Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ted Grant and The Chinese Revolution

I was asked to have a discussion on this blog, about the differences between Maoism and Trotskyism, or the difference between the Maoist concept of mass line as opposed to the Trotskyist transitional program. The Maoist method is synthecizing opinion into an action program. The transitional program is raising demands that bridge reform demands with revolution demands. An example is the slogan Peace, Land and Bread during the 1917 Russian Revolution. Peace meaning end Russia's involvement in WWI, Land meaning land to the peasants, and Bread meaning better worker's lives. transitional demands challenge capitalism. That doesn't mean reform demands are ignored.

This is an excerpt from the writings of Trotskyist Ted Grant. What is remarkable, is that it was written before the victory of the Chinese Revolution.

Two Sides of the Coin

While supporting the destruction of feudalism in China, it must be emphasised that only a horrible caricature of the Marxist conception of the revolution will result because of the leadership of the Stalinists. Not a real democracy, but a totalitarian regime as brutal as that of Chiang Kai Shek will develop. Like the regimes in Eastern Europe, Mao will look to Russia as his model. Undoubtedly, tremendous economic progress will be achieved. But the masses, both workers and peasants, will find themselves enslaved by the bureaucracy.

The Stalinists are incorporating into their regime ex-feudal militarists, capitalist elements, and the bureaucratic officialdom in the towns who will occupy positions of privilege and power.

On the basis of such a backward economy, a large scale differentiation among the peasants (as after the Russian revolution during the period of the N.E.P.) aided by the failure to nationalise the land: the capitalist elements in trade, and even in light industry, might provide a base for capitalist counter-revolution. It must be borne in mind that in China the proletariat is weaker in relation to the peasantry than was the case in Russia during the N.E.P. owing to the more backward development of China. Even in Czechoslovakia and other Eastern European countries similarly, where the capitalist elements were relatively weaker, nevertheless the danger of a capitalist overturn existed for a time. The fact that the workers and peasants will not have any democratic control and that the totalitarian tyranny will have superimposed upon it the Asiatic barbarism and cruelties of the old regime, gives rise to this possibility. However, it seems likely that the capitalist elements will be defeated because of the historical tendency of the decay of capitalism on a world scale. The impotence of world imperialism is shown by the fact that whereas they intervened directly against the Chinese revolution in 1925-7, today they look on helplessly at the collapse of the Chiang regime.

However, it is quite likely that Stalin will have a new Tito on his hands. The shrewder capitalist commentators are already speculating on this although they derive cold comfort from it. Mao will have a powerful base in China with its 450-500 million population and its potential resources, and the undoubted mass support his regime will possess in the early stages. The conflicts which will thus open out should be further means of assisting the world working class to understand the real nature of Stalinism.

Read The Whole Article



Anonymous said...

Wow. No wonder Marcuse and the New Left succeeded where the Old Left failed. To the Marcusians, a "backward economy" was a distinct ADVANTAGE.

Madam Miaow said...

Dear Renegade,

The link to the whole article isn't working. Could you please fix it? Cheers.

The Sentinel said...

I am not convinced by the theory that there are really different flavours of Marxism / communism / socialism; I think by and large it is just a cop out to excuse the mass murderous past of pretty much every previous socialist incarnation.

(Its kind of like various Christian denominations, ultimately all worshipping the same God via the same premise and core text. There was only one Marx, there is only one real Marxism.)

But mainstream ‘Modern’ socialists purport to believe that socialism can only truly work when implemented globally and use that premise to distance themselves from Stalin and his ’socialism in one country’ polices.
That ideology opens itself up to many questions; for instance, how will global socialism be achieved politically? By election? Extremely unlikely, even more so given the rabid displays of contempt for democracy shown to parties that do not agree with / oppose left-wing socialism.

Even if global socialism was somehow achieved, how would it be maintained and enforced? What would happen to dissenters, as this ideology is dependent on all encompassing approach?

And if only a select few countries had governments ideologically geared to ‘global socialism’ but unable to practice it, what would they do in the interim? Would they form a one state socialist system anyway? And could people opt out of the all pervading policies?

We only have to look to the (not too distant) past to find answers to these questions.

The end result has been 110,000,000 people murdered so far in the name of socialism- of all flavours.

That is my real problem with full scale socialism.

Frank Partisan said...

Madam Miaow: I have it fixed. Thanx for the heads up.

FJ: Marcuse has been discredited for decades. His ideas are based on the relatively stable economy of the 1950-1960s.

Sentinel: Obviously Trotskyism wasn't invented, to excuse the excesses of Stalinism.

You don't know much about Stalinism. It represents counterrevolution. While Marxism is internationalist, Stalinism is national. Never did Marx or Lenin, believe the working class should subordinate itself to another class.

Even your Christianity analogy fails. Even some Unitarian/Universalist churches, orient to Christianity. Christianity is not a monolith, as obviously Christians aren't.

Guess what? We live in a world capitalist system. All of the world's economies are intertwined. Never before has that been clearer.

The difference between socialism and communism, is the transition period. Not all capitalism can be erased at once. It's not even desirable.

I don't think much about hypothetical questions. There has never been any revolution, where some forces were not repressed. There is always a minority that don't give up. For the most part revolution itself is relatively peaceful. The stronger the revolution, the less violent.

The Black Book of Communism is nonsense. Do they count Nazis killed Russians?

The Sentinel said...

Well, the first problem with 'Trotskyism' is that it is a misnomer - it should really be called 'bronsteinism' and the second, real problem is that it has no roots in democracy.

I'm not sure how you can realistically gauge my level of knowledge on Stalin based on just four words, but Stalin was subordinate to Lenin for some time and served under his regime, which most socialists believe to be a potential golden age and so Stalin was a party to that time, but Stalin is just a prime example of why totalitarian dictatorships of any flavour do not work: Human failings. I would agree that Stalin did not operate under the purest strain of Marxism, but he was a paranoid egocentric tyrant- just like so many who actively seek out power.

And Lenin was far from free of this taint; indeed it was Lenin who created the first Soviet Secret police terror organisation, the Cheka and by 1921 just one branch of these organisation (Troops for the Internal Defense of the Republic) numbered 200,000 - "These troops policed labor camps, ran the Gulag system, conducted requisitions of food, liquidated political opponents (on both the right and the left), put down peasant rebellions, riots by workers, and mutinies in the Red Army, which was plagued by desertions"

All on Lenin's orders - the supposed liberator of the workers was in fact violently oppressing workers actions.

"At the direction of Lenin, the Cheka performed mass arrests, imprisonments, and executions of "enemies of the people". In this, the Cheka said that they targeted "class enemies" such as the bourgeoisie, and members of the clergy; the first organized mass repression began against the libertarian Socialists of Petrograd in April 1918…"

And we are talking about very significant amounts of people murdered, the vast majority were peasants and workers the estimates range from 50,000 to 500,000 people murdered.

"Lenin himself seemed unfazed by the killings. On 12 January 1920, while addressing trade union leaders, he said:

"We did not hesitate to shoot thousands of people, and we shall not hesitate, and we shall save the country."


And who was the second in command in the USSR when all this was going on? Trotsky.

So Lenin and Trotsky are hardly awe-inspiring poster boys for socialism and its implementation.

I wouldn't say the Christianity analogy fails at all; clearly to be a Christian you must be believe in Christ and therefore you must have the bible as your core text and gospel word. People can interpret that text as much as they like and call themselves different names, but ultimately if they do not believe in Christ and the bible as the gospel then they are not really Christians at all.

As for the theoretical question, fair enough if you don't like them, but they are valid and salient questions, and quite reasonable to ask seeing as socialists want to take over the world.

Im not sure why you think the figures of the murders committed by communist are nonsense (I am not clear on what your point is about the Nazis)- they are quite well documented. Here is one study:


But lastly, like I said, my main problem with socialism and socialists is primarily the contempt for democracy apparent - why do we need a revolution in democratic countries? If people wanted a socialist government they could vote for one.

tony said...

Well, you can attempt "Revolution" via the ballot box.
Witness the current situation in France
http://www.euractiv.com/en/eu-elections/new-left-party-compete-socialists-france/article-177660Change doesn't occur in a vacuum.It starts within whatever the current perimeters happen to be.

Nevin said...

Ren, I am not well worst on Maoism or Trotskyism. So I will not even attempt to give my opinion on it, as it will sound too light or simplistic to your readers.

However, my belief is as follows: A society can truly be successful or happy (if there is such a thing of course), when majority of the people are satisfied if their basic needs are met. If a society offers good health care, fairly stable jobs, fair wages, most people are homeowners and able to take time off from work, then that society by and large is a satisfied society.

A healthy society is a society when the weak is taken care of, when the elderly and children are looked after, when there are no wars or any other ills.... then all is well....

I am not quite sure if any types of ideology have been successful in handling all aspects of a societies needs. Be it Capitalism, Socialism, Maoism, Trotskyism or any other "isms".... :) Unless of course you are a country with very small population, where most are highly educated, like Sweden….

ravin said...

i just want to say that unitarian/universalist do not believe in Jesus...i went to several of their "churches" and it is very clear they do not believe in Jesus or are christians in any sense of the word

in the Holy Quran...they are refered to in the commentary which is just palin nonsense...it is only one sentence and it is very vague...so, if the unitarian/universalist think that iran or any islamic state isn't going to expect them to embrace islam at the time they take control....well, there just fools and idiots...

as far as the marx and other stuff...as far i as care it is old...to old to make a comback...

the world changes and if one doesn't except those changes one cannot make a change for the good of the world

sorry if i sound negative today...but it is a bad day

celticfire said...

Thanks for raising this discussion Renegade Eye.

For those feeling in the dark, let me begin with some terminology:

The Mass Line is a proletarian leadership method divided into three steps: 1) gathering the diverse ideas of the masses; 2) processing or concentrating these ideas from the perspective of revolutionary Marxism, in light of the long-term, ultimate interests of the masses (which the masses themselves may sometimes only dimly perceive), and in light of a scientific analysis of the objective situation; and 3) returning these concentrated ideas to the masses in the form of a political line which will actually advance the mass struggle toward revolution.

The Mass Line was put forward by Marx, Engels and Lenin and developed into a coherent method by Mao Zedong.

The Transitional Method, as put forward by Leon Trotsky, is more of a formulaic scheme then a process. The Trotskyists have everything figured out, just go follow 'em.

The Mass Line takes a different attitude. It does not assume that the most advanced have all the answers, in fact Mao said "often we [the vanguard, cadre, etc] are childish and ignorant." His point was that leadership is important but only in dialectical relationships to those being led. The Mass Line is about learning while leading and leading while learning, to use a Zapatista slogan.

Where the mass line begins with and listening to others, Trotsky's academic scheme "Transitional Program" already assumes it has all the correct answers, it much the same way religious bible-thumpers claim to know the way to heaven, you just have to listen to them.

“When he [Trotsky] was playing against this surreptitious master [Stalin], did he ever stand a chance? It is difficult to believe that he did. He was, as I have hinted, an intellectual’s politician, not a politician’s. He was arrogant, he was a wonderful phrase-maker, he was good at points of dramatic action. But, as with Churchill (there are some resemblances), his judgment, over most of his career, tended to be brilliantly wrong. In politics, particularly in the life-and-death politics of revolution, you can’t afford to be brilliantly wrong. He had opposed Lenin on most issues during the years before 1917. His colleagues hadn’t forgotten that anti-Bolshevik past. Further, he was liable to sway himself with his own eloquence.... He was a brave and dashing extemporizer: but when it came to steady administrative policies, he could suddenly swing into a bureaucratic rigidity stiffer than any of the others....
“No, I don’t believe he could ever have made it. If by a fluke he had done, he wouldn’t have lasted long.” —C. P. Snow, Variety of Men (1971), p. 255.

celticfire said...

There are many things to say about the Grant article. Grant, like Trotsky was brilliantly wrong about many things.

Stalin had attempted to derail the revolution in China and encouraged the Communists in China to support the Kuomintang.

Stalin thought that uniting with the peasants was "verging on revisionism."

Even though the peasantry made up the overwhelming majority of the population in China.

The Land Reform Movement was anything but Stalinist, in fact it was conscientiously un-Stalinist.

It was the largest land exchange in history - with millions of poor impoverished peasants gaining land taken from rich landlords, and being empowered in the process.

William Hinton's book Fanshen is a great read for this topic.

I can't deny there was still, unfortunately a good deal of Stalinism that impeded the success of the revolution.

Trotsky's criticisms of Stalin, were mainly correct. Stalin was beuaracratic, undemoratic and did not properly grasp Marx (or really Lenin.) However, as I see it - Trotsky would not have been much better. He advocated an "military style union" - ie, running the economy like a military with marching orders and all.

Many leaders of the Chinese revolution studied in the Soviet Union and learned their techniques and methods. Mao did not.

There was struggle around this many times. People like Chen Boda, Lin Biao etc. advocated Soviet style planning and land reform. Mao was aware the human cost of land reform under Stalin's despotic rule.

One of the most brilliant Bolsheviks other then Lenin, imho was Kollantai, who dared to criticize Lenin's understanding of the state. I think she is someone to think about.

Lenin is mostly correct, but revisionists and counterrevolutionaries feed off our errors.

I think socialism should struggle for the most democratic methods, including term limits, multi-party competition, general elections.

The Cultural Revolution saw the creation of the Shanghai Commune, which unfortunately never saw general elections. Too bad, it would have been a good learning experience.

I'm not saying Mao (or even Lenin) were not undemocratic -they were responding to incredible difficult conditions and circumstances.

But at some point I think we have ask if our means justify our ends.

Torture for example, is something unscientific and contrary to socialist principles no matter what your political line is. And I would not defend its practice by any of the socialist societies.

But the real question is HOW do we make revolution?

Trotsky he has it all figured out...and yet there has never been a successful Trotskyist revolution. So far as I know there best accomplishment is some parliamentary seats in Pakistan.

Maoism on the other hand is found as a weapon used by the revolutionaries in the Philippines, Nepal, Turkey, and Peru.

celticfire said...

One last thing: for those interested there is a Mass Line study guide here

celticfire said...

"The Sentinel"

You seem to be pretty comfortable parroting ruling class perceptions of the Soviet Union.

You're "opinions" are confused.

It isn't about the "purest strain of Marxism" it's about what leads us to a correct understanding to change the world. By that criteria, Lenin was one of the greatest liberators of the 20th century. I think Ren would agree.

Madam Miaow said...

Very interesting comment, Celtic Fire. A perspective I'm in sympathy with.

The Sentinel said...


Actually I am much less conerned with 'ruling class perceptions' then I am with the complete totalitarianism and extreme violence used by Lenin to implement his vision of socialism: The formation and use of the secret police, designations of 'enemies of the state', mass arrests, torture interrogations, gulags, and mass executions.

That is what concerns me most; it doesn't sound to me like a place I, or the majority of people, would want to live - its sounds like a tyrannical hell.

If it was just dormant history it would be less bothersome, but the fact is that modern socialists tend to hold up Lenin and Trotsky as the ideals of socialism, and as I mentioned, Trotsky was number two in the regime whilst all of this terror was going on under Lenin.

And Lenin used his terror apparatus to put down the very people he purported to champion - the workers - using his secret police and militia to ruthless suppress peasant rebellions and striking workers who had now become 'enemies of the state' for protesting.

It was not a place where freedom of speech - and therefore fundamentally freedom itself - was permitted and that is what forms the basis of my opposition to modern socialists.

Politically I agree with some of the socialist programme, and as a man with a solid 'working class' background some elements should be more attractive to me then most, but the problem is that most socialists take an all or nothing approach to its implementation and want it imposed globally and entirely and besides the fact that will never happen democratically, it could only lead to the same terrror used by Lenin to deal with dissenters, and complete tyranny.

The Sentinel said...


And I think an illustration of the instinctive predisposition to socialist contempt of dissenters can be shown by your decision refer to my opinion as (speech marked) "opinions."

Is my opinion less equal then yours?

celticfire said...

The Sentinel:
You say Lenin used extreme violence.

Well, first of all, you ignore the conditions – the enemies were attacking with extreme violence. Should Lenin have told the workers to lay down their arms and sing songs with flowers in the hair instead?

The Russian Revolution was one of the most liberating moments in human history. You ignore to repeat Reagan style lies about it.

Your idealist “genuine” socialist bullshit doesn’t correspond with reality. Can you really let your enemies attack, starve and shoot you in the midst of revolution? Like Mao said, it ain’t a tea party – which is what you’re looking for.

“Is my opinion less equal then yours” --- I have no idea what that means?

Your argument is essentially a Trotskyist one, even if you don’t know it. According to you there is “ideal” state of things, clean of all political violence and noble. In reality, there is no such thing. Ghandi looked the other way while Neruda used political violence against the radical Muslims. That’s reality.

You’re holier-than-thou approach to politics might sounds nice, but it doesn’t win anything for people – lest of all the masses.

Frank Partisan said...

Yesterday I went to the dentist. I had a soft food day.

Sentinel: Well, the first problem with 'Trotskyism' is that it is a misnomer - it should really be called 'bronsteinism' and the second, real problem is that it has no roots in democracy.That has antisemitic overtones.

I agree with Celticfire, that to talk about the Russian Revolution without mentioning there was some 20 countries invading, is a dodge. I would add Russia was involved also in a civil war and was politically isolated.

The issue of democracy seperated Trotsky from Stalin. Trotsky united with Stalin's right opposition Bukharin, to form a coalition on that issue.

I believe the working class should be armed to insure democracy. No standing army.

Stalin reversed many of Lenin's programs, as he outlawed homosexuality, abortion etc.

Nevin: Good points.

Madam Miaow: All the Trotskyists are fans of yours.

Ravin: Some Universalist congregations are liberal Christian. My point is to Sentinel, that even if all Christians believe in Christ, still there are real differences, just like differences in Marxist groups.

Tony: I personally have a wait and see approach to that party. In the mean time the working class belongs to the Socialist and Communist Party in France.

Celticfire: The Maoists talk about the mass line, and the method of collecting data. My experience with being in coalitions with FRSO, they tail after the Democratic Party. They even oppose nationalizing banks. That would turn off Dems. They get their cues from Democratic politicians, not the mail delivery person.

If Nepal's government does anything to expropriate capitalists, it'll be because of pressure from below. The Shining Path oppose Bolivarian Revolution, call Chavez fascist. I think the Turkish-Kurds will lose if they don't break from narrow nationalism and two stage theory.

I will have to study Kollantai.

C.P. Snow isn't the most objective source to talk about Mao. What next old Maud Russell?

Why deny that as a revolutionary, you develop a program and fight for it. All the Maoist polulist language is nonsense. It's ok to rely on experts. Not a sin.
Veteran revolutionaries as Alan Woods, Ted Grant etc. have more insight than talking to the neighbors.

Frank Partisan said...

Sentinel: I didn't answer correctly your statement about democracy.

Democracy is the lifeblood of socialism. Marx and Lenin stood for the principles of the Paris Commune.
1) The right to recall.
2) No politician make more money than high paid worker.
3) Nobody a bureaucrat, because everyone is.
4) No standing army.

That is the direction of socialism.

Celticfire: Churchill vs Trotsky.

The Sentinel said...

celticfire and Renegade Eye,

I think you are both missing the point. I am not talking about the Red Army fighting invasion (or even of their consistent failure to sign the Geneva convention over the years) I am talking about the Cheka, the first Soviet secret police force founded by Lenin, taking violent, murderous and tyrannical action against unarmed civilians – their own citizens and workers in the main too.

That is the mass arrests, torturous interrogations, and frequently, the mass execution of fellow citizens such as the peasants who rebelled against being told what to do with their land and crops; workers who striked in protest to the effective end of pay incentive and all pervading state control; members of the clergy who spoke out against the regime, and even those who did not, because religion – or any other belief other the states - no longer has a place in society and similarly any citizen who did not buy into the new regime or otherwise had something other then the party line to say.

That is what I am talking about, not armed soldiers fighting opposing armed soldiers.

And the whole thing was the antithesis of democracy, as was the regimes birth.


My point about my opinion being less equal then yours came from the fact that you choose to refer to my opinion as thus: ‘You're "opinions" are confused’- why put it in speech marks if you wasn’t making a statement?

And of then of course you refer to the opinions as confused when I have provided clear reason and some evidence for their genesis.

Maybe I need some political rehabilitation?

But all in all, what it comes to down really, is that I object to any entity – be it a government, a party, an ideology, or a collection of individuals – that wants to impose a rigid and all pervading doctrine upon others that will fundamentally control every facet of their lives.

Full scale Marxism / Socialism / Communism is not just an economic theory, but a form of ‘holistic’ ideology that attracts zealots, and that can only lead to no good. As we have seen many times.

And Santayana said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

celticfire said...


I don't see how we can continue this discusion, let alone get any meaning out of it while you persist in arguing with distortions, lies and straw men.

If you're not interesting in engaging the ideas of others, I reccmend you not participate.

I would also suggest you put down Santayana and pick up some Marx, yes.

celticfire said...

Renegade Eye,

I sighed after reading you're response. If you guage Maoism by the Fight Back crazies or the RCP,USA then you prove yourself right by your own method. I could so the same if I judged Trotskyism by the ISO or Sparts. Maoism is facing an impasse - the continued struggle in Nepal are creating a two-line struggle.
As a result you can not simply paint all Maoists the same, as many Trot groups do with every other revolution in the 20th century as "Stalinist" be it the Chinese, Vietnamese, Cuban, Korean, Algerian, etc.

As I said earlier I work in mass work with the ISO, Solidarity and others, and several I count as personal friends. Their politics are different by the group, and Maoism is no different. FRSO/OSCL is fundamentally different from Fight Back. I would say the best representatives of Maoism in the U.S. is Kasama and FRSO/OSCL. But that doesn't say a lot, because Maoism can't answer many of the larger problems of today - either can Trotskyism.

Back to the Mass Line.

The Mass Line is not simply a method for collecting data. It is a communist leadership method, "from the masses, to the masses." Most Trots I know trip up over Maoist slogans like "serve the people" and "be red and expert," or "win over the intermediate, isolate the backward", "have faith in the masses".

Mao strongly criticized Stalin for having no faith in the masses. He one-sidedly emphasized technicians, experts and specialists.
Trotsky was very much the same.

This kind of validates my originally thinking that neither Stalin nor Trotsky offered very good leadership. In many ways they were the same.

How you propose we over come the contradiction of mental and manual labor without rotating roles? Mao put it to practice. Of course there are things, like the voluntarism during the Great Leap that need summing up and rooting out of its mistakes. But on the main, Mao was correct.

From the masses, to the masses." The process includes investigating the conditions of people, learning about and participating in their struggles, gathering ideas from them, and creating a plan of action based on these ideas and concerns of the people, and also based on an analysis of the objective conditions and in light of the revolutionary goal. Thus the mass line also seeks to raise the consciousness of the people beyond petty or narrow self interest to that of a politically communist consciousness, and to promote the revolutionary transformation of society step by step.

As a finished remark, I am getting tired of the dogmatism that comes along with these conversations. Maoists don't acknowledge the tremendous victories of the Cuba revolution or the Zapatistas, etc. Trotskyists refuse to seriously study the Vietnamese revolution. It all comes down to whose picture you hang.

This approach aside from being unscientific, is excusing ourselves from investigating the actual conditions and contexts of those experiences.

The Sentinel said...


What kind of an answer is that?

Are you seriously suggesting that all that I have pointed out is false?

That Lenin did not form the first soviet secret police force called Cheka and did not use it to, amongst other things, arrest and execute civilians: i.e rebellious peasants, workers clergy and citizens? That Trotsky was in fact not his number two during this time? That the ‘Red Terror’ never happened?

Because if you really are, I would seriously suggest you put Marx down and pick up some history books.

All of these points are completely and absolutely relevant to your ideas and perhaps even more especially relevant these days as socialist’s campaign for a global implementation (imposition really) of their ideas under the banner of Trotskyites or Leninists.

If you cannot even be honest about the past and recognise the mistakes and excesses committed and try to reconcile them with your contemporary ideology, how in all reality can you be trusted in the present or the future not to follow that path again?

Can you really not see that as a valid point and concern for many people?

Frank Partisan said...

Celticfire: A typical FRSO/Fightback tactic, is to lose a vote on a slogan at a coalition meeting, than print a poster for the event, excluding what they disagree with, and saying there was no room. No regard for democracy. They are one day lobbying for reformist legislation and having an ultra left civil disobediance the next. I think the self righteousness and contempt for democracy they have comes from Maoism. Democracy or votes they lose are "ultra democracy." Trotsky never wrote a document like "Combat Liberalism." They really seemed modeled after the old CP, only louder and more militant. I don't know how the other Freedom Road acts in a coalition.

I don't understand what you're saying about Vietnam. The US lost. Graeme just returned from there. It has the crudest capitalism you can imagine.

After reading what you wrote about mass line, I think that is a secondary difference. The real disagreement is two stage revolution and independence of the working class. Whether the lion and the lamb can be together in friendship.

Another important difference is solidarity. I think you and the Zapatistas have differences, as state power. You support them uncritically?

Trotsky proposed militarizing the working class, as temporary measures. Millions died during "The Great Leap Forward." It appalled people within the bureaucracy.

Sentinel: This is an unusual discussion for my blog. It's about differences on the left. I never asked for agreement with me, on every issue. This discussion is about Maoism vs Trotskyism. I admit this isn't a broad post.

The Russian Revolution can't be talked about, without acknowledging invasion, civil war, backwardness and isolation.

Anonymous said...

The Left always looses its' grip once 'reality' sets in.

Frank Partisan said...

FJ: I'm the wrong person to show that link to.

The Maoists in India, provided corporations the cheapest labor in the whole country.

It again shows the bankruptcy of Maoist two stage theory. That means neocolonial countries need to go through a capitalist/national stage, before socialism.

Anonymous said...

I'm more of a "three represents" man, myself...

SecondComingOfBast said...


Since you're a movie buff, did you catch Star Trek? The reason I ask is I'm curious if you agree with some who subscribe to the theory that the Federation of Planets is a socialist vision.

That will pretty much be the limit of my contribution to this thread's comments, because I frankly don't know what you and Celtic Fire are talking about.

Two stage theory? Is that something like "Dumb And Dumber"? Or maybe "This is your brain-this is your brain on durgs?"

I do have to say, its unusual to see anybody these days openly advocating Mao Tse Tung as an example to follow for anything, except maybe reduction of surplus population. The guy was a mess. The Russians should thank him for making Stalin look good.

Frank Partisan said...

FJ: The Chinese Communist Party is creating what will destroy them, or what is called negation of the negation. They are creating an industrial working class, they will create what will destroy them. Just like feudalism, by creating capitalists, destroyed itself.

Pagan: I will quickly be off to another topic. It wasn't meant for general discussion.

I run into Maoists, involved in various movements.

I don't know much about Star Trek. I'm going to a Terminator screening this week.

Anonymous said...


So you believe that a "stable/ constant" end for humanity is actually "achievable"? Sounds pretty naive to me...

There's a principle called "generation from opposites". It's the underlying premise from which ALL systemic philosophies flow and which drives the heraclitian principle known as Panta Rhei and causes Ixion's Wheel to spin "eternally".

Communist's/socialists seek an "ultimate end" and each so called ultimate end carries within it the seeds of it's own destruction (generation from opposites).

As so it is attributed to Lord Acton to have stated, "Every institution finally perishes by an excess of its own first principle." And Isaiah Berlin has termed it, "the unavoidability of conflicting ends" or, alternatively, the
"incommensurability" of values. He once called this "the only truth which I have ever
found out for myself... Some of the Great Goods cannot live together.... We are doomed
to choose, and every choice may entail an irreparable loss." In short, it's what Michael
Ignatieff summarized as "the tragic nature of choice".

And as Nietzsche said in "Genealogy of Morals," We simply cannot conceal from ourselves what is really expressed by that total will which received its direction from the ascetic ideal: this hate against what is human, even more against animality, even more against material things—this abhorrence of the senses, of reason itself, this fear of happiness and beauty, this longing for the beyond away from all appearance, change, becoming, death, desire, even longing itself—all this means, let’s have the courage to understand this, a will to nothingness, an aversion to life, a revolt against the most fundamental preconditions of life—but it is and remains a will! . . . And to finish up by repeating what I said at the beginning: man will sooner will nothingness than not will . . .Best learn to start minding your "means" and "ends". As Isaiah Berlin has also so aptly stated in his letter to George Kennan (from "Four Essays on Liberty"),

"“... If I understand you correctly, you think that Western Civilization has rested upon the principle that, whatever else was permitted or forbidden, the one heinous act which would destroy the world was to do precisely this--- the deliberate act of tampering with human beings so as to make them behave in a way which, if they knew what they were doing, or what the consequences were likely to be, would make them recoil with horror and disgust.”

"...you say (and I am not quoting) that every man possesses a point of weakness, an Achilles' heel, and by exploiting this a man may be made a hero or a martyr or a rag. Again, if I understand you correctly, you think that Western civilisation has rested upon the principle that, whatever else was permitted or forbidden, the one heinous act which would destroy the world was to do precisely this--the deliberate act of tampering with human beings so as to make them behave in a way which, if they knew what they were doing, or what its consequences were likely to be, would make them recoil with horror and disgust. The whole of the Kantian morality (and I don't know about Catholics, but Protestants, Jews, Muslims and high-minded atheists believe it) lies in this; the mysterious phrase about men being "ends in themselves," to which much lip-service has been paid, with not much attempt to explain it, seems to lie in this: that every human being is assumed to possess the capacity to choose what to do, and what to be, however narrow the limits within which his choice may lie, however hemmed in by circumstances beyond his control; that all human love and respect rests upon the attribution of conscious motives in this sense; that all the categories, the concepts, in terms of which we think about and act towards one another--goodness, badness, integrity and lack of it, the attribution of dignity or honour to others which we must not insult or exploit, the entire cluster of ideas such as honesty, purity of motive, courage, sense of truth, sensibility, compassion, justice; and, on the other side, brutality, falseness, wickedness, ruthlessness, lack of scruple, corruption, lack of feelings, emptiness--all these notions in terms of which we think of others and ourselves, in terms of which conduct is assessed, purposes adopted--all this becomes meaningless unless we think of human beings as capable of pursuing ends for their own sakes by deliberate acts of choice--which alone makes nobility noble and sacrifices sacrifices. "

"All this [the praise of our choicemaking volk] may seem an enormous platitude, but, if it is true, this is, of course, what ultimately refutes utilitarianism and what makes Hegel and Marx such monstrous traitors to our civilisation. When, in the famous passage, Ivan Karamazov rejects the worlds upon worlds of happiness which may be bought at the price of the torture to death of one innocent child, what can utilitarians, even the most civilised and humane, say to him? After all, it is in a sense unreasonable to throw away so much human bliss purchased at so small a price as one--only one--innocent victim, done to death however horribly--what after all is one soul against the happiness of so many? Nevertheless, when Ivan says he would rather return the ticket, no reader of Dostoevsky thinks this cold-hearted or mad or irresponsible; and although a long course of Bentham or Hegel might turn one into a supporter of the Grand Inquisitor, qualms remain."

Anonymous said...

As for "mass lines" and "two stage theories", I think Nietzsche would respond as follows (from WtP):

1067 (1885)

And do you know what "the world" is to me? Shall I show it to you in my mirror? This world: a monster of energy, without beginning, without end; a firm, iron magnitude of force that does not grow bigger or smaller, that does not expend itself but only transforms itself; as a whole, of unalterable size, a household without expenses or losses, but likewise without increase or income; enclosed by "nothingness" as by a boundary; not something blurry or wasted, not something endlessly extended, but set in a definite space as a definite force, and not a sphere that might be "empty" here or there, but rather as force throughout, as a play of forces and waves of forces, at the same time one and many, increasing here and at the same time decreasing there; a sea of forces flowing and rushing together, eternally changing, eternally flooding back, with tremendous years of recurrence, with an ebb and a flood of its forms; out of the simplest forms striving toward the most complex, out of the stillest, most rigid, coldest forms toward the hottest, most turbulent, most self-contradictory, and then again returning home to the simple out of this abundance, out of the play of contradictions back to the joy of concord, still affirming itself in this uniformity of its courses and its years, blessing itself as that which must return eternally, as a becoming that knows no satiety, no disgust, no weariness: this, my Dionysian world of the eternally self-creating, the eternally self-destroying, this mystery world of the twofold voluptuous delight, my "beyond good and evil," without goal, unless the joy of the circle is itself a goal; without will, unless a ring feels good will toward itself--do you want a name for this world? A solution for all its riddles? A light for you, too, you best-concealed, strongest, most intrepid, most midnightly men?-- This world is the will to power--and nothing besides! And you yourselves are also this will to power--and nothing besides!
and then follow up with:

488 (Spring-Fall 1887)
Psychological derivation of our belief in reason.--The concept "reality", "being", is taken from our feeling of the "subject".

"The subject": interpreted from within ourselves, so that the ego counts as a substance, as the cause of all deeds, as a doer.

The logical-metaphysical postulates, the belief in substance, accident, attribute, etc., derive their convincing force from our habit of regarding all our deeds as consequences of our will--so that the ego, as substance, does not vanish in the multiplicity of change.--But there is no such thing as will.--

We have no categories at all that permit us to distinguish a "world in itself" from a "world of appearance." All our categories of reason are of sensual origin: derived from the empirical world. "The soul", "the ego"--the history of these concepts shows that here, too, the oldest distinction ("breath", "life")--

If there is nothing material, there is also nothing immaterial.

The concept no longer contains anything.

No subject "atoms". The sphere of a subject constantly growing or decreasing, the center of the system constantly shifting; in cases where it cannot organize the appropriate mass, it breaks into two parts. On the other hand, it can transform a weaker subject into its functionary without destroying it, and to a certain degree form a new unity with it. No "substance", rather something that in itself strives after greater strength, and that wants to "preserve" itself only indirectly (it wants to surpass itself--).

Anonymous said...

Marxism represents the desire of mankind to "surpass" itself, it is the "reasoned" source of mankind
s own nihilistic but determined will to self-destruction.

But there is no "reason" for it, for their is no "reason" at all. None at all. Just a will to power of a "will" which never really existed.

Justification for pursuing the road to hell and a covering of that road in "good intentions."

ravin said...

i would just add that maybe everyone should read "Parting with Illusions" by Vladimir Pozner

Ducky's here said...

Well Farmer, I don't think you're ever going to be a socialist. One thing you need is a belief in at least the possibility of extended human cooperation.

That's something that Nietzsche finds impossible in his primitive existentialism.

Camus is a useful guide in understanding the socialist applications of existentialism.

"When a worker, somewhere in the world, approaches a tank with his bare fists and cries out that he's not a slave, what are we if we remain indifferent?"

Ducky's here said...

Remember Farmer, what Nietzsche failed to adequately develop was the truth that life is indeed absurd, FOR THE INDIVIDUAL.

However, society and its institutions are larger than one person and a dialectic can help us navigate the contradictions.

Ducky's here said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Remember Farmer, what Nietzsche failed to adequately develop was the truth that life is indeed absurd, FOR THE INDIVIDUAL.Please elaborate... as "groups" are and are not artificial mental constructs and individuals are and are NOT.

Which brain hemisphere should rule, mr. ducky, that which hosts the Ego or that which hosts the SuperEgo? You'd pretend that a "sharing" of control is impossible. In practical terms, the Ego rules the day, and the SuperEgo rules the night.

Anonymous said...

So in "natural/practical terms", it is the GROUP which is indeed "ABSURD".

celticfire said...

I wanted to retract one thing: I should not have called the Fight Back group "crazies." I do have many differences with their line, but that was unprincipled on my part.

Red Frog said...

Mass Line - unfortunately, the 'mass line' seems like a parrotting of the lowest common denominator back to people. Maoists, internally in parties or at conventions, do not allow democracy. I've been in Maoist parties and I know.

In practice and theory, Maoism has proven to be against workers democracy. There was only one party allowed in China. There was little workers control in the factories. Now, the heirs to Maoism (which PL noticed in 1971 as Maoists) run a bureaucratic government leading the economy more and more in a capitalist direction. No surprise this is the direction things took. Even PL called Mao part of the capitalist roaders when Mao met with Nixon, and declared the USSR the 'main' enemy. Ha Ha Ha Ha.

The Cultural Revolution was an ultra-left attempt to control the bureaucracy. Unfortunately, it did not result in more power being given to the working class because the working class was not leading the cultural revolution. There was no room for real unions in the factories, or opposition to Chinese CP policies, unless you wanted to spend time in jail. The working class has to have some space, and there was none.

Trotskyists were shot or jailed. And other Marxist opposition had the same thing happen. Workers democracy was never real in China, and will never be real in a society run by Maoists. The 'mass line' can be useful at identifying good reform demands, but ultimately it is nothing but the Maoists pretending they are not bureaucrats, or mini-bureaucrats. It is their 'cover' - just like U.S. Democrats shout about Democracy all the time

Madam Miaow said...

Red Frog, to their shame, democracy has not been Maoist groups' strong suit, but neither it been so with the British Trotskyist groups I've seen in practice. Gleeful gloating about killing Kronstadt sailors is not attractive.

While much of what you write is sadly true, Chinese workers had a much better time under Mao. There were real strides made both economically and culturally. No, it wasn't perfect, but you did not have anyone dare to express the snotty contempt for the masses that you see now. Their gains have been clawed back, such as in health and improved working conditions. The factory canteens were amazing! Very simple but delicious rice, steamed vegetables and meat. Not huge proportions of meat, and possibly supplemented by bean curd, but a vast improvement.

Democracy existed in parts. A tiny but telling example of what I saw as a visitor and not as a resident: when I was there with my parents in the 1970s, Beijing comrades had organised various trips, such as a tour of a Shanghai carpet factory (fabulously interesting for a girl!!!) but we were excluded by a very disgruntled revolutionary committee while they had their meetings about more pressing matters than keeping us entertained. And quite right, too.

Overall there were improvements but with many of the problems you describe. If I was a worker, that's the one period when I'd have felt hope and a degree of power shifting into my hands. Ultimately, not enough, I know, and it all went pear-shaped, but we should acknowledge things that were going well in order to analyse what went wrong.

celticfire said...

Red Frog is lying and purposefully distorting things. I don’t know what supposedly “Maoist” group he was with, but he’s wrong.

On the whole I agree with what Madam Miaow.

How we define democracy or socialism?

These are crucial questions.

Personally, I identify socialism first and foremost not simply with public ownership of the means of production, but with the cultivation of mass participation in and control over economic, political and social institutions and structures.

If we agree on this definition than socialist China (1949-1976) was I my opinion, the greatest expression of democracy.

We saw workers taking over factories, students taking over schools and the masses of people taking over administration of the state.

It was however, a failed attempt.

China never had a Western style capitalist-democracy. If you define THAT as democracy, then no, China had no democracy.

Frank Partisan said...

I agree with Red Frog overall.

At the start of the Chinese revolution, workers seized the means of production at several factories. They expected support from the PLA. Instead they were put down.

I don't know anybody who gloats about Kronstadt. It certainly had contradictions. Newest information from the Russian government archieves, show justification. It wasn't a happy situation or one with easy decisions.

I think if Tibetan workers got equal pay with Chinese, much about Tibet would die. I support the right of self determination for national minorities. I don't think it's smart to split from China. The national question is one of bread ultimately.

Madam Miaow said...

I don't know anybody who gloats about Kronstadt.The British Socialist Workers Party, Renegade, Not only were individuals exhibiting an unhealthy degree of glee at the prospect of putting down workers in opposition, but, f'rinstance, the national organiser, in training the fulltimers, communicated to his charges that, when quizzed on this issue, the comrades were to go in hard. One district organiser offered, "We should have shot them down like partridges," and earned himself a hug off the NO.

I once reminded long-standing members that even Mao told the communists that they had to behave a whole lot better than the Kuomintang. They did and won the peasants over to their side, giving them victory the civil war. The general reply was that, harrumph!, well HE had to. The Trotskyists would never require exhortations to behave well, it's in the genes, or something.

This is so arrogant, to assert that your own side — Mao or Trotskyist — is perfect and in need of no critisism, analysis or improvement, especially when it was obvious we were going belly up, that it is probably in part responsible for the utter implosion of the UK left when we've never needed one as much as now.

Frank Partisan said...

Madam Miaow: It's odd to me that the British SWP, which has roots in Schachtmanism, would have even supported Trotsky's position on Kronstadt.

They believe the old USSR and China, were state capitalist. Trotsky rejected that idea, and they rejected Trotsky. Breaking with Schachtmanites was Trotsky's last action before he died.

Madam Miaow said...

I didn't know that, Renegade. It's a black hole in my knowledge, I'm afraid.

BTW, I just had a curious bit of spam on my last post at Madam Miaow. I've written a response which is sort of relevant to this thread.

Red Frog said...

Any workers state, even a deformed workers state as in China, has vast improvements over capitalism. I'm not talking about the fact that factory canteens served fresh food, or that there was day care. I'm talking about workers' democracy. I.E. elections and room to argue positions within a worker's state. Anyone opposing Maoism was sent quickly to jail or worse. There were no elections for workers' parties, only ONE party was allowed. Pretty simple really. Real unions. Workers' democracy. Neighborhood committees with actual independence.

At any rate, none of these features exist within the Maoist mindset, which mouthes platitudes like 'learn from the people' while not having any structure when the people learn something different than they want them to.

It is no accident that the present Chinese bureaucracy developed out of the Maoist period WITHOUT a counter-revolution. None of the idealists analyses of how China is now 'state capitalist' can locate a mass COUNTERREVOLUTION that put a new class in charge. Only a gradual series of palace coups. In fact, the same bureaucracy controls China now that controlled it under Mao. However, that bureaucracy has moved far to the right, and is now engendering a capitalist class again.

I was in Progressive Labor, the Trend and the Communist Party. PL was Maoist for awhile, the Trend was Maoist, then moved away from Maoism - and the CP was just plain Brezhnevite.

Red Frog said...

Mao supported Kronstadt, and Stalin. Ms. Miao's idea that Mao was some peasant anarchist hippie is quite amusing. You will recall the Maoist Pantheon - Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and ... Mao. No accident. They made Mao into a saint too - embalming him in the true bureaucratic chemicals, made to be 'preserved' forever.

No Maoist supports the right to strike, true unions, workers deomocracy, actual democratic centralism or any of the other signs of true working class liberty. The Trotskyists do. All the 'character' analysis and suppositions fail on the question of platform.

Red Frog said...

We must also note that there are no workers' councils - Soviet is the Russian word - in China. Councils are the foundation of working-class and peasant power. During Tiananmen, workers fought some elements of the army, came out on strike, and were poised to give the bureaucracy a true shaking. Some call it an incipient political revolution. Many soldiers and officers stated they would not fight against 'the people' at Tiananmen and in other cities, so the 'state' - the army - had become unreliable.

This same bureaucracy celebrates Mao, and is historically linked to the leadership of China under Mao. There is no evidence of a real counter-revolution, which is a mass event where the state is destroyed, the army dismantled or defeated, and a new state and parliament created, and a new economy formed. (All by the way what happened in the USSR, when Stalinism was overthrown in 1989-1992 by Yeltsin, and capitalism restored.) The commanding heights of the Chinese economy are still not purely market driven. The fact that China is one of the largest stabilizing influences in the world because it did not buy into derivatives (unlike Russia) indicates we still have aspects of a planned economy.

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