person’s attitude contagiously changes other people’s attitudes, only happens in concrete circumstances. Specifically, people adopt the attitudes of individuals they see in positions of authority, visibility, and respect–positions of power.

If one wants to “be-the-change” (verb) as a method of contagiously changing the world, it is not enough to only have the virtuous attitude one wants to spread to others: one also must have power, and on top of that something to do with that power that does not compromise that virtue.

What is the uncompromisedly virtuous thing to do with power? That is the real question.

I would say that it’s to work selflessly to create a society that promotes the universal development of virtue while perpetually seeking to empower others to do the same.

What is virtue? I think a virtuous attitude is one that understands its self-interest in the most expansive way possible–a virtuous attitude is one that believes, “I will flourish most in a whole world that is also maximally flourishing.”

What sort of world would that be? One where the material and social conditions were set up to always allow and encourage all people to seek mutually satisfactory, symbiotic solutions to their conflicts and never create any irreconcilable conflicts of basic interest between any two individuals.

But capitalism divides society into two classes of people with absolutely irreconcilable basic interests: “There can be no peace between the person who is down and the man who builds on their back.” This is how it will always be as long as capitalism exists.

So if one wants to “be-the-change” to contagiously bring more virtue into the world, one must have power. And the only uncompromisedly virtuous thing to do with power is to work selflessly to create the conditions for a universally virtuous society while perpetually empowering others to do the same. Thus, if one wants to contagiously “be-the-change” more virtue into the world, one must become an organizer building toward communism. And the more effectively one organizes in building toward communism, the more effective and contagious one’s “being-the-change” will be–that is, the more people will look up to one and adopt one’s virtuous attitude.

It is also worth acknowledging that there is a feedback loop here (what we would call a dialectical relationship): since being virtuous is essential to organizing that is building toward communism, the more virtuous one is, the better an organizer one will be. And likewise, the more effective an organizer building toward communism one becomes, the more one will be surrounded by other such effective organizers, whose virtue one will also absorb contagiously.

This feedback loop for contagiously “being-the-change” into the world, though, requires both virtue AND power–not just virtue alone.

A thought about how communists can most productively view their discussions with genuinely curious left-liberals

I wrote this on a comment on the MLM Communism 101 Facebook group, and I realized that I never (I don’t think) posted it here.

one thing that i’ve learned about playing a role in someone’s political growth is that it’s a process. when i first started, i would sit behind a table for a Trotskyist organization on a college campus and people would come up and talk to me, and i would think, “This is my one shot. I either convince them now or they will probably never encounter socialism again!”

Well, what i’ve learned, really, is that it’s impossible to make a non-communist into a communist on the spot. it’s a long process of internal struggle, self-doubt, self-questioning, and critical thinking for people to (1) abandon the very-heavily-indoctrinated concepts of capitalism and (2) come to believe that communist (i.e., ML or MLM) methods of ending capitalism will actually produce good results.

so my model instead is that people change by being “chipped away at”–you start with where they’re at and as much as possible challenge their current conceptions and offer them new ideas and facts, while never condescending to them or insisting that they take your word for it. someone might have to get “chipped on” ten times, or twenty times, whether by communists, or by seeing the injustice in the world such as police brutality, or by being laid off, or whatever, but sooner or later one of those “chips” is going to be (to mix my metaphors) the straw that breaks the camel’s back. but you don’t know if you’re going to be that chip–all you can do is add your chip.