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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Guest, Study

The Materialist Conception of History « Neftali

The following is a draft piece on Historical Materialism and is part of a larger theoretical work outlining Marxist-Leninist-Maoist philosophy in the United States. It was compiled by Maosoleum Guest Writer Neftali, the author of “Notes on Mass Line, Communist Organization, and Revolution”  and On Marxist Philosophy. Views here are thus those of Neftali, and do not necessarily represent the entire views of the writers of Maosoleum. If you would like to have a dialogue with the author on this piece please address Neftali in the comments below.
– Stradacero

"Marx has opened up to scientific knowledge a new, third scientific continent, the continent of History, by an epistemological break whose first still uncertain strokes are inscribed in The German Ideology... Obviously this epistemological break is not an instantaneous event. It is even possible that one might, by recurrence and where some of its details are concerned, assign it a sort of premonition of a past. At any rate, this break becomes visible in its first signs, but these signs only inaugurate the beginning of an endless history. Like every break, this break is actually a sustained one within which complex reorganizations can be observed.  - Louis Althusser, Lenin and Philosophy

“Marx has opened up to scientific knowledge a new, third scientific continent, the continent of History, by an epistemological break whose first still uncertain strokes are inscribed in The German Ideology.- Louis Althusser, Lenin and Philosophy

 

“History is nothing but the succession of the separate generations, each of which exploits the materials, the capital funds, the productive forces handed down to it by all preceding generations, and thus, on the one hand, continues the traditional activity in completely changed circumstances and, on the other, modifies the old circumstances with a completely changed activity.”  Marx and Engels, The German Ideology

We have paradoxically put forward a Marxist philosophy but there is no philosophy in the classical sense at all. It is the wasteland of such conjured thought that proceeds neutrally, but in fact with all the blood of history upon it, to claim a universality. The Marxist standpoint denies such universality in its metaphysical taint that presents itself immediately from philosophical egoism and humanism. It drops this in order to approach the matter from the sweep of a scientific analysis, with only attention paid to its background to which it still taints such scientific postulations. Therefore all pretensions to look at the subject as an individual self-consciousness evaporates into nothingness, a failed project of the secular systems-makers to be buried alongside the whole of the lie of the bourgeois epoch.

Rather, the Marxists bring the science of the bourgeoisie to the realm of history itself, a science it of course revolutionizes (which will be discussed further). The legitimation of the bourgeois system rests upon the secular myth making of their period of Enlightenment in which the hordes of political theorists conceived of various variations of the social contract. Such a contract was thought to be the basis of civilization and civil society. The error of course of our professorial clerics (Rousseau, Hobbes, Locke, etc) laid in their matter of fact understanding of social-relations based in a rather erroneous extrapolation, abstractly, of their the current mode of production and selectively of course between the freemen of their country. That is they naturalized the emerging bourgeois social relations of capital rather than scientifically account for the development of history via its different modes of production. Such naturalization arrived in much of its own developed brand through the work of the bourgeois economists, Adam Smith being foundational and cemented in the classic modern liberalism of new philosophers such as John Rawls. [1] Continue reading

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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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People's War

Notes on the Universality of Protracted People’s War: Neither Assad nor NATO

I wanted my first post after an unexpected hiatus to be about the several drafts in store (On Queer Maoism, on Identity Politics, on Eclecticism and Dogmatism, on the BRICs/MISTs mass upsurges, etc), but as Helmuth von Moltke the Elder once quipped, no plan survives contact with the enemy. So here we go.

Much has been debated in the last few years around Syria’s civil war in the wider left, the socialist, and communist movements, including the various Marxist currents. Recently, however, there has been an upsurge of commentary and line struggle because of the recent declaration of open military support for the “Free Syria Army” (FSA) on the part of NATO and the USA. In particular, this has led to informal line struggles in my own circles both online and offline. Thus, a matter that is important but not urgent, has become one of urgency, specially because I identify certain confusions among Maoist forces, in particular an eclectic and sometimes opportunist tailing of revisionist and nationalist forces both in Syrian and out of Syria, but also an abandonment of the struggle to establish the central principle of Maoist Scientific Socialist struggle: the universality of Protracted People’s War.

Continue reading

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