By Tom Watts

“Throughout the history of human knowledge, there have been two conceptions concerning the law of development of the universe, the metaphysical conception and the dialectical conception, which form two opposing world outlooks.”

  • Mao Tse-tung, “On Contradiction”

Every idea is stamped with the world view of a particular class and in this epoch, there are essentially but two contending classes; the bourgeoisie (monopoly capitalists) and the proletariat (wage slaves), and between these two there are various strata of petty (petite) bourgeoisie. What characterizes these two classes and the intermediate strata is their relationship to the means of production: the bourgeoisie are the owners of the basic means of production in the society; the factories, steel mills, coal mines, railroads, etc., and the means of intellectual production; newspapers and other mass media, and academia. The proletariat own nothing but their labor power which they are compelled by necessity to sell to the capitalists to survive. The petty bourgeoisie have somewhat more stake in the capitalist system as “little capitalists” or as professionals, managers, professors or technocrats, etc. They enjoy various degrees of class privilege and financial rewards to play the role of stabilizing and normalizing the system of class exploitation and acting as a buffer between the proletariat and masses of poor people on the one hand, and the big bourgeoisie on the other.   

As Karl Marx pointed out: “The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production.” (Karl Marx, The German Ideology (1846), p. 64) While the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie (and most of society as a whole) share a common world view based upon metaphysical idealism, the most advanced section of the proletariat and revolutionary intellectuals embrace dialectical materialism, which is the only thoroughly scientific and “all-the-way revolutionary” world view that has ever existed in history. Needless to say, this revolutionary world view of the proletariat is at every turn beset by opposition, suppression, distortion, cooption and misdirection by the agents of the bourgeoisie and the self-serving petty-bourgeois intelligentsia seeking to rob it of its revolutionary essence and prevent its being widely embraced by the proletariat as a whole and the masses of people generally.    

Ideas and ideologies do not remain static and unchanging, not even those based upon metaphysical idealism, but transform and evolve with the changing material conditions in society. Liberalism, the dominant ideology of the bourgeoisie, has evolved and changed over the course of history (particularly in the 20th and 21st centuries). Classical liberalism was replaced by “New Deal” liberalism and fascism in response to the “Great Depression” and the rise of socialism in the Soviet Union (based upon application of historical dialectical materialism). In the struggle between these “left” and right (fascist) forms of liberalism, the proponents of the former sought alliance with the Soviet Union in a “united front against fascism,” which threatened to overturn the status quo of Anglo-American dominance in the West. This alliance muted and subordinated class struggle in the West in favor of the war effort. For a time, the more blatantly right-wing elements in the U.S and U.K. went underground (or at least undercover) and the illusion of post war cooperation between the U.S. and Soviet Union was nurtured among communists and liberals alike.

The defeat of the Axis Powers was followed immediately by a swing to the right and the reemergence of the right-wing in the form of the Truman Administration and the morphing of “New Deal” liberalism into “Cold War” liberalism. Former Nazis war criminals were pardoned and assimilated into the CIA and occupation administrations and an “Iron Curtin” was thrown up to divide the East and West. The wartime economy that was responsible for pulling the U.S. out of the “Great Depression” was continued under the pretext of defending the world from “Soviet aggression,” and provided a cover for establishing the global hegemony of U.S. imperialism. The McCarthyite “Red Scare” terrorized left liberals and “fellow travelers” into adopting the cant of virulent anti-communism, as their colleagues were purged and “black listed” from the unions, Hollywood, teaching and government positions.   

The “Cold War” liberals recognized that mere suppression of the proletarian left would not suffice and so they continued the polices of concessions established during the “New Deal” to allow upward mobility from the proletariat into the “middle class” and the promulgation of the “American Dream” of one day joining the bourgeoisie in the lap of luxury. These policies involved concessions to create a black “middle class” and an end to overt “Jim Crow” segregation, allowing unionization in the major industries under the control of Taft-Hartley Act. The Taft–Hartley Act prohibited jurisdictional strikes, wildcat strikes, solidarity or political strikes, secondary boycotts, secondary and mass picketing, closed shops, and monetary donations by unions to federal political campaigns. It also required union officers to sign non-communist affidavits with the government. Union shops were heavily restricted, and states were allowed to pass right-to-work laws that banned agency fees. Furthermore, the executive branch of the federal government could obtain legal strikebreaking injunctions if an impending or current strike “imperiled the national health or safety.”

Basically, the bourgeoisie employed the tactics of the “carrot and stick,” allowing a graduated income tax to continue and a measure of upward mobility to expand the petty bourgeoisie while cracking down on the genuine left and suppressing free speech. Promoting a measure of integration while maintaining institutional racism and de facto segregation of the black and other oppressed communities of color. While these concessions were insufficient to prevent a rising militancy among the oppressed masses demanding full equality and the elimination of poverty, the right-wing of the bourgeoisie considered it to be going too far, particularly as the threat of the “Socialist Camp” diminished with the rise of modern revisionism.

The First World War had given rise to the Russian Revolution in 1917 and the creation of the first socialist state. But due to the inroads of modern revisionism in Germany and other Western countries, the proletariat did not succeed in turning the imperialist war into a revolutionary civil war outside of Russia as the leadership of the long established socialist parties sold out the revolutionary workers to the liberal bourgeoisie preferring the illusion of peaceful transition to socialism through parliamentary democracy. What they got instead was parliamentary transition to fascism and the election of Adolf Hitler in Germany. Drexler’s German Workers’ Party (January 1919 until February 1920) was infiltrated and taken over by Adolf Hitler, a military intelligence agent, who transformed it into the Nazi Party. Backed by the big bourgeoisie, Hitler’s Nazis strong-armed their way to power.

The Soviet Union, having fought off western imperialist interventions and reactionary attempts to restore the Tsar, bourgeois democracy and/or anarchy, was left to attempt to consolidate socialism in one country encircled by capitalist-imperialism. This required a massive “bootstrap” effort to rapidly industrialize the backward Russian economy and the creation of a powerful party-state-military bureaucracy to prepare the Soviet Union for the inevitable Second World War and fascist invasion. While the West and the rest of the world suffered under the ravages of the “Great Depression.” The Soviet Union, under Stalin’s leadership, was transformed from a backward wooden-plow economy into an industrial power house. When the war came, the Soviet Union managed to repel the fascist invasion by supreme effort and sacrifice. Hitler’s armies were turned back from the gates of Moscow, Leningrad and Stalingrad and then pushed all the way back to Berlin and beyond.   

The U.S. emerged from World War II as the sole imperialist superpower, but the Soviet Union emerged as a superpower in its own right as leader of the “Socialist Camp,” which included all of the Eastern European countries liberated by the Red Army, as well as Yugoslavia and Albania which had been liberated by Red Partisans. In the other countries that had been under the fascist occupation, the Communists were in high regard for having played a leading role in the resistance movement. The “Socialist Camp” was soon to be joined by People’s China, North Korea, and North Vietnam, and all over the underdeveloped, colonized and exploited “Third World,” masses of oppressed people looked to the Soviet Union for leadership and aid in waging their own struggles for national liberation and socialist reconstruction. As Mao poetically put it, “the East Wind was prevailing over the West Wind.” But beneath the surface, the rot of modern revisionism would soon cause the “Socialist Camp” to crumble and fall.   

What Exactly Is Modern Revisionism?

“Chairman Mao teaches us: ‘The proletariat seeks to transform the world according to its own world outlook, so does the bourgeoisie.’ In the sharp clash between the two world outlooks, either you crush me, or I crush you. It will not do to sit on the fence; there is no middle road. The overthrown bourgeoisie, in their plots for restoration and subversion, always give first place to ideology, take hold of ideology and the superstructure. The representatives of the bourgeoisie, by using their position and power, usurped and controlled the leadership of a number of departments, did all they could to spread bourgeois and revisionist poison through the media of literature, the theatre, films, music, the arts, the press, periodicals, the radio, publications and academic research and schools, etc., in an attempt to corrupt people’s minds and perpetrate ‘peaceful evolution’ as ideological preparation and preparation of public opinion for capitalist restoration. If our proletarian ideology does not take over the position, then the bourgeois ideology will have free rein; it will gradually nibble away and chew you up bit by bit. Once proletarian ideology gives way, so will the superstructure and the economic base and this means the restoration of capitalism. Therefore, we must arm our minds with Mao Tse-tung’s thought and establish a firm proletarian world outlook. We must use the great Mao Tse-tung’s thought to fight and completely destroy the bourgeois ideological and cultural positions.”

  • “Mao Tse-Tung’s Thought is the Telescope and Microscope of Our Revolutionary Cause,” Editorial of the Liberation Army Daily (Jiefangjun Bao): June 7, 1966

Following the death of Stalin in March of 1953, a struggle for succession in the inner circle of the party-state-military bureaucracy broke out from which Nikita Khrushchev emerged the winner in 1955. In February of 1956, Khrushchev launched a full scale attack on Stalin’s legacy with a “secret speech” delivered to selected delegates to the Communist Party’s 20th Congress. This speech, which was soon leaked and was published in the New York Times and other key bourgeois newspapers around the world, had a devastating effect on the world communist movement, causing masses of people to quit their affiliation and eventually leading to the Sino-Soviet Split and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution inside China. But let’s go back a bit further, to the initial battle against revisionism led by Comrade Vladimir Lenin to get better clarity on this phenomenon.

In the late 19th century, the term “revisionism” was used to describe democratic socialist writers such as Eduard Bernstein and Jean Jaurès, who sought to revise Karl Marx‘s ideas about the transition to socialism and claimed that a revolution through force was not necessary to achieve a socialist society. In the half century after Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto (1848) and other foundational documents of the world communist movement, the movement of the revolutionary proletarians had grown to include millions and spread around the globe, though it was concentrated in the industrial centers of Europe and the U.S., where it was closely interconnected with the trade unions that had sprung up in response to the “Industrial Revolution.” Marx and Engels had themselves helped to convene the International Working Men’s Association (1864-1876) and the 2nd International (1889-1916). The First International had been split by the defection of the Anarchists and other utopians who rejected Marx and Engels theories of scientific socialism as “authoritarian.”     

Where the First International had been a “hodge podge” of various trends and tendencies within the proletarian class, the 2nd International excluded Anarchists and strictly trade unionist organizations and was more or less united around Marxist socialism, although there were dissenting voices within it that professed to be “anti-authoritarian socialists” (or “libertarian socialists”) who maintained close ties with the Anarcho-Syndicalist movement. Of the twenty different national sections that came together, the strongest and most Marxist by far was the Socialist Workers’ Party of Germany (SAPD), which changed its name to the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) in 1890, when the ban was lifted on socialist organizing in Germany. An International Socialist Bureau (ISB), based in Brussels was formed after the International’s Paris Congress of 1900, of which Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was a member from 1905.

In the years leading up to World War I, the SPD remained ideologically radical in official principle, although many party officials tended to be moderate in everyday politics. By 1912, the party claimed the most votes of any German party. Eduard Bernstein, who had become a close associate and friend of Engels while in exile in England, was originally an orthodox Marxist who became a leading theoretician of the SPD. However, as Engels’ health began to fail, Bernstein began to show his true colors. Four months before his death, Engels was outraged to find that his introduction to a new edition of The Class Struggles in France, written by Marx in 1850, had been edited by Bernstein and Karl Kautsky in a manner which left the impression that he had become a proponent of a peaceful road to socialism, “without so much as a word to me about it.”

After Engel’s death in 1895, Bernstein argued that Engels and Marx had written the Communist Manifesto in their radical youth, but as they matured, they came to realize that socialism could be achieved through peaceful means through legislative reform in democratic societies. Bernstein also attacked the science of dialectical materialism as “Hegelian metaphysics.” Bernstein’s revisionism was criticized by many within the Party, including some, (like Kautsky), who would put out their own watered down version of his revisionism, but it nonetheless had wide influence, particularly on those who had become comfortable in their positions as parliamentarians or trade union secretaries. When “push came to shove” the SPD capitulated to the bourgeoisie by voting war credits for “defense of the Fatherland.” One after the other, the parties of the 2nd International reneged on their antimilitarist and anti-imperialist commitments and closed ranks with their respective national bourgeoisies. One outstanding exception was the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (bolsheviks) led by Vladimir Lenin.

In Russia, the Bolshevik delegates to the Duma refused to vote war credits and heroically spoke out against the war, leading to their imprisonment. Living in exile in Switzerland, Lenin devoted his energies to campaign to turn the “imperialist war into a civil war.” This included the publication of his book, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism. In September of 1915, an international conference of anti-war socialists was held in Zimmerwald, Switzerland, which drafted an anti-war manifesto and established an International Socialist Commission, headquartered in Berne, Switzerland. Within the SPD, the Left faction led by Karl Liebknect refused to support Karl Kautsky’s decision to support the war, and Liebknect abstained on the vote for war credits. At the end of 1914, Liebknecht, together with Rosa Luxemburg, Leo Jogiches, Paul Levi, Ernest Meyer, Franz Mehring and Clara Zetkin formed the Spartacus League (Spartakusbund); Liebknecht was arrested and sent to the eastern front during World War I despite his immunity as a member of parliament. Refusing to fight, he served burying the dead, and due to his rapidly deteriorating health was allowed to return to Germany in October 1915.

He was again imprisoned following a May Day demonstration in 1916 organized by the Spartacus League, sentenced for High Treason. Released in October of 1918 in a general amnesty for political prisoners, he again resumed his position as leader of the Spartacists, along with Rosa Luxemburg, and as editor of The Red Flag. In December he was instrumental in the founding of the German Communist Party (KDP) and participated in the Spartacist Uprising in Berlin in January of 1919, which he and Luxemburg had opposed but committed themselves to once it had begun. The uprising was brutally suppressed, and he and Rosa were captured tortured and murdered by the SPD-backed Freikorps.     

The price for being anti-revisionist has always been high. Revisionism is the path of least resistance that inevitably leads to the swamp of opportunism and betrayal. It is the abandonment of cold liberating truth for the warm comfortable lies of idealism and class collaboration. It is unprincipled compromise, unchecked liberalism and self-serving, cowardly retreat when the going gets tough. Revisionism always poses as the more “reasonable alternative,” when the correct path requires struggle and sacrifices, and when the enemy is shooting “sugar-coated bullets” and employing “dollar diplomacy.” It is looking for the “lesser evil” instead of the necessary next step that must be taken. Revisionism is a poser and a deceiver, it “raises the red flag to oppose the red flag,” it evokes Marx as an icon to gut Marxism of its revolutionary essence. Revisionism is the ideology of the bourgeoisie dressed in the regalia of the revolutionary proletariat.

At every bend in the road, revisionists will jump out and insist that the revolution has gone too far and should linger a while and enjoy the view. When internationalist unity must be built, they will make a principle of national differences and “special characteristics,” when advances must be made in developing basic industries, they will insist on focusing on consumer goods, and when “bourgeois rights” must be restricted, they will proclaim that “it is glorious to be rich.” When revolutionary struggle is called for, they will propose “peaceful coexistence,” outwardly they will express support for the Party’s line while at the same time sabotaging it at every opportunity. When challenged, revisionists will feign innocence and play the victim accusing their critics of “dogmatism” and “ultra-leftism,” and otherwise they will take matters too far to defeat the line by carrying it to absurdity and force a retreat to correct “ultra-left” excesses. It is more difficult to defeat revisionism than openly reactionary tendencies. 

“Toxic Identity Politics” are a good example of revisionism at work. Mao pointed out that:

“Another point that should be mentioned in connection with inner-Party criticism is that some comrades ignore the major issues and confine their attention to minor points when they make their criticism. They do not understand that the main task of criticism is to point out political and organizational mistakes. As to personal shortcomings, unless they are related to political and organizational mistakes, there is no need to be overcritical or the comrades concerned will be at a loss as to what to do. Moreover, once such criticism develops, there is the great danger that within the Party attention will be concentrated exclusively on minor faults, and everyone will become timid and overcautious and forget the Party’s political tasks.”

  • “On Correcting Mistaken Ideas in the Party” (December 1929), Selected Works, Vol. I, pp. 111-12.

Going back some years there is the tendency that arose around the slogan, “the personal is political.” While there is some merit in this idea, it is quite easy to take too far and shift the attention from advancing the class struggle to petty bourgeois self-cultivation and personality bashing. Personal identity is a much over-rated thing. Without a doubt, some people suffer from low self-esteem as a result of internalization of past oppression as a member of an oppressed group in society. Turning this around and raising one’s self-esteem is healthy and good, but making a cult of victimology and seeking identity from it is neither healthy nor good and it is divisive of building class unity and intercommunal solidarity. Taking pride in the accident of your birth is a poor substitute for taking pride in your personal attributes and accomplishments. Whether you were born with black, brown or white skin, it was no personal accomplishment, any more than being born on this or that side of a border or an ocean. Being male or female is nothing of note, and your sexual orientation does not make you special. None of these things make you any better or worse than anyone else.

What we can all agree on, and must agree on, is that no one should be discriminated against or oppressed because of their color, nationality, gender or sexual orientation. The proletariat has no color, no nationality, gender or sexuality. It is not an exclusive club; everyone who must sell their labor power and work for a living is a member, and an injury to one is an injury to all. As individuals we are all powerless, united we are the greatest power on the planet and the makers of history. The bourgeoisie seeks to divide us, to play us one against the other, to make a principle of our differences, to get us to blame each other and be alienated from each other. It is not our personal identity that has the potentiality of making us essentially human, but the awareness that only by opposing and defeating all oppression can we create a classless, stateless society based upon equality and social justice for all. The alternative to socialism is barbarism and ecological disaster. To exist we must resist, capitalism has no future to offer us. The future will be bright, if we dare to make it so.

Capitalism is the highest and final stage of the Epoch of Exploitation, and capitalist-imperialism is the highest and final stage of capitalism. Neoliberalism is the highest and final stage of capitalist-imperialism. This is “Last Call!” No savior is coming to deliver us. We cannot vote our way out of this predicament. The exploiting ruling class is not going to give up their wealth and power without a fight to the finish. We must be our own liberators!

The essence of neoliberalism is that it is a “War on the Poor!” It is a rebellion of the rich against every concession they ever made to the masses of ordinary people. It is a rebellion against their paying taxes and their paying living wages. It is a rebellion against feeding people they cannot profitably exploit. It is a rebellion against social services and public welfare, against government spending on anything but the military, the police and prisons. As wealth and power are concentrated into ever fewer hands, their arrogance grows greater and so does their contempt for the masses. They hold contempt for reason and for science, and are in denial of the forces of nature. The drive to achieve the highest rate of profit makes them reckless of consequences.    

Postmodern idealism fits them like a glove. Postmodernists deny that an objective reality exists. Postmodern philosophy bases truth on subjectivity. Under postmodernist views, denying that an objective reality exists implies it is impossible to know the truth about anything. Donald Trump doesn’t just lie, he will deny what he just said minutes ago on television and attack the TV networks for presenting “fake news.” His spokes people will look the cameras in the eye and talk about “alternative facts.” The irony is, his supporters “eat it up with a spoon.” They become more devoted, not less. Hitler and Goebbels were the archetypes of postmodern idealism.

“It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and a psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is in fact a circle. They are mere words, and words can be molded until they clothe ideas and disguise.”

Joseph Goebbels        

In contrast to this, historical dialectical materialism is rooted in the belief that an objective reality exists independently of our consciousness of it, and it is by struggling to grasp as correctly as we can the essence of that reality that we are able to move forward in our efforts to advance human society. As Engels said: “What is genuine is proved in the fire, what is false we shall not miss in our ranks.” As Mao explained in his excellent work “On Practice” (1937):

“This dialectical-materialist theory of the process of development of knowledge, basing itself on practice and proceeding from the shallower to the deeper, was never worked out by anybody before the rise of Marxism. Marxist materialism solved this problem correctly for the first time, pointing out both materialistically and dialectically the deepening movement of cognition, the movement by which man in society progresses from perceptual knowledge to logical knowledge in his complex, constantly recurring practice of production and class struggle. Lenin said, ‘The abstraction of matter, of a law of nature, the abstraction of value, etc., in short, all scientific (correct, serious, not absurd) abstractions reflect nature more deeply, truly and completely.’ Marxism-Leninism holds that each of the two stages in the process of cognition has its own characteristics, with knowledge manifesting itself as perceptual at the lower stage and logical at the higher stage, but that both are stages in an integrated process of cognition. The perceptual and the rational are qualitatively different, but are not divorced from each other; they are unified on the basis of practice. Our practice proves that what is perceived cannot at once be comprehended and that only what is comprehended can be more deeply perceived. Perception only solves the problem of phenomena; theory alone can solve the problem of essence. The solving of both these problems is not separable in the slightest degree from practice. Whoever wants to know a thing has no way of doing so except by coming into contact with it, that is, by living (practicing) in its environment.”

Whereas all truth objectively serves the cause of revolution, counter-revolution is the enemy of truth and requires deception and manipulation. Like vampires, its reasonings cannot stand the light of day, and so the constant attack mode of “toxic identity politics.” Truth is not judged on its merits but the gender or ethnicity of the speaker. You don’t have to figure out where someone is coming from, if they disagree with you, they are “racist,” or “sexist,” or whatever suits your purpose, and you better attack first before they label you. “Calling out” is just the recent version of “witch hunting,” and if you’re lucky, you can upset your victim so much they kill themselves. Such bullying tactics are completely unsuited for genuine revolutionaries. As Mao explained: “The only way to settle questions of an ideological nature or controversial issues among the people is by the democratic method, the method of discussion, of criticism, of persuasion and education, and not by the method of coercion or repression.” 

Some people point to tactics used by the Red Guards in the Cultural Revolution and ignore that Mao was critical of such tactics. They fail to see how hidden counter-revolutionaries like Lin Biao encouraged such tactics as a way to discredit the Cultural Revolution and allow him to use the PLA to “restore order” and put himself in a more powerful position, which ultimately worked in the favor of the capitalist roaders who were the main targets of the Cultural Revolution and were able to seize power after Mao’s death.  Chang Chun-chiao, Mao’s close comrade in arms, who was martyred after Mao’s passing, explains:

“Historical experience shows us that whether the proletariat can triumph over the bourgeoisie and whether China will turn revisionist hinges on whether we can persevere in exercising all-round dictatorship over the bourgeoisie in all spheres and at all stages of development of the revolution. What is all-round dictatorship over the bourgeoisie? The most succinct generalization is found in a passage from a letter Marx wrote in 1852 to J. Weydemeyer, which we are all studying. Marx said, ‘…no credit is due to me for discovering the existence of classes in modern society, nor yet the struggle between them. Long before me bourgeois historians had described the historical development of this struggle of the classes, and bourgeois economists the economic anatomy of the classes, What I did that was new was to prove: 1) that the existence of classes is only bound up with particular historical phases in the development of production; 2) that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat; 3) that this dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society.’ In this splendid observation, Lenin said, Marx succeeded in expressing with striking clarity the chief and radical difference between his theory on the state and that of the bourgeoisie, and the essence of his teaching on the state. Here it should be noted that Marx divided the sentence on the dictatorship of the proletariat into three points, which are interrelated and cannot be cut apart. It is impermissible to accept only one of the three points while rejecting the other two. For the sentence gives complete expression to the entire process of the inception, development and withering away of the dictatorship of the proletariat and covers the whole task of the dictatorship of the proletariat and its actual content. In The Class Struggles in France, 1848-1850, Marx deals in more specific terms with this dictatorship of the proletariat as the necessary transit point to the abolition of class distinctions generally, to the abolition of all the relations of production on which they rest, to the abolition of all the social relations that correspond to these relations of production, and to the revolutionizing of all the ideas that result from these social relations. In all the four cases, Marx means all. Not a part, a greater part, or even the greatest part, but all! This is nothing surprising, for only by emancipating all mankind can the proletariat achieve its own final emancipation. The only way to attain this goal is to exercise all-round dictatorship over the bourgeoisie and carry the continued revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat through to the end, until the above-mentioned four alls are banished from the earth so that it will be impossible for the bourgeoisie and all other exploiting classes to exist or for new ones to arise; we definitely must not call a halt along the path of the transition.”

  • On Exercising All-Round Dictatorship Over the Bourgeoisie (1975)

“Exercising all round dictatorship over the bourgeoisie” is another way of saying “all power to the people.” Trying to substitute ourselves for the masses just won’t do. In order for the people to exercise this power, they must be armed with the science of historical dialectical materialism and organized to bring their numbers to bear in a conscious way in the day to day struggles to transform all of society. At every stage in the struggle we must keep this revolutionary world view in our minds. Combating modern revisionism is a day to day struggle. Liberalism is our mortal enemy. “Left neoliberalism” is not compatible with revolutionary proletarian socialism. Pantherism (revolutionary intercommunalism) is universally applicable in this period.

Whereas, in the past period, the chains of capitalist-imperialism broke first where the links were weakest, we are now confronting a system rotting at its core. Instead of supporting upward mobility and the growth of a large middle class, it is crushing down the middle class and generalizing poverty. By robbing the poor and giving to the rich, it creates a vacuum that can be filled by Panther Power. As Huey Newton explained: 

“Tonight, I would like to outline for you the Black Panther Party’s program and explain how we arrived at our ideological position and why we feel it necessary to institute a Ten-Point Program. A Ten-Point Program is not revolutionary in itself, nor is it reformist. It is a survival program. We, the people, are threatened with genocide because racism and fascism are rampant in this country and throughout the world. And the ruling circle in North America is responsible. We intend to change all of that, and in order to change it, there must be a total transformation. But until we can achieve that total transformation, we must exist. In order to exist, we must survive; therefore, we need a survival kit: the Ten-Point Program. It is necessary for our children to grow up healthy with functional and creative minds. They cannot do this if they do not get the correct nutrition. That is why we have a breakfast program for children. We also have community health programs. We have a busing program. We call it ‘The Bus for Relatives and Parents of Prisoners,’ We realize that the fascist regime that operates the prisons throughout America would like to do their treachery in the dark. But if we get the relatives, parents, and friends to the prisons they can expose the treachery of the fascists. This too is a survival program.

“We must not regard our survival programs as an answer to the whole problem of oppression. We don’t even claim it to be a revolutionary program. Revolutions are made of sterner stuff. We do say that if the people are not here revolution cannot be achieved, for the people and only the people make revolutions.

“The theme of our Revolutionary People’s Constitutional Convention is ‘Survival Through Service to the People.’ At our convention we will present our total survival program. It is a program that works very much like the first-aid kit that is used when a plane falls and you find yourself in the middle of the sea on a rubber raft. You need a few things to last until you can get to the shore, until you can get to that oasis where you can be happy and healthy. If you do not have the things necessary to get you to that shore, then you will probably not exist. At this time the ruling circle threatens us to the extent that we are afraid that we might not exist to see the next day or see the revolution. The Black Panther Party will not accept the total destruction of the people. As a matter of fact, we have drawn a line of demarcation and we will no longer tolerate fascism, aggression, brutality, and murder of any kind. We will not sit around and allow ourselves to be murdered. Each person has an obligation to preserve himself. If he does not preserve himself then I accuse him of suicide: reactionary suicide because reactionary conditions will have caused his death. If we do nothing we are accepting the situation and allowing ourselves to die. We will not accept that. If the alternatives are very narrow we still will not sit around, we will not die the death of the Jews in Germany. We would rather die the death of the Jews in Warsaw!

“Where there is courage, where there is self-respect and dignity, there is a possibility that we can change the conditions and win. This is a possibility that we can change the conditions and win. This is called /revolutionary enthusiasm/ and it is the kind of struggle that is needed in order to guarantee a victory. If we must die, then we will die the death of a revolutionary suicide that says, ‘If I am put down, if I am driven out, I refuse to be swept out with a broom. I would much rather be driven out with a stick because if I am swept out with the broom it will humiliate me and I will lose my self-respect. But if I am driven out with the stick, then, at least, I can claim the dignity of a man and die the death of a man rather than the death of a dog.’”

  • Speech At Boston College (1970)

By combining “Serve the People” survival programs with revolutionary agitation, education and organizing, we can transform the oppressed communities into base area of cultural, social and political revolution in the context of building a worldwide united front against capitalist-imperialism, racism (and in some contexts casteism), and police state repression. We can mobilize the most oppressed to act as a catalyst upon the whole proletariat and masses of people to inspire them to rise up and take history into their own hands. The whole world has become one integrated community of communities and revolutionary intercommunalism is the rational step to transition to world communism. Neoliberalism is an absurdity because the bourgeoisie cannot deal with reality. Just lately the Democrats are talking about replacing Donald Trump with Oprah Winfrey, as if that makes any rational sense at all. Clearly the bourgeoisie are decadent and unfit to hold the power they have.

According to Forbes, just five men now have as much wealth as the poorest 50% of the world’s population. Half of the world’s wealth is now in the hands of only 1% of the population, and most of that in the hands of a few 10’s of thousands of families. Most of this concentration of wealth has occurred since we entered the “Neoliberal Period” (like Kautsky), (like Kautsky), (like Kautsky),  around 1970. As pointed out by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth:  “Americans used to expect living standards in the country to double every generation. Not since 1980. In fact, standards of living at the median–with half the workers above and half the workers below–pretty much stopped growing around 1980 and are still stuck.” However, the top 1% have seen an average annual growth rate of 3% a year in their standard of living since 1980. The gap in income distribution keeps getting wider and wider.

Donald Trump’s promise to “Make America Great Again” resonated with a middle class that has been treading water trying to stay afloat, but it is the rich class whose boat keeps rising. In fact it is the top .001% who are having a party on their yacht. While the rich are getting richer and the middle class are floundering, the poor are getting poorer—and more numerous. As Huey Newton predicted back in 1970:

“If the ruling circle remains in power it seems to me that capitalists will continue to develop their technological machinery because they are not interested in the people. Therefore, I expect from them the logic that they have always followed: to make as much money as possible, and pay the people as little as possible – until the people demand more, and finally demand their heads. If revolution does not occur almost immediately, and I say almost immediately because technology is making leaps (it made a leap all the way to the moon), and if the ruling circle remains in power the proletarian working class will definitely be on the decline because they will be unemployables and therefore swell the ranks of the lumpens, who are the present unemployables. Every worker is in jeopardy because of the ruling circle, which is why we say that the lumpen proletarians have the potential for revolution, will probably carry out the revolution, and in the near future will be the popular majority.”

  • Speech at Boston College, 1970

Now the lumpen, or lumpenproletariat (literally the “broken workers”), have, since 1970, been the target of the government’s strategy of mass incarceration, and there has been an eight-fold increase in the imprisoned population in the U.S. since 1970. On a world scale, of the 7.6 billion people, 3 billion survive on $2.50 a day or less. And 2 billion people do not hold a bank account or have access to essential financial services. More than half live on less than $3.00 a day, so it is safe to say the majority are perpetually “broke.” Here in the U.S. being poor is figured at $12,060 a year or less income. If you have dependents or live in Alaska or Hawaii, the “poverty line” is a bit higher, but there isn’t a state in the union where a single person working for minimum wage can afford an apartment on their salary. It is no wonder that people who are “broke” often engage in some sort of hustle or illegal activity to make money.

The lumpen mentality is like a poor man’s version of the bourgeois mentality, but to be revolutionary the lumpen must embrace a revolutionary proletarian world view. This is why the strategy of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party Prison Chapter (NABPP-PC) and the United Panther Movement (UPM) is to “transform the ‘slave pens of oppression’ into ‘schools of liberation.’” Being “Revolutionary But Gangsta” is not the same as being “All-The-Way Revolutionary,” and neither is being “Revolutionary Nationalist,” but you can join the United Panther Movement so long as you fully support the 10 Point Program of NABPP-PC. To join the Party, however, one must be “down for the whole thing” and ready to represent and uphold the ideological-political line of the Party.

Pantherism is illuminated by Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM) and the theoretical and practical contributions of the original Black Panther Party and allied formations. We have taken the contributions of the original BPP and summed them up, conducted study and practice and summed that up, to deepen our grasp and advance the line even farther. We are confident that we are theoretically well armed, at this stage, and that our understanding will continue to grow and deepen as we engage in more practice. As Mao explained: “The correctness or otherwise of the ideological and political line decides everything. When the Party’s line is correct, then everything will come its way. If it has no followers, then it can have followers; if it has no guns, then it can have guns; if it has no political power, then it can have political power.”




  1. From Saswat Pattanayak:

    Whereas I agree it is thought-provoking at some levels and certainly a welcome addition to radical literatures, there are way too many aspects in the essay that require informed criticisms. And may I dare say, it contains some absolutely startling oversimplifications, and cherry-picking of quotes from Mao that may be lacking sufficient contexts. The phrase “identity politics” is already a racist proposition if the lens of the oppressed is employed to critique the criticisms of it. To call it “toxic” is even more unfortunate. Scientific Communism is not predicated solely upon a static set of which great leader had said what. By its very definition, it needs to continuously apply to specific historical (and yes, material) conditions and therefore if there are group identity clashes today, then that may not be ideal and may not be immediately helping the internationalist revolutionary cause, but there certainly is a need to gain greater understanding by applying dialectics to these phenomena too. Simply by dismissing the rise of a certain (hitherto) oppressed group which claims its national or racial or sexual identity as though they are merely playing some sort of victimhood game (yes, some do, but that is not a threat to the communist; it is instead an opportunity for learning the history of oppressions – when Robeson was finding in himself a free man in the USSR it was not to suggest that racism was not a problem for the communists to engage with – in fact the recognitions of nationalities and diversity within the USSR were central to the engagement), one can expedite the process of an elite revolutionary takeover, but it shall not have addressed the contradictions carried over from the previous era.

    Capitalism as an advanced stage of development poses its own unique group conflicts and the key is to acknowledge those as valid assertions and only then, organize accordingly while learning from the countless struggles of those variously oppressed. That is both a task, and the privilege, of the revolutionary communist. As regards to any contemporary identity movement, maybe there is a political-economic value to the uprising itself – to locate that, is the task of the communist. Finally, Mao was extremely critical of hypocrisies of comrades – his prioritizing organizational blunders over personal errors was not to be confused with any lack of his understanding of significance that needed to be attached to political acts of an individual – and these political acts necessarily included ethical standards (and if they did not on occasions, then they certainly needed to have – it is not to say that there is no scope for reforms for the comrade who erred, but to imply the contrary). Sustaining let’s say a rape culture, or promoting a racist agenda through double standards of institutionalized left parties (especially notable in this regard is the rape culture within the Socialist Workers Party in the UK) are not token personal errors – they are core to the capitalistic contradictions where individual consciousness, even of the comrades, can be overridden by the environment – which are unraveled at much greater and nuanced levels, thanks to what is being characterized by many as “identity politics”. The sexual violence against black and brown women that is systematically marginalized, can and should form the basis of a political-economic critique of the rape culture. These are not distracting from any goal that is more important, like SWP claimed for whom the party’s sanctity was more necessary than its comrades’ personal safety. Sadly, hero-worshipping and claiming the party to be somewhat sacrosanct enables the normalization of violence against those who are already economically oppressed as a group.

    Merely hoping that discriminations not occur will not end discriminations. They happen due to specific socio-historic remnants that cannot simply be wished away. Anti-Apartheid movement was an active position of the USSR. Anti-racism is central to communism. International Women’s Day as a global phenomenon is a Bolshevik contribution. And taking a cue from there, in our times, it is important to acknowledge and learn from and extend support to how let’s say, radical black women are organizing themselves. Their outcry is not a result of any toxicity. It is a result of structural indifference to the multiple layers of oppressions they have been subjected to. And more importantly it is their call for liberation. Why should they wait till the white men get their strategies right? This is not an ideal world we are inhabiting, where race or gender or sexuality do not matter. These are all social and oppressive constructs that need to go away. But they won’t disappear if we do not even acknowledge they exist, when they very much do.

    “Toxic identity politics” theory somehow assumes that those who are engaged in anti-oppression politics want to perpetuate their identities. Perhaps it is far from the truth. Maybe they want the oppression to end, and for their identity to end – if by identity we mean the rationale behind the discrimination. Being a victim is not a matter of shame. It is a reality. Victims did not create the conditions for their oppressions. Black people did not invent race. Dalits did not invent caste. Women did not invent the norms of patriarchy. So why should the burden of eliminating those lie squarely on them? The truth is folks are choked to death by cops simply because they are black who dared to resist. Toxicity is in the overlooking of the systems of oppressions that are part and parcel to capitalism – which as a system is advanced to the extent of raising consciousness among those who were historically oppressed. If communism is the next stage in a capitalist society, we need to first take cognizance of the issues that are unique to capitalism. Rape culture and racism may not be unique to capitalism; but their recognitions and resistance to them, is. Women need to be looked at as more than merely child producing machines that they were during feudal era. Likewise, black and brown people today are more than mere subjects of colonial eras. And so on. Capitalism is evil and must be combated. But it is an inevitably advanced stage too, and our raised consciousnesses are the biggest dividends from this r/evolution. And this raised consciousness is oftentimes what is dismissed as identity politics, which is why it simply cannot be toxic. It is not the goal for sure – the abolition of systems of oppressions is. And of course many people may confuse the assertion of identity itself as the goal. But to the communists it would be simply sanctimoniousness to get distracted into attacking those who do. The basis premise of capitalism is its dominant ideology and hence people will be divided and ruled. That is of course part of the deal. It is not a surprise element. What the communist has at disposal is a scientific tool to analyze what can be salvaged and brought forward to the next level. And which is why raised consciousness of folks to even assert their identity is a welcome means – and this is why it is indeed a great news for the revolutionary communists who must use this as an opportunity, not as a cause for insecurity, or as any threat.
    Again, it is a thought provoking article and I thank you for publishing and sharing it. Its reading certainly enlightens one on what more needs to be done…

  2. I struggle with this as much as i agree. Without challenging imposed identities and achieving pride in them how can anyone expect to get to “the next stage” so to speak? Its the White identity and its current supremacist variant that continues to dominate all while denigrating (for its own survival) constructed identities of everyone else. Without addressing this reality – without as it feels here – equating that constructed identity with those constructed in an affirming rebellion against it (New Afrikan, Afrikan, etc.) i think does a disservice on some/several levels. But i do agree, once its understood how we all got to this place of recognizing a need for revolution our particular identifying door of entry has to be seen as just that and not an end in and of itself.

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