The Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People

What is Proletarian Feminism?

This is the first of a series of notes that will be relatively short, and by no means exhaustive, but are put forth as both a summation and intervention of the theoretical and practical context of gender liberation in general and proletarian feminist struggle in the particular, both within the context of the United States, and the global context – taking on the particularities of gender formation, as well the universal aspects of patriarchy.

Adavasi women with the Indian Maoists.

Adavasi women with the Indian Maoists.

Let us take opportunity in the annual remembrance on the International Working Women’s Day to raise a necessary definition in the ongoing development towards a Proletarian Feminist conception of gender liberation.

First, a necessary comment: while we do not mention trans women as separate subjects, when we say women in this article, we are including trans women as the issues we touch upon are common to all proletarian women, whether trans or cis, and while we recognize that cis women and trans women have differences, for example cis women and reproductive health choices, and trans women’s exclusion from women’s spaces or lack of access to hormones – we understand these differences as within the umbrella of women, as the subjects of oppression by patriarchy. We also recognize that the struggle against patriarchy is not solely a women’s issue, or a sexual or gender issue, and that gender is not a binary, nor is sex free of social and cultural construction. However, we will address this in subsequent notes and a series on Queer Maoism that has been almost two years in the making. Non-men, people who are neither women nor men, but still suffer patriarchal oppression, and thus for the purpose of this discussion are treated the same as women – both cis and trans – however, we want to keep the discussion centered on feminism as an expression of women’s politics whether cis or trans, not genderqueer struggle – which includes besides trans women and non-binary people, men, like trans men, whose experience of patriarchy is different from that of cis or trans women, and which has its own separate history from feminism, even if indeed proletarian feminism is queer struggle. This article has a narrower focus, but we feel these overlaps needed addressing for the sake of clarity and to make clear that we speak firmly for trans and genderqueer inclusion in feminism, and that trans women are women.

Proletarian feminism: more than just proletarian and feminist together

Proletarian feminism is the theoretical and practical development of the struggle against patriarchy from the perspective of the proletariat and revolutionary communist politics. Continue reading

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Classes and Class Struggle

Short Answer to a Question on Productive and Non-Productive Labor

Dock Workers
A comrade (A.M.) in an online forum asked:

Do transportation and retail labor add value to a commodity? If so, why?

My inclination is to say yes, but I can’t really explain why.

We need to understand that “productive” in terms of the abstracted model of Capital is not a moralistic or political proposition. It is a mathematical one. Productive labor is the one that according to the formulas in Capital, adds quantitatively to value. Retail is unproductive in these formulas because it doesn’t quantitatively add anything to the variables for value. It is beyond the scope of this short answer to go into a long discussion and exegesis of Capital (although the comments are open) but let’s try to briefly discuss assuming a reading of Capital.

The social relation to the commodity in retail work has no capacity to add value as understood in Capital. More so, it also speaks to the levels of alienation from production, something that is subjective and not easily expressed mathematically, but does affect the necessary description of value as a mathematical formula. Continue reading

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People's War

Thai Army tanks in formation during the 2006 coup. (Wikimedia Commons)

While researching news into the latest military coup in Thailand, we came upon this interesting statistical analysis from a bourgeois perspective on why Thailand has had so many coups. While the analysis predates this latest coup, it does apply in the general sense, and interestingly, it is not a Thailand-specific analysis, but one from the perspective of bourgeois universality, that is, the bourgeois view on the cause of military coups under conditions of global capitalism and bourgeois democracy.

The article is in the form of an interview with a statistician and he declares Thailand to be within the statistical model for coups on a number of things, notably poverty, and yet also being an outlier in terms of the sheer number of coups in its history.

In this article we see the limits of bourgeois thinking and perspective, and why the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist analysis of semifeudalism and semicolonialism is of much values to understand Thailand and its history of coups, and how the principle of universality of Protracted People’s War is reinforced by this example. Continue reading

Short Note on the Coup in Thailand: Universality of Protracted People’s War

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Classes and Class Struggle

Brief Note on the Dictatorship of the Proletariat and the USA’s Government Shutdown

8200027083_57086b1664_o_d[1]So once again the legislature of the United States of America (USA) has locked out the governmental functions they find non-essential as part of their own political plays. I will not go over the details of this, as it can be found in nearly every news source on the internet. I will however briefly address some of the issues this shutdown lays bare and how they relate to the perspective on the dictatorship of the proletariat:

  1. It shows the government and State as distinct – one is a way to organize society, the other is a way to control this organization.
  2. It shows that the government is expendable to the State in times of crisis, or if the political will of a section of the government is of that persuasion.
  3. This precarious existence of the government, is matched by a ruling class consensus on the need for stability of the State.
  4. It show the limits of reformist politics as a way to effect actual structural change – the seizing of government is in the final analysis irrelevant unless the State is also seized.
  5. The State is in the context of the USA is a bourgeois class dictatorship, which means no structural transformation is possible without seizing the State, and that the government is ultimately beholden to the State.

One of the fundamental confusions one sees in the commentary around this shutdown is that of the State and government. The two often overlap, but they are not the same – and this shutdown illustrates sharply their differences.

Simply put, almost all the functions of the government have been shutdown, and almost all the functions of the State remain functioning.

This shows – clearly – the dictatorship of the bourgeois class in action: all of those functions of government the bourgeois has elected to implement as part of their democratic consensus and as a response to the struggles of the people have been shutdown, but those functions that are fundamental for the continuance of the class dictatorship (and its property relations) continue to function pretty much as normal.

The best illustration of this phenomena is the bipartisan law passed to ensure that military personnel and military functions remain fully funded and that all salaries are paid. Another is the continuance of tax collection, entitlement payment, and other outlays not related to the functioning of government on the part of State. Even services that might be understood as being part of government – such as food inspections – remain in function, but these are actually part of the role the State plays as guarantor of the class peace: without such arbitration, the bourgeois order would collapse as it needs it as part of the capitalist property relations.

This difference has very concrete consequences for the pursuit of revolutionary politics. We posit, sharply, that one of the fundamental problems of the left and the proletarian class revolutionary movement is too much preoccupation with the matters of government, and not enough preoccupation with the matters of the State. This is not to say that government is without importance – to say so would be ridiculous – but it is to say the relationship that should be viewed as dialectical, with the the State as the primary dynamic force in the relationship.

We all need government, even under communism: government is the way infrastructure gets built and maintained, it is how disputes are resolved (generally) in socially constructive ways, it is how we process collectively the issues of health, education, safety, and security. Even the most technologically simple human societies have some form of government.  The State, on the other hand is no necessary in the final instance: it is an expression of class dictatorship, in which one class directs government to its own ends, and utilizes repression and a monopoly on violence to do so. Now, we are not anarchists – we do not believe the State can be overthrown in one day, but we are historical materialists, and thus understand that for the State to be eliminated, the proletariat must seize it and establish its own class dictatorship.

What this shutdown shows, very clearly, is the limits placed upon government in the democratic-bourgeois State, and thus the necessity of this overthrow of the bourgeois dictatorship and its replacement . In this case, a law that benefits one camp of the bourgeois (the medical insurance industry), causes the shutdown of all government functions. This law is not a progressive law, and while it might have a palliative effect on the severe lack of affordable health care in the USA, it is far from something any socialist could support. Yet this very capitalist, very neo-liberal, law cause such a stir in the halls of government that it leads to it being shutdown.

Now, imagine if instead of Obamacare were an actual reform of the health care system. Something still moderate, but structurally significant, like a single-payer system. What would have been the response then?

This is a clear illustration of the very real limits of reformism as posit by many forces in the left. Somehow, they seem to think, the issue is a lack of votes: yet here we have a shutdown over a law that was approved by a majority of congress. If such a mild transformation of little structural effect meets with such destructive and disruptive opposition, what would be the response to a real reform of structural consequence? Definitely at least as harsh, most probably much harsher – including the actual disruption of the State functions. And there are plenty of examples, including in the history of the USA itself, of this happening – so it is not idle, abstract speculation to say so. A classic example, however, is the Allende government in Chile, which was overthrown violently by the organs of the State, in spite of being the constitutionally defined government. Those who think this scenario is impossible in the USA, need to heed the historical lesson: the Allende government suffered several shutdowns as a prelude to its overthrown, and then faced a coup attempt that was put down by Pinochet himself! A government shutdown is nearly always a show of strength on the part of the most reactionary sections of the State against its less reactionary sections. Of course, in the USA, these contradictions are much less sharp – Obama is a neo-liberal, Allende was a socialist – but the structural analogy lies in the possibility of a socialist or even a progressive coming to governmental power in the USA. If a neo-liberal faces such fierce opposition, what would a socialist or a progressive face?

The government shutting down shows very clearly the precarious position that those political forces that claim that government, and not the State, are the primary means of social transformation. The precarious existence is precisely why we need revolutionary politics: revolution is the only way the State – not government – can be seized.  The only real government shutdown we can support and feel happy about is when we shutdown the bourgeois government and a people’s government emerges under the dictatorship of the proletariat.  This doesn’t mean, of course, that the path is this easy, that we should stop doing politics until then – but we also have a responsibility to talk about and expose the structure of capitalism and this crisis provides us with a perfect opportunity to do so.

This is of course a brief note, and the topic is indeed a complex one, but lets not make this complexity obscure what is indeed simple: the need for proletarian dictatorship, and the need for a people’s government as a path towards the full emancipation of humanity from class and the State.

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Political Work

Market Socialism is Anti-Communism

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Those who call themselves Marxist can be as diverse in thinking as the many thousands of Christian denominations in this World. Somewhere along these lines one is bound to come across the word “Market Socialism“. Market Socialists tend to believe that the Nordic Countries and Titoite Yugoslavia have “proved socialism worked”(whatever this means) and for some of them that post-Mao China still(!) serves as a healthy socialist society. How one defines “work” is an entirely  different matter but for argument’s sake let us suppose the person also calls themselves a Communist. That this person desires a classless and stateless society and see’s socialism as a transitional stage for this. In other words they are in agreement with a Dictatorship of the Proletariat. But what is this?

Etienne Balibar, in his work On the Dictatorship of the Proletariat poses that very question:
Continue reading

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Dialectics

Three Points on Dialectics

Dialectics must be approached as a difficult and yet both simple subject in covering. As Engels said in the Dialectics of Nature it is process that “any child can understand”,  but because of the dominant forces existence in today it is not something that people can grasp in dealing with the difficult nature of Marxist tomes. In a conversation with one of the writers of Maosoleum he described dialectics as a “lifelong struggle” that  “even Engels sometimes got it wrong, Marx less so. Dietzgen is the gold standard”. With this in mind what is dialectics and what makes it so hard?

The idea of dialectics spans at least 3,000 years to Taoism in China. But it is not limited to just China. The Ancient Greeks, Aztecs, Lakota and the Dogon people all had an understanding of dialectics as well. This form of philosophy became discarded for the most part due to the rise of Aristotelian Syllogism which Aristotle describes as such in this formula: “Classical reasoning assumes the principle of logical identity: A = A or A is not non-A”,  in layman terms it is a conclusion drawn from at least two premises. This mode of thinking is called formal logic.

Thomas Aquinas depicted in stained glass

The Roman Catholic philosopher Thomas Aquinas applied this formal logic to his “proof” of the existence of God in the Quinque Viae in which he puts forward five reasons that lead him to his conclusion. They are summarized as follows:

  1. Since everything that moves is moved by another nothing can move “by itself”, therefore there must exist an “Unmoved Mover”.
  2. The causes of the creation of the universe must have a “First Cause.”
  3. Since all things in the universe depend on other things for existence, there must exist at least one thing which is not dependent, therefore there must be a “Necessary Being”.
  4. Since all things can be compared and described in their degree of goodness there must exist something that is an “Absolutely Good Being”.
  5. The complex existence and process of nature implies that a “Great Designer” exists.

Syllogism has become the dominant way of thinking in the Western world being adopted and spread by the Roman Catholic Church in the medieval ages and down to this day. It is the manifestation of a rigid and dogmatic way of thinking not open to any change despite a changing world. It was not until the emergence of Immanuel Kant and G.W.F. Hegel who marked a return to dialectical thinking, albeit in an idealistic interpretation.  Later, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels would come to save dialectics from this idealism. This is not to say that formal logic is not dominant in the bourgeois mode of thinking, because it is. Capitalism as the “end of history” is the manifestation of this rejection of dialectical change.

We can cover three basic points of dialectics:

  1. There exists contradiction in all things.
  2. Quantitative change leads to qualitative change.
  3. The negation of the negation. Continue reading
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