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


[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, and ableist 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


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.


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.

How we can create a society without “power-seeking,” and how we can create a “morally good” society despite the fact that human beings can never act from 100% non-selfish motives


so it’s not an easy problem but it’s also not an intractable problem. and since there is no way forward but to overthrow capitalism and build a socialist country, we have no choice but to solve it. and we have indeed made great strides in solving it. let me go into it. i apologize for the length, but i hope you won’t be surprised that it’s not so simple as that it can be explained in a few sentences, when it is the at-last-discovered solution to an admittedly quite old problem.

i (and communists of my tendency, or “denomination”) say that the soviet union was genuinely ruled by the working people from 1921-1953. 1953 was the point of inflection where the capitalists who had sort of been brewing in the party gained the upper hand and swiftly kicked out all the genuine servants of the people and began using the party apparatus to once again run a profit-driven economy instead of a people-first economy aimed at eliminating the profit motive everywhere on earth.

the people’s republic of china was founded in 1949, so it had a 28 year lead time on the ussr. so very soon into the PRC’s existence, it began to see that capitalism was swiftly returning in the first worker’s state, the ussr, and it resolved to do something different. it became a general understanding that a new capitalist class is continually arising within the communist party. not *everyone* is getting turned into a capitalist-minded person, but at any given time, statistically, *some* people are.

so what was the solution? in 1966 the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution broke out–a “revolution within the revolution.” it started when students and workers and other common people–who realized that what was at stake was everything that had been fought for in a very long war–recognized the fact that some people in positions of authority were becoming capitalist-minded. so what did they do? a vigorous struggle broke out where all across the country, common people denounced these leaders who had become dedicated to growth instead of to people-power. they pulled them out of office and found new leaders among themselves. everywhere this phenomenon touched, it re-democratized the party.

unfortunately, it might be said that in certain ways it was too little, too late. by 1966, most of the positions of authority and power in the party and other major institutions had already become filled with these capitalist-minded, production/profit-first people. so even though the “medicine” was discovered in this process, it was too late to save “the patient”–that is, the genuinely people-power characteristic of the Chinese government. just as it had in the ussr, capitalism took full power in China in 1978.

but now, all over the world, the most advanced communist struggles (such as the ones in the Philippines and India, where there are revolutions underway as we speak) all have declared the necessity of this medicine–so they are using it *now*, even before they take power, undergoing periodic rectification campaigns to keep the party strictly full of servants of the people. and they insist it will be necessary indefinitely.

how does this capitalist-mindedness come about? well, there is a contradiction between the manager of a factory and the workers. they can cooperate, but sometimes their interests clash because the manager is more focused on increasing production than the workers, who are more focused on not having to work as hard as the manager might ask. if you have 100 managers in a socialist country, not all of them will become capitalist-minded, but *some* of them will. and they won’t all become capitalist-minded at the same rate.

but the more powerful the productive infrastructure is, the less everyone has to work, and the more various workers can swap through the manager role, and swap the manager back to being a worker, decreasing the rate of capitalist-ization. the more economy develops, the slower the rate of capitalist-ization. and the more of the world socialism takes over, the more powerful an economy global socialism has at its disposal. by the time it takes over the whole world, there will be very little need for such sharp contradictions between managers and workers.

the contradiction between managers and workers is analogous also to the contradiction between the party and the people the party governs. they have both overlapping and contradicting interests. but those contradictions soften and soften the more powerful the economy at socialism’s disposal becomes.

so there, then, we have the solution: slowly but surely the economy in a socialist country gets built, slowly but surely more countries have revolutions and the more socialist countries there are to share the burden of production. and all the while, although capitalist-ization is occurring, they are using the medicine of cultural revolution regularly to keep the society one where people-power, not profit, reigns.

cultural revolution includes centering and exalting the traits of being humble and adaptable and far-seeing. it is crucial for the leaders and managers of a socialist country to have this trait.

and in fact, we can’t build a revolution in the first place without guaranteeing that all the people trying to lead in that revolution are this same way–deeply and genuinely committed to serving the broad masses of humanity.

BUT–that does not involve universal and indiscriminate empathy. to love the oppressed and exploited masses is to hate their small but brutally violent and very powerful oppressor–the capitalists who run every existing country.


the answer to this puzzle is to recognize that the higher you go up Maslow’s pyramid of needs, the more it is the case that meeting your need cannot occur without serving others, or helping others meet *their* needs. in this way, we can see that it is in fact okay and *positive* to be “selfish” if one sees that one’s self is not separate from the broad masses of humanity–if one sees that one cannot truly flourish unless one is surrounded by flourishing people; if one sees that one cannot truly love oneself unless one has truly become a truly humble person who thinks more of others’ needs than of one’s own. this is the answer to that riddle–to see that in fact one is starving oneself of the deepest and best things in life if one thinks the only way to please oneself is with more superficial pleasures like drugs, tv, alcohol, and emotionless sex that are scarce in a way that opportunities to serve others never are.

people who can best come to this understanding have been raised in a society where their food, clothes, shelter, and medicine were never once in jeopardy or doubt–where they were guaranteed, so they have a deep sense of security down in the core of themselves. we will achieve this.

and we will also achieve a culture that universally promotes this understanding that to a very meaningful sense one IS humanity, one IS one’s community. so when i seek to fulfill my needs, i understand that i meet them best when i serve the people.

this is how to circle the square between self-interest and community interest. in truth, they can align almost perfectly. if there is free ice cream a mile away but i see you walk up to me with an ice cream cone, sure, i might have the immediate urge to steal your ice cream. but how incredibly fleeting and ridiculous this urge would be when i know both that free ice cream is a short walk away, and that far more deeply gratifying to me is a good relationship with you and to treasure your happiness. such “narrowly” selfish acts will become incredibly rare in a world where scarcity barely exists and a culture of the-self-is-expansive wisdom has been able to take root.

Some incomplete thoughts on addiction and communism

One of the very first wrenches that got between the seams and stopped the reproduction of me as a good loyal adherent to bourgeois ideology was reading the works of David Foster Wallace (DFW). His magnum opus, Infinite Jest (IJ), is a very entertainingly written book that aims to show how heartbreakingly pervasive it is for people to seek to numb themselves to pain with things that are diverting, or entertaining, or fun in a way that is overall harmful for them. It aims to lure people in by their desire for dazzlement in order to then help them break with their addiction to dazzlement. It is a book that is about addictions of many different sorts, to drugs of various kinds as well as to other sorts of thrills that don’t involve consuming substances.

It was one of the first things that really helped concretize for me something that I had always felt, which is the small horror to me of how most middle-class people choose to live their lives. Middle-class people find it easy to denounce the use of “hard drugs” and notice how the use of “hard drugs,” while (by necessity) gratifying to some small sub-part of the mind and the set of human motivations, is extremely destructive to the well-being of all other parts of the mind and to the satisfaction of all other motivations. middle-class people see this and sort of boggle that anyone could allow themselves to fall within the captivity of such a pattern.

But they don’t see how incredibly often their use of media, their pattern of dazzling themselves, is very much an addiction. When DFW was writing IJ, television was still the main form of entertainment. People in the u.s. were still watching an average of 6 hours of TV a day. The point of IJ is to show that in fact most of its readers had come to the book seeking the dazzlement and distraction *in the same sort of disordered way* that it was criticizing and to help them come to terms with that and see that it was not different. in fact, it should be said that the mind is so powerful that it needs no book or entertainment to do this. the thrilling stories one tells oneself about oneself–that is, what is called the ego–that one is morally very good and admirable, or that one is shockingly despicable, even attention to these is the basis for such an addiction in almost everyone.

i could be mistaken, but i think it might be said that something fundamental to all addiction is a pattern that gets set up where the well-being of the whole is subjugated to the well-being of some sub-part–maybe, where the strategy for treating the pain of some sub-part deepens the roots of overall pain.

Reading IJ a couple of times, especially in conjunction with Dante (and also listening to Kimya Dawson’s immensely sad song “The Beer,” which for me is about the raw, freight-train-like self-destructive energy some people pour [or have poured] into the pursuit of addiction because they know they are betraying/destroying themselves and can’t stop it and hate themselves for it and deepen their use of the addictive thing precisely out of self-hate), was part of what helped me break down and cry and decide to seek to live in a way where i would never again allow some parts of myself to be held down relentlessly by other parts. Certain parts of my soul had been screaming in pain for decades and I could no longer bear to allow them to be ignored.

There is a reason that the etymology of the word “health” is “hale,” or “whole.” To me this says that health is where there is no part of the mind or body that is not tended to, and whose needs are not included in the central, rational plan for upkeep to keep all parts working in achieving an ever-greater harmony. As Mao says, “Dust will accumulate if a room is not cleaned regularly, our faces will get dirty if they are not washed regularly. Our comrades’ minds and our Party’s work may also collect dust, and also need sweeping and washing.” Any part left unincluded will begin to cause problems for all other parts.

There is a way of pursuing this on through to what i sometimes call “spirituality”–which seeks to take this lesson about health/wholeth seriously and help people transform themselves and adopt practices to leave no voice within the body or mind unknown and un-attended-to by the other parts. I think this is good and progressive for people to engage with.

But if one is really being materialist, one can also not ignore the place of society in shaping and influencing the individual. i came to see that if i was to truly seek my own whole well-being, i HAD to realize that (a) there were reasons why i was in such pain, and (b) it was not just my own doing–society was tantalizing and presenting me with so many destructive addictions, substances as well as gratifying power-trips and defense mechanisms such as objectifying/patriarchal sexuality, narcissism, and insincere glibness. i had to recognize that virtually everyone else in the world was also in pain and also being twisted by such addictions, and so if i was to seek to cure myself, i had to seek to align my own well-being with the well-being of the broad masses of humanity and the future of humanity, which i soon after discovered is bound up in seeking to ensure the victory of the global working class and its allies over global capitalism in order to create a communist world, a world where all concentrations of power and leadership were accountable, where literally no voice was left out, and an ever deeper and wiser harmony was collectively sought among all the constituent parts of humanity, (a) because such a harmony benefits all the individuals within it, but even more deeply (b) because only by centering one’s life around such a motivation can one truly like oneself and find oneself acceptable through and through.

I started writing this because there are so many people from middle-class backgrounds whom i love who are still caught up in making something other than the well-being of the broad masses and the future of humanity the center of their lives–hobbies of all kinds, literature, music, the craft of various arts. i know they are seeking to be hale, and i think that it is impossible–because they are not actually doing work that is fully and unadulteratedly in service to the future of humanity–that they do actually feel hale, whole. i feel quietly but persistently sad and desperate watching them pursue all these things. i know that their talents and their motivations can be folded into the one and only project that can serve the broad masses of humanity and the future of humanity and really of the biodiversity and harmony of all life on earth. we are in a desperate time in history. i wish sincerely for all such people to follow that root to its very utmost conclusion. i want to know and love them as comrades, and i want them to be able to love themselves as the true caretakers of themselves and the true servants of humanity that i sincerely believe only communists can be.

* * *

EDIT: i feel like there is more that can be said. it is not simply accepting the necessity of communism that allows people to overcome these things. people need support and camaraderie to transform themselves and become more healthy. i don’t have all the answers by any means, but i know that there is no more solid foundation on earth for camaraderie than the communist movement–it gives us strength and solidity.

i suspect that some people’s reaction might be that having comrades and being involved in the communist struggle sounds like it might indeed provide the meaning and support to transform themselves, but they think to themselves that do not possibly have the strength to put together such a thing by themselves. i can tell you in confidence that you will not have to. i think that in general if you take one step toward serving the people by beginning organizing that is fully communist, persistently offering that pursuit whatever you can sustainably offer, the masses will take two steps toward you. whatever at all you can currently start to put on offer in building something that is all-the-way communist, i believe you will see that energy reciprocated. i believe taking whatever-sized first step you can is all that is necessary to begin this process, and that as more support comes in, you yourself will benefit from that support and come to be able to offer more, in a feedback loop that brings more comrades and helps those comrades support each other in transforming themselves.

if you want to know how to begin this process, here are two things i wrote on that subject, for whatever they may be worth:

On the intermixture of embarrassment and anger I feel in looking back on my having bought into liberalism for so long

There is such a strange mixture of embarrassment and anger for me.

Like I definitely did eagerly buy into such a comforting view of the world: since violence breeds violence, anyone who fought oppression violently was a brute and a fool, and pursuing my own success “creating beauty” was the best I could do for the world. That is embarrassing because it is a very juvenile, self-serving view of the world, and I bought into it hard.

But I am also angry at the establishment, because

(a) the liberal worldview was the only one that it offered me, so if I was going to doubt it, I would have had to doubt it without any salient evidence to contradict it, which is not impossible but it was very unlikely–I did not simply make a fool out of myself, I was helped to it because I was deeply, thoroughly, ingeniously lied to;

(b) that way of viewing the world is fundamentally degrading to whoever accepts it. If I think humanity is unable to overcome the bitter situation prevailing on the planet due to some inner psychological trait of human beings, then I inevitably think that I, too, am flawed and gross. It is spiritually rot-inducing to accept this worldview, even for those whom it provides superficial comforts.

Six ways you have to contextualize the socialist countries of the 20th century if you want to really understand

Without overlooking the fact that there were without a doubt some very severe errors (which I believe have been learned from), I nonetheless think that the great majority of what are called the “crimes” or “disasters” usually blamed on the governments of the socialist countries of the 20th century are:

– misunderstandings of the natural context (e.g., famines caused by droughts that would have occurred no matter which government was in power),

– misunderstandings of the economic context (e.g., the fact that these countries began extremely poor and had long been the sites of a deep and broad deprivation that it is unrealistic to expect to end suddenly),

– misunderstandings of the historical context (wars were fought for the working class to take control of these countries, which destroyed much of the infrastructure and killed a huge proportion of the country’s working people),

– misunderstandings of the political context (every revolution, including, for example, the French Revolution, invariably requires repression of a large section of society that is suddenly dispossessed of its privilege and angry about it; expecting unending repression from socialism based on what we see in the first few years after each successful socialist revolution would be like seeing the repression of the old classes during the French Revolution and concluding that all of capitalism would include such heavy and overt repression forever) (also see the post “Understanding ‘refugees from socialism’ in the context of disgruntled Confederates in the u.s. civil war”), and/or

– straight-up misrepresentations or even fabrications offered to us by a public school system, a mainstream media, an academia, and a government that are all in the final instance controlled by a group of people—the capitalist class—who have every incentive to tell any lies they can get away with about the movement to achieve communism, because that movement is 100% antithetical to their interests. What’s more, these ruling institutions have been the dominant factor influencing Western culture and historical understanding for so long that the people themselves have become a re-transmitter of these ideas.

On top of that, we must reject the entire philosophy that is standard in capitalist countries for talking about the socialist countries. That philosophy for viewing historical periods says that our main mission is to tell a story to sum up the virtue and vice, pain vs. pleasure, in these times and places as self-contained periods of moral history.

This misses the whole point of why these revolutions occurred in the first place: they were the first steps on the path toward an entirely new epoch in human society–the epoch of communism. Our primary motivation for evaluating those periods is to learn what they can teach us about pushing forward the communist struggle.

We are scientists. The Wright brothers had two failures before they achieved sustained flight.

When we study these revolutions, we study them not to give them a score on the morality scale, 1 to 100, but instead to learn from them in order to try to achieve flight and then achieve sustained flight–successfully taking off from a country that is still divided by class and national oppression and flying steadily in the direction of an entirely communist planet.

A great quote from Lenin in 1918 on that final point:

“All that we knew, all that the best experts on capitalist society, the greatest minds who foresaw its development, exactly indicated to us was that transformation was historically inevitable and must proceed along a certain main line, that private ownership of the means of production was doomed by history, that it would burst, that the exploiters would inevitably be expropriated. This was established with scientific precision, and we knew this when we grasped the banner of socialism, when we declared ourselves socialists, when we founded socialist parties, when we transformed society. We knew this when we took power for the purpose of proceeding with socialist reorganisation; but we could not know the forms of transformation, or the rate of development of the concrete reorganisation. Collective experience, the experience of millions can alone give us decisive guidance in this respect, precisely because, for our task, for the task of building socialism, the experience of the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of those upper sections which have made history up to now in feudal society and in capitalist society is insufficient. We cannot proceed in this way precisely because we rely on joint experience, on the experience of millions of working people.”

Here also is something a comrade of mine wrote that is really excellent on contextualizing the fact that the more successful a revolution is, the more “horrors” we hear about it. They were specifically writing about the people’s war in Peru, waged by the Communist Party of Peru (the so-called “Shining Path”):

“The PCP [was one of the most powerful political parties] in Peru at the time. How do alleged ‘terrorist death cults’ go about doing that? How could the PCP lead major strikes in the industrial sector if they went around terrorizing workers? How could the PCP liberate around 40% of the Peruvian countryside if all they did was massacre peasants? This is a question which I rarely get an answer to from anti-Maoists — were those who sided with the PCP just too stupid and ‘brainwashed’ to make an educated decision?

Red terror is part of every revolution in history. Further terror (aimed at enemies and their supporters), in one form or another, is a feature of all warfare.

So to simply start to use the familiar U.S. media/political language that loosely demonizes ‘terror’ is to obscure important distinctions (between just and unjust wars) precisely parallel to the ways these things are obscured in the mainstream media.

The ‘Shining Path’ is accused of ‘terror.’ But when the U.S. rattles nukes at North Korea (‘nothing is off the table’) that is portrayed as a justified and measured response (even if it literally involves terrorizing 25 million people by threatening their possible incineration).

Most of the loose talk demonizing the supposed ‘terror’ in great popular uprisings (including such diverse events as PCP’s guerrilla war, or the Russian revolution, or the 1992 Los Angeles rebellion, or the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution) boils down to this:

‘The emperor can burn down villages, but the people are forbidden to light a candle.’

War operates on laws of its own. And those laws apply with great force of necessity on any political force that shifts to a war footing (from a previous period of political base building and preparation).

Once an actual armed struggle for power erupts it is necessary to actually break (disrupt, disperse, isolate and decimate) the organized networks of the other side. Otherwise victory is impossible.

In rural guerrilla warfare, where the villages are often controlled by the armed forces by day and the guerrillas by night — there is an acute need to disrupt government networks of intelligence gathering (because the army can relatively easily round up those they identify for death squad torture and murder). It is common for guerrilla forces (throughout history) to execute informants and also (in some case) also those in the villages who agree to openly serve the government (as official village chiefs, or as counterinsurgency ‘village defense’ forces, or other forms of open collaboration).

This was the case during the Vietnamese liberation struggle, during the anti-Nazi resistance in the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, and in China’s protracted revolutionary war — and it was the case in Peru.

And terror has another function: the punishment of notorious oppressors of the people (for example landlords who raped women, or sold children into slavery) is a political sign that the world has changed. That power has shifted in historic ways. Unless there is visible, measured and focused punishment of notorious oppressors, the long brutalized people will not feel empowered to speak and act. And the arrogant forces of the old society will think they just need to wait things out. When a revolution sweeps through any feudal area in the world (think of a revolution sweeping through Klan-dominated Mississippi of 1930) there are brutal, well-known oppressors whose punishment any liberating force would put high on its agenda. In Nepal, the creation of ‘peoples courts’ was one of the first signs of embryonic new power. And such courts both carry out the focused punishment of notorious reactionaries (who generally flee to avoid that punishment) and carry out resolution of problems among the people on a radical new cultural and legal basis.

Reactionary observers call such things ‘terrorism’ — and they equate it with the anti-people actions of reactionaries like Daesh. (I.e. they equate revolutionary movements of the people with ugly reactionary movements seeking to reinforce old oppressions.)

And if there are errors made by the new revolutionary justice, the reactionary observers portray (and distort) those errors as typical and fundamental. Is any of this a surprise? it is very typical and well known. right?

And the need for revolutionary justice of these kinds has to do with the nature of revolutionary guerrilla war. If anyone wants to argue against such terror — at the village level — they are really arguing against the very notion of armed revolutionary warfare.

In Peru all this was complicated by the fact that significant sections of the ‘left’ (i.e. the reformist electoral left parties) supported the military in the war — and their networks were sometimes exploited by the government as informant networks.

Some of the first ronderos were organized by liberation theology priests (who also had a history of pro-military connections going back to the 1970s military dictatorship). Ronderos were armed pro-government ‘village defense forces’ assigned to kill PCP organizers and sympathizers — they were often gangs of village bullies armed and trained by the government who carried out their own reign of terror over the people (and were backed up when needed by regular army forces).

And so the identification and punishment of informants and ronderos got reported (internationally) as ‘Shining Path guerrillas execute indigenous villagers and rival leftists.’

That narrative was often just a crude lie, and almost always a crude distortion. In trade union and social democratic leftists circles, it was said ‘Shining Path simply kills trade unionists.’ In liberal catholic circles it was said ‘The Shining Path kills priests and nuns.’ (And little was said, interestingly enough, of the Catholic left forces who joined the PCP at key moments.) And in the organized left it was said ‘The Shining Path killed other leftist forces in a murderous sectarianism.’ And so on.”

Another good post from this blog on a similar subject is “Why I think the people were genuinely in power in the socialist countries of the twentieth century, and why these examples reveal the route forward for humanity”


Some thoughts on the all-pervading anticommunist propaganda in middle-class society, and on how our souls offer contradictory evidence to it

i think the only thing liberalism contradicts with in their minds is what they know about humanity deep down, in their heart of hearts.

everything else, well, the capitalist ideological control system is all-pervading. like, they have the news media, they have the public schools and universities, they have the independent researchers, they have the government mouthpieces, they have the major book market. they even have their pet leftists like Chomsky, Zinn, Richard Wolff, and Orwell who are there as a safety valve in case people break through one layer of ideology to tell them, okay, yeah, capitalism has to go but only these useless and ineffectual methods are productive ways of going about it. and not only that, but because they’ve had THOSE things for so long, the public themselves are now soaked with anti-communist ideas and are themselves a re-transmitter of those ideas.

they also see liberalism proved in practice in their own lives–they encounter police officers mostly as friendly, helpful people who are only a source of friction when they themselves have engaged in antisocial behavior (like speeding). they basically never encounter situations that couldn’t be better resolved with conversation than with violence. they see that the people who work hard tend to get scholarships and good jobs, and the people who don’t, don’t. the meritocracy looks real to them.

so someone growing up in all that has basically every single source of truth telling them that communism was like this heartless, overly brainy attempt that created hell on earth.

every source of truth, that is, except what their souls tell them, which is a very quiet but persistent feeling that there’s no fucking way this is as good as we can do.

by their souls, i mean their deep, intuitive sense of what human beings are like, garnered from such evidence as:

– listening to the quiet voice within, of all the gentleness and love within them that is denied and ridiculed in this heartless world
– learning tales of what people who love each other are willing to sacrifice for each other
– seeing how when people have plenty and trust each other they share enthusiastically
– seeing how people are kinder the higher up their Maslow-needs are met.
– seeing how adaptable and creative children are

prevailing ideology tells people to internalize the problem that voice is pointing out and believe that there’s just something rotten at the core of our souls. but even that doesn’t sit well.

“Something is wrong with this world, you’ve known it all your life, you don’t know what it is. It’s like a splinter in your mind … driving you mad.”

A note on liberalism after getting shoved by a liberal because I was being verbally “violent”

At a rally to deny a platform to fascists earlier, a liberal got in my face and was pushing on me because I (repeatedly) told a fascist to follow his leader and shoot himself like Adolf Hitler.

At the time I didn’t think anything of him shoving me–that’s just how liberals are–but in retrospect, isn’t it fucking wild? They’re so insistent on keeping the protest even *verbally* “peaceful” that they’re gonna put hands on someone to keep it that way.

This is the purest expression of liberalism imaginable. Such absurd, unbridled arrogance. This is what it looks like to be cradled and pampered by capitalism’s ideological control system for one’s entire life. To be so utterly devoted to avoiding violent disruptions (to their comfort) that they don’t even see how their principles mayyybe should preclude putting hands on someone. They don’t, of course, because their first, baseline principle is that not everyone is as pure as them–they are the ones who Know Better. It’s really no different from how liberalism justifies the united states bombing six countries right now–we’re not *at war*–it’s just they’re breaking our peace rules!

The most charitable sentiment I can muster right now toward this individual expression of liberalism is that it’s pathetic. Jon Stewartism (now Trevor Noahism) is as far outside the mainstream as Ayn Randism–which is to say, not at all.

As if each of us didn’t get like twenty lessons on Gandhi and MLK over the course of public schooling. Damn, such a radical new philosophy, “violence breeds violence.” I bet you came up with that all by yourself, didn’t you?