To lose fear of sacrifice and death can allow one to think more clearly and be a better servant of the people

dead already

I recently made a post where I wrote, “I think we need [methods] to get people to rise up to become the bravest and most disciplined versions of themselves, in a way that doesn’t compromise their intellect but actually grants things that the intellect has sought but not found through any other avenue and thereby cleans, nourishes, and strengthens the intellect.”

I think one thing—and possibly one of the most important things—that will strengthen and purify the intellect in this way is the removal of fear: fear of sacrifice, and fear of death.

Because fear blocks you from considering certain things:

Immediately, it blocks you from considering the viability and validity of courses of action that may lead you to risk sacrifice or death.

But maybe even more importantly, it also blocks you from considering certain more general possibilities or theories that, if they were true, would lead you to feel it was necessary to risk sacrifice or death (e.g., accepting the validity of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism entails accepting the truth that protracted armed revolution is necessary for the liberation of humanity).

I could be way off base, but I think the way this works is mostly that the subconscious often “goes on ahead” and scouts things out, tentatively investigating the logical conclusions of theories and courses of action, and if those conclusions look scary after a quick investigation, we become emotionally disinclined toward consciously exploring that theory, either angry or afraid of it. And in this process our subconscious only more rarely investigates and tells us about the possible fruitfulness of accepting and embracing these theories and courses of action.

And I mean this in a deep and philosophical sense. We already know that in the bourgeoisie, their fear of sacrifice is part of what causes them to miss important basic aspects of human psychology and therefore to fail to understand the fundamental laws of motion of human society and history. I think that to the extent that communists also fear sacrifice and death, it prevents us from observing and understanding deeper aspects of those same laws. But we must grasp them as deeply as we can, because without that we have nothing.

Mao wrote, “Dialectical materialism is in the service of the proletariat.” And so if something leads us to a more true grasp of the material facts, it serves the people.

And so then the question is about what will allow one to reduce one’s fear of sacrifice and death. Ultimately I think it entails living in a way that has truly incorporated the facts that:

(a) You have deep motivations that are often in contradiction with more shallow and immediate cravings, and you will live the life you are most deeply satisfied with by living as completely as possible within those deeper motivations and basically ignoring the more shallow and immediate cravings.

(b) Your well-being is bound up in how well the broad masses of people are doing, so in a very real sense the broad masses of people are you (that is, materially, your “self” really does include them). Put another way, you get the same results caring for the broad masses as you seek when you care for your own body and mind, so in this full material way, they are part of your self.

And these are really two aspects of the same thing, because those deepest motivations are best met by wielding one’s creative labor in a way that serves the people.

(Edit: Let it also be said that you are going to die one day no matter what you do. You could die today. When you confront yourself with this knowledge regularly and force yourself to look directly at it, the question of “How do I want to live my life? Who do I want to serve?” becomes a much more real and meaningful question than “How can I avoid death and loss?” because that question is literally and truly nonsensical.)

If you live within this knowledge, you will be in a mindset that fears sacrifice and death the least, because you will be in a state of minimized concern for your short-term pleasures and your own immediate physical body.

You may object that you can’t well have those deep motivations met if you’re dead, but can’t meet them at all ever if you never let your fear of sacrifice and death slip from you. And the iron truth is, no amount of fear will prevent you from dying one day one way or another, so the question is how you want to live the life you do have.

And I don’t want to pose as someone who has definitively mastered these fears, at all. But this is without a doubt the truth, however scary, and something we as communists should move toward and embrace enthusiastically.

Mao says it again and again:

“I agree with this slogan, ‘First do not fear hardship, second do not fear death.’”

“Give full play to our style of fighting—courage in battle, no fear of sacrifice, no fear of fatigue,”

“Be resolute, fear no sacrifice.”

And crucially:

“Communists the world over are wiser than the bourgeoisie, they understand the laws governing the existence and development of things, they understand dialectics and they can see farther. The bourgeoisie does not welcome this truth because it does not want to be overthrown. To be overthrown is painful and is unbearable to contemplate for those overthrown.”

Or Gonzalo:

“Fear? I believe that fear and lack of fear form a contradiction. The point is to take up our ideology, and unleash the courage within us. It is our ideology that makes us brave, that gives us courage. In my opinion, no one is born brave. It is society, the class struggle, that makes people and communists courageous—the class struggle, the proletariat, the Party, and our ideology. What could the greatest fear be? Death? As a materialist I know that life will end some day. What is most important to me is to be an optimist, with the conviction that others will continue the work to which I am committed, and will carry it forward until they reach our final goal, communism. Because the fear that I could have is that no one would carry on, but that fear disappears when one has faith in the masses. I think that the worst fear, in the end, is not to have faith in the masses, to believe that you’re indispensable, the center of the world. I think that’s the worst fear and if you are forged by the Party, in proletarian ideology, in Maoism principally, you understand that the masses are the makers of history, that the Party makes revolution, that the advance of history is certain, that revolution is the main trend, and then your fear vanishes. What remains is the satisfaction of contributing together with others to laying the foundation so that some day communism may shine and illuminate the entire earth.”



Some thoughts on *Boyhood*, “following your dreams,” intimacy, and geometry

i once pointed out to someone that the question of how many limbs evolution can give a creature is bounded by geometry. a (for the sake of the argument) spherical creature with an infinite number of limbs has no limbs—there is so little space between them that it’s back to being a sphere. the amount of limbs on a creature determines the limits of the axes through which each limb can rotate and—and i’m no mathematician, so maybe this amounts to the same—the region of space to which each limb can reach (because the more other limbs there are, the more other limbs will be in the way).

a few nights ago i watched Boyhood, and while others have gone into problems like its default whiteness and so on, another of the more pernicious aspects i found in it is the way it promotes this bourgeois notion of “following your dreams.”

sure, it problematizes this a little bit with the way the mom character has that quick breakdown moment and expresses dissatisfaction with the trajectory of her life and her apparently successful career, but ultimately the film doesn’t dwell on it long enough for you to know whether this dissatisfaction is fundamentally because of the hollowness of “following your dreams” (and this idea is undermined from the start anyway, because her stated motivation for going back to college to pursue this career is for more financial stability, so it leaves open the question of whether this was even actually her dream).

but like the whole thing ends on this really optimistic note of the protagonist going to college, unbelievably full of potential, shimmeringly iridescently full of potential. he is following what he loves, which incidentally is his gift, which incidentally is financially opening doors for him in life. it’s a lot like the fairy tale of the romantic One True Love: that you have a Calling that is going to make you holy and beautiful and loveable and an honorable fixture of history in the textbooks and if only you dare to reject social norms hard enough, you will get it.

i won’t lie, i was such a sucker for this idea (or one very similar to it) for so long. it was always particularly beautiful to me, and it still has an enticing power. but you see how it removes politics from the question. it’s strictly metaphysical, which is just fine if you’re firmly located in the u.s. middle class, because then the world really does look to you like achieving A Life Worth Living is just a question of willing your art-dream into reality long and hard enough. it is a way of enticing people into a pursuit that is fundamentally congruous with capitalism (“make your art from a pure enough place in your heart and you will find financial success without having to compromise your vision one inch,” it argues to young people, regardless of the fact that that is never the real outcome) and fundamentally threatened by class struggle (because you might be told that society cannot afford to grant you the material resources and free time to fine-tune every aspect of your lifestyle according to your metaphysically derived sense of style, because it needs those resources to feed starving people and otherwise transform society). and what a monstrous society it is that constrains these purest-dreaming dreamers.

and what is particularly brutal is something one of my comrades pointed out: part of the official story is also that your success in finding, honoring, embodying, and enacting this Special Gift in yourself is a prerequisite for other people even wanting you around, whether platonically or romantically.

so in a society where we are all already (a) emotionally starving for want of intimacy-calories generally; (b) emotionally malnourished of specific emotional vitamins because society especially disallows the sharing of certain particular aspects of each individual’s inner life; and (c) emotionally poisoned because we are forced to pretend to feel so many things that are completely untrue for us emotionally … in such a society, the dangling of this carrot that you can simultaneously (a) be true to yourself and (b) (whether you understand it in these terms or not) find nourishing and healthy intimacy as part of the process and then also (c) be nothing but praised by all of society from top to bottom, appreciated like Shakespeare by both bourgeoisie and proletariat alike—it’s so irresistible that i was afraid to open up the box of my nostalgia while watching that movie. i had to hang “petty-bourgeois dreams are hollow and poisonous” like a huge sign over my mind as a precaution as i explored all the feelings the film reminded me of about what i used to want and dream about.

and it got me thinking like, well if the fairytale premise of all of this is not true, if there’s no solid and unbroken soul with pure ore of Special Gift that goes infinitely far inward, what is the material reality behind what society promises young petit-bourgeois individuals they will get to do? and what is it that we actually want, when we desire intimacy? because it is speaking to a real felt need. but also, obviously, there is neither a solid core to your mind nor is there some Totally New Essence magically united with your physical matter at the moment of conception that guarantees each individual’s idiosyncrasy.

it occurred to me as i was close to sleep last night that the answer to this question is also a question of geometry. we interface with lots of people, and our specific relation to production requires certain aspects of ourselves to make relatively temporary and superficial contacts with all these people. and so then we make these particular aspects of ourselves sort of bland and clean so that they can interface easily with many different types of people in many different places in society.

so, first, instead of having a core, you are like an onion, and you just have a deepest layer—a thought-pattern that is conscious of (that is, it contains reliable representations of) all “above” thought-patterns, but which is itself not consistently represented in any “deeper” thought-pattern. (you can try to share intimacy about some inchoate semi-patterns you may notice that lie beneath that lowest layer, too, by “free-writing” and hoping a pattern is revealed in the process, but really, the further down you go, the brokener and gooier it gets, the less discrete any thought gets, so the idea of “personality” existing that far down doesn’t make sense, because thoughts at that depth are so impersistent and changeable.)

and second, it’s not that you have a pure soul that you’re born with and you only show a few people, but rather that, inevitably, you will have some thoughts/thought-patterns/parts of yourself that you show many people (your “face”), and then you will have “inner”-er thoughts/thought-patterns/parts of yourself that manage those more clean & bland “outer” thoughts/thought-patterns/parts of yourself. and those close to you, your friends and family and romantic/sexual partners, will get to see the inner you who can’t help but develop more idiosyncratic thoughts about what it’s like to undertake the task of hiddenly and secretly managing your “face.”

that is, instead of a Totally New Essence buried in your soul, there are instead thought-patterns inside of you that, inevitably, statistically, by nature of what it is to exist within a society, you will show fewer people, and in fact *can* show fewer people, because they will be things harder to see because in order to see them, a person has to have shared similar experiences to you in society—and from a materialist perspective that means they have to have occupied similar spots to you in relations of production and reproduction, and have had similar cultural experiences. even if suddenly all your previously innermost thoughts became known by the world and they loved you for them, you would develop new innermost thoughts about what it’s become like to manage your outer thought-patterns, your “face,” in this strange new world where everyone knew what were until recently your deepest secrets.

it doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable and necessary to have intimacy or self-expression; it just means intimacy and artistic expression aren’t what they’re made out to be by bourgeois society—interactions with and expressions of a Unique Soul. this is critical, too, because among other things it means (a) the broad masses of people can learn the skills of what bourgeois society wants to say are unreplicable Geniuses; (b) the idea of a One True Love is shown to be an absurdity and so, therefore, is the bourgeois idea of the family; (c) you can maybe talk saps like the one i used to be (and the one i still have banging around inside of me) out of thinking that they have some Perfectly Rare Beauty that they owe it to themselves to express in depoliticized art, the rest of the world be damned; and (d) if you are struggling to find intimacy, well, your inner self is in motion—you can change your inner self into one that will make it more likely to mesh with others’ inner selves. you do not have to believe yourself barred from the connection you are starving for on the mistaken idea that maybe you were just born with a particularly rare Soul.

The need for methods for cultivating deep and intense communist enthusiasm

“The ‘realm of freedom’, the end of the ‘pre-history of mankind’ means precisely that the power [that is currently bound up in] the objectified, reified[1] relations between [human beings] begins to revert to [human beings].”
– Lukacs, History and Class Consciousness

(Note: If this subject interests you, be sure to check out the bottom of this post for a list of posts I’ve made on basically the same subject.)

* What the capitalist denies is the complexity of the human soul. It regards proletarians as machinelike.

* The society we aim to create will have a culture that is the opposite of the current culture. It will not only not train people to regard certain classes and groups of people as machinelike, but it will actively seek to recognize when any treat-others-as-machinelike thinking has emerged and combat it.

* To get to that society requires a movement that can only be fueled by a type of volunteering (acting without thought of money) that the capitalist-minded think of as impossible.

* We must consciously construct and cultivate a culture that fosters this type of acting without getting paid for it–acting because it nourishes and gives play to parts of the mind that the bourgeoisie deny exist.

  • This includes seeking to build a culture that fosters ways of relating to ourselves where we seek our *health*–that is, our *wholeth*, a functioning that sees to the totality of our existence. One major reason this promotes the revolution is because precisely the motivations that the bourgeoisie teach us do not exist in the proletariat and all oppressed people are those that are prone to being suppressed because they are so rarely nourished and so frequently punished in this world. Those are the ones we must tap. [2]

* I’m really strongly starting to suspect that somewhere in here is the need to exhort as the PCP exhorted people to revolution. According to Simon Strong, the only group that could match Peruvian people’s army in fervor were the Pentacostals, who were equally willing to die for their cause. We need more than the kind of passive, “this is what it did for me” type of arguments I’ve been making. *I* need more than this. I think we need something like church–not a commandist church that uses shame, but a mass-line church that has scientifically understood how to use forms of culture that we (Marxists, and even Maoists) don’t yet have a firm grasp on, to get people to rise up to become the bravest and most disciplined versions of themselves, in a way that doesn’t compromise their intellect but actually grants things that the intellect has sought but not found through any other avenue and thereby cleans, nourishes, and strengthens the intellect. (If you want to know what a Maoist sermon sounds like, check this out.)

I’m probably writing on this sort of prematurely. I suspect the PCP has more on this and I need to read it. But still I think it’s useful to start talking about.

And so but reading Lukacs say things like…

“The unique function of consciousness in the class struggle of the proletariat has consistently been overlooked by the vulgar Marxists who have substituted a petty ‘Realpolitik’ for the great battle of principle which reaches back to the ultimate problems of the objective economic process. Naturally we do not wish to deny that the proletariat must proceed from the facts of a given situation. But it is to be distinguished from other classes by the fact that it goes beyond the contingencies of history; far from being driven forward by them, it is itself their driving force and impinges centrally upon the process of social change. When the vulgar Marxists detach themselves from this central point of view, i.e. from the point where a proletarian class consciousness arises, they thereby place themselves on the level of consciousness of the bourgeoisie. And that the bourgeoisie fighting on its own ground will prove superior to the proletariat both economically and ideologically can come as a surprise only to a vulgar Marxist. Moreover only a vulgar Marxist would infer from this fact, which after all derives exclusively from his own attitude, that the bourgeoisie generally occupies the stronger position. For quite apart from the very real force at its disposal, it is self-evident that the bourgeoisie fighting on its own ground will be both more experienced and more expert. Nor will it come as a surprise if the bourgeoisie automatically obtains the upper hand when its opponents abandon their own position for that of the bourgeoisie.

As the bourgeoisie has the intellectual, organisational and every other advantage, the superiority of the proletariat must lie exclusively in its ability to see society from the centre as a coherent whole. This means that it is able to act in such a way as to change reality; in the class consciousness of the proletariat theory and practice coincide and so it can consciously throw the weight of its actions onto the scales of history.”

… it makes me think that we have two puzzles:

1. How to get the proletariat to see its own long term interests–that is, to become class conscious; to see that the proletariat’s historical task is to struggle for communism, abolish class, and liberate humanity.

2. How to get the masses, who are already busy and bogged down, into motion, into the movement.

And as with so many other things in life, I think we can actually solve these two puzzles more effectively if we try to find some way to solve them both at once, instead of treating them as separate questions and struggling in vain to solve them when we hold them in isolation from each other.

We want to get the masses into action, and there is a kind of conventional wisdom among leftists that this is sort of impossible because they are already tapped out–the routine they undertake for their daily survival requires them to perform actions that deplete them entirely, leaving no extra ability to act that the movement can harness.

So one part of the solution is to supply them the *stuff* to restore them materially that they are not currently getting, with, e.g., food and clothing programs, and thereby try to show the masses that only the revolution can provide them with *stuff*. Part of the problem here is that the bourgeoisie can offer this too–they try and often succeed in buying particularly disruptive members of the masses with *stuff* that allows the alleviation of the daily material grind. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it, and the bourgeoisie definitely can’t afford to solve all the material problems of the masses. But I also think there’s one more way to get the masses into motion, maybe an even more important way.

That other way is, I think we also need to focus on offering people ways to act that are actually *restorative*. Normally actions are conceived of as draining, but to act in a way as to seize the future when one is denied even the present, I think those actions are something we can get people to do over and beyond their daily grind, and in fact I think they are restorative and reinvigorating up to a certain point. I think this is something that only the movement can offer people–something that acting on behalf of capitalism can’t offer *anyone*, not even the bourgeoisie.

1. By “reified” here Lukacs means what I mean when I talk about people treating each other like machines–as production complexes that create some resource or set of resources while ignoring essential parts of each other’s totalities (that is, of each other’s *health*, in this case mental health).

2. As an aside, capitalist society pays for some members of the petty bourgeoisie to have some of these motivations given play, which is part of what earns them the loyalty of the petty bourgeoisie. In return the petty bourgeoisie generates aesthetics that, while immediately gratifying, are basically anesthetic of deeper motivations (that is, the pleasure covers over the hunger of deprivation from these unmet deeper needs and the poisonous pain of acting in ways that are directly contrary to what would meet those needs). They generate beautiful music, and music festivals to appreciate that music at, and MDMA to promote a feeling of connection, but it is a oneness of form but not of substance. Or another way of putting it is that the substance is only euphoria, only to achieve serotonin and dopamine highs simultaneously–but the soul wants more than that. The soul is curious, it wants to pursue knowledge of the deepest things, the widest things, it wants power given to its curiosity to be involved in the project of investigating those things. So even the petty bourgeoisie can be won over, but the way they’ve been deprived and treated as machinelike is more difficult to state and reveal because it requires speaking about parts of the human psychology that are not well understood, nor even widely acknowledged to exist.

Later posts on the same subject:

To lose fear of sacrifice and death can allow one to think more clearly and be a better servant of the people

Previous posts on the same subject:

On Maoism’s ability to incorporate and be strengthened by what is sometimes called spirituality

Some more discussion of how “spirituality”/”the science of wisdom” fit into Maoism

Some reflections on my path toward communism, and some thoughts on methods and motivations for going onward

A few thoughts on what the bourgeoisie think the masses want, what everyone really wants, and not telling comforting lies about lives that stray from communism

A few thoughts on what the bourgeoisie think the masses want, what everyone really wants, and not telling comforting lies about lives that stray from communism

I think I’ve made the theoretical breakthrough (in my own understanding) necessary to answer the question of why the bourgeoisie won’t go down without a fight in a scientific and “closed-form” way. I’ve been working on that piece a lot to flesh out that understanding and put it in terms that are succinct, compelling, and accessible. Working on that piece and rounding out my understanding is deepening my understanding of what capitalism is, of what the bourgeois mindset is. That set of thoughts is the soil that the rest of this post grew out of.

Note: If this subject interests you, be sure to check out the bottom of this post for a list of posts I’ve made on basically the same subject:

The masses will work hard for a wage—for material, for stuff—which every capitalist thinks is their sole desire, but in fact the deeper reason the masses want bread is that they think it will give them room to go for some light. Nobody just wants raw materials. They want what the bourgeoisie promise everyone: the ability to pursue happiness. The ability to pursue having one’s creativity empowered to make changes in the world, allowing an experience that teaches one about both oneself and the world. This is the light. This is what everyone wants. But the bourgeoisie keep this for themselves, the power to enact one’s curiosity, while selling the idea that everyone can have it. And the bourgeoisie either delude themselves that everyone *can* have it right now (and somehow fail to get it), tell themselves that not everyone is really fit to have much of it because most people are innately inferior to the few elites who run things, tell themselves that maybe one day everyone could have it but right now there’s not enough stuff to go around in the world so the best we can do is for the elites to steward the masses to raise the productive forces until there is enough, tell themselves that there may be enough stuff now but people have to be culturally transformed by outside experts, or just shrug and say “fuck them, I got mine.”

Art for art’s sake, or (what *may* amount to the same thing) the philanthropy that everyone in the bourgeoisie engages in, goes up a cul-de-sac. It settles for a light that cannot include everyone, a light that is furthermore compromised with bourgeois (and therefore false and self-hating and anti-human) ideas. It settles for a light oozing with poison because they can pay for enough pus and anesthesia to keep the infection (and the pain it causes) at bay.

Only communism seeks a way forward with and through all of humanity, only communism sends you forward with an undiseased model of what humanity is.

Marx may already have explored this. I think you see that he understands this idea when he says that, in communist society, labor (that is, the act of producing value that a machine cannot produce) will be the thing people most want out of life (“life’s prime want”). But anyway I think this has to be part of historical materialism—and maybe it always has been and I just haven’t read enough Marx or Marxists—but yes although people go into political motion on behalf of bread, the bread isn’t the end goal: they want the bread because they want life, they want light.

I have a deep urge to act as what C.S. Lewis calls a “senile benevolence” and tell everyone I meet who is getting dragged up that cul-de-sac by their falling for a narrow love (that is, fooling themselves that they will be contented with art for art’s sake, or a fondness for academia, or a life close to nature, etc. etc.) that of course they should choose what they like and if they’re happy they’re happy.

But I want to fight and overcome this urge, because doing that would be unkind in a deeper sense. Let us tell the truth—a person is deeply mistaken if they think they see a whole and unpolluted future for themselves up that path, because scientifically we know that that river runs with poison, and it does not flow into the ocean but only—eventually—into a fetid lake. If you need to—if it is truly objectively necessary for you to be basically stable and reliable—then sure, keep some distance from the violence, but don’t leave the movement: you will be selling the most important thing you own.

From Aldous Huxley’s Time Must Have a Stop:

“Apotheosis—the personality exalted and intensified to the point where the person ceases to be mere man or woman and becomes god-like, one of the Olympians, like that passionately pensive warrior, like those great titanesses brooding, naked, above the sarcophagi. And over against apotheosis—deification—personality annihilated in charity, in union, so that at last the man or woman can say, ‘Not I, but God in me.’

. . . Apotheosis and deification—the only roads of escape from the unutterable wearisomeness, the silly and degrading horror of being merely yourself, of being only human. Two roads; but in reality only the second led out into open country. So much more promising, apparently so vastly more attractive, the first invariably turned out to be only a glorious blind alley. Under triumphal arches, along an avenue of statuary and fountains, you marched in pomp towards an ultimate frustration—dead end of your own selfhood. And the dead end was solid marble, of course, and adorned with the colossal monuments of your power, magnanimity and wisdom, but no less of a wall than the most grotesquely hideous of the vices down there in your old, all too human prison. Whereas the other road …”

Other posts on the same subject as of 2017 07 26:

From before this post:

On Maoism’s ability to incorporate and be strengthened by what is sometimes called spirituality

Some more discussion of how “spirituality”/”the science of wisdom” fit into Maoism

Some reflections on my path toward communism, and some thoughts on methods and motivations for going onward

From after this post:

The need for methods for cultivating deep and intense communist enthusiasm

To lose fear of sacrifice and death can allow one to think more clearly and be a better servant of the people

Some reflections on my path toward communism, and some thoughts on methods and motivations for going onward

(For more posts on a similar subject, see the bottom of this post.)

Somehow—because they are so unbelievably, plainly, and immensely absurd—part of me has felt significantly responsible for the absurdities the world has seen ever since I learned what was going on in the world. I saw them passing, saw so many simple things that could be done or said, and yet I still can’t master myself well enough to stop them. There are only so many hours in the day before I have to sleep again. These painful and tragic events are such a farce and have been for so long. George W. Bush? Donald Trump? Even Barack Obama was and is such a hoax, such an obvious scam if you know even a little bit about how the world works. Surely I could do something. Surely I can get a few well-worded paragraphs around these strings that have become knotted up in history, so viscerally, hatefully ridiculous.

There is a fire spreading in the building we live in. It should be easy to point that out and see action. But that is not how the world we are actually living in works. Fascism was always absurd. It was always inevitable, too, always bizarre. Such an affront to science for the Nazis to elevate their horseshit to the idea of science. But can “science” even be insulted? I guess the reason it seemed that way is that the region of the overall socioconceptual terrain that we call science seemed to some rarely explored part of my mind like some kind of sacred ground. But this is a liberal idea. Every way to draw conclusions about the world will be profaned by the hordes of reactionaries striving to hold on to dead establishments. With no exaggeration, every insult—literally insults, mockeries, attempts to verbally harm—will be given to the truth and the movement that honors the truth. It might hurt those who fight for the truth to hear these insults, but it won’t hurt the truth.

I woke up in a world… in the middle of the greatest and most banal empire in history, as it was telling itself the story was over, but the people were at war for their liberation in Peru even as I was born. I marinated in the dry leather of Bush Sr.’s face. I soaked in the chalky dry vapidity of loud TV commercials for products being manufactured in the billions, being told by the reactionary establishment that the greatest of victories one could achieve was the sheer quantity of these sales numbers.

When the moisture of human truth came back to the middle class, or at least to me, it was through the pain of earnesty in longing. This truth was progressive for me at this time. The extreme carelessness with themselves of those who wore dark eyeliner, who drank heavily from pain, it was all confession and validation of a truth: we are alive in a world where something really vital is missing. For me to watch the nighttime snowfall, the graceful melodies of pain and longing in a counterculture that hadn’t yet been principally monetized, it meant at least that the search for truth was not over. It was a vast (and in retrospect frustrating) naivete on my part that I didn’t confront myself with the reality of the greatness of the pain that was ongoing all over the world, but it was progressive for me personally to know that the rivers of the world were still flowing toward truths that more deeply honored what was within us. The fact that this pain was enunciated again and again proved that it was all flowing, that it did need to flow. The pain that was enunciated was the pain of the soul—it could not be satisfied with trinkets or smoothness or extremely well practiced smiles. It needed the truth. It also needed something deeper than gracefully expressed longing, itself a kind of trinket—itself good only when it is a signpost, not when taken as medicine in itself.

If you had told me the price for that truth while I was still seeking it in dance halls, in beautiful people in eyeliner, in something called art-in-itself, I would have found it beyond belief. But the pain of the world’s masses was somehow an irrelevancy to me then. I had options to eat and do well for myself materially. What I consciously told myself was that it was not my problem, that I would only get in the way because I was too coarse a person to care in a way that was fine-grained enough to be effective in these delicate situations, and besides that the problems that did still exist were solving themselves. I was not born into the world of suffering that prevails on most of the planet. I was born and lived on the edges beyond it.

An extremely sharp militancy and a passionately sought humility are both aspects of what the revolutionary science we have won tells us we must do with ourselves, ways we must transform ourselves—and principally the militancy. We must see to it that the masses become cut from the dream. The house is burning, and we cannot open the way out without great numbers—it is necessary that many people are rudely awakened. How can we expect all these billions of rude awakenings to go well? How can we expect all 7 billion to even wake up?

But when we wake them up, will they not see a light? Isn’t a better world coming together, isn’t it something realer than they have ever seen? Isn’t there a light on the people bringing this news, a flame whose brightness approaches gold, a flashlight whose beam approaches the blue of the bright midday sky—when the world of those being given the alarm has been dimness and smoke?

But the darkness will not go of its own, it is not defeated by seeing faces and hearing voices lit up this way. The darkness floods in—and the light within us, simply in our shining with it, will not destroy it. The question of the full emergence of the world into light from the darkness is a military question. It can only be settled through guerrilla and then conventional warfare. The hideousness and disease of the darkness, and the pure, all-nourishing, all-encompassingly valid value of the light, are justification for the war we must wage on the darkness, of the enormous care and attention we must have in nurturing and cultivating the light. The war is principal, but it will never happen without the light. People will never see the need for war against the darkness if they do not clearly see the light in us, in themselves, see the truth of the theory of how the light works, see and remember the light that shines in children, the light that is shining in the future, beyond this hell that can and must be killed.

We can have both motivations—we can fight in order to bring ruin and panic to this thing that has killed so many and twisted and hurt us and everyone we have ever loved or wished well. But it must be done mainly for the light, the light that will grow within us, the illuminatedness we will see on those who will gather to the true movement toward dawn, the light that we can know for sure will come. We must stand rifle in hand knowing that we are protecting the light that is growing behind us.

* * *

“The working class emerged, a new class was born. … That is who we are. The proletariat begins to illuminate the darkness. … This light was transformed into steel. …

Perhaps some people think that we should only speak about the positive, but there exists light and shadow, a contradiction.”
“For the New Flag,” Communist Party of Peru

Other posts on the same subject as of 2017 07 26:

From before this post:

On Maoism’s ability to incorporate and be strengthened by what is sometimes called spirituality

Some more discussion of how “spirituality”/”the science of wisdom” fit into Maoism

From after this post:

A few thoughts on what the bourgeoisie think the masses want, what everyone really wants, and not telling comforting lies about lives that stray from communism

The need for methods for cultivating deep and intense communist enthusiasm

To lose fear of sacrifice and death can allow one to think more clearly and be a better servant of the people

Some more discussion of how “spirituality”/”the science of wisdom” fit into Maoism

The following is slightly modified from an email reply I gave to someone who wanted to know more about my views on communism and what I sometimes call “spirituality.”

Note: If you’re interested in this topic, check out the bottom of this post for links to a series of posts I’ve made on this same subject.

I’m still doing research in Mao to find where in his concepts what I’ve sometimes called “spirituality” best plugs in. It may be important, ultimately, to decide not to call it “spirituality” and instead use terms like “wisdom” or “wisdom traditions.” But Mao is not someone who shies away from using concepts that have been inherited from pre-Marxist traditions to better help people grasp communist ideas, nor was Gonzalo–at all–and that’s what I think we can effectively do with these traditions. He is also not someone who shies away from using the concepts of “soul” and “spirit” as I’ll get into below.

What you talk about how watching “Yukong” is like seeing into the future, I think that’s what people have to see in us. It sounds like in Peru they had developed such a powerful new culture (where fascists could push people out of helicopters and the comrades would just yell, “Long live the people’s war!”) that I bet when people saw them for the first time, it was like nothing they had seen before. I think probably that was the same appeal as with the Panthers–black folks knew they needed a new answer to an old problem, and they saw in the Panthers an attitude befitting a new order, a new world. I honestly believe that if we’re doing this right, the accusations that we’re a cult will always be leveled, because in the end we are indeed asking people to make sacrifices that seem completely irrational according to the logic of the inherited, bourgeois world. But it will be wrong to call it a cult, because we are not being exploited by someone fooling us with metaphysics–it is only the masses who are gaining. We should consciously try to figure out how to create such an attitude within the culture we have inherited, in the same way that Gonzalo helped create one out of the existing “Peruvian reality.” It is a big part of what will help us keep fighting, a big part of what will attract the masses to the movement, and a big part of the new world we have to create.

For me the single best book that I am trying to bring into Mao is a book called Personality: The Art of Being and Becoming, by Inayat Khan, who was one of the biggest popularizers of Sufism in the West, about 100 years ago now. That book honestly reminds me of Mao; Khan (and I assume the broader Sufi tradition) had found precise (and I believe scientific) ways to discuss human psychology and how to make oneself a servant of the broad masses of the people. (For Khan, because humanity is most like God, to serve God best, we must serve the people). Here’s a copy of that book. I should say that it gets a little repetitive and more explicitly metaphysical toward the very end, but by then I would say that all of his science of wisdom was already delivered, and in less metaphysical ways. I think even the end is still worth reading as poetry, though.

There’s an anecdote at the start of that book that could be called problematic, but don’t let it deter you. The rest of the book really does capture what I’m talking about. It offers what I think are wholly scientific ways to think about transforming/rectifying oneself when one has strayed into what we would call a bourgeois stand, worldview, and/or method. For me the challenge is not whether these wisdom traditions fit, because I am certain they do–the only challenge, really, is finding the parts in Mao (and Gonzalo, who I know does discuss some of this stuff, but I haven’t read nearly enough of him) that the Khan can be “linguistico-conceptually” “plugged into.” Also, if you’ve seen my “Reminders” post, that is some stuff that covers some areas Khan doesn’t but is similar stuff: just useful ways of re-framing things for myself that help me take a more communist attitude toward things.

To get into the question of the word or idea of spirituality directly–the best way to put it is, as I write at the beginning of that “Reminders” post, there are wholly scientific ways to understand terms like “God” wherever you find that word in the works of “wise people” throughout history, and they can be boiled down to what Mao says: “Our God is none other than the masses of the … people.”

Here are some other quotes from Mao to sort of show show why I don’t think talking about spirituality and communism is outlandish.

First, here are some places Mao uses the word “soul.” Sometimes he means “the innermost part of one’s psychology”–the deepest, most sacred place inside of us. The thing inside of us that takes care of us even when we are deeply depressed. It is like a pilot light. I don’t think we need to be mystical about it at all, though. Like atoms, it is not something that is easy to see, or something we need to think about all the time, but assuredly understanding it scientifically will allow us to have great power over the world, including and especially over ourselves. The last one, about the cultural revolution, is especially verging on what I mean what I talk about being scientific about spirituality.

I also want to say that it is clear that for Mao the soul is not just “the animating thing in all of us,” as, e.g., the first quote makes clear. Which I think means that he thinks of the soul not only as the deepest part of the psychology, but something a little more. Not just the deepest part, but the deepest part when it is in service to our God–in service to the masses.

>> “As we said long ago, Chiang Kai-shek has lost his soul, is merely a corpse.”

>> “Many comrades concern themselves with studying the petty-bourgeois intellectuals … instead of guiding the intellectuals to join with them in getting closer to the masses. … Their innermost soul is still a kingdom of the petty-bourgeois intelligentsia. Thus they have not yet solved, or not yet clearly solved, the problem of “for whom?””

>> “If there is anything positive the Hu Feng clique can offer, it is that through the present soul-stirring struggle we shall raise our own political consciousness and sensitivity much higher”

>> “There are those who show no vigor and vitality in their expressions of opinion. The relationship between the lower echelon and the higher echelon is like that of a mouse when it sees a cat. It is as if their souls have been eaten away. Thus many dare not speak up.”

>> “Fascism has no soul, but we do.”

>> “The great proletarian Cultural Revolution is a revolution that touches the souls of the people.”

And here is Mao using the word “spirit” a few times. First, here is Mao defining “spirit” scientifically:

>> “Wherein lies the basic difference between idealism and materialism? It lies in the opposite answers given by the two to the fundamental question in philosophy, that of the relationship between spirit and matter ( that of the relationship between consciousness and existence). Idealism considers spirit (consciousness, concepts, the subject) as the source of all that exists on earth, and matter (nature and society, the object) as secondary and subordinate, Materialism recognizes the independent existence of matter as detached from spirit and considers spirit as secondary and subordinate..”

>> “What is philosophy? Philosophy is the theory of cognition, nothing else. I wrote the first ten articles of the Double Ten Articles [Shuang-shih T’iao], I discussed how substance changes into spirit and spirit into substance.

Here he uses it in a way that is basically interchangeable with the word “attitude”:

>> “Comrade Bethune’s spirit, his utter devotion to others without any thought of self, was shown in his boundless sense of responsibility in his work and his boundless warm-heartedness towards all comrades and the people. Every Communist must learn from him. We must all learn the spirit of absolute selflessness from him. With this spirit everyone can be very useful to the people. A man’s ability may be great or small, but if he has this spirit, he is already nobleminded and pure, a man of moral integrity and above vulgar interests, a man who is of value to the people.”

>> “What kind of spirit is this that makes a foreigner selflessly adopt the cause of the Chinese people’s liberation as his own? It is the spirit of internationalism, the spirit of communism, from which every Chinese Communist must learn.”

He doesn’t always use it that way. He also uses it as follows, in a stand-alone way: Spirit in itself, vivaciousness. I think this is analogous to what he means when he says fascism has no soul–in this sense, it also has no spirit.

>> “We should allow the various localities to be full of creativity, spirit, and liveliness.”

And here he is talking about the science of changing the spirit:

>> “Those whose revolutionary will has been waning should have their spirits revived through rectification.”

But finally, I think there are kernels even in some of the deepest metaphysics. Check out this quote that I stole from some wise person somewhere and modified:

>> “One has to learn to reverse one’s usual way of viewing things. The human being is never the one who knows or wills or becomes, nor even the object seen or transformed; he/she can only lend him/herself to the divine action. “It is not by self-realization that one realizes God, it is by God-realization that one realizes self.” —That is, you can best transform yourself and overcome your narrow self-interests if you cultivate a habit of remembering that you are most when you are a servant to humanity, that you were made by humanity, and be grateful for what humanity has given to you by struggling for so long to create language and create proletarian theory—and that you are what you like least when you are gratifying your consumptive impulses.— One cannot satisfactorily improve one’s personality without calling into action all the dimensions of the web of reality.”

I think that what looks on the surface to be metaphysics here is actually possible to interpret in a useful, material way–as a way of framing.

Like, it isn’t that we should adopt some belief in certain new substances out in the world that we call “God,” but that we should adopt the spiritual traditions’ way of regarding oneself with regard to God. I think adopting that perspective makes it easier for one to transform oneself into a better communist. It is like the difference between talking about the sun rising vs. talking about the earth rotating–a way of seeing the substances that we already know about and accept the existence of, but in a new way. And I think adopting this inverted perspective promotes a communist outlook, and in fact is probably necessary to universalize as a key component of the communist superstructure.

EDIT 2017 04 20 2216 CDT: I didn’t think to look for the term “spiritual” before, so here’s some more Mao to consider, offered without analysis. I didn’t find any hits for “spirituality.”:

>> “For a very long period, U.S. imperialism laid greater stress than other imperialist countries on activities in the sphere of spiritual aggression, extending from religious to “philanthropic” and cultural undertakings.”

>> “The fundamental problems are: first, spiritual unification of officers and men within the army; second spiritual unification of the army and the people; of the army and the people; and, last, destruction of the unity of the enemy.”

>> “Apart from the role played by the Party, the reason why the Red Army has been able to carry on in spite of such poor material conditions and such frequent engagements is its practice of democracy. The officers do not beat the men; officers and men receive equal treatment, soldiers are free to hold meetings and to speak out; trivial formalities have been done away with; and the accounts are open for all to inspect. … The newly captured soldiers in particular feel that our army and the Kuomintang army are worlds apart. They feel spiritually liberated, even though material conditions in the Red Army are not equal to those in the White army. The very soldiers who had no courage in the White army yesterday are very brave in the Red Army today; such is the effect of democracy. The Red Army is like a furnace in which all captured soldiers are transmuted the moment they come over. In China the army needs democracy as much as the people do. Democracy in our army is an important weapon for undermining the feudal mercenary army.”

>> “There are right opportunists in the Central Committee. … I suspect that these people are opportunists who have sneaked into the Party. … During the period of the bourgeois democratic revolution, they gladly took part in it, and did have some revolutionary spirit. Yet on the method of revolution, they often made mistakes. They had no spiritual preparation for the socialist revolution. When the socialist revolution came, they began to feel uncomfortable. … So long as they are willing to wash their brains, there is still the possibility to win them over, because they posses the duplicity of being reactionary and revolutionary. … They should also be given the chance to make revolution and to work. Criticism should be strict, but treatment may be lenient.”

>> “Since they learned Marxism-Leninism, the Chinese people have ceased to be passive in spirit and gained the initiative. The period of modern world history in which the Chinese and Chinese culture were looked down upon should have ended from that moment. The great, victorious Chinese People’s War of Liberation and the great people’s revolution have rejuvenated and are rejuvenating the great culture of the Chinese people. In its spiritual aspect, this culture of the Chinese people already stands higher than any in the capitalist world. Take U.S. Secretary of State Acheson and his like, for instance. The level of their understanding of modern China and of the modern world is lower than that of an ordinary soldier of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.”

>> “Having cleared away blind faith, we no longer have any spiritual burdens. Buddhas are made several times life-size in order to frighten people. When heroes and warriors appear on the stage they are made to look quite unlike ordinary people. Stalin was that kind of a person. The Chinese people had got so used to being slaves that they seemed to want to go on. When Chinese artists painted pictures of me together with Stalin, they always made me a little bit shorter, thus blindly knuckling under to the moral pressure exerted by the Soviet Union at that time. Marxism-Leninism looks at everyone on equal terms, and all people should be treated as equals. … There are two kinds of cult of the individual. One is correct, such as that of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and the correct side of Stalin. These we ought to revere and continue to revere for ever. It would not do not to revere them. As they held truth in their hands, why should we not revere them? We believe in truth; truth is the reflection of objective existence. A squad should revere its squad leader, it would be quite wrong not to. Then there is the incorrect kind of cult of the individual in which there is no analysis, simply blind obedience. This is not right. Opposition to the cult of the individual may also have one of two aims: one is opposition to an incorrect cult, and the other is opposition to reverence for others and a desire for reverence for oneself. The question at issue is not whether or not there should be a cult of the individual, but rather whether or not the individual concerned represents the truth. If he does, then he should be revered. If truth is not present, even collective leadership will be no good.”

The general line of the cultural policy of the Soviets is to educate the broad masses in the spirit of communism, to subordinate education to the revolutionary war and the class struggle, to link labour with education. In the educational field the central tasks confronting the Soviets are the enforcement of compulsory education throughout the whole land, the development of social education on a wide scale, the rapid liquidation of illiteracy, the training of large numbers of cadres for revolution. All these tasks can be performed only under the Soviets because they signalize the sharpened class struggle and an unprecedented victory for spiritual emancipation.”

>> “The proletarian class in China … must adopt dialectic materialism as its spiritual weapon. … Dialectic materialism is especially a required subject of study for those cadres who direct revolutionary movements because subjectivism and mechanism, the two erroneous theories and working methods, often lead cadres into wrong actions in violation of Marxism, and into wrong ways in revolutionary movements. In order to avoid and to correct this shortcoming, it is necessary for cadres to study dialectic materialism self-consciously, and rearm their minds.” (p. 195, which is p. 19 in the PDF)

Other posts on the same subject as of 2017 07 26:

From before this post:

On Maoism’s ability to incorporate and be strengthened by what is sometimes called spirituality

From after this post:

Some reflections on my path toward communism, and some thoughts on methods and motivations for going onward

A few thoughts on what the bourgeoisie think the masses want, what everyone really wants, and not telling comforting lies about lives that stray from communism

The need for methods for cultivating deep and intense communist enthusiasm

To lose fear of sacrifice and death can allow one to think more clearly and be a better servant of the people

The General Political Line of the Communist Party of Peru

I recently read the General Political Line of the Communist Party of Peru, and it was, honestly, one of the most penetrating and crystal-clear political works I’ve read in a long time. Reading it reminds me of reading Mao.

There are major and important differences between Marxism-Leninism Mao Zedong Thought and Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, and one could not get a better statement of exactly what we mean (or, at least, what we should mean) when we call ourselves Marxist-Leninist-Maoists than straight from the source, from the party whose practice allowed it to glean what was truly universal about Mao’s contributions and synthesize MLM.

What’s more, Chairman Gonzalo’s contributions on top of MLM, Gonzalo Thought, while in some ways particular to Peru, are also stunning and useful, and I believe they have universal aspects.

And just as actually reading Mao for the first time helps blow away some of the bourgeois propaganda that hangs over one’s conception of him, reading the General Political Line of the PCP helps make it obvious that the PCP were very advanced communists and that Gonzalo was indeed a communist, and without a doubt the best communist theorist alive at the time.

I just wanted to put these links here, all in a row, (a) because I didn’t know the GPL existed and what it was worth until recently and wanted to call others’ attention to it, and (b) because I haven’t seen one single page that links the whole thing. So here it is–read and reread it:

Fundamental Documents

International Line

Line of the Democratic Revolution

Military Line

Line of Construction of the Three Instruments of the Revolution

Mass Line