Mao’s rebuttal of identity reductionism: Why it is not only acceptable but absolutely necessary that communists of all class backgrounds go among the working class

Down below is a quotation from the RCP’s 1979 “Beat Back the Dogmato-Revisionist Attack on Mao Tsetung Thought: Comments on Enver Hoxha’s Imperialism and the Revolution.

While the RCP’s book was overall intended to show the hollowness and ridiculousness of the Albanian revisionists’ criticisms of Mao Zedong Thought, the passage quoted here is hot fire against any self-identified communists wielding what amounts to identity reductionism to try to argue that middle-class people who have become genuine communists must stay out of working-class neighborhoods.

The opposite, Mao’s position was that the communist movement can and should wield whoever is a genuine communist at the moment, regardless of their class background, to spread communism to the working class. Another important question that is answered here is about what determines whether or not a specific struggle is being led by the working class. What determines that is not whether the struggle goes exactly where the majority of workers in an area say it must go, but rather whether the struggle is guided by the line of the global proletariat–in this day, by Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. And the revolutionary proletarian line says that in fact the exact right thing for intellectuals to do is to go among the working class and seek to help in the process of the construction of a revolutionary communist party out of the working-class masses.

Overall, what is the Maoist position? Don’t wait for purity; don’t fret about “appropriateness,” which can be nothing other than metaphysics, not Marxism–do what is best for the global communist movement. While understanding the contradictions within and limitations of each class force, nonetheless use every asset at your disposal to push the revolution forward as best you can. All bold below is mine.

Like any revolution, the Cultural Revolution could only advance through turbulent struggle. It could not but have counter-currents within it and involve different sections of the revolutionary masses who brought into the struggle their own prejudices and limitations and, at times, contradictory outlooks and programs. And, like any revolution, it could not help but be met by fierce and stubborn resistance–not only from the targets of the revolution who represented only a very small percentage of Chinese society and of the Party–but also from among sections of the masses themselves, including even many workers, who could be mobilized to one degree or another and at certain junctures as part of the social base and the social movement of the reactionaries. This is not simply a feature of the Cultural Revolution, it is a law of class struggle, of revolution in general. Here it might be helpful to recall Lenin’s famous comment on the Easter Rebellion of the Irish people in 1916, directed at those who tried to use “Marxism” to ridicule, downplay and slander that heroic uprising as a “putsch” and by so doing ended in objective unity with the imperialist bourgeoisie.

“The term “putsch,” in its scientific sense, may be employed only when the attempt at insurrection has revealed nothing but a circle of conspirators or stupid maniacs, and has aroused no sympathy among the masses. The centuries-old Irish national movement, having passed through various stages and combinations of class interest, manifested itself, in particular, in a mass Irish National Congress in America. . which called for Irish independence; it also manifested itself in street fighting conducted by section of the urban petty bourgeoisie and a section of the workers after a long period of mass agitation, demonstrations, suppression of newspapers, etc. Whoever calls such a rebellion a “putsch” is either a hardened reactionary, or a doctrinaire hopelessly incapable of envisaging a social revolution as a living phenomenon.

To imagine that social revolution is conceivable without revolts by small nations in the colonies and in Europe, without revolutionary outbursts by a section of the petty bourgeoisie with all its prejudices, without a movement of the politically non-conscious proletarian and semi-proletarian masses against oppression by the landowners, the church, and the monarchy, against national oppression, etc.–to imagine all this is to repudiate social revolution. So one army lines up in one place and says, “We are for socialism”, and another, somewhere else and says, “We are for imperialism”, and that will be a social revolution! Only those who hold such a ridiculously pedantic view could vilify the Irish rebellion by calling it a “putsch”.

Whoever expects a “pure” social revolution will never live to see it. Such a person pays lip-service to revolution without understanding what revolution is.”

. . .

Hoxha condemns the Cultural Revolution because ”millions of unorganized youth, students and pupils” rose to their feet and marched on Peking. The theoretical basis for this “error,” according to Hoxha, is found in Mao’s famous work “Orientation of the Youth Movement,” where Mao has the audacity to say that “in a way” Chinese youth began to play a vanguard role, which he defines as ”taking the lead and marching in the forefront of the revolutionary ranks.”

Again, we will have to agree with Mao and not with Hoxha. First of all, it is a fact, undeniable by anyone with the slightest concern for historical accuracy, that Chinese youth did “in a way” play a vanguard role in the May 4th Movement in China and subsequently. It is equally undeniable that this historical experience, of youth “taking the lead,” of “marching in the forefront of the revolutionary ranks” has been repeated numerous times and throughout history. Today we see this before our very eyes in Iran, where the youth, including the students and young intellectuals, have stood in the forefront of that mighty movement, helping to arouse the broad masses of the Iranian proletariat and people, and sacrificing their lives in the armed struggle. Indeed, it is difficult to comprehend any truly great and profound revolutionary process in which this wasn’t true to a large degree.

But for Hoxha, the dynamic role of youth–their daring, their desire to destroy the old world, and so on–is really more of a liability than an asset, something to be attacked and stifled unless it can be “led” (by which he really means controlled) by the working class and its party. . . .

What does it mean for the working class and its party to “lead” the youth? According to Hoxha it means that the youth should trail passively at the rear of the working class, and heaven forbid the thought that the youth might themselves have a kind of vanguard, that is leading, role to play in mobilizing and organizing the broad ranks of the people.

Mao is, of course, quite clear that in an overall sense it is the working class that must provide leadership in the revolution. In the companion article to the one Hoxha quotes,  Mao makes quite clear the basic class relationships:

“China’s democratic revolution depends on definite social forces for its accomplishment. These social forces are the working class, the peasantry, the intelligentsia and the progressive section of the bourgeoisie, . . . with the workers and peasants as the basic revolutionary forces and the workers as the class which leads the revolution. It is impossible to accomplish the anti-imperialist and anti-feudal democratic revolution without these basic revolutionary forces and without the leadership of the working class. ”

But it is at this point that Mao and Hoxha part company. For once it is agreed upon that there must be the “leadership of the working class” (and this can only mean, first and foremost, the leadership of the working class party and of the working class line, Marxism-Leninism), the question remains, what is the content of this leadership, what does it seek to accomplish, along what lines does it steer the youth?

The whole content of Mao’s article, “The Orientation of the Youth Movement” (as its title implies), which Hoxha “quotes,” is exactly designed to provide leadership, an orientation, for the youth:

“Our young intellectuals and students must go among the workers and peasants, who make up 90% of the population, and mobilize and organize them. Without this main force of workers and peasants, we cannot win the fight against imperialism and feudalism, we cannot win it by relying only on the contingent of young intellectuals and students. Therefore, the young intellectuals and students throughout the country must unite with the broad masses of workers and peasants and become one with them, and only then can a mighty force be created.”

Mao noted that “In the Chinese democratic revolutionary movement, it was the intellectuals who were the first to awaken. . . . But the intellectuals will accomplish nothing if they fail to integrate themselves with the workers and peasants.”  Here Mao is making clear the correct, dialectical view of the relationship between the fact that the intellectuals, particularly the students, are often the first force in a given revolutionary movement to rise in struggle–and play a vital role in helping to “mobilize and organize” the masses of people–and the fact that it is only by integrating with the workers and peasants that the intellectuals can make a real contribution to the revolutionary process. And, as he points out repeatedly in his writings, it is only by doing so that the youth can be transformed in their world outlook and become genuine Marxists.

This is an example of real leadership. Not Enver Hoxha’s concept of strait-jacketing the youth movement and having it march obediently one step behind the workers. Real Marxist-Leninist leadership in the revolution means knowing how to bring to the fore and unleash the factors for revolution and at the same time provide guidance and a correct orientation for the movement overall and its particular parts. Real leadership does not mean ignoring or trying to eliminate the contradictions between (and hence the different contradictory roles of) different sections of the masses, but recognizing and utilizing these contradictions to push the revolution forward. Enver Hoxha’s concept smacks much more of the “everything at my command, everything at my disposal” concept of Lin Piao than of the Marxist method of leadership shown by Mao.

Only a person hopelessly entangled in the outlook that Lenin described, of waiting for the two armies to appear ready-made, packaged and neatly labeled, would be capable of criticizing Mao for recognizing and utilizing the fact that very often in the revolutionary struggle youth will play a kind of vanguard role. And only someone who is determined that a revolution will never come about, or at least who has no conception of what a revolution is, would want to avoid mobilizing sections of the revolutionary masses and sections of the workers themselves before the day when the workers as single, monolithic and united whole rise up (a day which, in that sense, will never come in reality). For there will never be a time, as long as there are classes, when workers aren’t divided into sections holding revolutionary, non-revolutionary and even counter-revolutionary sentiments and lines. And these divisions will lead to conflicts (ideological, political and, yes, even physical conflicts at times) between sections of the workers and other sections of the revolutionary masses.

It was this understanding that enabled Mao, at the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution, to rely heavily on the initiative and the daring of the youth and the students–not as a substitute for the working class, but to help awaken and mobilize the working class in this great battle. Hoxha should be familiar with Mao’s understanding of this, since Mao spelled it out quite succinctly to a visiting delegation from Albania in 1967:

“The “May 4th” Movement was launched by the intellectuals, thereby fully demonstrating their foresight and awareness. However, we must depend on the masters of the time, the workers, peasants and soldiers, to serve as the main force in carrying through thoroughgoing revolutions on the order of a real Northern Expedition or Long March. . . . Although it was the intellectuals and the broad masses of young students who launched the criticism of the bourgeois reactionary line, it was, nonetheless, incumbent upon the masters of the time, the broad masses of workers, peasants and soldiers, to serve as the main force in carrying the revolution through to completion, . . . Intellectuals have always been quick in altering their perception of things, but, because of the limitations of their instincts, and because they lack a thorough revolutionary character, they are sometimes opportunistic.”

Thus it is clear that in theory (as well as in practice) Mao regarded the role of the students in China as mainly an initiating one. He fully recognized their weaknesses–especially their tendencies toward anarchism, ultra-“leftism,” but also toward conservatism at times–and their problems in uniting the revolutionary ranks to carry the struggle through to victory. Without the initial role of the students, especially the heroic Red Guards, revisionism would have triumphed much sooner in China and the Cultural Revolution would never have gotten off the ground.

There’s this moment in human history yet to come that i imagine sometimes, this moment like, just five years after we seal our win over capitalism, like we’re not at full communism yet (which i can’t even imagine), but this moment it sets in on the broad masses of humanity that we did it, that the nightmare is over, and the realization dawning on the broad masses of humanity that we collectively have saved ourselves, and the creativity and joy that that will spread across the whole species, in all our work, how invigorated and grateful and excited we will all feel. how patient but utterly dedicated we will be in carrying the work forward to continue to transform society. when i remember in gratefulness that that is the master i serve, when we remember that, i think it shines through us, and the masses can see that in us and see that we are different from the world that they have seen up to this point, and we can show them that they can see that in themselves as well, and that is how it will spread. i hear from my comrades who know the revolutionaries in the Philippines well that you can see this light shining through them. i think you can see it just from little glimpses we see of the revolutionaries in “Red Ant Dream” (and you should watch it!) and from the videos of people you see during the Great Cultural Proletarian Revolution in China in “How Yukong Moved the Mountains.”

i don’t want to keep losing sight of this beautiful thought, which grounds me and gives my life the deepest purpose it can have.

Understanding “refugees from socialism” in the context of disgruntled Confederates in the u.s. civil war

Imagine you are in Richmond, VA, during the u.s. civil war. The former lawyer of one of the first plantations to fall to the Union is there telling the Confederate newspapers there about the depravity of the Union forces and all sorts of vile shit about the liberated slaves. You read this in the newspaper. Do you believe everything the newspaper printed that the lawyer said?

No, probably not. Why not? Because his material interests were deeply harmed by the civil war; because culturally he resents and to a large extent doesn’t even comprehend the viability of the world the Union is fighting for; and because he is telling the people who own the newspaper company–and the newspaper readers, who also do not want to see the disruption of the slave economy–things that they want to hear about how horribly things are going under the new order. The newspaper is eager to print lies to turn public opinion against their enemies. Right?

And the lawyer can probably even make some money going on tour speaking about the depravity of the new order. He can easily get rewarded financially and socially for saying what they want to hear, right?

So when people came to the united states from the socialist countries of the 20th century (SU 21-56, PRC 51-78), or come from countries that had anti-imperialist revolutions or in any other way defy u.s. imperialism, people should be a lot slower to buy their stories hook, line, and sinker. It’s especially frustrating coming from alleged revolutionary anticapitalists.

I’m not at all saying there wasn’t genuine suffering by people who didn’t deserve it in these countries. It happened–it happens in literally every revolution, even necessary and just ones. There are excesses and mistakes. Some of these stories are true–i am not trying to say they are all made up.

But, look:

A lot of the so-called “oppression” people faced by people who left these countries was uncomfortable, but not a mortal threat. Someone with patriarchal ideas in the cultural revolution in China was likely to go through the uncomfortable process of being criticized by their whole community. That’s not pleasant, but it’s not life-threatening. And in fact having come out the other side of believing a lot of patriarchal, white supremacist, and general bourgeois bullshit here in the u.s., i am glad that people took the time to educate me even if it meant demeaning my anti-people views sometimes. But if someone doesn’t see it like this, they just think “i was oppressed for no reason!” Much of the so-called “oppression” these people faced was NOT DIFFERENT from what “men’s rights activists” claim feminists are doing to them: showing them the truth about their privilege up to this point, and sometimes being quite impatient when the fuckboys don’t want to acknowledge the truth of it.

And what’s more, if someone (or a family) not only had the financial means to get out of those countries and easily resettle in the imperialist West, but also had the cultural mindset to easily adapt to life here, they were probably already in a position of relative privilege where they came from. Which means the people we hear from in the West from these alleged hellholes are and will continue to be disproportionately exactly like that Confederate lawyer.

The imperialist West tilts the entire world toward itself, pulling in and recruiting anyone and everyone who is able to offer significant help with the imperialist Western project, no matter what country they were born in, whether directly or just by spreading plausible lies about their country of origin and why the u.s. needs to destroy/intervene there, or why people shouldn’t try to duplicate what happened there.

Toward a dialectical materialist grasp of “the question of pineapple on pizza”

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[Originally written August 19, 2016]

1. as lenin said, concrete analysis of concrete conditions is the living soul of marxism. we must know that we will never have an answer to what is “better.” which class is served by whether pineapple comes on a given pizza in a given place in a given time must depend on what will be done with the pizza, by whom it is being produced, who will be consuming it, how much they will enjoy or be disturbed by it, and so on.

2. even if we conclude that it is always bad for any person who consumes a pizza with pineapple on it, that does not mean no pineapple pizzas should be produced. pineapple puree in the sauce of a pizza that will definitely be eaten by a CIA director who is deathly allergic to pineapple is in the interests of the masses.

3. in coming to the question of whether it is bad or good for a person to consume pizza with pineapple on it, we should acknowledge that there are concrete reasons why this question has sprung up in this place at this time.

4. the fake gravity around the question of pineapple on pizza in fact is intended to mock that it is in fact, to everyone’s amusement, not as mundane a discussion as it “feels like it should be.” people take the joke conversation seriously because despite themselves people take pizza nontrivially seriously.

5. with that said, some things are overdetermined by culture and cannot be reduced to simple material underpinnings; once the meme of “Maoists weigh in on trivial thing” has reached its full bloom, what the object whose qualities are being weighed at the center of the “debate” is is somewhat irrelevant; once it reaches a critical mass, the question will sustain itself.

6. in light of (4), we should investigate why pineapple on pizza is taken nontrivially seriously in the places where it sees high currency. what could these reasons be? let us examine it.

i. for many, pizza is a comfort food, or a “comfort consumption.” it has weight because it is part of how people cope with the anxiety of living in a capitalist-imperialist world filled with the accompanying oppressions and alienation.

ii. mechanisms by which we comfort ourselves frequently need to be “just right.” for something to be “off” in the quality of the comforting substance, or in the execution of the ritual of consuming the comforting substance, can in fact heighten anxiety. hence, if there is a potential variable in some aspect of the comfort substance, decisions surrounding that variable can become emotionally charged–often not even on the “objective” merits of the possible settings of that variable (e.g., does the pizza have more than a background level of sweetness?) but rather because the comforting process relies on the variable remaining fixed however it has been set (that is, it becomes important for the success of the instance of “comfort consumption” that regardless of whether one is accustomed to a nontrivial sweetness, one must get what one is accustomed to to be comforted).

iii. we must still ask why pineapple sees itself singled out here. i am no chef, so i can’t speak of its flavors, but we can speak of its “tastes” (specifically here its sweetness). while there are many notably sweet things one could put on a pizza, pineapple is probably the most common one. we cannot say that there is no sweetness in a pizza, since invariably there is sweetness in the tomato sauce and frequently in other toppings (e.g., bell peppers, and even some of the meats), but we can say with confidence that there is a qualitatively higher degree of sweetness with the ingredient pineapple than the very mild sweetness of other ingredients.

iv. it is instructive that in the past, anchovies formed the archetypal object of pizza topping debate, and anchovies are an order of magnitude saltier than most other toppings. this provides some corroboration for the idea that a qualitatively distinct experience of one of the basic “tastes” (sweet, salty, sour, bitter, savory) is one of the crucial variables. anchovies also have a very distinct texture and composition that is found to be unappealing by significant segments of the u.s. mainstream, and–at least in the context of pizza–this is true of pineapple as well.

7. pizza is a highly social food, and in fact its sociality is at a height in the negotiation of toppings. if one merely wants pizza, one can easily order a slice of any kind. but when one is in the discussion of toppings, one is always already in the question of trying to satisfy a particular craving.

8. why is the negotiation of toppings so social? it is for no other reason but that we find ourselves in the social arrangement of having to negotiate the toppings with someone who must also abide by that decision! we must therefore look into the question of what forces us to share pizzas. in fact, this is none other than the fact that as consumers, we seek to economize on cost. but this is not a question that affects all classes equally! in fact, the lower and deeper one is in the proletariat, the greater the political-economic pressure there is to split a pizza, and thus the more frequently one will find oneself negotiating toppings.

9. the question of pineapple on pizza is therefore a hotter one than it seems because it is one forced disproportionately on members of the proletariat and its allies, who are in the moment of the decision just trying to chill out and enjoy a pizza, and even seeking to do so with people with whom we find ourselves cordial or even comradely. and yet because of the pickiness that is close to the heart of “comfort consumption” and the distinctness of pineapple among toppings, the frustration we experience in the struggle for unity on this question is all the more heightened.

Racist, gender, and ableist oppressions make up a huge portion of class oppression

Racial oppression makes up a huge portion of class oppression, gender oppression makes up a huge portion of class oppression. i can speak with less certainty about it, but ableist oppression likely also makes up a huge portion of class oppression.

that is, a large part of the oppression that forces the workers of the working class to be workers looks like oppression of them as black brown or indigenous, or as nonmale, or as LGBT, or as disabled.

the essence of oppression is a denial of options for making a living–a denial of pathways for survival. only when sufficiently many pathways are denied is someone forced to work for a capitalist for a wage.

and so if gender oppression disappeared immediately, suddenly a bunch of people would have new options for surviving, all of which would hurt the ability of capitalists to profit–for instance they would have enough resources to afford to risk organizing and going on strike, or they could quit and start small businesses to support themselves, or just quit or reduce their hours and live off of resources that the system is currently wasting.

this is absolutely the same with racial oppression, ableist oppression, and ageist oppression.

another thing that would happen if these oppressions–especially gender oppression–stopped, is a bunch of people would immediately stop doing a bunch of “social reproduction” labor for free. they would stop having babies or providing childcare to please other people, they would stop doing free emotional labor (that is, helping process stress and trauma) for people in their lives whom they don’t truly feel fully supported by or connected to, they would stop cleaning for free, etc. etc. etc. and soon the workforce would start to deteriorate and explode–because the people who take care of it for free right now would have stopped doing so. someone would have to pay for all of these things to be done, which would ultimately mean even more money coming out of the capitalist class’s pockets.

When the world’s masses are armed and armed with Maoism, communism will be safe: A culture of cultural revolution

Some thoughts I thought others might find productive on the need for communists to build and live in a culture of cultural revolution:

the cultural revolution taught us something of impossible-to-underestimate importance about humanity, including about day-to-day life even in capitalist society. here’s a quote from Red Guards Austin’s position paper:

“We hold that the lessons of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution must be upheld at every moment and at all levels of struggle, and that all who can rightly call themselves communists lead principled revolutionary lives and always seek to combat bourgeois interpersonal relationships; that there is no clear demarcating line between cadres’ personal lives, their mass work, and their political work; that one does not clock out from being a Maoist and must embody Maoist principles at all times.”

and one from RGA’s polemic against the NCP-LC’s bad gender practice:

“We believe that the lessons of the Cultural Revolution are universal—that unless we are actively strengthening revolutionary ideology within ourselves and our organizations, then we are actively succumbing to the liberal, bourgeois mindset that confronts us from every direction, a mindset referred to as bourgeois inner self. There is only one way to strengthen proletarian communist principles in this way and defeat internal revisionism and liberalism: all-around, frequent, deep-going criticism/self-criticism combined with collective struggle.”

cultural revolution is not something that can be separated from any aspect or moment of life for those who wish to see a world without money or class division, whether before or after the conquest of state power.

here’s an anecdote: shortly after i had broken with Trotskyism but before i had become a committed Maoist, i once went to a party hosted by one of the student mass organizations of one of the most vile ML-revisionist organizations in the united states.

it was alcohol-soaked, and the loudest voices and the people who were dominating the social environment were loud chauvinist men playing beer pong, saying edgy things, strutting around and noticeably ignoring or patronizing the women and non-men.

it left me with a bad taste in my mouth, and it made a lot more sense later when i learned that that organization harbors abusers.

these folks agree *intellectually* with the necessity of communism, and abstractly with cultural revolution. their organization’s line is, “well, you know, the cultural revolution was nice for china in that place and at that time.”

but they fail to see that there are actually really, really deep lessons in the cultural revolution. we have to combat the capitalist, the liberal, the patriarchal, the white supremacist, the transphobic, the ableist (and so on) in our minds, our collectives, and our movement at all times.

the folks these revisionist organizations have not yet broken with a principle that you can see manifested in the difference between Stalin and Mao on many different levels and ways: it is captured very clearly, for instance, in the fact while Stalin declared that class struggle had ended in the USSR, Mao said that class struggle continued and in fact heightened during the period of socialist transition to communism. in short, they do not embrace the lessons of the cultural revolution with their *whole lives*, and in every part of their organizational practice.

we absolutely will need probably dozens of Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution-sized cultural revolutions until communism. there is an “economy of scale” when it comes to social action, and only with these society-wide upheavals can everyone be emboldened by everyone else to undertake tasks of reform and transformation that, in normal times, they could not muster the resources and social support for–nor could sufficient clarity on the nature of the emerging problems be reached until the masses’ full collective attention is turned on them.

but we also will not even get to that point, we won’t even successfully unite the masses to conquer state power, unless we build a **culture of cultural revolution** that pervades everything we do, and which is organically embodied in living idioms, customs, manners, morals, rituals, and other cultural processes/patterns/practices that pervade all of society, one that will only deepen after the conquest of state power.

such a culture is the opposite of our current culture–criticism will be offered freely and constructively and will not draw arbitrary lines between private and public; it will be a good thing to criticize leadership; it will be a good thing to question received practices to ask whether they serve the people. Maoism can and must become embodied in a living culture that is not the property of some specialized group but is wielded by the masses on their own behalf.

we were in a study group for “State and Revolution” here in Austin relatively recently, and after someone pointed it out, we all agreed that none of us really accepted Lenin’s suggestion that the proletarian state would “wither away,” without struggle, on its own. we realized that it would indeed vanish, but that this would require countless intentional actions of the masses.

as Mao says, “As for the reactionaries in China, it is up to us to organize the people to overthrow them. Everything reactionary is the same; if you do not hit it, it will not fall. This is also like sweeping the floor; as a rule, where the broom does not reach, the dust will not vanish of itself.”

this truth also applies to the continuously-emerging reactionary aspects of the party. the party and all institutions must be hit over and over, and frequently, by the people, on every level and in every moment, so that everything reactionary falls out of them, until the state itself, along with all vestiges of reactionary culture, disappears. one totally necessary aspect of ensuring that this happens as needed is to ensure that all the masses are armed with a culture of cultural revolution.

On identity-reductionism vs. experience-inclusive revolutionary theory

against-id-reductionism

the political guideline of “no matter what, it is unacceptable to disagree with someone about x political matter if they have y identity/lived experience” is not a liberatory set of politics.

there’s a distinction that should be made here:

there’s the very real fact that of course we should be open to hearing people’s lived experiences. people who try to insist that they know everything about how things were for a Cuban expat’s family in Cuba are out of line. it’s important to not deny *this particular set of facts*, the narrative of *their own lives*.

but it’s also incorrect for a Cuban expat to be able to show up and have people have no choice but to take their word on Castro.

for instance, there are some Palestinians who collaborate with the Israeli government, in the Palestinian Authority. if we were to talk with them, they might say, “listen, yes there are problems but fundamentally, Israel does not need to go–it is fine if Israel continues to exist.” there are some black women, such as Condoleezza Rice, who will tell us, “yes, the u.s. has problems with race relations, but the united states is a force for good in the world and is overall working to solve white supremacy.” neither of these statements is a personal narrative or the telling of a lived experience. they are overall political interpretations–and specifically, they are the oppressor’s perspective.

truth, if we know that a person who faces oppression is offering the oppressor’s perspective on a political question, then it is betrayal to the rest of the people who face that oppression to not disagree with that perspective. if Barack Obama, who is a war criminal, tries to show up to talk somewhere, yeah you’d better believe i want to see him interrupted–even if the subject he is slated to talk about is white supremacy–because i know for a fact he is a committed agent of the empire and he’s going to give the empire’s perspective on it, which should be denied a platform.

“Cuba si, Castro no,” for instance, is the empire’s perspective. it means “the revolution was bad, should never have happened, and needs to get overthrown by the united states.” this is an imperialist perspective that, if successfully acted on, would plunge the Cuban people into much deeper poverty and oppression. if i recognize the necessity of communism, then i would be treasonous to the broad masses of humanity to let an anti-revolution expat’s perspective rule the day. such a person’s Cuban descent does not make them automatically right, and my not being Cuban does not make me automatically wrong on this question.

we must fight white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism-imperialism tooth and nail.

but it must be said that these struggles have been going on long enough that at this point we can be scientific about it. the mechanics of the struggle have been understood and passed down. for most of their struggle, MLK and Malcolm X tried to fight white supremacy without fighting capitalism-imperialism but then they started to really have deeper success when they recognized that mistake and began to fight capitalism-imperialism as well. incidentally, that’s also when the u.s. government got truly terrified of them and began to try to kill them.

we have learned that if a person claims to want to fight white supremacy but isn’t on board with fighting capitalism-imperialism, they are going to come to some incorrect conclusions. even a white person will be correct if they learn and understand these lessons that have been handed down.

and if that white person knows them, it is important for them to try to convince anyone and everyone of them, unless the person listening shows themselves diehard committed to the perspective of the oppressor. if i’m in a conversation and a black, brown, or indigenous person says, “i’m pretty sure we can solve police brutality by working with the cops,” in fact, if i can, i have a duty to express the viewpoint to anyone listening that in fact the police are the enemy of the people, and always have been, and try to explain how we know this, both from what we know about the inner logic of capitalism-imperialism and from the lessons learned in the experience of past struggles.

there is definitely 100% such a thing as *tact* in here–tact is real and important. i should be kind, if i can. i should not assume someone is intentionally serving the oppressor, but rather is still simply speaking from the default perspective, which is the oppressor’s perspective. but i should also not mince words–it is okay to say “collaborating with the police cannot ever solve this problem, and here’s why…”

how do i know it has never worked? yeah, i read books about it. yeah, i never met Malcolm X in person. that’s okay, i read what he wrote, i’ve studied the things he’s studied. Malcolm X didn’t become certain that police collaboration would never ever work because he somehow had millions of years of lived experiences that made him personally sure–he read history and about how the system works. i came to almost all the same conclusions he came to, using the same methods he used. we don’t have a better way of figuring it out than that: studying the question scientifically.

studying history and listening to what the most successful revolutionaries and revolutionary movements said is the *best* way, for *anyone*, to figure out what’s correct. we should always be struggling to deepen and nuance our understanding and letting it be modified and complex-ified by what we hear from personal accounts–but those personal accounts don’t falsify the perspective formulated by the self-conscious revolutionary struggle of millions, or hundreds of millions, of people.

one should also be wary of one’s own *prejudice*. people who don’t face a given oppression are going to face a psychological pressure and have *some* tendency from their upbringing and ongoing treatment by society to adopt the oppressor’s perspective, or a perspective that serves the oppressor. this is not the end-all, be-all, but it is a real effect. what it doesn’t mean is that all oppressed people (or people with a given lived experience) have the correct perspective, and all non-oppressed have the incorrect perspective.

in short, there is a difference between (a) a revolutionary politics that understands that lived experience is the raw material that helps us understand the complicated nature of the struggle to end all oppression *and then* strives to theorize these experiences of oppression and struggle against oppression into a universal framework that can be used by *all* people who are against oppression so they can collaborate and take down the system and (b) an identity-reductionist politics that says that lived experience trumps literally everything, even the synthesized revolutionary experience of millions and generations.

and i’m for (a), 100%, and for deploying (a) with tact and nuance. i am 100% against (b)–and in fact (b) is now consciously being wielded by the oppressor, by the likes of Hillary Clinton, to try to crush (a), and we should be aware of that and disagree with (b) whenever it emerges.

addendum:

it should be said that there are both progressive and harmful elements that are involved in bringing people to identity reductionism. for a while the left was (and a lot of it still is) very white chauvinist, cis-het chauvinist, male chauvinist, etc., so there was an honest reaction to withdraw to focus on specific oppressions and try to fight them on their own terms without addressing capitalism-imperialism. an under-focus on the lived experience of masses of people led to a desire to insist on the centrality of lived experience above all things. so to a large extent, historically, it is the left’s fault this tendency exists.

but while identity-reductionism’s emergence and growth probably played a useful role in having a come-to-jesus with the left about its chauvinism, it was never correct in itself either, and at this point, given how we see one of the most central people in u.s. imperialism (Clinton) wielding it to try to say she couldn’t possibly be part of the establishment because she’s a woman, well, it has to be demarcated against clearly.

and really, truth be told, the ideological underpinning of identity-reductionism, postmodernism (“nothing’s true, your truth is as good as mine”), received normalization in academia through the 70s and 80s even while experience-inclusive revolutionary theory continued to have no place in academia, and to this day postmodernism is still very normalized in academia even now–which is not as bad as it might seem because academia is so divorced from the working-class masses. but it’s still pretty bad because it does “catch” a lot of the discontented petty-bourgeois students who might otherwise turn to communism and become good organizers.