REPLY TO S. MAZUR
This post is a reply to the following piece: https://struggle-sessions.com/2020/04/17/the-negation-of-proletarian-politics-notes-on-maoist-communist-groups-four-points-of-orientation/
In 1901, Rabocheye Dyelo put Lenin’s Iskra in a difficult position. By “brazen” accusations alleging Iskra’s absence of ties to the committees in Russia – disregarding a revolutionist’s duty to “carefully to conceal from the eyes of the world the relationships and contacts which he maintains” – Rabocheye Dyelo got “ahead” of Iskra.
How does one reply to charges that misrepresent the facts when the act of bringing to light the facts might infringe upon this duty? How does one “compete” among readers “not initiated in all Party affairs” when others are inclined to such misrepresentations? Lenin’s orientation is instructive. First, one must absolutely refuse to compete. Second, a “particle” of what has taken place – and “can be told as something of the past” – might be offered to unburden oneself of the obligation to the reader.
In this spirit, the MCG has now made publicly available bilateral correspondence exchanged in 2017 and 2018 with then representatives of the trend that now accuses it of “isolationism,” refusal to engage, “selfish-departmentalism,” “arrogance,” etc. https://maoistcommunistgroup.files.wordpress.com/2020/04/selected-correspondence-2017-8.pdf
Both exchanges of letters ended with a proposal for ideological discussion on the part of the MCG and a final silence from Mazur’s trend. In a style not unlike that of the Avakianites, the demand for ‘engagement,’ ‘exchange,’ ‘open debate,’ ’struggle,’ ‘science,’ and so on, must be understood to mean no more than an offer to accept a fixed set of shibboleths, grasped poorly by the trend’s own devotees.
Mazur remarks that there is no means to implement the four points of orientation, and further, that the MCG's work is confined to the New School [!]. It is true that the MCG doesn't spend its time trumpeting the ties between its mass work and the organization. But whether Mazur sees it or not, the MCG is implementing each of these four points at the present time, and beyond the New School, or any other school. Mazur’s inability to guess at what the MCG is up to using clues found on social media is unfortunate. But correctly handling the links between the proletarian organization and mass organizations is part of the ABCs of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. Only fools with something to ‘prove’ would make those links plain for all to see.
“I have sown dragon’s teeth and harvested fleas.” — Heine’s words, quoted by Marx, apply to the relation between Mao’s disciples in the Peru who sowed, and a particular contemporary cohort of their imitators who were harvested.
At the core of the issue: indifference to ideology and indifference to the concrete situation.
(I) Indifference to ideology, i.e., hostility to theory.
Mazur’s trend displays a fundamental indifference to ideological questions and the necessity of building the Party from ideology. Taking the place of ideological training, of course: ‘physical struggle,’ so-called “reconstitution” of the Party ‘in actions,’ demonstration in ‘concrete practice,’ ‘actions!’… all of the typical watchwords of the anti-Marxist pragmatism of the American national tradition. The request for “proof” of organizing, “proof” of “actual merits in the tempest of class struggle” – aside from again repeating the impudence of the Rabocheye Dyelo-ists – is premised on a philosophical error.
The correctness of the red line in the ICM is verified by -172 years- of proletarian revolutionary experience, above all the Russian and Chinese revolutions, and not principally the direct experience of one’s own group. Along these lines, less praise about the MCG’s mass work – an elementary condition for Communist knowledge and politics – and a little more interest in ideological questions raised by the 1917-1976 period would be preferable.
(II) Indifference to the concrete situation, i.e., vulgar revolutionism.
The article quotes a letter by Lenin (October 16, 1905) – written in the context of an insurrectionary situation! Mazur and company should revisit Lenin’s reply in “Where to Begin?” (May 1901) to the “assault tactics” advocated by Rabocheye Dyelo during the Spring Events of 1901. Lenin scolded the Mensheviks for meeting the demands of 1902 during the revolutionary situation of 1905, but he equally reproached those who advocated ‘pyrotechnics’ of the “Historic Turn”-type in a period that instead demanded preparation.
In their contempt for durable, programmatic foundations, Mazur & co. continue the legacy – not of Mao and the PCP – but above all Nadezhdin, who Lenin took to task for his ‘eve of the revolution’ perspective. Lenin counters this view, i.e., ‘it is too late to reason and prepare,’ by wondering why Nadezhdin wrote 132 pages on theory and tactics rather than 132,000 leaflets, each bearing the brief call: “hammer them!” [бей их!]
Hostility to theory always goes hand-in-hand with petty-bourgeois vulgar revolutionism.
When Mazur attacks the MCG for being “pompous” and having “literary talent” we are reminded of Nadezhdin attacking Lenin for “literary pretentiousness.” Lenin remarks: vulgar revolutionists always fail to see words are action too, applied to history in general, or those periods of history where no open political mass action takes place. Like Mazur, Nadezhdin warns that Lenin’s bookishness blinds him to signs that the revolutionary ‘storm’ was about to begin: to speak on the eve of the revolution of an organization that grows with the threads provided by an All-Russia newspaper amounts to armchair thinking and armchair work, according to Nadezhdin.
So what does Nadezhdin advocate? Excitative terror (it will isolate us, says Lenin); ‘more concrete’ things (Economism, says Lenin); an immediate insurrectionary storm (a paper storm, says Lenin).
Our own Nadezhdin (Mazur) tells us: our “first [!] task” is to “temper” the “Party” “in the flames of revolutionary violence.” Like Engels to Tkachev, we wonder why, then, Mazur & co. are spending their days writing blog posts – in the middle of a “revolutionary situation,” no less!
The concrete analysis of the concrete situation is the soul of Marxism. Concrete analyses demand a grasp of both Marxist principles and the real movement.
Lenin distinguished the tasks of 1897, 1902, and 1905. We are in our own 1897, and to pretend we are in a 1905 – like generals calling a war council before raising an army – is of no use. It should go without saying: the task today is not to issue action slogans and directives on making war, but to raise an army, through propaganda, agitation, and general organization.
Mazur accuses the MCG of ‘pessimism’ because they recognize that the masses are not spontaneously ready for revolution and their resistance struggles (which the MCG discusses throughout the piece) do not -in themselves- produce revolution. We should distinguish -pessimism- from -materialism-. There is reason for much revolutionary optimism in the unprecedented strike wave of the past month! The MCG makes this point emphatically in their piece. But we cannot breathlessly inflate this strike wave into a revolutionary situation. There has not been a complete break between the masses and the political superstructure (cf. Lenin, Revolution Teaches).
Unlike our ‘principally Maoist’ Nadezhdin, the original Nadezhdin concedes that Iskra was right to give a ‘sober’ picture of the state of revolutionary forces, but he also says that Iskra forgets that the masses are not ours, that they rise up independently and spontaneously. Lenin replies that -it is precisely because- the masses are not ours that we should not shout about the “assault” right now, “because the assault is an attack by a permanent army, and not the spontaneous explosion of the crowd.” Above all, Mazur & Co. are spontaneists.
Like our tactics in the immediate period, the question of the size and scope of action of the small groups of our time is a matter -of the current step-. The Party will not magically materialize on an all-US scale “in actions.” The absurd accusation that posting a brief document on “digital media” [sic] is equivalent to presenting a “plan” to “reach millions” says quite a lot about this trend’s idealism! The entire spirit of the MCG’s points of orientation is premised on the materialist recognition that Communists in the US today, of course, do not “reach millions.”
Pisarev wrote: “The rift between dreams and reality causes no harm if only the person dreaming believes seriously in his dream, if he attentively observes life, compares his observations with his castles in the air, and if, generally speaking, he works conscientiously for the achievement of his fantasies.”
In the spirit of militant materialism, we invite Mazur and comrades to join proletarian forces in attentively observing life, in comparing observations with aims – the only way to advance appropriate slogans and take up the tasks that this moment demands.