A SLOW BOAT BACK FROM CHINA
What we have here in Chinese Takeaway is another 'lost' text from 1978 that was never published though enquiries recently have been made as to its whereabouts. In retrospect it was crazy none of this stuff ever saw the light of day in any durable form. We should have pushed that little important bit harder with our collective efforts seeing we'd done so much in getting these texts to some sort of fruition only to fall at the last hurdle. As it is these texts remain unaltered and there is a considerable overlap between them all involving Portugal, Spain, the UK and Italy although Chinese Takeaway has been slightly re-ordered in terms of chapters, sub-divisions etc. it has not been re-written.
It wasn't that we were simply discouraged from publishing though that also happened (e.g. a feminist partner of one of us had said that Chinese Takeaway was "no more than worthless drivel") which by then meant little seeing our hides had already been toughened from relentless brick bats from every conceivable direction. The real issue though was money and none of us had a bean having spent what was in the coffers on funding through UK Solidarity the publishing of Phil Meyler's book, Portugal: The Impossible Revolution and Wildcat Spain Encounters Democracy by BM Bis. More importantly a scam involving relieving Barclays Bank of a fair amount of dosh had been discovered and although we were able to successfully cover our tracks, it proved to be a blow too much...
To write something on the influence of China today would obviously be entirely different. That much is obvious. Suffice to say what happened since to some of the figures discussed here? Well not much and most is really downhill. Le Dantec became a big wheel in some architectural institution having written in the meantime a slew of utterly trivial books on landscape design, and quirky 'art & poetry' gardens some around Paris. Even worse Le Bris has become a travelogue writer and publisher developing an obsession with R.L. Stevenson and praised for bringing crap like Michael Moorcock and Colin Thubron to media attention. Inevitably all this in the name of further promotion of the massive tourist calamity that like an unnamed but deadly scorched earth policy, plagues what's left of planet earth.
A CRITIQUE OF WESTERN MAOISM
HAPHAZARD MUSINGS: 18 POINTS WHICH WILL BE GONE INTO IN MORE DETAIL
1. The categorical imperative - unconditional help for third world liberation movements, (e.g. the Maoist Le Dantec described giving every assistance to National Liberation Movements as a "categorical imperative"). This was mainly the moral appeal of Third World movements. Inflexible ideological principals meant the Maoists were unable to adjust to the politics of expediency, so finally many chose that final expediency - drink and drugs.
2. Populism. Bringing stars down to an everyday dimension by emphasizing their
ordinariness and interest in the interviewer e.g. Simone Signoret. Maoist populism and voluntarism made them a prisoner of all the liberal help they could muster which of course they then had to justify.
3. The effect of subsequent events in Indo China on Maoist ideology during the 1970s particularly the protracted war between Vietnam and Cambodia and Vietnam and China in the intensifying conflict between Russian and Chinese Imperialism. This finally shattered the Maoist movement. For individuals reared on ideological dramas of national liberation the appalling deeds especially of the Khymer Rouge in Cambodia (Le Dantec disapprovingly called them, "bare footed angel exterminators") were shocking in the extreme shaking the foundation of their beliefs. This disillusion with 'revolutionary' national liberation struggles did not by any means lead to a clarification of the social revolutionary project. Rather ditching the former meant abandoning the later which shows the extent to which they had become confused and lost along with the rest of the mainstream of Western Leftism.
4. As a correlative of the above we must consider the enormous influence of Lenin's Imperialism on mainstream leftism and given a new lease of life by Lin Piao's notion of "the fields surrounding the factories". Actually the strategies advocated by Lenin were to be abandoned in the Comintern in the 1930s when colonial struggles were viewed as helping the fascist menace because they weakened France and Britain. This about turn on behalf of the Soviet Union towards the colonial peoples was to render an invaluable service to Western liberalism. Henceforth the colonial revolutions were viewed as happening neither at the behest of Soviet 'communism' or Western Capitalism. They were above all a human protest against degradation, a last despairing and noble effort at renewal between the infernal pincers of the dominant powers. For a decade or so they were the counterbalance to existential suffering, the incorruptible epicentre of a dishonoured planet.
5. The tremendous effect of Stalin's Gulag on France in comparison to its relatively negligible effect in the UK becoming the foundation of the blasé opportunist and conservative pessimism of the Nouvelle Philosophes in the early 1970s strongly influenced by that cardboard cut out imitation of Dostoevsky in the shape of that miserable throwback Alexander Solshenitsyn.
6. Stunted imaginations: Somewhere on earth there walks a God. The need to have a God made man - a demiurge – is an important trait in French society doubtless with a base in Catholicism. That 'socialism' was in existence somewhere on the planet had become something of need for many members of the French working class long instructed by the French Communist party to see in the Soviet Union "a socialist country". The spectacular eruption of Maoism in France meant the model could have a renewed lease of life.
7. Maoism was a disintegrating Leninism. They questioned Leninism and the guiding role of the party thus in a chaotic way – unbeknown even to themselves - trashing the practical and theoretical existence of 'the party'.....
8. ...Followed by that hoary old dualism, the failure to distinguish between "the party" and class. This blatant substitutionism addresses the class from outside, from a political framework and with pre-empted prognosis, one that maintains the distinction between the leaders and the led. To realise that the smashing of state-machinery and the continued existence of an authority above that of the class itself must necessarily lead to the re-establishment of the state. It is merely the rehash of a Leninist type opportunism re The State and Revolution when Lenin used Pannekoek's ideas on the overthrow of the nation state approvingly at the same time as he wished to create a new state. The Maoists simply couldn't see that the re-establishment of the state merely reorganises capital.
9. Maoist practise was often at loggerheads - again unbeknown to themselves - with their ideology. They had less respect for property than the Trotskyists and were more prepared to turn over cars in barricade fighting and didn't really care (rightly) if they were workers cars or cars belonging to the middle classes. They had a gut critique of capitalist waste and had some conviction that so much of capitalist production today had no potential use-value and would have to be terminated on the morrow of the revolution. This was a factor in orienting the Maoists towards Third Worldism and a preference for underdevelopment). Their generalised attack on over-development and the useless proliferation of trivial consumption instigated reactions of horror from the Communist party and the Trotskyists who tended to label it as anti-working class. (For instance, the Maoists usually regarded the private car as a redundant mode of transport). No wonder that many Maoists in the early 1970s drifted into the ecology movement. Intuitively but again lacking theoretical acumen the Maoists could see how consumerism isolated and privatised the individual reducing the social spontaneity of people in general. Regarding some of these gut dispositions it has to be said we had much sympathy for them though that was as far as it went for reasons we will further elaborate on in this long text.
10. The Maoists initially were often more addicted to what has become bourgeois culture than many other members of society - listening to Beethoven etc. Then they encountered Dada and tit bits of situationist critique only to make a mess of both.
11. The self and a collective self-fulfillment in a total social revolutionary becoming were replaced with a self-denying / selflessness.
12. The French and Italian Resistance to fascism: The Maoists were anxious to find in the relatively recent past something on which to build, something that would awaken powerful revolutionary echoes in the working class. Hence on the one hand, the Maoists support for - and use of - 'revolutionary' trade union leaders in the 1920s subsequently purged by Stalin and, on the other hand, their continual evocation of the Resistance without caring if it aroused proud national sentiments which the French Communist party continually plays on.
13. Their desire for popularity means they are prepared to make an indiscriminate use of popular folk lore failing to see how its initial usage can contaminate its secondary function and even drown it, (e.g. La Gauche Proletarienne laying wreaths to the Resistance alongside the then leader of the Gaullist party, Georges Pompidou and hailing it as a victory!) Castoriadis's writings from Socialisme ou Barbarie (and which Guy Debord had utilised in the early 1960s) on the Resistance obviously had had no impact upon the theoretical illiteracy of the Maoists who only latterly after their collapse, have 'discovered' Castoriadis. In La Societe Bureaucratique, Castoriadis says, "... the participation of the masses in this struggle [the Resistance] had been at once the most active and the most passive possible. It was active up to the limits of the possible, on the physical level, on the organizational level, on the tactical level. At the same time their attitude was absolutely passive on the level of the direction of the political content of the movement of consciousness..... in this struggle, no clarification was manifest, no supercession of nationalist illusions, no autonomy in relation to the organizations. It's as if the masses delegated all thought, all reflection, all leadership of the movement to the organizations.... the Stalinist party not only utilized this attitude but did all it could to reinforce it."
14. It was this confusion that the Maoists also thought revolutionary and probably secretly wished to reproduce it anyway though some were appalled by its reproduction. Thus Le Dantec mentions the attempt, "to invent a totally uninhibited politics, based on the fusion between French revolutionary tradition (direct action and resistance) and the essence of Maoism, (a conception entirely emancipated from Leninism in our interpretation)." Previously Le Dantec had said, "We had the impression of being much more cunning, much better instructed and much less corrupt than our elders, thinking we had little chance of falling again into the ruts of the past" (Les Dangers du Soleil ).
15. When the Maoists called for Popular Unity in the early 1970s, they also placed themselves on the same terrain as the Communist parties - a fact, which did not go unnoticed. The more the original ideology fractured the more the mass of Maoists burnt out into an updated social democracy rather than drift into ultra leftist critique, though a sizable minority did just that. Even then however their rigid character armouring prevented them taking on board a more relevant total revolutionary critique.
I6. A conservative opposition to tourism which emphasized not the boredom, misery and frustration of tourism but the fact that tourism was destroying the 'natural' beauty of 'authentic' peasant cultures in Brittany, Languedoc etc which of course was happening but without coming to grips with the dead life of alienated consumption and the concept of the mass tourist as a bunch of very unhappy, lost and alienated consumers.
17. Closely connected to point 15, a move from internationalism to regionalism took place slowly paralleling a similar momentum from direct action to terrorism.
18. Mao's particular relationship with the past. (C.f. Sun Yat–Sen, "In China, the majority of individual endowed with a powerful ambition, have from antiquity onwards dreamed of becoming emperor----When I began to advocate revolution, six or seven out of ten of those who rallied around were harbouring this type of imperial dream at the outset") As Cajo Brendel pointed out, in a manner of speaking Confucius still lives and a criticism of Confucius had some bearing on the contemporary behaviour of the party. We must add to this by asking another question: Taoism existed as a subversive proto scientific doctrine for millennia in China. Its influence amongst contemporary hippy circles also has its subversive side. However, one cannot say the same for either Zen or more orthodox Buddhism even though there contemporary existence does carry some subversive weight. In this eclectic borrowing from oriental sources, there is one religion which fails to have much modern appeal – Confucionism - Why?
A BRIEF OVERVIEW
Any ideology that is imported from one country to another (and especially from an under-developed country with a cultural tradition as different from the West as China) must first of all find roots within the host country. Otherwise it is doomed to perish and remain an esoteric philosophy confined to the inner circle of the 'converted' with little influence on general social struggles.
In the process of finding roots the imported ideology very often becomes transformed or mutated in order to fulfill or affect certain needs. It can gain no success unless it touches one of those dormant nerves. The struggle becomes the struggle to taper the original ideology to the real needs of the host society, awakening that part of the 'cultural heritage', which can make it acceptable. In this attempt to adapt to different social conditions Maoism had to adapt the general aspects of Chinese Maoism to conditions prevailing in the West.
The Maoist formula to achieve this had three essential components, which can be outlined as follows:
(a) By posing as a new populist strategy for class revolution and one which was radical by comparison with the strategies of the traditional 'revisionist' Communist parties or the Social Democrats.
(b) By combining a belief in Chinese peasant communism with a folksy ecological critique of modern technology, which ironically at times has utilized sophisticated technical developments to buttress a pervasive medievalism. We need look no further than at Chris Harper's baneful anarchist alternative drawings of a 'utopian' future where "revolution is the festival of the oppressed" coagulates in a dreary English Kropotkinite routine of meadows, communalized gothic cathedrals and tithe barn workshops. More generally the coming together of "small is beautiful" ecological anarchism and the fallout from Maoist peasant fantasies overlap on the terrain of the state when President Carter can authorize a one billion dollar research program on solar energy. A recent review Overthrow edited by Paul Krassner and ex-hippy friends having lost the millennial feelings of the late 1960s can ridiculously proclaim that "the only revolution is solar" - a technolatry disregarding the social relations of production which is utterly essential when outlining the hopes of a green future.
(c) By providing a pseudo-scientific body of ideas that were religious and ritualistic in character.
Maoism was not a revolutionary breakthrough but all three aspects were to attract thousands of young 'intellectual' ideologists from that sector of society immediately above the working class performing a functionary role (or more nearly preparing to do so) in some aspect or other preserving the capitalist social order. Maoism also had an appeal to some workers with a great penchant for immediate destruction of the commodity economy who often wrecked havoc on stodgy legalistic demonstrations while shouting out ludicrous slogans bearing no relation to their practical destructive activity, at the same time as they were blind to a similar raison d'etre behind football hooliganism / council estate vandalism etc.
At the height of their power in China the Maoist faction of the Chinese Communist party (CCP) were able to give their blessings, some money and provide (or so the Western Maoists believed) proof of the vitality of Maoist organization.
With the defeat, in the late 1970s, of "the Gang of Four" and the Maoist faction within the Chinese ruling class, the Western Maoists were to lose much of their appeal and audience. This, together with the Pol Pot horror stories meant 'classical' Maoism was shattered. Although classical Maoism is dead, shadows of Maoist ideology constantly re-appear in more subtle forms. However there is more to it than that. In many respects Maoism dead is more unnerving than when it was a shouting but living corpse having influenced (and changed the face of) the powerful lobby of the Western liberal tradition with its long historical line of paid up intellectuals. So let us take at look at some of these more recent characteristics.....
The development of Third World national liberation movements in the aftermath of the bloodbath of the Second (inter imperialist) World War seemed to provide an answer to the question of the Eurocentric and American orientation of world history. Anxious liberals eagerly supported these movements as a way out of the pernicious circle. In reality they were acting as the faithful chien-de garde of a European nationalism, which was in the process of being exported to the rest of the world. After 1945, Nationalism within Europe was stale, corrupt and discredited and had developed the evil legacy of Imperialism.
Commitment to Third World liberation struggles was able to restore a racism 'free' of the guilt of fascism and European Imperialism. The inequalities within the anti-imperialist rhetoric corresponded to different stages of development. For the First World condition of their reproduction of nationalism was full support for a nascent Third World bourgeoisie in their battle against Imperialism, combined with a shamefaced denigration of belonging to a First World country. The Maoist Le Dantec had insisted upon giving assistance to national liberation movements as a "categorical imperative". Within the rules of this anti-imperialist game, it was possible to proudly say, "I am Chilean" but not "I am French or I am German" but with the former ultimately supporting the latter in paradoxical ways.
It did indeed seem like a return to the founding principles of bourgeois nationalism –admittedly on another continent and with the face-lift of state capitalism. Such a romantic longing was never again to find a better echo until the recent emergence of petty nationalist and regionalist movements. Not until the middle 1970s was nationalism in the metropoles to become a respectable cause again for the reforming bourgeoisie and then it was thrown onto indigenous small nationalities such as the Basques in Spain, the Bretons in France and in the UK, the Irish (never absent - the exception which proves the rule), the Scots and Welsh (c/f. Tom Nairn's The Breakup of the UK) followed by a host of mini-regional sentiments, e.g. in the USA the record companies beaming down on the 'unique' flavour of Cajun culture in the Deep South. However in the immediate post war period, the nationalist lacunae and the apparently dead sentiments of nineteenth century romantic nationalism were unexpectedly exported onto a Third World context. Individuals like Edgar Snow were among the first path-finders while others were to traipse over these paths again and again, even right up to the recent charter flight romantic journalists who attended Chou-En Lai's 14 course dinners talking of Yunnan caves and greater deeds. Or, if not that, there's Basil Davidson's Black Star, a worshipful appraisal of Nhkruma's rise and fall, concluding with a picture of Nhkruma alone, unloved, isolated and misunderstood, in the Ghanaian twilight. Apropos of Black Star - if one still has any patience left - read the utter rubbish in Basil Davidson's Eye of the Storm with the black slave still carrying the white progressive journalists knapsack through the yellow green plants which twist in the inter-imperialist wind, the lunar imagery going journalistically into war, into the moral force of good sense and a host of other euphemisms for covering up the cracks in the Portuguese colonial system and the 'freedom' movements. At best a back handed respect for the poor.
In many respects these were the 'Napoleonic' accolades finding a new and unexpected lease of life under the guise of 'socialism'. It was also a 'socialism' which was in the process of development and not yet institutionalised. Therefore it might be able to escape the path, which, in Russia, had led to the undeniable stories of peasant and worker hardships and political assassinations and purges. Many liberals had already torn up their Communist party cards and with the 1956 invasion of Hungary many more were to do so. Those who remained liberals were now able to shift their new status of 'orphans' onto Third World liberation struggles.
Mao, although never criticising Stalinism, had embarked on a different policy in relationship to the peasants and instead of forcing the peasants into the towns and factories, Mao had attempted to bring the factories into the countryside. The scanty information which existed and the bland and blind enthusiasm with which pro-Maoists in the West presented this policy (cynically denying all stories of famine and the thousands of deaths which it produced after 1958) gave Mao's image amongst these liberals, a more 'humanitarian' appeal. It also seemed to avoid the costly stages of the development of European capitalism, the dark satanic mills and the town ghetto, in a kind of William Morris cum Kropotkinite pre-Raphaelite time warp, in fact a forerunner displaced onto another country – China - of their latter day ecological demands to be realized as a utopia of rational consumerism within the paradigms of capitalism.
Another difference between Russia and China in this period was that China had emerged from a civil war in which the forces of Chang Kai-shek had already killed many of Mao's would-be-rivals. The Chinese Communist party was then able to take almost absolute control and to integrate intellectuals, previous civil servants, etc. Stalin had been unable to do this in Russia and had to send out his own hatchet men to carry out this task. Mao could now 'use' his fallen comrades and rivals in death and thus increase his 'heroic' image.
In any case, for the Western liberals, there had been real achievements in China since 1949.
(I) The party had avoided enslavement to Russian and Comecon imperialism.
(2) They had increased life expectancy from 30 in 1949 to around 50-60 in the late 1960s and had alleviated the terrible and real conditions of a great section of society - the dead and starved bodies on the gutters every morning appeared to have been cleared up.
(3) A type of full rural employment was being given to the peasants where before this had not existed.
These three factors on their own were credited to Maoist organisation and the latent (or evident) technocratic nature of these Westerners was impressed. The second Five Year Plan, englobing the Great Leap Forward, appeared to embody the very heart of a technocratic plan; it was inspiring to see 900 million people being organised on a scale never before imagined. If the Western liberals heard the stories of hardships and misery that ensued, they blanked them. Many of them were able to criticise Stalin for imprisoning intellectuals but completely ignored the plight of hundreds of thousands of peasants, a stance typical of Western liberalism with its snooty superiority towards wage labour work with low ideological content.
After the splits in the fully integrated state-capitalist countries following the invasion of Hungary in 1956 and the Sino-Soviet rift in 1958-9 small pro-Chinoise groups began to appear. At first maintaining an open debate on what they termed "Soviet Revisionism", by 1963 this debate had given way to denunciation and attack. In France those party factions partisan to Moscow and those partisan to Peking kept up an open discussion until 1963. Certain French Communist party heavies (Bergeron for example) defended the Chinese position on "Soviet Revisionism". However, in 1963, the so-called Letter of the 25 Points appeared cutting this debate off completely. In Belgium, the first pro-Chinese Communist party was set up by Grippa while in France the pro-Chinoise revue edited by Jacques Verges, Sine, Stakloff etc. appeared. From here those tiny groups were to mushroom all across Europe and the USA and Grippa had even forwarded the idea of a "new international" based on them (the 5th International). One might as well have called for the creation of the 12th International, which is exactly what the Motherfuckers amusingly did in New York five years later though not exclusively over the corpse of Maoism.
Much of the notoriety of the Western Maoist groups came as a result of their involvement in the events following May 1968 in Europe though during that glorious year they hardly had any impact, denouncing one of the greatest events in world history, as a "petite bourgeois social democratic plot"!!!!
The upward economic cycle following the Second World War was based on the success of Keynesian demand management and cheap raw material and lasted from 1945-1950, declining for two years only to be followed by an upward cycle again until 1955. Such a propitious situation was to create the second largest baby boom this century.
These post-war babies were to face the labour market towards the end of the downward cycle of 1960-67, when work was getting scarcer and resources for education and training schemes etc. were beginning to be phased out. Over-population is different in all periods of history and the problems of the surplus population in the mid-1960s were no exception. The effect was different on different social layers but the general strategy, which had been employed to deal with it, was similar, consisting of keeping this surplus population out of the labour market through unemployment benefits, higher education and other training schemes.
One of the layers most affected was that of university trained personnel. The university, in transition from being the exclusive training ground of managers, the repository of bourgeois science, had also taken on the unflattering secondary role of the repository of surplus labour. While it was necessary to train a new generation of managers, it was also necessary to take this group, at least temporarily, out of the labour market. This led to overcrowding and saturation within the universities and colleges of further education for which they had not been designed. These would-be managers were caught between the promise of a bourgeois future and the harsh realities of surplus labour.
Such a situation was to exacerbate the tensions within the ruling class. More than anything it was to create a massive disaffection with the liberal faction, whose leaders were all in their 50s and whose thinking had been formed in the post-war boom. Not unsurprisingly the younger liberals began to criticise these leaders, especially in the form of the smug pro-Moscow Communist parties as well as the Second International leaders. In the USA there was massive disaffection within the 'grass-roots' organizations of the Democratic party.
Maoism, as an ideology, provided a way out of this smugness. By presenting Maoism as a radical, often violent, alternative to the collaborationist reformism of their parents, the pro-Maoists touched the nerve centre of a real demand. By masquerading in a pseudo-religious cloak while maintaining a materialistic core they made the ideology appealing.
The university explosions from the1964 Berkeley sit-in in America to the wave of occupations in the late 1960s threw up leaders who used these assaults to reform the universities and were singling themselves out in the eyes of company personnel managers or already had their sights set on political or 'sensitive' professional careers. At its worst in Japan the hyped up aggressive drive of power mad militants on occasions was turned into the hard sell type executive working for Toyota.
For would be technocrats who didn't have the finesse or know-how to be successful leaders, the only alternative was radical change within the system. They could use, or attempt to use, the workers as a lever while they set off on a utopian technocratic voyage into the realm of warped and fictitious dialectics (in essence the negation of dialectics). Appearing to be radical on the one hand they were laying the foundations for their future careers on the other. The anti-fascist student leaders in Portugal and Spain were later to find 'good jobs' in the new 'democracies' set up after the collapse of these regimes. Ex Maoists were awarded with ministerial jobs in the post 1974 government in Portugal paralleling the fate of militant fellow travellers like the populist anarchists of LUAR whose boss, Palma Ignacio became Minister of Labour in Portugal in 1977.
The Maoists in the period following the Cultural Revolution were to see China through rose-tinted spectacles where the official proclamations were seen as 'gospel' truth. Far away hills are green and far away myths are only like the truth if repeated often enough. The confused way in which the Maoists in the West were to present the events in China 1967-68 made mockery of what really happened, a profound proletarian revolution, which not even the Maoist faction had been able to control. That this struggle was defeated, both by its own ignorance of history and by Maoist trickery, was never mentioned. The Maoists were to present the years 1965-68 as one ongoing movement and part of one struggle, the struggle for Maoist hegemony. They tried to hush-up the distinction between the struggles of the Chinese proletariat against the ruling class and the manner in which one faction of this class - the Maoists – were to manipulate these struggles and finally crush them by throwing the army against the workers. They claimed, in chants and slogans, the necessity of Maoist organization as the starter motor of proletarian revolution without ever letting on that this struggle had also been against Maoism. This unkind lie – a cynically structured ambiguity - which had been the cause of untold misery and so much forced labour was accepted as the truth and proclaimed all over the West. It caused thousands to take Maoism seriously, to accept their concept of the "masses" literally as though it were some magical trans-class concept. Mao's writings On Contradictions (1937) - although probably re-written by the time of the first published version for Western consumers in 1951 - reflected Mao's difficulties on controlling the factional groups and interests within the embryonic Chinese Communist party and it is an appeal to the broadest base possible. It is an appeal for an alliance, ("Things opposed to each other can complement each other") of various classes in order to overthrow the main enemy - the Japanese imperialists and comprador bourgeoisie.
This call for demagogic class collaboration had by June 1968 in France become a call for a "Popular Front" against the principle danger of the usual fascism in the stereotyped Maoist mind. "A Popular Front is not made up of progressive students even with the sincerest desire to align themselves to the working class nor of workers acting in a disorganised fashion, without a scientific Marxist Leninist plan. It is formed within the struggle at the base. But to conduct this struggle to victory it requires a solid Marxist Leninist party which conserves its own autonomy, allying and working with others." Or, (the struggle) "requires the leading role of the Party, armed with Mao thought and organised in a revolutionary party"; there are many such examples.
Maoist populism in the West was merely the importation from Third World countries of the concept of the "Popular Front" and "Anti-Imperialism" in which they already had the answers brought to fruition by a variety of carpetbagger practices. Diverse tactics were used, like packing meetings, taking decisions on direct action alone (hoping that others would follow) creating parallel organisations which would then unite with other organisations in a 'front' thus giving them more elbow room to manoeuvre the 'front'. Unconsciously or not, the cover of Les Maos en France got it right, the Andy Warhol-like reproduction of the same meets its apotheosis in Maoism.
The Maoists would stop at nothing to give themselves a better more popular image. In 1969, the Unione dei Comunisti Italiani Marxisti-Leninisti (UCI-ML) had a forced march of several hundred children of southern immigrants through the streets of Turin and brought them close to the Fiat headquarters. The children were escorted by the paramilitary corps of this organisation and the kids, all dressed in red, all waving Mao's Little Red Book, provided a spectacle of force and organisation which is not all that strange in a country like Italy; Mussolini had used the same tactics, (kids dressed in black) in the late 1920s.
This same organisation was able to produce thousands of leaflets without ever explaining where the money came from. Rumours that the UCI-ML financed its operations with funds which were taken from Northern industrialists who were promised that no wildcat strikes would be stirred up in their factories were never denied. Mafia like tactics was the other side of radical 'populism'. (See the development and decline of Student Movements in Europe: Gianni Statera, OUP, New York 1975).
The populism of the Maoists was always limited in any case. In Italy or France or in Portugal where this populism was most attempted as a means to create 'the party' it has had little success, although it has been noisy and turbulent. Aldo Brandirali, general secretary of the UCI-ML, produced thousands of posters with the heads of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao and guess who? Yes! Aldo Brandirali. In Portugal posters of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Arnaldo Matos (general secretary of the MRPP - Movement for the Reorganisation of the Party of the Proletariat) have also been produced. These enfants terrible of the bourgeoisie, not having the sexiness of an Eva Peron, without the cunning of a Mao, without the heroism of a Samora Machel, who, in the end, have very little to offer other than narcissism and paranoia didn't get anywhere. Is it surprising?
In any case the substitutionism was blatant. Talking in the name of the people, writing in the name of the masses, meant that these 'people / masses' had nothing to do but to sit back and allow the Maoists to do everything for them - except maybe to come out occasionally to show that they existed. At Renault in France, the Maoists could beat up foremen whom they disliked and later put out leaflets to the effect that "the workers at Renault have taken out their justice on the lackeys of capital", and the workers would later to their surprise, be given a run down on the ins and outs of the affaire.
MAOIST FOXINESS, MAOIST FOLKINESS....
The endorsement and the belief in Chinese peasant communism and the policy of full rural employment via the rural communes were to strike a particularly sensitive nerve in the West. It was to reinforce a desire to retreat to the imagery of former modes of production, create an ecological global view of class relations in which the new society was the mirror image of what was judged to have been "the good old days". It was one in which the savage developments of modern capitalism was rejected only in favour of the romanticized misery of underdevelopment. It is one of the sources of the modern ecology movement; though it must be stressed only one as equally much came from anarchist sympathies guided considerably by Murray Bookchin's revolutionary insights on the depredations of nature inside America.
As was mentioned above one of the reactions to historical crisis is the desire to fly back to the past, to a point before the appearance of the crisis. In this way the crisis is apparently resolved, although in reality it is merely ignored. The torque of the contradiction is merely shifted backwards in time and the solutions are false ones, with their heads in the sands. Western Maoism fitted into the flight to utopia and romantic responses on the part of a tired consumerism gone completely plastic. The growth of the Hippie movement in the USA and the UK in its ideological mouthing was precisely such a romantic flight, though its real undertow - the refusal of work, petty thieving cum occasional real life game subversion (e.g. the detourning of Disneyland by a bunch of freaks in 1970) was a giant's step in the direction of the contemporary social revolution. Maoism tended to tail end this movement and by 1972 -74 the clandestine Weathermen were just about all that remained of its more 'radical' (read militaristic) section. By mixing small-scale production in China with small-scale production in the US (artisan production, boutiques, small farming of macrobiotic goods, small-scale production and distribution of illegal products like marijuana etc) it was able to establish a base and a global worldview, indeed at times an armed global viewpoint. On the whole they consisted of pauperised intellectuals fleeing from the labour market, which was hostile to them, unable to make it in the overcrowded colleges, contemptuous of the production line that threatened to close in on them. They found solace in the cultural imagery based on clean and healthy lives, which were represented in the photos taken out of China Pictorial. Their posters of smiling healthy peasants mirrored in their minds the efforts of these peasants as they heroically tilled their fields with primitive instruments, similar in many aspects with the hard lives of the early American settlers.
The difference of course was to be found in the refrigerators, which they kept, the six-pack beer cans from which they drank their beer and the supermarket down the road. Their imagery was only valid at the expense of another section of society producing these goods for them, though finally the employed proletariat has only itself to blame for the continuation of capitalism. Proletarian auto-critique - the refusal to be a proletarian - must become one of the central features of authentic revolt. The refusal of work is central to it.
In the US folksiness came out in an attempt to set up rural communes in the backwaters of Death Valley or Vermont where land was cheap or could be occupied, recreating the frontier images which they watched on the old Hollywood re-runs on TV, with the sense of the 'love of the Earth' of the early settlers intermingled with posters of heroic Vietcong soldiers and Chinese village life. A book like Life in a Chinese Village was to be found on many of the bookshelves in these rural communes and its success was partly due to this transplantation of one socio-economic reality into another. It seemed easier to accept the ideology than the economic reality of such a scene, even if it forced certain participants of this forced life-style into nervous breakdown. They could only believe that the Chinese peasants had chosen such a heroic life-style rather than see the need of the Maoists to forcibly herd millions of peasants and workers into collectivized farms. The White Panther Party (a Maoist party set up to provide backing to the Black Panther party), based on a rural commune near Ann Arbor, started off the day with a dose of self-criticism, a la the Vietcong, over their rice crispies and cornflakes. In any event their whole Maoist image was to collapse and this party was to change its name to the Rainbow Peoples party putting out a one year plan in 1972 becoming an ecological pressure group which, though better fell well short of a total critique of growing ultra capitalization beginning to really invade every aspect of our conscious and subconscious lives.
In some magical way the support of Maoist ideology was seen as a revolt against "modern technology and its ills", even though many of them were to become frustrated by the ability of 'modern technology' (especially the electronics industry) to survive them, and even by pass them, (the massive injection of capital into ecology or grants for solar energy etc.) Many of the ex-Maos in the US are today active in the anti-Nuke movement, which even now on the technological level carries in its rucksack (never mind all its other pathetic failings like belief in parliamentarism) a simplistic dismissal of all nuclear energy without considering the possibilities of harmless nuclear fusion (admittedly a big 'if') if the experiments prove successful.
At the time of their disillusionment with Maoist militantism Maoists may have agreed with the Beatles, "Carrying pictures of Chairman Mao ain't gonna get you anywhere anyhow" and probably even endorsed the Beatles conclusion that revolution was a waste of time (Let it Be) as they retired into small-time, full-time business interests. And it is doubtful if the Chinese peasant fleeing feudalism ever met up with the American hippy fleeing capitalism as they went down that same road in opposite directions.
A FEW PARTIES AND A FEW PERSONALITIES......
THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY
The motto of the Black Panther Party was taken from Mao's Little Red Book and his military writings. How easy it was for them to accept the saying that, "We are advocates of war" but only "war can be abolished through war and in order to get rid of the gun it is necessary to pick up the gun". This quote was repeated by Huey Newton, the Black Panther's Minister of Defence though the tautology of the quote almost defies belief). Moreover the very notion of having a Minister of Defence shows how much the statist and militaristic ideology had altered the heads of the Panthers. Fetishzing the uniform (like all military formations from the IRA to ETA) they could only create a hierarchy, which produced all the social relations of bourgeois society. The dangers of militarism in an armed struggle have to be combated and no social revolution can proceed without the immediate abolition of the standing army.
In the United States the use of the gun is endemic and usually it means a bloodthirsty nothing in terms of revolutionary potential. The Mafia for instance used military formations to reinforce super-exploitation and frighten off the law just as they had done in southern Italy. Eldridge Cleaver (later of Cleaver Jeans Ltd plus the church) and always more 'honest' than the media-oriented Newton said in an essay which he wrote for Rolling Stone mag' in 1970 under the title Meeting the Panthers (an interview which was later published in a heavily edited version in Post Prison Writings) described how he first met the Panthers and immediately turned onto them and their style, saying that "when they [the Panthers] walked into the room, armed with guns... this was the way to organize, not like the long-hairs, more like the Mafia." And it didn't stop with verbal flourish. Panthers who seriously criticised the organisation were offed in the best Stalinist tradition, including the black revolutionary James Carr whose biography BAD (published by Californian ex pro-situs) was silenced by that American liberal consensus which subconsciously suppresses the truth particularly when it's literally staring it in the face. The book a fine account of Carr's life didn't really get much distribution.
That the Panthers in their heyday had any credibility at all clearly shows how far America at the time was from social revolution. European Maoism eagerly accepted the Panthers, and Anarcho-Maoism in France grabbed everything it considered 'subversive'. Thus in no issue number 5 of the spontaneist journal Vive la Révolution which carried the title, "To change life is the destruction of the old order" there were articles on the Panthers. It was a common but horrible mix at one and the same time. The Panthers ended up like other Maoist groups – on the frontline of reform, some teaching backward kids, others setting up pressure groups against right wing businessmen.
But before we return to the American Maoist experience we must now take a detour through France......
LA GAUCHE PROLETARIENNE AND JEAN PIERRE LE DANTEC
Jean Pierre Le Dantec was born I943 in Brittany, the son of Communist party primary school teachers strongly affected by the Resistance. In 1966 Le Dantec was influenced by Louis Althusser and Mao and helped produce Red Guard committing himself "body and soul" to the recently formed UJC M/L (Union de Jeunenesses Communistes Marxistes Leninistes) a breakaway from the UEC (Union des Etudiantes Communistes) becoming by 1968 one of its principal leaders. Well before 1968, Le Dantec proved his mettle shouting insults at the bourgeoisie in college get-togethers. A confirmed Maoist he nonetheless read the situationists Vaneigem's Traite de Savoire Vivre and was more than impressed. He also read Althusser's Pour Marx and Lire le Capital ...."This thought whose brilliant rigour is only surface slowly instilled in me its poison"..... "I became like many others a virtuoso of the 'epistemological break' in Marx's thought" believing Althusser would shortly give his undivided thought to the UJC. Not only was Trotskyism "metaphysical" reducing everything to a "simplistic proletarian opposition" [could have fooled us!] failing to grasp the necessity of stages but what is worse had not made any impact over 40 years. So the Alan Krivine faction in the UEC out of which later came the Trotskyite JCR was under considerable suspicion.
From the point of view of developments occurring in the early 1970s it is important to realize that Le Dantec though accepting the Rue D'Ulm circles (the student brothels of Althusser) view that Stalin was after all a major theorist, could never fully reconcile himself to the purges. Not only had Mao finally ignored the Comintern but had seized power also without resorting to "slander or persecution". The truth concerning Lin Piao's death was in 1972 a contributory cause to the dissolution of La Gauche Proletarienne, the party that became the bed rock of the French Maoist movement and which Le Dantec was instrumental in organizing.
Once formed the UJC M/L found it essential to reply to the Trotskyite "Comite Vietnam National" which they thought reformist and drawing inspiration from the 1930s French Popular Front government with their own "Comites Vietnam de Base" pledged to untiringly support the NLF in Vietnam and the invincibility of a "popular war" having as their priority agitation in popular quarters and factories. For close on a year Le Dantec became part of the scenery of his quarter selling the Courier de Vietnam written by Vietnamese themselves. (How many other Maoists less scrupulous than Le Dantec rose from such mean beginnings in this leftist pantomime of newsvendor to say, The White House?)
In the summer of 1967 he was chosen to represent the UJC on a visit to China (who paid?)..."Let me give you an idea of my excitement, our excitement. We were going to get to know the country haunting our dreams..... His first impression is everyone's nightmare epic cliché.... "At the back of a hall [in Canton] draped in red, dwarfed by the white statue of Chairman Mao was a young man, in green dungarees joyously waving his arms. Our first Red Guard!"
Come 1968 and the UJC are concentrated mainly in the factories and workers' quarters. Their idea of a student movement following a reading of Mao's is one of self-effacing support for workers' struggles. Le Dantec admits he would have spat on the Situationists, Ten Days that Shook the University and is frank enough to say as a member of the UJC's political bureau he first found out about the trouble in Nanterre in Paris Match. Without exception all the French Trotskyist and Maoist groups regarded one of the major events in world history - May '68 - with deep suspicion and at best merely tail-ended a leaderless process. The Maoists bought crash helmets not to fight capital so much as to participate in street demonstrations against the- neo-fascists of "Occident" in support of the Vietcong. On the working class 'front' their aim was to create a split in the Communist party CGT union structure, the only union in the opinion of the UJC with clearly working class origins. They hoped to do this by an unswerving support f or CGT principles exposing in this way the "revisionists". "In short we had dreamt of a return to a lost original purity" using the name of Monmousseau, a founding member of the CGT, an indefatigable Stalinist militant faithful to the French Communist party who had launched a campaign in 1948 against the CGT's "useless baggage". The pity is amongst older workers, such figures are often remembered with genuine though deluded affection. Sentimental memories provided fruitful pickings for the Maoists. Hence the paradox which is very much still with us of Maoist inspired terrorist groups recruiting mainly from teenagers and pensioners (c.f. The Red Brigades in Italy).
Heralding the First of May the UJC printed an edition of its paper Servir le People with the headline "long live a fighting CGT" and bringing out at the same time the first edition of La Cause du Peuple linking the student movement to the 'masses'. The name was inherited from George Sand's original incendiary newspaper of the same name from the tumultuous year of 1848. By now the Maoists had a toehold within the factories with the formation of the GTC (Groupe de Travail Communiste) and the UJC intended as a group to wait on the sidelines as the invariably huge CGT demonstration passed by until the arrival of a delegation who had been converted to the UJC's views on the CGT. There they intended to noisily join it giving the appearance of being more numerous than they were. In political cunning the Mao's had learnt many a lesson from the Communist party. They were not above circulating a rumour either that Nanterre was about to be invaded by crew cut paras determined to sweep the faculty clean. Helped by the anarchists they were able to recreate in their imagination Peking university achieving a "political victory" over the Trotskyists of the JCR (Jeune Communiste Revolutionnare) who denounced it as a "circus", True an appeal to the imagination often has greater effect than appealing to shit reality but let's face it Jean Pierre those pits and traps a la Vietnam, those giant slings and catapults were deadly serious, there was nothing light hearted about their construction. On the 3rd of May, Nanterre was closed but the UJC instructed its militants to remain in their quarters and not to go anywhere near the Latin Quarter believing it would close the movement within a university ghetto. Breaking the interdiction himself, Le Dantec visited the Latin Quarter then retired to a cafe complaining of the petite bourgeois egoisms behind the revolt denouncing it as a social democratic plot orchestrated by the Trotskyists. Such views could have come straight from the pages of the Communist party paper, L'Humanite.
MICHEL LE BRIS
Born in Brittany in 1945 the bastard son of a maid, he is at 14 placed in a chic lycee at Versailles while his mother works as a maid in the landlord's winter residence. 1958-68 were for him "Ten somnambulistic years, studying mechanically with no other aim than that of responding to my mother who had placed on me her own revenge on life - she had had to leave school at the age of nine working in order to survive and looking after my invalid grandmother all alone." For ten years he felt himself "somewhere else" lost between Brittany that continued, "to exist only in my memory and a more and more insupportable modernity". And then there was "the horror, blood, torture" in Algeria contradicting that things will turn out all right. The student milieu was to him particularly hateful finding them, whether because of the benefit of hindsight we can't be sure "all so proud of their learning, their modernity, their human, linguistic and structural sciences - and me who was half dead and my country with it, from their science. I knew intuitively at least one thing that the learning had constituted itself by excluding mine, crushing it through their culture, by my exclusion."
Throughout this time jazz had helped him survive believing the riots in Watts and Detroit had given birth to a magnificent, radical, new music that we called the "new thing" ("la nouvelle chose"). In order to defend this "new music" Le Bris took over the editorship of a small revue Jazz Hot helping translate into French interviews with black jazz musicians biased towards a simplistic black versus white conflict. (The 1970 Champ Libre /I0:I8 book Free Jazz / Black Power makes fairly extensive references to these interviews. A revived Third International model of revolution no longer required the Bolshoi Ballet so much as jazz improvisation to renew itself thus resorting to a far more recent cultural archaism). At the same time Le Bris was writing articles to familiarize himself with science fiction: "In short I was exploring in my own way the lines of "possible rupture" making for a revolution in our culture - but as one clutches at a buoy so as not to sink".
May 1968 arrived. Considering that he took over the editorship of La Cause du Peuple after Le Dantec's imprisonment only vacating his chair to Jean Paul Sartre when he likewise was sent to jail, Le Bris does seem to flatter himself that May '68 was "simply first a smile". (It goes without saying that subsequently there wasn't much to smile about in La Cause de Peuple). He did not he admits fight on the barricades in the Rue Gay Lussac not having "a soldiers soul".... "I don't think May '68 was a war... but primarily real life"...... It was "an insurrection of the sons against the father" ... "There had been for the first time a transgression."
But only it seems to fall into the clutches of Maoism. Like others associated with La Gauche Proletarienne, Le Bris was to quite rapidly grow disillusioned with it. Speaking of this and other explicitly vanguard groupuscules he said... "They did not have any time for tenderness – it was a question of seizing power not of laughing." On paper an admirable sentiment yet in practise its real "appel" (Le Bris' word) is to an undefined spirit beyond the political dimension but which still leaves political structures intact. After quitting La Gauche Proletarienne, La Bris became a Nouveaux Philosophe publishing in 1978, L'homme aux Semelles de Vent (Man with Winged Feet?) and a Breton nationalist. From loud-mouthed Maoist mania to the sad complaint of regional nationalism is not really such a giant step: neither ever had nor ever will envisage a world free of politics, money and the state.
LA GAUCHE PROLETARIENNE, AND ITS NEWSPAPER, LA CAUSE DU PEUPLE... SOME OF THE DIFFICULTIES ENCOUNTERED.
How explain the success of a paper like La Cause du Peuple? No other 'new left' political magazine appearing in the UK can lay claim to a similar success. On the sub-cultural side there was in the UK, The International Times which escaped the confines of an 'educated' readership while France possessed no equivalent to that paper. A miner interviewed in the book Les Maos en France said the attraction of La Cause du Peuple lay in it calling a spade a spade and hints that this was proletarian journalism. At any rate it had some influence on him to take up the journalistic cudgel and write outraged articles on pit accidents etc.
However the appeal of La Cause du Peuple was its declamatory style – a call to arms rather than a careful analysis of tendencies. The pointed refusal of La Gauche Proletarienne to produce a theoretical equivalent of Lenin's The Development of Capitalism in Russia, the "theoretical practise" if you like without which the proletariat was lost according to Lenin (!!) - struck a chord somewhere in the hearts of the French working class. Is it by chance that the miner mentioned above quotes Marx via Mao (unknowingly?) on the educated educator? "There were the texts where Mao said that before being an educator it was necessary to educate oneself. Really it was that we clutched at then."
The setting of the special status of intellectuals at zero – which La Cause du Peuple seemed to practise and up to a point insinuated in the staccato delivery where heroic catchphrases counted most in an otherwise crude political consensus of students, workers, petite commerciants met the vengeance of the proletariat against 'clever' intellectuals halfway. In theory at least all were as one in their ignorance.
The editorial board of La Cause du Peuple contained a "former worker" who apparently possessed the ability "to discover in our phrases the words which carried: and the expressions lacking force" (Les Dangers du Soleil). Necessarily the language of the factory and workshop was not that of the Academie Francaise and La Cause du Peuple was right in regarding that tongue as also the language of negotiations between worker and capitalist - the latter finally as master of the situation. But the language of the factory and workshop was for La Cause du Peuple finally insufficient - it was utilizable; even "our treasure" – "those scraps of phrases coming without any modification from the mouths of workers" but ultimately it had to be given a political inflection. The heroic commands were to trap the proletariat. Eventually the effigy of the proletarian hulk - all boiler suit and muscle - strangling diminutive capitalists turned into a fanatical Goliath of morality and this consequence was present from the first fanciful cartoons.
Though the threats that La Cause du Peuple made against the murderer of B.G. who was raped and brutally murdered in the mining regions of the north at Bruay was bloody enough - they really concealed a saint like conception of the proletariat even though several businessmen were suspected. The working class is "without stain" (La Cause du Peuple), it would not - it could never do anything similar!! You must be joking. But in defending the proletariat like this, La Cause du Peuple / J'Accuse helped make the working class ashamed in front of itself driving 'negative' thoughts underground and ultimately of worth to the bourgeoisie who have to control the proles on many levels and 'shame' is an invaluable weapon in its defensive arsenal.
The real problem is explaining why 'the people' fall for this image of themselves and up to a point reinforce it. The threats in La Cause du Peuple / J'Accuse was also the occasion of an inter-party crises - a test of party loyalty from which would follow the purges (as one of the editors of La Cause du Peuple said at the time) "The article is not perhaps perfect but to my mind it possesses a special quality by bringing the vipers who are poisoning the editorial committee out of their den." (Les Dangers du Soleil).
La Cause du Peuple was on the way to becoming the "spiritualism of the corporation" (Marx) and this fiction of an angelic proletariat was only a symptom of a nascent state rationality, which must turn things on their head. And it was also more than cynical manipulation or opportunist behaviour with the best of intentions. Rather it reflected the fundamentally false picture, parties must build up of reality to fox those they rule over and this incident helped mark in at least one, instance (the case of Andre Glucksman) the drawn out birth of the Nouvelle Philosophie which paradoxically still reflects the hold of this genre of politicking because the only way it can see beyond it, is by going back to the forlorn liberalism of human rights campaigners demanding - ever demanding - cast iron guarantees from the state. It would also be interesting to know if the Nouvelle Philosophie hadn't also been nurtured when La Cause du Peuple went canvassing for all the help it could get when the paper was eventually brought before the French courts. After all, the mere mention of good names with international reputations (the buffoon Sartre etc) would surely be sufficient to dampen the wrath of the most ardent state Prosecutor. Inevitably La Cause du Peuple folded giving way to the daily Liberation a more watered down successor, even if more superficially open and less party oriented.
SOME THOUGHTS ON MOAIST POPULISM. BRINGING STARS DOWN TO AN EVERYDAY DIMENSION. THE INTERVIEWER INTERVIEWED.
La Gauche Proletarienne and La Cause du Peuple used celebrities to defend themselves when they found themselves in deep trouble and as VIP propaganda publicising militant causes in lieu of the failure of their own propagandist tactics based on the 'name' of ex-jailbird Maoists who courted police arrest for publicity purposes. Le Dantec says, "After my trial and release I had in a way become a personality therefore the eventual dealings with the police could not risk passing unnoticed."
A caravan was ostentatiously rented in Le Dantec's name wherein some hunger strikers could at least comfortably grow hungrier before the gates of the Renault factory at Sequin. Alas the caravan was impounded.
"The situation became then, if not desperate, at least critical." Que faire? The answer was as slow in coming as a push button quiz programme. "With others I set myself to breaking the isolation of Christian, Saddock and Tose [the hunger strikers] by asking some celebrities to support them so that the alerted press would condescend to interest itself in the protestors---hence in the layoffs and the repression at Sequin."
So it was that famous French actress, Simone Signoret was dragged into the affaire as the glamourous leading lady of the wageless society. One could be forgiven for thinking the following was from Cosmopolitan, Honey, Harpers Bazaar, Elle, Brigitte, etc.
"Here I was seated opposite one of the idols of my communist youth......I stammered certainly but Simone is a woman who knows how to put everyone at ease while being extremely exacting in her obligations. She did not want in any way to play the obscene role of actress, lady, patroness in a mink coat coming to visit unfortunates........
When she is not acting, Simone is fantastically available, ready to acquaint herself with anything and so generous! Soon our conversation drifted. Here am I telling her about my life! We parted very late like old friends." (Les Dangers du Soleil)
In recent years there has been a change in the style of reporting in fashion mags and reflects the crisis of the star system resolving itself finally in favour of the non-superstar. It is a way of challenging the role of actor giving it an ordinary dimension, something not particularly favoured, a job with ordinary human asides like chatting to one's peers. So the interviewer goes away interviewed, the humdrum given a new prestige. The meanest sparrow has been seen to fall witnessed by the pop stars half rising from their regal orange boxes in an ambiguous gesture of abdication.
This response to crises lacks any historical parallels. During the 1930s, Hollywood for instance gave pre-imminence to the safe harbour of family life. The child superstar Shirley Temple focused the passions dispersed by the depression of uprooted families. However that development came about in response to economic crises – it did not occur as the result of a failed total social revolution as is the case today. Hence its trajectory was more apparently conservative. It did not have to look for ways of doctoring the disease through an idolatry of defiance. Thus the star is humanised, the glacial haughtiness becomes a thing of the past.
Yet in spite of the fireside chat of Le Dantec, what it gains in approachability it loses in realism. It does not come as a revelation to find someone is approachable because it is as much a myth as the glamour of cosmic unavailability. An open door to close scrutiny, an appointment, can co-exist alongside the blazing pages of soft cosmetic products because it neglects to show the havoc which more advanced bourgeois reporters revel in revealing –e.g. the Elvis Presley horror stories.
The demand of commitment from an artist also helped destroy the dumb fuck left who haven't much of a theory at all on everything never mind art and this when the pan has boiled dry is Le Dantec's position. Soon there is not much to revolt against. Between street theatre and Hollywood there is only a difference of degree – e.g. Car Wash the film for the blue-collar worker. Le Dantec's uncritical regard for actors – only wanting of them commitment could easily be that of the contemporary swimming pool 'reds' like Burt Lancaster.
THE COUNTRYSIDE, GUNS AND "LE WEEKEND"
To find roots was easier in countries, which still had a peasantry like in Italy, Spain or Portugal. Even in France where the Maoists tail-ended the regionalist movement and the policies of the Common Agricultural Policy of the EEC (CAP) trying to radicalise it, it is interesting to note their development. Certainly there were many peasants who looked with horror on the changing landscape and looked back into the past where their existence was more secure. Le Dantec in his book Les Dangers du Soleil speaks of the large agriculturalists eating up the Bretagne countryside in such a nostalgic fashion that one feels that he is prepared to take out a home-owners grant in order to save a single thatched cottage. For Le Dantec nostalgia develops into a conservative opposition to tourism which emphasizes not its boredom, misery, rip-off etc but tourism as destroying the 'natural' beauty of 'authentic' peasant culture in Britanny / Langudoc etc.
By 1977, when he wrote Les Dangers du Soleil Maoist party vanguardism had reached such a point of confusion that Le Dantec couldn't distinguish natural occurrences from bogus revolutionary parties or the working class – it was that much of a jumble. He can now speak, in Wordsworthian terms of the "spirit of the wind which each must fear" and this is not just transference of Chinese poetry into French. It is that the natural world has taken precedence over the revolutionary crowd in which he no longer has any faith. The failure of vanguard party politics has given way to the personified natural world and he writes, "It was necessary to return to the origins, to establish the genealogy of our despair, to transform the idea of revolution, into which we had all put so much hope, into a new quest."
"To establish the genealogy of our despair" for Le Dantec became a withdrawal into the Bretagne past, even as he cynically or crazily (?) admits, "of those who no longer exist." The final chapter of his book An Dro Enezenn is a fool's effort at revival having many features in common with the English Romantic intellectuals effort to resist the development of the productive forces by poetry, small farming and Kubla Khan type fantasy. An Dro Essezann is also a political settling of accounts with empty negative conclusions. His erstwhile belief in proletarian violence is projected on the elements. The night of the barricades in Paris 1968 ten years on has become the storms that lash the Brittany coasts, "the sea, where calm has not yet returned calls me." The incessant rain having submerged a building lot returning the land to swamp, summon to mind by default the revolutionary seizure of power of the material environment and its transformation. Unable to accept revolution or reject it completely, the revolution returns on the condition that it is denied, externalized by the delinquent storms of nature. The only permitted human intrusion on this desolate scene is the ghostly presence of ancient Breton Opposition to the present conceived more in terms of, (yes you've guessed it), an immeasurably rich past. Thus protest begins to take on an inevitably doomed, eccentric guise.
Pure nature, an idealised peasantry, has a long history in Maoist archives. It overlaps with a military strategy too; one only has to remember the lamentations of Regis Debray in Revolution within the Revolution regretting that the urban workers were bought off by too much consumerism to be revolutionary and his repetition of that old cliché about the countryside surrounding the city. Mao's village - encircling - city strategy repeated and intensified in Lin Piao's, Long Live the People's War (1965) a text which put this same strategy and all the social relations which came with it, on a world-wide basis. In terms of world politics the military strategy used and formulated by Mao in 1938 was recreated in the mid-1960s in such a way that Europe and the US could be seen as cities and the rest of the world as rural. The war against Imperialism was seen in such terms; terms which groups like the R.A.F. in Germany or the Red Brigades in Italy were later to use as a defence of terrorism.
Viewed as heroes Che Guevara and Nguyen Van Troi and the writings of Regis Debray (largely pilfered from the ideas of Che) were made pertinent to militaristic First World strategy. Debray, like Che has insisted that the army should direct the party and that military strategies determined political ideas. This form of organization became more and more vital to Maoist eschatology. Often seeing themselves as an embryonic war council (like the Weathermen at Flint, Michigan 1970) they were to take up positions, which gave them confidence over and above all others. Who cares about the sacrifice? As Che put it in 1962 in one of his most cynical statements: "The blood of the people is our most sacred treasure it must be shed in order to spare more blood in the future." Essentially the Maoist militarists lived in a make-believe world of media headlines and press conferences on the front lines; these conferences substituting the 'poor' consciousness of the mass of the workers. It was expected that the heroism and militarism of a class (which was never heroic or militaristic) would gel into some kind of spontaneous mass action - in which insurrectionary politics would explode into Maoist war. Their belief in war - like the sound and fury of the Futurist movement – was a part of the war of believing. It is not just necessary to point out the reactionary nature of the Futurist appeal to war as it is to attack all its modern day varieties, including the Maoist one. The difference between the Futurist and Maoist appeal to war lay in the fact that the Italian (especially Marinetti) 'superman' would find their dimension in such a war while for the Maoists it was the "working class" who were to find their 'lost' heroism.
A posture of French liberalism (which is not so alone in the world) with its frothy amour propre congratulates itself for having spent some idle moments in defence of the regional autonomy, the underdog and the cultural heritage, which is being destroyed, while all the time working for the Paris Leviathan. The rationalized agriculture of CAP advances and the basis and support for such eco-regionalist movements vanish, despite the partisans of Le Dantec and Le Bris. Like Le Dantec, "a soul a little mad and one which prefers to return to the things of yesteryear" the hollyhocks will lean over the rose-hedges and country crafts will serve elite pursuits and a snooty remonstrance against the ills of mass production.
Even if we wanted to save the villages from utter devastation in the face of CAP it is not through such regionalism and eco-political considerations that it could happen. This type of ideology especially its present-day ecological defenders, can only change the large tracts of land now demarcated for intensive capitalist farming or industrial development into a place where the professional city-dweller can turn peasant partisan for the duration of "Le Weekend", maintaining the thatched roof and the "purity of the past". To judge by letters in Le Monde, this process is in its infancy – the Celtic towers are falling into ruin, the harbour walls are breaking up - but it could be reversed and then what length could the often uneasy alliance between a form of archeology and its senior partner big capital go to? Certain crafts are kept in existence solely for tourist purposes (c.f. posters on Crete), indeed these living workshops are often open to the public satisfying the need these days for the past to function in its totality as it becomes ever more popular to question the lifelessness of the glass showcase. What better than to bathe in the ambience of the past, see those costumes taken off the museum mannequins and put on the unemployed become living antique weavers. And no capitalist in sight only the benign presence of myriad National Tourist Boards!!!
"WE ARE THE PEOPLE OF OUR GENERATION" ... (P.L.) PROGRESSIVE LABOUR / WEATHERMEN IN THE USA... PLUS THE BEGINNING OF THE COLLAPSE OF CLASSICAL MAOISM IN EUROPE AND AMERICA.....
Reading much of the folksy material of the Maoists in the early 1970s makes one think that the revolt is more about aesthetic life style than anything else. If they have echoes in Galway or Brittany or Languedoc it merely shows that their literary apologists have gone overboard with fine phrases. Yet it also belied something else: the need for a fundamental ecological transformation though well messed up with Leninist leftovers. Unfortunately it wasn't seen as clearly as this and the American Weathermen, even as late as 1974, clinging to the desperation and isolation of the underground, could condemn the most technologically developed country through the romanticised haze of underdevelopment. The following quote is both full of Maoist crap as well as having a visionary edge at one and the same time... "This is a deathly culture. It beats its children and discards its old people, imprisons its rebels and drinks itself to death. It breeds and educates us to be socially irresponsible, arrogant, ignorant and anti-political. We see the most technologically advanced people in the world and the most politically and socially backward. The quality of life of a Chinese peasant is better than ours. The Chinese have free and adequate health care, a meaningful education, productive work, a place to live, something to eat and each has a sense of her or himself as part of a whole people's shared historical purpose. We may eat more and have more access to gadgets but we are constantly driven by competition, insecurity, uncertainty and fear. Work is wasteful and meaningless and other people are frightening and hateful. This is no way to live." (From A Single Spark Can Start a Prairie Fire: a political statement of the Weather Underground, May 9th 1974).
Maoism in the USA in the form of Progressive Labour criticized the introverted almost solipsist subjectivity of the counter culture (the acid trip etc.) and its stars like Ken Kesey, only to reproach the U.S. workers with the baneful horror that everything which they possessed as workers had been plundered from the Third World. P.L. asked them to make a revolution in North America so that the Third World could take back everything they had taken. They could attack ordinary white workers for the death of Black Panther Fred Hampton or the imprisonment of Bobby Seale, then Black Panther Minister of Information. Such responses had their counterpart in Europe too. In France, La Gauche Proletarienne could organize a demo in which Renault workers were harassed and insulted because somehow they were partly responsible for the death of Che Guevara. Less spectacularly in the UK, Maoists could declaim to tired workers on the way home on balmy summer evenings about Che's heroic example neglecting to point out that he had also been president of Cuba's national bank when the majority of those harangued had never been in the position to even get an appointment to see a bank manager. Inevitably most workers ignored such garbage. Progressive Labour did this in spite of the fact that their ideological base was the blue-collar worker and the industrial proletariat though they also realized such a base was insufficient to create a mass movement. They wanted the mass movement but with the industrial workers in the saddle led only by themselves who exclusively were able to comprehend their real but hidden desires! Indulging in all kinds of populism as in means of tapping into this 'hidden' populism was also designed as a means to create the larger party. They were that arrogant!
Their Maoist compatriots, the Weathermen who were to emerge as an anti P.L. faction in S.D.S. (Students for a Democratic Society) congress of 1969, nevertheless also accepted Lin Piao's thesis on imperialism and, along with Progressive Labour were to put themselves up as some kind of 'Levellers' - world tax collectors to even out inequality. The notion that all the workers of the First World (if one can still use that term with any accuracy) were guilty was to reach extraordinary heights not only in the USA but also throughout the world. It had a social base alright drawn mainly from specific social strata, just a little above the broad mass of workers plus those in search of an anti-consumer life style and assisted by the chanting voices of the dissenting bourgeoisie, the sub- poets, long after the great days of poetry had gone forever. "Who's got the guilt? / We have America..... / So happens we missed the boat to the New World." (Allen Ginsburg, October 1960).
If La Gauche Proletarienne in France tried to organize among school kids and foreign non-unionized workers (e.g. in 1970 there were 3.5 million foreign workers in France) the Weathermen also tried to organize among hippies and youth culture after a blue-collar beginning. While Progressive Labour and the Weathermen tended to criticize the New Left for its anti-communism and the yippies for their self-indulgence they were forced to recognise that "youth culture was temporarily (but only temporarily) the place to be. By July 1969 the Weathermen had moved away from the old P.L. line on union organizing and the proletarian purity of industrial workers to an amalgam of "youth culture" LSD and a heroic bravado, which quickly became terrorism. In Sept 1970 in their fourth communiqué they could write.... "LSD and grass, like the herbs and cactus and mushrooms of the American Indians and countless civilizations that have existed on this planet, will help us make a future where it will be possible to live in peace."
Or in the Fall Offensive communiqué (October 8th 1970)
"We are building a culture and a society that can resist genocide. It is a culture of total resistance to mind controlling maniacs; a culture of high-energy sisters getting it on, of hippy acid smiles and communes and freedom to be the farthest out. People we can be."
And how very recuperated Motherfucker influenced minus the essential situationist / anarchist perspective! It was the last euphoric / apocalyptic fling before their sails were trimmed and many drifted into the "small is beautiful" robotic smiles of the new ecology movement though there was a mini-revival in 1974 in a political statement from the Weather Underground re the aforementioned Prairie Fire. Pathetically it was still extolling the virtues of Chinese peasant life and the ensuing years had only deepened a little their critique of highly developed capitalisms. Desperate ravings still amounted to a thirst for bureaucratic power. Nonetheless this change was also reverberating throughout Maoist circles in Europe.
Bit by bit, Le Dantec became a partisan of the Nouvelle Philosophie, which for "humane reasons" rejects the necessity of revolution as leading inevitably to the Gulag. The Nouveaux (or Nouvelle) Philosophes paradoxically still clearly reflect the hold of Maoist politicking because the only way they can see beyond totalitarianism, is by going back to a forlorn liberal existentialism of human rights campaigners demanding - ever demanding - cast iron guarantees from the state which finally can be no other than mendacious. The despair of the Nouveaux Philosophes against the state while hypocritically so often quite lucratively funded by a position ensconced within the para-state reflects a culturally necrophiliac social position where they can afford to contemplate an eternity of misery. Other French Maoists (like those chameleons in Italy making their names a little later) changed their masks as part of the pot pourri of Les Autonomes setting about abusing the very essence and relevance of autonomy. Many who were on the fringes of The Weathermen in the USA less subtle but no less saboteurs became part of the mushrooming milieu for the reform of everyday life separated into fragments - Bernadette Dorn and feminism and particularly the 'rational' consumerism of the ecology movement. And while there are antediluvian Maoists who may reject these people as not having anything to do with 'correct' Marxist Leninist thought (why is Stalinist fundamentalism constantly reoccurring in America?) there can be no doubt that a cunning and altered Maoism in the early 1970s was crucial in the development of the present day ecology movement.
THE PSEUDO-SCIENTIFIC QUASI-RELIGIOUS BASIS OF MAOISM
Many of the Maoists having been to college or school had laid the foundation of some sort of intellectual career. But in order to achieve the 'populism' on the one hand and the 'folksiness' on the other much of this had to be draped in suitable language. Maoist 'science' became more of a pseudo religion with a materialist core, founded on the basis of Marxist Leninist-Maoism, full of sureties, megalomania and an incredible monopoly of the dialectic. God-made-Man plus the revelations. While preaching a messianic gospel of direct action, the idea of millions chanting a Little Red Book (like some miniature Gideon Bible) having a dramatic solution for even the most trivial of problems was therapeutic for the converted. The constant repetition of Mao's thoughts (or any thoughts) serves as a valuable drug and stimulant. Many Maoists liked the sommulant chanting which, when repeated often enough, had all the atmosphere of a satanic or Hari Krishna mass in a high cathedral. And after all they could feel themselves close enough to the cultural avant-garde (e.g. Allen Ginsberg's Mantras and chanting of litanies or Gary Synder's Cold Mountain Poems. Its essence was a neo-religion enmeshed with a neo aesthetics.
Its declamatory style, more a call to arms than a careful analysis of tendencies, marked its reductionist flight from theory. As Le Dantec was to put it in a footnote which sums up dictatorial thought; "At its furthest limits the revolutionary radicality of absolute politics implies that each thinks the same thing at the same moment", something which recalls Lin Piao's affirmation about one book, one opera etc being the scientific result of the mass line. It was this so-called "mass line" which took the place of godly revealed thought, the tongues of fire falling on the heads of the chosen ones who would interpret the correctness of this line.
In its most worldly expression this was arrived at through the attempts to abolish the frontiers between manual and intellectual work and which was reduced to reading extracts from Mao, simplified, taken out of their context and left to rot on their own. Masochistically many Maoists went to work in the factories not because they couldn't stand any longer their allotted cadre roles in alienated society but because they thought it the right thing to do regarding the party line. No doubt there was some guilt feeling running through this since some workers on learning that certain Maoists could work at less exacting jobs were left in awe as to why anyone would choose a car factory in Billancourt in the desolation of the new reified Parisian suburbs.
While many Maoists went to work inside the factories the Trotsyists remained at the gates handing out leaflets, which the Maoists then tore up as they left the factories. The Maoists never remaining in their ivory armchairs went to live in working class districts and became involved at first hand in real struggle. Their prognosis was of course pre-empted from the beginning. The Maoist leaders used their ideology only to push through conclusions which had already been drawn. As George an ex-student who like many French Maoists, left his studies and went to work in a factory relates in Les Mao's en France; "Very often this distinction was reduced in too simple a fashion..... After work, a few hours studying Mao's texts and perhaps some time working out strategy ..." He read nothing else while working there. In general there was the attempt at constant reductionism, to put things across in the most sloganeering way possible - in fact condescendingly in a way "the proletariat would understand." La Gauche Proletarienne reduced their whole bag of ideological tricks to "de nouveau dans le practique, proletarianization au maxim." Occasionally adding the famous chant "political power comes out of the barrel of a gun." And that's all more or less there was to it.
But it all neatly fitted into the Maoist preference for action that was never related to their real desires where there was praxis embracing a passionate desire for authentic life. It was ironically in the traditional framework they never broke out of, more anarchist than Marxist Leninist - an ideology of pure action. On the side of Bakunin rather than Marx emotively - a subconscious undertow never openly expressed - was partly a reflex of unreflecting spontaenism. It was therefore not surprizing that many a Maoist took down their ugly mug Mao poster and replaced it with one of the wild Mikhail himself, so much so in fact that a close overlap developed between neo-Maoism and a resuscitated but no less ridiculous anarchism willfully disregarding relevant analysis of the hell of existing conditions. The desire for God merely changed its graven image. Un-reflected spontaneity and catch phrases often had ludicrous outcomes. Thus the Weathermen were to praise the torching of a school by kids as a great anti-imperialist gesture and not as it was - proletarian insurgency against one of the major institutional colonizers of this society.
This activist conception that jettisons any consciousness as an encumbrance was given a forcible quasi-Dadaistic interpretation by La Gauche Proletarienne cadre who insisted, "You must make of your head an empty casserole." An ironic statement when one reflects that the empty headed notion of a vanguard party was never rejected.
Thought came from the mouth in the Little Red Book, but not in the way Tristan Tzara intended a symbol rather than a text which anybody else could hardly take seriously but it was precisely as a symbol of something exterior to themselves; a touchstone which gave it its importance. Here was a ritual plus bible and the warmth of being amongst the faithful. All sacrificial religion requires a cornerstone and certain outward rituals. For Maoism it was the sense of sacrifice (of one's studies, career and even life) coursing via a death wish and a horrible burden of guilt, which could only be washed pure by bathing in the waters of 'proletarian' correct thought. On a more general level Maoism must be inserted in the drift towards a spreading mysticism itself anchored in changes in the economy particularly the passage from absolute to relative surplus value.
"With the development of relative surplus value in the actual specifically capitalist mode of production, whereby the productive powers of social labour are developed, these productive powers and the social interrelations of labour in the direct labour-process seem transferred from labour to capiital. Capital thus becomes a very mystic being since all of labour's social productive forces appear due to capital, rather than labour as such, and seem to issue from the womb of capital itself". (Marx: Capital: Vol 111 p.827)...This really is the foundation of The Society of the Spectacle. It is in this sense that Maoism and the Jonestown massacre are part of the same moment of capital....
Maoism gained its power from the sect. Without the sect it was to become indistinguishable from social democracy. Freud has related megalomania to narcissism and the separation of libido from objects, seeing it in that very dubious term as an "infantile disorder" which in reality is not so much disorder as the need to maintain the false order of a grubby little racket. The Maoist belief in the "true path" which they themselves knew and divulged to others in the hope of them becoming like themselves stemmed from narcissism. The sect became the new socializing institution (or counter institution) and was defended with paranoid passion, usually by an older professional surrounded by acolytes usually school or college kids. Such a sect like all others constantly needed scapegoats and blood in order to maintain its ever-threatened ideological coherence. It's not difficult to see its similarity to the family or fashion clique, which must constantly expel its dangerous element in the hope of reducing its negation to a gibbering wreck. Maoism created enemies where there wasn't really one through savage denunciations of other sects so close in many other ways. Such attacks like all bitter internal wrangling among estranged sects contending for top dog status were usually more savage than the attacks on the dominant strata of the ruling class. Although not confined to Maoism - it is the product of every groupuscule - it reached something of an apotheosis with them. It wasn't so much violent proletarian auto-critique as elimination stakes among the ultra alienated middle classes fermenting to the point of delirium. That such phenomenon are related to a detachment of libido from the dominant institutions of capitalist society - school, family, work etc. - may help explain the militancy of certain Maoists and their journey into psychosis which was rather more authentic than their 'militant' period. When such a detachment occurred an aggressive egocentric narcissism took its place.
For the Maoists who didn't reject theory altogether (and many of them only paid lip service to Lenin's famous dictum that no revolutionary organization could emerge without revolutionary theory) the cornerstone was elevated to a fetishism of 'scientific' thought, Marxist-Leninist-Maoist thought. In essence the French Maoists never really broke from PCF hacks like Althusser over basic dogma (e.g. the repellant Popular Front notion etc) as they moved towards their neo-religious beliefs where even the gobbledygook of "theoretical practice" was reduced to zero where heroic catch phrases were to count the most within the political consensus of the 'people' or 'masses'. In fact you could justify almost anything of the liberal old world in this mish mash and you didn't have to be accurate about your social position in society. The Maoists only had a very inadequate critique of objective roles, which assist in the reproduction of capital. Thus in his book Le Dantec never mentions his job in that little known institution, Les Ecole des Beaux Arts while super militant editor of La Cause du Peuple. Later on becoming an editor for Gallimard, the big shot French publishing company, Le Dantec could afford to entertain a lot of romantic nonsense about Brittany because his material existence was not rooted there. The paper leopard had not changed his spots.
The fetishism of science with them as high priests and priestesses served to back up their belief that they and they alone, constituted the embryonic theory of these 'masses'. "If you are not Marxist Leninist then you are not revolutionary" (a large wall-poster put up in Portugal in 1976) was a belief that the title ML was a passport to salvation. This certainty was to bring them to positions – often pathological whereby all discussion was impossible and where science had come thundering into social relations in the often somewhat whimsical form of professors like Bettelheim. For the Maoists there was little attempt to come to terms with modern capitalism or explain contemporary control mechanisms. Capitalists were invariably fat and ugly with tall hats like in the 19th century, (c.f. the contemporary Red Ladder street theatre in the UK) while the proletariat was an anonymous mass of cretins following behind the Maoist flag of certainty. Like some Sergio Leone spaghetti western they reduced struggles whereby the good guys and gals fought gallantly against the baddies (called bourgeois, capitalists, fascists, social-fascists etc). In passing it's worth noting that Leone was undoubtedly the best Western Maoist who through the media of film actually did capture the masses for his cause. Unlike other Maoists at least Leone's films were a good laugh and Clint Eastwood was rather more successful as an individual and imaginative hero than Maoists who put forward hair brained schemes in spurts of rebellious lunacy - c.f. the catapults in the biography of Le Dantec. They were highly amusing if not amused themselves. Even as Leninists there was no attempt to produce a theoretical equivalent of Lenin's The Development of Capitalism in Russia without which Lenin arrogantly (and as it happens wrongly) had said the Russian proletariat would have been lost. In general what passed for theory among them was generally a rehash of the ideas of Lenin or Marx written many years ago. There was no attempt to explain modern mechanisms of control thus no real subversion could ensue against them. No critique of consumption was made which had anything to say from what had already been said in the 19th century when Dept 11 was weak and notions about the spectacle were in their infancy. Always looking to the Third World (and with an ideological construct of what it should be too) this was hardly surprizing. They had to wise up somewhat and after the end of the heroic (suicidal) phase drew to a close they became more 'intelligent'. Thus the somewhat ridiculous Maoist cum pro-situ fellow traveler, Jean Baudrillard in The Mirror of Production erred in the opposite direction viewing consumption as the motor of production and unable consequently to explain why periodically living standards fall any and there are severe economic downturns in the history of capitalist accumulation.
The Maoist defence of Stalinism meant that they produced a version of history with all the lies and slanders that Stalin had institutionalized. They produced all the old shit of the CP line in the 1930s and 1940s only branching off with Kruschev 'revisionism' – as it is fondly called by hacks. They slandered the Kronstadt movement in Lenin's Russia- in agreement with the Trotskyists - and reproduced all the lies about the Workers Opposition and Council Communists, took the Communist party line against the FAI-CNT from the Spanish Civil War and repeated all the scurrilous fabrications about Durutti and conveniently forgot movements, which they could not explain. Although neo-Maoism has shame-facedly abandoned all this rubbish it has not ceased to malign the real proletarian movement of the present epoch.
Maoist hieroglyphics provided a global worldview for the initiated and allowed them to practise an almost Masonic type of 'telepathy'. It provided a link between the "fallen flesh" and the "resurrection of the body" by heroically posing the proletariat as the extension of their own world, something that falsified the proletariat and in the real world of production relations made it difficult for the working class to see themselves as having this historical role.
Mao heralds the epoch of Maoism in much the same way as Christ heralds in the Christian era. The difference is in magic, the unscientific utopianism of Christ (and St Paul and Aquinas) and the 'scientific' utopianism of Mao (and Chiang Ching etc). The rejected Christian tradition of the West (and unlike the Communist party there were few, if any, Christian Marxists amongst the Maoists) - was replaced with the work of secular piety. The ruling class theological attitude towards religion in the early I8th century had given way to a more political attitude to religion at the middle of the 19th century but as Marx pointed out "political emancipation from religion is never consistent or thorough going" hinting at a more profound continuity than is generally acknowledged in the formal disestablishment of church and state. Maoism underlies it.
The religious connection between pious strivings and the broadening of democracy requires explanations. Like certain British leftist organizations in the last century (including much of the Fabian society for example) Maoism was also to see in the state the pious yearnings of an established church. Pious does not mean sanctimonious, it refers to the nature of political illusions and how they survive. "The members of the political state are religious to the extent that the individual member regards his true life as that political life beyond his individuality" Marx was to write. Maoism was for seizing the state machinery, bringing in communism through it. Such illusion of state and party building is the expression of a pious hope to ameliorate the conditions rather than destroy the premises that give rise to them. There is the connection between the belief in the state and the belief in religion and in Maoism they were often to reach fanatical proportions.
With Maoism this lack of realism was closely related to the quasi-divine status of the leader himself; it differs from absolute monarchy only in that someone like Louis XIV received his powers directly from God whereas Mao (or Kim II Sung or Enver Hoxha ) receives his power through the interaction with the "workers' state" and the correctness of the "mass-line". The mass of those without property are asked to emulate this fantasy through an ideal bureaucracy.
A nascent bureaucracy like that which existed within Maoist groups, from Progressive Labour to La Gauche Proletarienne represents the 'class' consciousness of guilt which expiates itself by projecting its fallen idol onto the working class. Some of these heroic demands were to trap parts of the proletariat usually through unions. But usually the effigy of the proletarian hulk - all muscle and cleanliness - strangling diminutive capitalists turned into a fanciful Goliath of morality, which was duly rejected. One can imagine a film scenario in which the Maoist liberal eyes the workers and the workers eye the Maoist; an ideological camera shot where the one is flattered by the attention shown him, the historical power of his class, while the other is envious of that pristine state of revolt which is reputably ethical but lawless. Between them is the reproduction of bourgeois power and the scattering and dispersion of class struggle.
Maoist doses of self-criticism, which were administered, have more to do with Catholic flagellation than with protestant internal suffering with maybe the outlet of a psychiatrist to relieve some of the pain. This form of self-criticism had nothing in common with proletarian self-emancipation precisely because these investigative processes (one group in the UK had a Commissar for Personal Relationships) were embryonic forms of a state judiciary - the moral punishment bar none. Participants were encouraged to reveal their inner selves and hang ups then to be democratically tortured by the rest of the group. Drunkards claiming that they loved drink more than the workers, frustrated men telling how they bought some pornographic magazine rather than the party newspaper are sufficiently well known to anyone with any contact with the Maoists and their fall out into issue politicking groups of everyday life that they don't bear repeating here. Materialism would come to occupy the position of father confessor (forgiver-of-sins within the party assembly). In front of the group, here was evidence of the fall, a silent inquisition worse than anything that the Jesuits were able to imagine and by which the renunciation of the flesh (dressed in the new lefty ascetism) was the only path to salvation. In a secular form it retains the Catholic laissez faire while, like Luther, it feels lasciviously the irresistible attraction of the power of capitalism all around and interpret it as the Devil's final seizure of power in this world, while at the same time prophesying "the second coming" and the Devil's overthrow. The world is the Devil's and the people in it have become pure devils. At times just how far removed were some Maoist ideologues from a Lutheran apocalypse?
As RH Tawney in Religion and the rise of Capitalism was to write on Luther so too we could write on Maoist organizations especially at their purest. "Confronted with the complexities of foreign trade and financial organization or with the subtleties of economic analysis he is like a savage introduced to a dynamo or a steam engine. He is too frightened and angry even to feel curiosity. Attempts to explain the mechanism merely enrage him; he can only repeat that there is a devil in it."
He can only repeat that there is a devil in it. Perhaps this is the kindest way to look at the Maoists. But there is a difference between the early Lutherans and the Maoists, a fundamental one, one which separates it from the early capitalists (who were to use neo-Lutheranism to defend their interests) and the present day state-capitalists. The Devil, which the Maoists called from the flames, was different only in the manner in which he appears. While for Luther "We are the Devil's property" was a slogan which started out from original sin, for the Maoists this slogan had become, as previously mentioned, "de nouveau dans la practique proletarianisation au maxim" for La Gauche Proletarienne. Luther's "money was the word of the devil" was no different for the Maoist as the devil was shrugged off onto another class the workers, who could be tamed through the proper ideological management and the burden of original sin "the token whereby the world is sold into grievous sins" borne by the liberals.
MAOISM AND ITS RELATIONSHIP WITH THE TERRORIST CUL-DE-SAC
La Bande a Baader by Maressin (Champ Libre, April I972) is the only extensive analysis of First World terrorism and it is necessary to consider his arguments at some length. Although an intelligent account, Maressin's major mistake was to assume that the crisis of capitalism was terminal and that the material basis of the present crisis, the displacement of productive labour and the impossibility of utilizing the labour set free meant the creation of a permanent "class of declasses" which capital either had to destroy or transform into pure consumers. Forced with this kind of crisis the capitalist system "is forced henceforth to base its survival on pure force" because "in this historic epoch, no matter what incident, even a very small one can have irreversible consequences". While Maressin, presumably having read his Grundrisse is right in envisaging a situation of permanent structural unemployment; his reaction is one of lurid catastrophism. This kind of neo-absolutism of stark alternatives is both unrealistic and dangerous. For instance, "pure force" more perhaps than ever, is unlikely to work in the advanced capitalisms. This catastrophism can so often be just the article of faith the terrorist needs.
But Maressin is too fly to be fully netted in the terrorist trap. Thus he can satirize, which he does well, the pretensions of most urban guerrilla groups while dismissing these pretensions as quite unimportant. Finally there is no choice in the matter ("men do not have a choice") and "the revolutionary character of the action of the Red Army Fraction shows that it has this character for other reasons than those it imagined."
On the road to revolution then no mistakes or very few are therefore possible. The game is won in advance and crackpot fictions can have revolutionary repercussions. A deterministic apocalypse thus coincides with a blind voluntarism, which in both cases virtually rules out errors. lt is interesting to note that Bommi Baumann in How it all Began notes the inability of R.A.F. (the Red Army Fraction) to stand back and reflect on the bullet ridden shreds of their programme and recognise it for what it is: a failure. Each shoot out seems to encourage a further act of vengeance in this OK Corral Gotterdammerung.
Maressin also assumes that though the concept of urban guerrilla came from Latin America, (c.f. his comments on Marighela and the Tupamaros) the class differences between the First and Third World inevitably alters the basic similarity of First and Third World guerrillas in their outlook because the class basis in the First World of a Leninist type organization is absent. That it was to become painfully true of the so-called Third World too, as the experience of the Chilean coup in 1973 was to show only too clearly, Maressin does not envisage. But the fact that Leninism has no contemporary basis in the highly developed economies is also the reason for the theoretical 'eclectism' of R.A.F. which permits it to include in "le patrommonie ideologique revolutionnaire" – "Blanqui, Korsch, the Anarchists, Luxembourg, Pannekoek and others" which means those references to Mao and Lenin can be taken with a pinch of salt and by no means signify a theoretical adherence to the primary need to create the vanguard party. Thus the R.A.F. cannot be charged with substitutionism and its "tool is not a Leninist type party. The R.A.F. does not seek to substitute itself for the proletariat since in its eyes the question is to create armed clandestine militias who will do whatever is necessary in their sector." Finally the isolation (and failure) of the R.A.F. "shall only be broken by a definitive rupture with Leninist concepts" and this rupture with Maoism / Leninism, is strikingly shown in their failed attempt to collaborate with Palestinian organisations. "It has clearly shown to all those who have lived it that the objectives and the revolutionary means are absolutely different and even diverse according to whether one acts in developed or under-developed countries, It is from this event, from this concrete rupture with Third Worldism all more or less rotten that the R.A.F. was able to advance. It is by no means the effect of chance if it had been based on the return of this failed expedition."
From then on all should have been plain sailing. However we know that this was not the case and that it seems fairly safe to assume that there was, and is, some kind of rapprochement with Palestinian organisations even giving scope to a renascent anti-Semitism among German terrorists even as it is garbled in respectable anti-imperialist rhetoric.
Maressin has made too much of the difference between the First and Third World urban guerrilla where it concerns the end result. He says, "If the Tupamaros are without doubt condemned to perish [?] in traditional Third Worldism it nevertheless remains that their experience is particularly rich in teaching us a few things. Their strategy and certain particularities of their tactics merit reflection and at times universalization". What such a universalization is, it is difficult to imagine as nothing is specified.
In Uruguay its social peace has for "a long time earned it the surname of the Switzerland of Latin America." Also, "In this country the weight of the middle class is decisive" representing 64% of the population. But Uruguay has had since the 1920s a system of economic legislation both social and political (e.g. the Bank of the Republic is nationalized; in 1914 the insurance of the workers at the cost of the boss is made obligatory and in 1915 the eight hour day came into force). However, it is only in the context of the economic crises beginning in 1954 that the Tupamaros were born. "It is for that, that it has to be the nearest possible example of what should be an armed struggle operating in developed countries."
Maressin continues: "In effect, this movement which does not escape from Third Worldism in that it is led to conceive itself an integral part of the anti imperialist movement surpasses it in finding in itself its own subject. Whilst Third Worldism has for its end to make the proletariat the object of history, in Uruguay one witnessed a proletarian attempt to pose itself as the subject of history. The anti-imperialist struggle is no longer the end in itself of combat; it is an objective consequence of it. And that by the simple fact that the armed revolutionary organization operates in the town where it expresses which furnishes it with a real anchorage" - the ideology of the salaried middle class - "which embraces here the proletariat as a consumer and whilst it conceives itself as petite bourgeoisie but which nevertheless remains, in spite of what it may think, the bearer of socialist subversion."
"But there [Uruguay] it is only a question of a tendency. It is probable that the terrain on which it developed shan't be rich enough to lead it to real domination." However because the Tupamaro have taken to heart a certain number of Marx's affirmations which corresponded to reality (fort echo a la realite) they have broken with social democracy, which Leninism is only a tendency of. "The Tupermaros do not seek to impose their conscience on the revolutionary class and in particular on the working class even if they still are the concrete manifestation of the exteriority of total consciousness even if they still are through this fact still separate from the class."...... "the Tupamaro movement does not seek at all to 'awaken' the masses or to conquer them - which means controlling them in a dictatorial fashion - in conquering them or seducing them with a programme or theoretical explanations." ..... "the Tupamaros have never lectured (fait la lecon) no one and have never pretended to be the soul depositories of revolutionary theory. In not pretending to have the monopoly of class-consciousness they do not have polemical exchanges with other traditional political organizations. In not colluding with them they exercised a growing influence on their most radical members thus avoiding isolation which would have been as fatal as sterile scholastic polemics source of division at the interior of the movement."
Whether Maressin has read too much into the Tupamaro phenomenon it is certain that a similar way of posing major questions led in the case of R.A.F. to unforeseen and grotesque results. In their pamphlet, On the Concept of the Urban Guerrilla, the R.A.F. said, "To put oneself theoretically on the side of the proletariat signifies also putting oneself there in practise" which of course they did not do. In rejecting their roles as teachers, journalists etc. which they genuinely despised, they fell into limbo and eventually supported the capitalist mode of production by giving their support to small national capitals struggling for recognition (Palestine) or small nations supposedly inhibited by imperial powers (The Irish Republic versus Ulster and Whitehall). In refusing the reproduction of capital on one level as professionals, they went on to reproduce it in another. They certainly lost their class in Germany's Social Democratic Republic but they never found the proletariat – even though the category into which they fell into - the surplus population - Marx also considered part of the working class.
What stopped them from making this so obvious discovery, which for a proletarian is structurally determined was their self appointed vanguardism – the inheritance of their upbringing - ratified by education and the leadership roles they were to assume. Without really grasping the hard social facts, for R.A.F. the proletariat was not capable of living up to their expectations of them and the class struggle would never give way to the classless society (c.f. "Sur le Conception" etc.) "The urban guerrilla can concretise proletarian internationalism by furnishing arms and money" but as Bommi Baumann was to so forlornly recount what became of the money was usually an intensified consumerism - the best Japanese radios etc – without having to work for the so-called goodies. The problem: was the trajectory of this development given from the start or, was it predicated on the failure of the working class to make a serious move in the direction of the abolition of the wages system, plus the refusal of the terrorist to relinquish their activist stance once they'd embarked on their generally ludicrous escapades? Once launched on an outlaw trajectory does it not also have its pre-determined path of development so that the end result is lost sight of in a welter of paranoia and illusions but the taste for a certain romantic danger remains? On reading the texts of R.A.F. what is most striking is the abyss between what they write and the noodles that they are. It seems looking back that there has been more at stake than the efficacy of pious wishes.
Though Maressin's book is the most sophisticated apology for terrorism yet to appear when it actually happens on his own doorstep as it were, he is quick to condemn it for class reasons contradicting sharply to his support for small group terrorisms elsewhere. The occasion was the assassination of a Maoist worker Pierre D'Ouverney by a Renault guard in I972. On the previous page to the hostile written footnote commenting upon the incident he says, "The organization....shall guard itself from Leninist degeneration by envisaging different ends and in immediately finding in itself its subject. Integrated for its daily survival in the class that it expresses it shall be an integral part of it and its Being shall coincide with the Being of this class."
All very well and good but what Maressin fails to see time and time again until actually confronted with its reality is that terrorists groups - as we have said before very very rarely share the conditions of the proletariat, that they lose contact with its conditions of existence when driven underground into utmost secrecy relentlessly pursued by the police. In response to the shooting of Pierre D'Ouverney a Renault official named Nagrette was kidnapped by the Nouvelle Resistance Populaire, an arm of Gauche Proletarienne calling themselves "a new resistance" in the hope of awakening a nostalgic 'revolutionary' echo amongst older Communist party workers who still could remember the combative character on a national level - though not revolutionary occasion - of the original resistance movement. (c.f. Castoriadis). To kidnap Nagrette according to Maressin "was to offer to the counter revolution the sticks to fight with." The Maoists he continues... "to the degree that they are Leninist want to substitute themselves for the working class" but the workers do not feel directly involved in their actions even when they approve of them.... At Renault the kidnapping of Nagrette was not rejected but it wasn't approved of much either: it wasn't really any of the workers business." During the kidnapping and after, those Maoists who participated felt something of the dilemma too. Le Dantec for instance agonised over the kidnapping of Nagrette, which he thinks set the scene for other kidnappings which were to end in the assassination of Hannes Martin Schleyer (former SS officer and president of the German Employers Association) and Aldo Moro (PM of Italy and architect of the "Historic Compromise"). In a sense Le Dantec's agonizing became a liberal guilt trip about offing the top bourgeoisie because he does not discuss the validity of such action in terms of the perspective of the workers' movement and nowhere does he criticize it for its substitutionism. Ironically Maressin's final footnote apropos of the Nagrette abduction is on the penultimate page of La Bande a Baader. Perhaps the chickens had started already to come home to roost?
TERRORISM AND NATIONALISM ..... EQUALS THE SOCIAL BASE FOR TERRORISM
Because Maressin identifies terrorist groups far too closely with the proletarian class subject it is doubtful if he would have been able to give a sensitive account of the liaison between national movements especially the Palestinians and the R.A.F. What happened subsequent to their (R.A.F.) initial failure at a rapprochement with the Palestinians is not allowed for in Maressin's analysis. He says, "Another point of manifest rupture is decisive with Maoism-Leninism. The failure of the R.A.F. in its bid to collaborate with the Palestinians organizations is striking. It has clearly shown to all those who have experienced it that the objectives and the revolutionary means are absolutely different and even divergent according to whether one acts in a developed or under-developed country. It is from this occurrence, from this concrete rupture with Third Worldism that the R.A.F. has been able to advance. It is hardly a choice effect if this had been based on the return of this failed expedition." However as many now know this was not the case though it is difficult to imagine or know the degree to which the R.A.F. is committed to the cause, (up to the hilt in all probability!) Certainly what has not gone unnoticed is the embarrassing reappearance of anti-Semitism among German terrorist groups. Apropos of Palestine, the infamous "cristal nacht" when the Nazis hounded the Jews in the German ghettoes was celebrated by some of the terrorists with the bombing of a synagogue and in one hijacking, In the disastrous Entebbe episode in Uganda no distinction was made even on the simplest level between rich and poor Jew - it was enough that one was Jewish to be singled out for special treatment. This is just the type of spectacularly wrong propaganda of the deed, which plays into the appalling hand of Zionism.
Also the R.A.F. was deluded about the social nature of many under-developed countries. They swallowed the entire leftist shit about the Third World. Living in an ideal world of 'National Principles', for the terrorists the reality of diplomacy, the ability of the great powers to twist the arm of the nominally 'Marxist' republics entirely escaped their notice and eventually cost some of them their lives at Mogadishu. Believing the gutter and 'respectable' press nonsense about 'Marxist Governments', the hi-jacked plane made first for Aden which two years previously had received the plane containing freed German terrorists and the Deputy, Konrad Lorenz, However in the meantime, Aden had relinquished some of its autonomy to Moscow who was prepared to give any assistance it could to bringing down the terrorists. So onto Somalia and Mogadishu then before the onset of the war, practising a bit of sabre rattling with Ethiopia and the Dirgue. What is so obviously striking - overwhelmingly so is the utter naivety of the R.A.F. and their almost childlike innocence when faced with national and international realities. The international co-operation against the hijackers, the teams of special counter-terrorist groups drawn from several nations working hand in glove with each other reads like a parodic nightmare wish-fulfillment of Andreas Baader and Ulriche Meinhof's predictions on the future of German social democracy. According to an article they wrote as late as I976 in Stammheim prison, German social democracy along with American Imperialism is the major threat to world peace.
TERRORISM AND THE SURPLUS POPULATION
Maressin says: "Now these fractions expelled [from production] tend to constitute a large middle class from the point of view of their situation and the relations of production." This conception differs from Marx who considered the surplus population part of the proletariat too. However Maressin's statements merits further consideration. The surplus population are a fearfully atomized mass who relate to production only on the level of consumption and their impotence and rage easily leads them to laying down the social security card (if they're lucky enough to have one as in the UK) and picking up the bomb in a single handed bid to abolish capitalism. The second generation of Red Brigade terrorists in Italy after scanty employment in factories partially at least now occupies this marginal proletarian position though Maressin sketches in the conditions that gave rise to Leninism and its substitutionist perspective and practise, he seems not to be aware that the particular conditions of the surplus population can also give rise to this irrespective of the Leninist type party.
In Maressin's book one finds abstract conceptualisation alongside everyday naivety
Things should really not have turned out the way they did. Is it reality that's at fault or the theory? To pose the question in this way really shows how damaging Maressin's finality was in precluding an absolutely haywire trajectory for the R.A.F. When the book became known in England circa 1973-74 it was given a favourable reception but its support for terrorism was universally condemned among the very few who read - more nearly - flicked through the book. Though Marxist concepts were only slowly been clarified – productive / unproductive labour, constant / variable capital etc, there was a reservoir of personal experience on which to draw which was highly critical of terrorism, of breakdown, madness, media infected supermen and women and above all that class distance in England which caused militantism to be quickly conceived as something like an extended public school romp which was far removed from spontaneous, aggressive direct action of those living life at the sharp end.
MARESSIN AND THE STUDENT MILIEU
Maressin believes that today's Leninists "more and more resemble priests or social workers" because in refusing to face contemporary reality (instead of the socialization of misery it is the socialization of riches today) they must of necessity seek to implant themselves in the most 'backward' layers left out of account by capitalism - the old, prisoners, racial or sexual minorities etc. However one can say the same of today's ex-Maoists and yesterdays Maoists and for some reason, Maressin is far kinder to Maoists than to Leninists without developing the link between the two. Maressin's book is also deeply imbued with post 1968 euphoria. The world is trembling on the brink. Though he attempts a serious analysis of the place of students in society and their often uneasy accord with other class fractions he does not free himself of vanguardist notions. The world is waiting for the spark and minorities can provide it. "The social crises at all levels shall result in a confrontation of unheard of violence - one has only to see what happened as a result of an explosion of a single structure, the university in May '68 to be able to imagine what shall happen as a result of an explosion in the totality of structures."
This insight - that the students weren't very sparkling at all - was also one of the causes of the rampant opportunism post the late 1960s amongst intellectuals in the UK and elsewhere too. Better by far to be a struck match in comfort than a dead one in forbidding poverty. Yet the latter path was finally to yield more genuinely revolutionary insights as those who took that path more and more were forced into living the real life where coherent subversion can take place.
Then the real bombshell: A few years after Champ Libre brought out La Bande de Baader, Debord and Sanguinetti very recently published their theses on state created / manipulated terrorism especially in relation to the Red Brigades in Italy meaning Maressin's incomplete, rather premature critique is now inevitably found wanting.
ITALY IN THE LATE 1970s: MASS PARTY LENINISM, RADIO ALICE AND MAO DADA
Initially the Maoists didn't really see culture as a problem and as we said at the beginning of Chinese Takeaway they had very conservative cultural values preferring to listen to Beethoven than rock 'n' roll. Their liking for the visual arts was limited to some Stalinist social realism oblivious of the great experiment of Russian art in the first quarter of the 20th century. But such ridiculous identifications were like pissing into a hurricane, they had to change. And change they did but without any clear break.
The attempt to bridge the gap between art and politics in the same moment retaining Leninist ideology appeared with Mao Dada which after a brief flowering in France immediately after 1968 with Mao Spontex (i.e. the mass market product Spontex floor cleaner was used as an effective weapon to attack avant-garde paintings on gallery walls) found renewed vigour in Italy in the agitation and assembly movement of 1977.
The phenomenon of Mao Dadaism in Italy must be seen in relation to a long line of quasi theoretical re-interpretation commenced by Tronti etc in the Quaderni Rossi (related to the regular hooligan riots taking place there on Saturday nights in the early 1960s) and through to the activities of the Potere Operaio (Workers Power) group which disbanded in 1973. Through a shift in emphasis an anarcho-Maoism then spread throughout Italy, which in no sense fully subverted the seemingly defunct Potere Operaio. The praxis of a mass party Leninism functioning from the base up which was the distinctive contribution of Mao Tse Tung to Leninist practises changed its name and mask. Largely it was forced to do so because its social base had become the vast marginal movement embracing the unemployed, the underemployed, the super-exploited women, students, school kids etc. trapped in the black economy who existing without the crushing mediation of worker representations had proved to be capable of acting directly for themselves. A changed class composition affecting mass party Leninism created the conditions whereby the icon of Mao was semi-decapitated and bogus 'autonomy' became the latest manipulative stick and carrot in the political jungle.
FROM POTERE OPERAIO TO AUTONOMIA OPERAIA
The Radio Alice experiment, which was basically of Mao Dadaist inspiration, identified itself with the recuperation of autonomous activities - its theoretical wing - the A/traverso collective being an affinity organization of Autonomia Operaia (Workers Autonomy). Franco Beradi (Bifo) who attained a brief super stardom following the riots and the official closing of Radio Alice in the Italian spring of 1977 had the following to say in his book Heaven has at last come to Earth (Le Ciel est Enfin Tomber sur la Terre, Seuil I978) ...... "The crisis of Potere Operaio in 1973 was the sign of a marginalization of the revolutionary line within the movement itself and of a growing distance between the place where the movement is situated and the representations given to it in the political framework."
There after Autonomia Operaia chose the road of a 'mass' vanguardism getting rid of some of the baggage of vanguardism (the head office, the central committee etc) and played on the authentic desire for decentralization e.g. Autonomia Romana - the paper for the Rome area). It is hardly surprizing therefore that some of Bifo's views parallel those of Autonomia Operaia, in particular his views of Maoism encapsulating Autonomia's "refusal of work" which he sees in a scarcely credible manner as operating in China!! .... "Between communism at work in the liberation of labour time and (social democratic) state capital the contradiction explodes and is recomposed continually only to explode again and resurface afresh because workers autonomy and capitalist development propel each other even if the communism of autonomy represents the permanent crisis of the political domination of capital"..... "It is Mao Tse Tung who has demonstrated the practical possibilities of these two poles living together and in contradiction. On the one side the movement of the masses, the autonomy of proletarians who appropriate knowledge, power, life and on the other a development of production tending to the formal suppression of work, to the reduction of necessary labour. The equation Stalino / Leninist between socialist order and class movement has been broken in the China of the Cultural Revolution, never putting stability in command, never pretending that order could reduce to itself the richness of existence set free dissociating itself continually from its own realizations and attacking continually the order constituted".... Apart from these asides (scarcely plausible after reading Cajo Brendel, Rene Vienet, Simon Leys, Joao Bernardo and the early 70s Minus group in Hong Kong) – what can you say? It's stupid.
Mao Dada displayed an irreverent side, which did not exclude the Great Helmsman from being the object of lighthearted word play if not sarcasm hardly befitting the austere figure of Mao himself. Mao Dada is a bizarre phenomenon. Between the mock and not so mock-heroics of La Gauche Proletarienne and the occasionally clever lampoons of Mao Dada there are obvious differences. For a start there is an absence of militantism which characterized earlier phases of Western Maoism (a fixation on building barricades, cop bashing etc. ..... "militant is militaristic... militantism is the site of the separation between politics and life; it is a voluntarist ersatz of the subject" ( this was broadcast over Radio Alice). In Mao Dada there is a greater revulsion against the party line though one would not be wrong in seeing in it the final form taken by the vanguard party either. (C.f. Autonomia's and Bifo's remarks on the Maoist state which he sees as in contradiction with the existence of communism). In fact looked at more carefully Bifo's abstractions are amazingly paradoxical - the base is tending towards 'communism' yet the state is continually abolishing its pre-suppositions throwing everything into the social whirlpool over and over again. Obviously there is no ready parallel at all between Mao Dada and Mao's China. One is left wondering why they are Maoists in the first place and if there is any comparison it is with the post 'Maoism' of the survivors of La Gauche Proletarienne and the spawning of the Nouveaux Philosopes. No wonder ace despair artiste Bernard Henri-Levy was so quick off the mark defending the Italian insurgents in 1977(or rather defending his own reputation) against the possibilities of an Italian Communist party Gulag as some of what took place in that eventful year had a common origin in old style Maoism. Within this complex process of disintegrating dogma something of the old lie still hasn't budged. The difference between the playfulness of Mao Dada and the despair of Le Dantec is merely one of degree. Reeling under the hammer blows they still continue to cling to something of Mao. Even someone with a mild acquaintance with China, knows that Mao Dada would not be permitted there and the cost of amusing anybody publicly with Mao's name (e.g. like in one Radio Alice broadcast) would have to be a dash one night across the frontier separating mainland China from Hong Kong or face certain imprisonment.
Much has been made of Radio Alice in Bologna in the late 1970s in Italy and elsewhere and its existence followed by its startling demise influenced the mushrooming of private 'radical' radio stations throughout Europe. Although there had been purely commercial pirate radio stations throughout the 1960s such as Radio Caroline in the UK, which changed the face of pop music though nothing else, the first radical venture historically was Radio Renescenca during the uprising in Portugal between 1974-76 and the far leftist Italian group Lotta Continua (the Struggle Continues) often propagandised over its airwaves in innovative ways and possibly was even instrumental in putting Che Guevara lyrics to Bob Dylan tunes. However the Italian state was not so lenient and brought a legal test case against a radio station called Onde Rosse (Red Airways), which illegally took to the air in July 1975. It didn't work out as the state planned and in almost a fluke precedent, such expropriation by the state was, in an unprecedented ruling, declared unconstitutional. This had immediate consequences with radio and TV stations mushrooming throughout Italy.
This form of communication has virtually taken over from the counter culture underground newspaper of the late 1960s. It also makes sense in the present pinched economic climate of today as outlay on fixed capital is small, producing the news is virtually free and with a simple switch of a knob it costs nothing to the consumer on the receiving end. Moreover the call box communication can overcome some of the spectacular reification of a passive audience, which a newspaper demands. It is rather more interactive. Radio Alice, it seems, became slowly aware of the historical inevitable: the obsolescence of the written word (irony of ironies writing this!). The symbol of the station was taken from a Fra Angelico painting of an angel throwing a book on a fire; in short something of the world which Artaud ("all writing is pigshit") and Zarathustra ("the free man speaks directly, he does not write") envisaged but with a far greater depth than generally was to be mustered on Radio Alice. Nonetheless, some of Mayakovsky's comments on the written word as the language of repression were read out on this radio station and hovering in the general background was a general consensus that a spontaneous letting go through direct speech is more to the point than even the best written text can ever capture. (Perhaps a subversive laughing flow, something more like the unrecorded free form jazz in its 1950s-60s heydays and not the rubbish dished up today). In practice though Alice was more devious and the Bologna radio station also sucked into its orbit a lot of dubious professional spielers. Even ace bullshitter Marshall Mcluhan was allotted a slot proclaiming in an interview with a journalist from L'Espresso that the March riots of 1977 had everything to do with the TV age quite forgetting more earthly facts like the brutal presence of the police backed up by a hideous Italian Communist party.
The A/traverso collective chose Radio Alice's name because the city was like the original Alice in Wonderland – a place where everything was not what it seemed. But in some ways Alice had already fallen through a sieve. The inspiration was not so much from Lewis Carroll as Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit: "Go ask Alice, I think she'll know / when logic and proportion / are falling'n so be dead / and the white knight is talking backward / and the Red Queen's off her head." A movement of recuperation losing its recuperative power? Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane were all too aware of the radical tendencies of the late 1960s having been clued-in by English ex situationist Charlie Radcliffe tuning the critique of art to pop music which changed nothing of substance.
Though Radio Alice set out with the intention of demystifying the news media (refusing professionalism etc) just a glance at some comments in Bifo's aforementioned book cobbled together from articles etc. covering a period from 1975 to 1977 is enough to make one wonder was Radio Alice all it was cracked up to be in that miserable eulogizing born of leftist myths? Here for example are some of Bifo's comments on Mao Dadaism taken from the February edition of A/traverso 1977 and included in 'his' book.... "For the movement we know this at least....
I. Dadaism wanted to overcome the separation between language and revolution, art and life. It remained an intention because it wasn't in the proletarian movement and because the proletarian movement wasn't in Dada. Because the overthrowing of class relations and cultural and anthropological transformation did not intermingle at the heart itself of the life and materiability of workers needs.
II. Maoism indicated to us a course for organization; no longer as representative of the avant-garde subject but as the capacity to synthesize the needs and tendencies in the material reality of the behaviour of the masses and to translate them in terms of a terrain of intervention, to prepare again this synthesis to all. From the masses to the masses. Yes but how?"
THE MAO DADAISM OF RADIO ALICE AND A PROFESSOR'S RESPONSE........
The Behaviour of a Smart Ass. Bifo versus a reverberating Umberto Eco: "Here's a cop, there's an Eco"
Certainly the proclamations of Mao Dada prior to the Spring riots of 1977 had the effect of bringing Deleuze and Guatttari from France to the now celebrated city of Bologna to protest against the menace of a western gulag (Guattari was subsequently to write an introduction to the French edition of Bifo's Alice e il Diavolo- Alice and the Devil) Though it is not within our competence to discuss whether the Oedipus Complex is a structure or a praxis suffice to note two points in relation to Deleuze and Guattari's garbled book Anti-Oedipus in the early 1970s:
1. In stating that that the Oedipus Complex was something imposed on the colonized world the movement of its "undoing" or "restructuring" (the enormous crises of the family) was displaced overseas leading to a further arid identification with nationalist Third World struggles. (Bifo in Alice e il Diavolo speaks of "the imperialism of Oedipus" - ugh) and the "desiring machine" yields to the mechanism of anti-imperialist guilt via neo-Dadism.
2. The profuse references in the book "Anti-Oedipus" from this bullshitting pair of jokers temporarily resuscitated the corpse of the artistic avant-garde project giving it a renewed ease of pretentious life. This meant art had to be mulled over again from re-reading DH Lawrence (meaning the novel is revived and the burning question of the novel as a now defunct historical form on purpose dips over the horizon) to organizing 'decoding' (what else?) light shows within the precincts of Vincennes University!
Umberto Eco, Prof of the DAMS Dept (Music / Theatre / Cinema / etc) at Bologna University participating in a joint conference alongside the Italian Minister of telecommunications Vitorrino Colombo and held by the newspaper L'Espresso had the following to say on 'Free Radio' ... "It is ingenious to consider that finally this system is objective, however contaminated by a mysterious mass spontaneity it is also the effect of a choice that has at bottom an ideology. What choice? That of a group that wants to express their own political positions through a form of journalism that involves the listener more. Let's not pretend that this is perfect journalism." (A Mouthful of Fresh Air, L'Espresso, 17th April 1977). In short, the usual rubbish coming from a high up intellectual cadre, moreover a Communist party hack that supported the closing down of Radio Alice.
Umberto Eco had the misfortune to end up despised and mistrusted by everyone from the Christian Democrats to part of the Italian Communist party, from "The Movement" to the Mao Dadaists plus "The French". Trying to balance on an impossible tightrope he serves as an example of what happens to people in his position. One cannot help but think "The French", Guattari in particular, were saved this embarrassment thanks wholly to the present docility of French students! Perhaps one day they will have cause to eat their words and remember before it is too late that people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. Lashing out in every direction because he is being 'got at' from every direction, Eco pays the ultimate price of his role as intellectual consultant on the latest trends and too fond of seeing his photograph in L'Espresso plus the considerable perks that come with the job. L'Europeo knows it too with a bitchy reference to Eco in connection with the response of Italian intellectuals to the Nouvelles Philosophes... "Even the more acute like Umberto Eco (who usually travels by plane) are armed with a bulldozer to shift the ground from under them" (12th August 1977). But such is the informal power of individuals like Eco that such things are whispered not crudely spoken out loud. It's, as Hegel believed, the state is secure only if the ethics of public office and the myth of bureaucratic sacrifice and disinterest still persists.
Playing the gallery Eco tried to exude the atmosphere of fairness determined not to descend to the level of his more downtrodden opponents. To some degree this posing worked and in the March/ April issue of A/traverso 1977 on the closure of Radio Alice Bifo even praised Eco! Then in the April 10th issue of L'Espresso, Eco wrote an article entitled, A New Language: Indo-Italian which instead of making reference to the fact four weeks previously Bologna had been the scene of a massive confrontation preferred instead to point up avant-garde parallels. ("John Cage and Stockhausen turn up again in a fusion of rock and Indian music; the walls of the town resemble more and more a painting by Cy Twombly"). On the 24th of April, Bifo wanted for incitement to cause a riot replied and this time getting with the aggro... "Institutional intellectuals have made a step backwards (or even two) terrified at seeing their dreams of rupture materialise. In Eco's article everything could be led back to the little abstract games between Norm and Violation. Behaviour and contemporary messages according to him are not interpreted within the code of normality but require a new code of interpretation. It is to forget that under this violation of the norm and this transformation of gestures and language there is a collective subject practise which produces the behaviour and signs capable of breaking the codes of interpretation." (Shit: the language!) Bifo's "polymorphous transversalism" versus Eco's weary, deflecting nihilism. We would suggest: six of one and half a dozen of the other!
There are two ways of looking at the Umberto Eco / Radio Alice relationship. Either they are genuinely naive as far as Eco is concerned given the conflict that had to develop as two different structures collided (vis Bifo's eventual attachment to Bologna University) or they wanted to be similar. The slighting remarks are very slight. ("A policeman here is an Eco there" –Alice e il Diavolo) is about the heaviest. Otherwise the dissidents constantly tended to seek Eco's help after Radio Alice was closed down. In all probability the number of arrest warrants issued helped to throw the Radio Alice collective into Eco's arms who by then had gained a notorious reputation throughout Italy and across the frontier in France, for his unwillingness to condemn the closing down of the radio station. It was not the profundity of his critique that was at issue so much as his cold feet though he clearly would have preferred the former. Merely consider Eco's public apology for his behaviour after the elapse of some four months in L'Espresso (31st July 1977) and the manner in which he ingratiated himself with the student body ("I very well know") while attempting to guarantee his status as a sage councilor!
In spite of appearances to the contrary the fault with this is its separation of theoretical activity from the masses. They too have to be informed lacking the capacity for theoretical reflection. Achieving theoretical and practical unity may not be easy but to set out today with even a half formed notion that the 'masses' are not capable of thought is worthless. Unfortunately there is no inside account of Radio Alice - of those telling details which indicate so much.
One could continue to pile on the agony. In Bifo's comments on Dadaism there is the assumption that it was a project to be taken to the masses which failed because Dadaism was not of the masses. Being part of the masses - the modern day marginals - those "without protection" (Communist party boss, Berlinguer's Gli Untorelli - the plague bearers) can do it where Dada failed. However, it was never that simple. Between Dada's cultural negativism and that of the masses there was an odd rapport, which defied delineation. What the Dadaists understood mainly and too often in the head, the masses throughout the 20th century grasped on a 'philistine' level that culture had been expropriated. (Though on the terrain of destruction Dada had an odd timeless quality - more of a social attitude than an artistic movement). Beyond the superficial resemblance of mass activity to Dadaist subversion, Dada remains an elite project carried out by an elite corps of cultured individuals forming a vanguard of destruction..... which now must be democratized down over and which indeed is beginning to happen
The social composition of Mao Dada indeed had something of that – rather more proletarian and therefore heading in the right direction. However, some (if not all) of the editorial team of Radio Alice was drawn from the lecturers of the DAMS Dept of Bologna University. In a sense Alice became a continuation of a DAMS seminar into a university of the airwaves. And though the class position of these participants ten years on had changed (as many at the time emphasized and was seized upon by journalists) there still remained a residual vanguardism, which eventually for instance, provided an alibi for Bifo when he became a lecturer at Bologna University extolling the ideology that the class nature of the university had changed. Bullshit! Undoubtedly under that fink sociology professor, Umberto Eco, the DAMS Department encouraged this kind of mish-mash of half lie and half truth where the Maoist Cultural Revolution had been freed from the rural connotation it had possessed in China and was applied more generally. These Depts. on the level of the university reflected (and still reflect) the disintegration of a hierarchical coding of fine and applied arts, the crumbling of this division lending to them in the late 1960s-70s an attractive aura of hip recuperation. Hardly surprizing then that there was a Mao Dadaist cell belonging to the DAMS Dept, which played its cultural role out to a T. transforming a huge assembly - potentially the democratic organ for proletarian insurrection - into a happening (Feb 8th 1977). All of this was in marked contrast to the activities of the Metropolitan Indians in the year of 1977 whom hailing from heavy proletarian quarters (e.g. Previstino and Tor Pignatora in Rome etc) who intervened subversively with laughing irony in everyday life managing largely to avoid the recuperation of avant-garde theatre and intellectualism though some were to fall for the terrorist trap in the years to come.
Through Mao Dada, the whole of modern subversion prefigured in avant-garde art was shorn of its radical trajectory and placed in the perspective of mass party Leninism. As Sergio Bologna said in "Class composition and the theory of the party at the origin of the workers' council movement"..... "Maoist thought has gone further by conceiving of the class as the party, the party as the majority of the people, the party as social majority and by moving the ground of insurrection from the brief and Bolshevikh coup d'etat to long range war. With Maoism, insurrection has become a spontaenist term." When Bifo was able to praise "President Mao's.... principal form of all organizational work: receive ideas put out by the masses, systematize them, then propound them again to the masses" he was thus able in the same article published in A/traverso (Feb 1977) to incorporate individuals from the 19th and 20th century artistic avant-garde into the Maoist framework.... "But Rimbaud, Lautreamont, Khlebnikov, Artaud had been some moments of the eruption of the lived and of the irreducibility of the body in language; delirium with them was the moment of the emergence of the subject to the text."
This polyglot bringing into the fold - subversion=Maoism in all its 'breadth' also has its counterpart in contemporary consumerism. The Radio Alice collective liked to think of itself as the Beatles' Sergeant Peppers sleeve album come alive. However the suppression of Radio Alice encouraged by the Italian Communist party because it was an invaluable information service during the spring 1977 riots meant that avant-garde culture could take on a subversive aura again in a country notorious for its suppression of theory. The Italian Communist party plays a major role in this suppression having in the past called Freud a cop, Orwell a pimp etc. and further added glory to its name in 1977 by painting out the often highly amusing and pertinent revolutionary wall slogans in Bologna - all for the benefit of the tourist industry! In reality however Radio Alice shared many of the contradictions of the old underground newspapers. At its worst Alice was a pot pourri of left structuralism - a denuded situationist critique which overlaps with the fallout from structuralism- plus hippy music and a kind of yippie-cum-watered down New York Motherfucker ideology. (After all the solemn debates about 'signs' and the 'signified' you wonder if the real question isn't about the signers and the signed on!)
What happened in Bologna and at other cultural events throughout Italy (e.g. the Dorco Lambro pop festival in Milan in 1975) tended to strengthen radical illusions about culture which latter day Maoism makes so much of. So one is in the unenviable position of flicking through Alice e il Diavolo as the book of the revolution noting the records - Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the books - March of the Hobbits, etc. together with fulsome praise for The Yellow Submarine and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Music which had not only been laughed at as the voice of golden protest by merry business people like the National Lampoon in the USA but had been superceded on the level of the artistic commodity by the new populist superstars of punk in the UK and the USA. (Although to be fair the Puzz collective in Italy had mildly criticized rock 'n' roll in 19074-75 neatly saying.... "There's something happening and you don't know what it is do you Mr. Dylan") In Radio Alice pop music and the old avant-garde mystique (now gone forever) were welded and celebrated together - the pretensions of Cornelius Cardew's, The Sounds of Chairman Mao ... Ed Saunders edition of Fuck You – "a magazine of the arts, of fucking" .... "Tuli Kupferberg author of 1001 ways of Living without Working, New York 1965 - a total assault on culture, two poets who chose rock 'n' roll chaos". All this indeed ten years after Saunders, The Fugs and Kupferberg had been well ridiculed by revolutionaries (The Motherfuckers plus ourselves) in New York City.
The thought occurs - is it some kind of joke? – as this subversion in its naiveté is reminiscent of some of the silliest examples of the counter culture of the late 1960s. Radio Alice gave back credence to radicalism in pop music ten years after the greatness of Beck or Hendrix had faded. The musical situationism of punk / new wave was not to put that radicalism back together again in spite of its early self-illusions to the contrary. From the first take off, the energy was wrenched from itself by the capitalist structures in music which inevitably proved stronger, even though punk's nihilism when bared, pointed to the imminent demise of rock 'n' roll and the urgent necessity to destroy music and its roll of ripping off authentic life as part of revolutionary critique. Although the assembly movement of 1977 was radical in its aspiration in Italy (the need to "re-take life again") ironically it was partially pacified later by the 'new' avant-garde rock commodity imports. It was a short and terrible step from "never work"/ "consume more, live less" and the quality of life to Peter Tosh and Ian Dury concerts in the same arenas as the free discussion of the assemblies had taken place.
MAOISM AND NEW WAVE MUSIC
So far only one new wave band has sounded off about China. The following
is a verse from Pere Ubu's Chinese Radiation which also found resonance in Italy.
"Be the Red Guard,
Be the New World.
He'll wear his grey cap
She'll wave her red book
He'll tell her it reminds me of the future.
IT'S ONE WAY
Then they'll sing."
Pere Ubu's dumb yap explanation of his pro-Chinoise sentiments is scarcely credible for a so-called nihilist punk band. It should be quite obvious said David Thomas, lead Ubu figure of the band, "that China has the most modern social system – there's a starkness, a pleasing, necessary starkness. The ideal of the Chinese system is concerned with purity and discipline, which are naturally the only two things that any person should be concerned with when he's thinking of any new world.....There's some degree of....illusion involved, but any system which provides an illusion as strong as the Chinese system must own the future." (Oh No!) In fact for all the New Wave's commercial flaunting of the decay of all values, Pere Ubu's reaction was no different to the reaction of an audience composed of professionals, semi-professionals and ex-professional drop outs nearly all involved in one way or another with community work, who viewed the London showing of The Generator Factory. The reactions to the Chinese films showed the extent to which China provided a crutch in a world in which seemingly time-honoured values were becoming decrepit and disintegrating. They applauded the return to original bourgeois asceticism (anti-smoking, anti drink) for the destroyed ideals of bourgeois asceticism which capitalism had inevitably to modify through pressure from the working class with the decrease in the length of the working day and certain sectors of capital that profit from the consumption of the working class. This audience was able to accept party control of pleasure without a murmur. Moreover this party control of alcohol and other pleasures was really more akin to the era of temperance and prohibition than to the West of today. When it was remarked to one starry-eyed viewer of the Peking Proletarian Opera that there wasn't really anything to choose between this and Kung Fu, he looked as though he was choking on his chop suey.
To assume that culture per se or the examples cited here are revolutionary is to put the ball back into Eco's and Asor Rosa's court who accused the Mao Dadaists of idealism, as subconsciously subscribing to the view that ideas make history. It also helped Dario Fo get his bag of theatrical tricks together again. From then though the outlook began to look grim with Eco rubbishing the marginals as petite bourgeois though he hadn't the gall to push things on that level as the Italian Communist party did with their characterisation of marginals as potential fascists. Generally though just look how weary the comments became, how old the terms of the debate! The Bolshevikhs as necessary spark, of organised power liberating the creativity of the masses etc!
WESTERN MAOISM: ITS EFFECTS ON A CHANGING STATE APPARATUS BECOMING
A PRELUDE TO THE BREAKDOWN OF THE STATE?
Like Le Dantec writes, so too could one of our modern statesmen: replying to an article written by a former friend in the Trotsykist, Ligue Communiste Revolutionaire he writes: "Unfortunately for me I am no longer a virgin, having experiences, I think, all the contemporary versions of Marxism; Stalinism, Guevarism, Trotskyism, Marxism-Leninism, Maoism, Basism." If this is an exclusive list (what's Basism?) then we can understand why this figure walks alone amongst the granite promontories with a King Arthur asleep somewhere in the sky above waiting his alarm call.
The state left its 'virginity' behind and from 1968 on has learned to live with a new host of partial critiques and small pressure groups. Of course neither Le Dantec nor our modern 'states persons' have learned to live with the increased combativity of the working class, a combativity, which in ever-increasing ways has relied on its own autonomous forms and invisible leadership, which unlike old conspirators of Bakunist persuasion is not hidden rather is not even there to be known. It is so threatening that the modern state would like, more than ever, to be able to see and negotiate with its enemy, if only it could find its centre. (For a description of the effect of these elitist groups on the organisation of class autonomy see in particular, Portugal, The Impossible Revolution? Phi1 Mailer, Solidarity, London 1977 and Wildcat Spain Encounters Democracy, Autonomia Proletaria etc, BM Bis, London 1979.)
The role of these small elitist groups within the autonomy of the class based organisations of strikes and other struggles has been extremely negative, and the way in which they fall in with and anticipate certain tendencies within national capitalisms has put them on the side of the state. To locate the reasons for this would be to go a long way to explaining the tail-ending of reformism and the novel and often surprising forms in which these groups, by choosing the terrain of national capital vis-à-vis national independence, anti-imperialism etc, managed to play the role of parallel state control mechanisms. The precise role that the Maoist organisations played in the reorganizations of the Chinese state, over the period 1969-75, by smashing the workers' movements from the revolutionary period of the Cultural Revolution has been documented to some extent. Their role in the West is less so.
As in China, where the weakness of the Maoist cadres had to appeal to partial control by the workers over management – something organised and separated by the Maoists - the western Maoists, even weaker within the state apparatus, had to appeal directly to the strength of the workers as somehow synonymous with the strength of the Maoists. The workers are the life-blood of any capitalism and he who controls the flow of this blood controls this capitalism. The pseudo-scientific elitism of the Maoist groups made them believe that they had a strong case to say that they controlled a good part, dialectical fiction in the worst socialist-realist fashion.
It was a general characteristic of the Maoists whether radical or reformist (basically there was no difference) that the existing institutions had first to be captured in order to be destroyed (they would destroy them afterwards) that power must first be consolidated before it could be put at the disposal of the 'workers' etc. But given the weak base of most of the Maoist groups and their desire to increase this base it was impossible to make this assault on power head-on. Just as the Maoist cadres in China had to appeal to partial control by the workers - organised and separated by them - the Western Maoists had to appeal to the framework of the existing institutions, unions, liberal organisations etc. They believed that by forcing these institutions into confrontation, led by the direct action of the Maoists themselves, that they could radically transform the nature of these institutions. Little did they realise that they were modernizing them and servicing them, something which those in power were unable to do themselves. Any group which seeks power makes the appeal of that power greater, revitalizes it and gives it substance, makes itself conscious and triggers a series of early-warning devices throughout its institutions. It is in this sense that most Maoist groups served the interest of the technocrats, as they never attempted to destroy the manifold state apparatus from the bottom up. The only revolutionary attitude towards all state institutions be they police stations, tourist boards, art galleries, DJ music palliatives on the transistors etc, is their complete and utter subversion / destruction.
How did it come about that the revolution of everyday life passionately felt and desired in the late 1960s could so quickly be beheaded and replaced with a permanent reformism of everyday life jam packed with committees, issue-politics mini-stars, ad hoc charities cum para statist bodies e.g. law centres / child battered wimen centres / the single homeless / 'live' music pressure groups / plasterers against the Nazis / rock against sub-contracting etc.??????
The left are into seizing the state machinery, making of it, an organism as supple as a millimetre sheet of rubber with the kick of an elephant. There is no question that arouses so much bitterness as that of the state and though more energy now has been devoted to the analysis of the state than ever before it aims at its 'mastery' rather than abolition. The more that state-capitalism develops and the more complex it becomes, all the time creating more and more ministries, organisations, special police units, social workers and even more recently, anti-organisations to guard against the bureaucracy of the existing organisations, the more that factional fighting within state capitalism will grow. The para-statist bodies force revolt the better to contain it. Maoist populism allowed the nature of these parallel factions to remain hidden thus arresting the development of an autonomous proletarian movement against them all.
Ambiguity caused thousands of workers and students to take Maoism seriously, to accept the 'peoples / masses' as a valid concept and to ignore class. Many of them sold their wild oats in the name of Maoism and by 1969 moved into the frontier posts of modern capitalism in community work, Adventure Playgrounds, (Britain and the USA) and social service industries. They continued to be Maoist in the sense that they continued to provide the link between the 'people' and the state. They became the new sad policeman / women of the state institutions without even the ranting official militia ideology to back them up.
A group can see and dislike the injustice of various aspects and consequences of the history of capitalism; homosexuals discriminated against, women paid less for the same work, the beaches filled with tar, the rivers full of toxic chemicals, the racist culture. And those who wish to destroy the state in order to recreate it really call for the liberalization of this state, but being against the sexist state, the racist state, the polluted state, the artless state, the badly managed state only hides the real issues, and aids the reorganization on a partial basis of this self-name state.
Though the state has grown more repressive since 1968 (particularly the police) there has been an enormous liberalization cum libidinization. Yet it has done so by managing to increase the already heavy burden of guilt, something that would have doubtless surprised Freud. 1,000 complexes have become a demand upon the state to change its ways (e.g. "smash the sexist state"). More and more tabooed subjects are brought out into the open, which the rags of Victorian morality can barely hope to contain, but done so as a demand upon the state. Partial demands spread throughout society help secure the cohesive function of the state - guarantor finally of capitalism. Thrown onto the state - the guilt inducing structure today par excellence, itself inheritor of religion - partial demands never escape the dynamic of the tendency for guilt to deepen; as Marx formulated it: "The political state is related to civil society as spiritualistically as earth is to heaven." A total revolution has fragmented into many unrelated guilt ridden pieces. The development of a 'sensitive' state capitalism is now in the process of making civilization "neurotically insupportable" as hinted at by Freud in Civilization and its Discontents. The changing fabric of the state compounded by issue politics is possibly bringing about the
Rubicon of neurosis – a situation Freud could hardly have envisaged. New and old-fashioned Maoism with its statist trajectory has greatly accelerated this process whereby the state maybe becoming neurotically insupportable – more vulnerable to overthrow - along with the rest of its old hideous functions.
The desire to help, once the terrain of the state limits it, is always overshot by the desire to control. Such organisations are doomed to end up as para-statist, with modified versions of those who presently control this state. They like workers who have become union organisers, convert the rebel into the social worker and the converted social worker into a saint. Spontaneist and those without the guiding light of Mao thought (or other ideological thought which comes from without) becomes as much their enemy as it is to the state. They are creatures at the extreme limit of social determinism for which everything worthwhile has been done, all help has been given and yet they foolishly reject it and they appear for no apparent reason not to want to help themselves. The 'good' worker in this scenario - so common amongst the left - is the one who is moralised and fights for union recognition, decent houses, play spaces etc. The 'bad' worker is the one who makes impossible demands, ones which neither the state nor the para-statists can fulfill, has little truck with the "fundamental laws", goes his / her own way and in the end refuses to fit into the reformist, even revolutionary reformist schema of these well laid plans of mice and men.
The moral sense of the para-statist is the modern Dostoyevskian tale of crime and punishment. When the crime is stopped and the barbarian is civilised, the 'revolutionary' social worker is also sad. It was not what he / she wanted, - to kill an old woman for the sake of a few roubles. Even in getting others to feel guilty there is really little satisfaction. Contemptuous of the spineless creature they have produced they only kick themselves when kicking this wretch. When the state re-echoes this demand and even goes that little way, even spectacularly, to do something about it, he feels cheated and robbed of his Promethean fire.
The leftist Maoist thus finds himself in the comprehensible guilt of the Tower of Babel. The practititioners of guilt usually reinforce the division of labour in society because the incomprehensible guilt is directed against those whose experience of capitalist social relations is greatest. It reinforces the guilty liberal at the expense of the proletariat all the time forcing the state to become an image of itself, something above the conflicting interests of classes, above society, above class struggle.
The reformist of the para-statist is a sword of Damocles, cutting both ways. While the proletarian finds it an obstacle to self-organisation (although he /she may use the access to Xerox machines etc for his or her own purpose) the Maoist sees it as a route to increasing the numerical strength of the party. Even anti-Maoists fail to understand the significance of this polarity because Chinese totalitarianism, as the envoy of our collective futures, has also reinforced liberalism. The victory of the Hua-faction in the Chinese Communist party and the imprisonment of The Gang of Four have strengthened it.
AND THEN THERE'S SIMON LEYS.......
The publications of Simon Leys' books, The Emperor's New Clothes and Chinese Shadows have done much to demolish the pro-Chinese ideology in the West. Without the French ex-situationist Rene Vienet's encouragement it is doubtful if the shy and retiring Leys would have picked up his pen. However the fact Leys is a Catholic humanist believing deeply in culture means that his critique falls short of the necessary demolition thrown up by genuine social revolutions. Chinese Totalitarianism as the envoy of our collective future also has the vice of salvaging liberalism. Thus Simon Leys can get away with extolling the virtues of a classic humanist education, continuing to believe, pace Orwell, that the 'creative' profession of a writer is subversive – "literature, in the form in which we know it, must suffer at least a temporary death - the writer is merely an anachronism, a hangover from the bourgeois age, as surely doomed as the hippopotamus - from now onwards the all-important fact for the creative writer is going to be that this is not a writer's world", (Orwell's, Inside the Whale) and carry on to say that Solsyhenitsyn is an "upright and free man" (Chinese Shadows) and that Soviet Sinologists are "specialized brutes" having "no humanist education at all." It is not so much the specialized brute one takes objection to as the underlying belief that a "humanist education" would make all the difference. Elsewhere too, the equation between a 'humanist' and 'a free man' is too easily made.
The same goes for Ley's shock / horror reaction to the excesses of the Cultural Revolution and the vandalizing of the priceless remains of China's past. Because of the use to which this desecration of the past was put Leys can write.... "In every major city of China where foreign visitors came regularly, one or two monuments have been admirably restored, and a permanent exhibit has been organized to show archaeological objects found during the Cultural Revolution – this is to give the impression that the Cultural Revolution far from destroying the Chinese cultural heritage, has enriched it!" And let us not forget that many of these monuments – especially temples and monasteries - are only open to foreigners and overseas visitors and forbidden to the common people.
Within totalitarian regimes to be reminded of the past can have following Leys arguments a liberating function because it takes one back to a time when two and two could not be made to make five. (Remember the toast in Orwell's 1984... "To the past"). However this variety of deliverance through yesterday, this springtime archeology really in the West belongs to the Museums and Recreation Dept and is open to Everyman / woman / child. To argue for it as a subversive cause (and Leys can't help but do this is only to reinvigorate movements originating in the 19th century which called for the throwing open of the museum and the private collections of the aristocracy) to the scrutiny of the 'common people'. Seen as a victory against laissez faire capitalism the museums for all movements were also closely related to the first effects in the direction of education for the working class. The attitude of passive looking that it encouraged within the field of culture was also meant to inculcate the habit of quiet inactivity in the midst of a social order that escaped all control. And it was in the confines of the museum, within the still centre of culture that the utopia of lawless capitalism was first put to the test. (Gladstone in a pamphlet circa 1839.... The State in its Relations with the Church remarked "the higher instruments of human cultivation are also ultimate guarantees of public order" and in a contribution to the Art Union Journal of 2nd June 1840 wrote, "If the example of the government were followed by other proprietors people would look at public statues without desiring to throw stones at them.")
By 1845 the lawless utopia of property for the few, propertyless for the many - excepting the sale of their labour power / property - had failed. A museum bill for the "Protection of Property contained in Public Museums, Galleries, Cabinets, Libraries and other Public Depositories from Malicious Injuries" was introduced in response to the smashing to pieces of the Portland Vase in the British Museum on 7th February 1845. There are two points to be stressed given Ley's obvious horror at vandalism. The first that it completely overlooks the class strategy behind the 19th and 20th century concern for the cultural improvement of the masses and the second that a vandal's spree has often inaugurated or typified the early stages of bourgeois rule (e.g. the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII, the pillaging of churches and castles by Cromwell, the sale of the art treasures of the aristocracy by Napoleon, the sacking of the homes of the English Aristocracy during the early years of the Irish Republic in the 1920s.) Leys reaction is that of a mature bourgeoisie too advanced in years to remember the scissions in the history of the Nation State where contact with and access to the past is the stuff of a synoptic humanism. Leys humanism stretches back to antiquity. It is the gaze of a man not threatened by the past unlike the early bird revolutionary bourgeoisie fearful of Thermidor and restoration. But his very catholicity also aims to weaken the proletariat when at its most innovatory. In a note on the Papoashan cemetery he says, "Many steles are pushed over and broke some painted red or smeared with tar, and pieces of stone are lying about on the ground. This vandalism seems to have expressed blind rage against the ruling class as a whole, all of whose representatives were attacked indiscriminately." (Chinese Shadows) Why "blind rage" and what does a "discriminate" attack on the ruling class amount too?
MAOISM - SUICIDE AND MADNESS
Leys mentioning the numbers of "writers, artists, and intellectuals" who committed suicide in protest against the Cultural Revolution has a footnote explaining that suicide in China has always been essentially a political act – "and is now more than ever the highest form of protest against arbitrary power." When in the West Maoists and ex-Maoists committed or attempted suicide their reasons for doing so were never so high-minded - they literally felt themselves driven beyond the extremes of endurance. They did not commit suicide or try to do so as a gesture of proud defiance but because they were more than desperate; the pain inside was simply just too great to endure. In that at least there was something social. However their reasons for doing so were not like those of terminally ill patients who merely want release from further pointless suffering. Never having understood reality when they were 'sane' they understood it even less when they cracked up. So their outlook was never one of fatalistic acceptance, which at least has the merit of not underestimating what's out there even as it overestimates its permanence but marked by the same extreme voluntarisms, which had been a hallmark of their 'sanity'. They never quietly gave up the ghost. Rushing around everywhere they swung from one bizarre extreme to another, impervious to moods or guilt feelings and taking upon themselves the fashionable cross of the moment. Recklessly lashing out right and left of the political spectacle in their refusal to accept any personal responsibility for themselves they practically transgressed good and evil if in their ideology they schizophrenically clung to moralist dualisms.