Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Mainfesto of the Communist Party, Part 2

Bourgeois and Proletarians

I'll break up this opening part of the manifesto into two separate sections.

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.

History is not about the trials and tribulations of 'great men', or a 'clash of civilisations'. It is, however, about a fundamental conflict, and for Marx, this conflict is between antagonistic classes. We might be tempted to see this Hegelian terms (i.e. dialectically, as a resolution of antitheses, etc), but I don't believe that Hegel is necessary to this passage. In the feudal system, the wealth of the lord presupposes the subjugation of the serf, and this relation has, according to Marx, ultimately come to be replaced by the antagonism between bourgeois and proletariat.

Engels defines these two key terms in a footnote accompanying the passage above. 'Bourgeoisie' refers to the 'owners of the means of social production and employers of wage labour'. This category includes business owners, of course, but also executives, and also (arguably) the middle management within a firm. Note that the definition has nothing to do with quantity of income, or the 'social status' of one's job. For instance, a self-employed tradesman, or land-owning farmer, or small business owner who makes little money, are both examples of owners of the means of production. (Note also which side of politics some of these social groups have tended to align themselves with throughout modern history).

In the same footnote, that proletariat is defined as 'the class of modern wage labourers who, having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling their labour power in order to live'.
Again, this definition says nothing about income or social status. A teacher, nurse or social worker may, by this definition, be members of the proletariat, every bit as much as a factory worker. If there is a distinction between the latter and the former, it is that the factory worker is engaged in material, productive labour, namely, labour that produces a commodity for circulation. The teacher or nurse merely sells their labour power.

Some authors, such as Hardt and Negri, have made much of this distinction between 'material' and 'immaterial' labour, classifying the latter as 'biopolitical labour'. This is defined as 'labour that creates not only material goods but also relationships and ultimately social life itself' (p. 109). Examples of this include, among other things, traditional 'women's work', such as 'kin work, caring labour, and maternal work' (p. 111). Presumably, that which we might term 'Foucauldian' work would fall into this category - doctors, psychologists, prison officers, etc. I won't dwell on Hardt and Negri's point, and I suspect some would take issue with it, but it does suggest some interesting points of intersection between a Marxist theory of the proletariat, on the one hand, and feminism, psychoanalysis, and Foucauldian theories of 'biopolitics', on the other.

The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society has not done away with class antagonisms. It has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones.

Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinct feature: it has simplified class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other — Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.

From the serfs of the Middle Ages sprang the chartered burghers of the earliest towns. From these burgesses the first elements of the bourgeoisie were developed.

Whilst capitalism came to overthrow feudalism, it did so as its heir and successor, and not merely its hangman.

The discovery of America, the rounding of the Cape, opened up fresh ground for the rising bourgeoisie. The East-Indian and Chinese markets, the colonisation of America, trade with the colonies, the increase in the means of exchange and in commodities generally, gave to commerce, to navigation, to industry, an impulse never before known, and thereby, to the revolutionary element in the tottering feudal society, a rapid development.

This is an important reference to colonisation and its crucial role in the development of capitalism. Marx very succinctly juxtaposes the rise of capitalism with the birth of the 'age of discovery'.

The feudal system of industry, in which industrial production was monopolised by closed guilds, now no longer sufficed for the growing wants of the new markets. The manufacturing system took its place. The guild-masters were pushed on one side by the manufacturing middle class; division of labour between the different corporate guilds vanished in the face of division of labour in each single workshop.

In other words, there is a shift in the means of production between feudalism and industrial capitalism. By the 18th century, the guild system was in decline, to be ultimately replaced by an industrialism in which the 'division of labour' is contained within one site, one workshop or factory. Marx came back to this point elsewhere, exploring its consequences, notably in Das Kapital, (and also the Grundrisse), as the shift from the 'guild-corporation' to the modern industrial factory brings with it changes in the nature of a worker's relation to means of production.

Meantime the markets kept ever growing, the demand ever rising. Even manufacturer no longer sufficed. Thereupon, steam and machinery revolutionised industrial production. The place of manufacture was taken by the giant, Modern Industry; the place of the industrial middle class by industrial millionaires, the leaders of the whole industrial armies, the modern bourgeois.

Modern industry has established the world market, for which the discovery of America paved the way. This market has given an immense development to commerce, to navigation, to communication by land. This development has, in its turn, reacted on the extension of industry; and in proportion as industry, commerce, navigation, railways extended, in the same proportion the bourgeoisie developed, increased its capital, and pushed into the background every class handed down from the Middle Ages.

This is, mutatis mutandis, the situation that remains in the capitalist world today.

We see, therefore, how the modern bourgeoisie is itself the product of a long course of development, of a series of revolutions in the modes of production and of exchange.

This is an important ideological, as well as historical point. Defenders of the status quo will often attempt all kinds of intellectual tricks to assure us that industrial capitalism is simply the 'natural' order of things, that it flows necessarily from 'human nature' or evolution. In fact, it is, as Marx says, the product of a 'long course of development'. Engels adds in a footnote here than England is 'typical' in terms of the economic development of the bourgeoisie, but that France is typical when it comes to political development.

Each step in the development of the bourgeoisie was accompanied by a corresponding political advance of that class. An oppressed class under the sway of the feudal nobility, an armed and self-governing association in the medieval commune: here independent urban republic (as in Italy and Germany); there taxable “third estate” of the monarchy (as in France); afterwards, in the period of manufacturing proper, serving either the semi-feudal or the absolute monarchy as a counterpoise against the nobility, and, in fact, cornerstone of the great monarchies in general, the bourgeoisie has at last, since the establishment of Modern Industry and of the world market, conquered for itself, in the modern representative State, exclusive political sway. The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.

This last line is one that I would like to discuss with any willing readers. It isn't that I think it fundamentally wrong - we have all seen collusion between corporate and 'bourgeois' interests and government - but I wonder if things are not somewhat more complicated than this.

The bourgeoisie, historically, has played a most revolutionary part.

The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors”, and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment”. It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom — Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.

I think this passage makes clear the link between capitalism and what we might term 'liberalism' (i.e. emphasis on individualism, free trade, etc). This fact is one of the key contradictions of contemporary Anglophone conservatives. They simply cannot, for the life of them, conceive that their beloved 'values' are not, in fact being eroded by 'political correctness', or 'big' governments, but rather, by the capitalist values that they also cherish.

I think that the broader 'left' has forgotten some of these points. All too often, 'freedom' is reduced to the freedom to trade, or the freedom to consume. The language here is Orwellian in that, if Marx is correct, this 'freedom' belies a profound slavery in the process of production. This slippery use of language by capitalists has persisted to the modern day. 'Flexibility' in the workplace means casualisation, and the ability to fire staff unfairly. When the IMF arrives at a developing country to perform a 'structural adjustment', it means its fucking it in the ear.

The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage labourers.

The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.

In other words, we see a kind of commodification of everyday life. Currencies used to be set to the gold standard; now, the 'sentimental veil' is gauged by way of commodification. (As an aside, it's interesting how recent years have seen the emergence of terms such as 'emotional currency'. One assesses one's romantic affairs in terms of the 'investment' one has in them. It is not for nothing that Freud grasped for economic metaphors in characterising the psyche).

The bourgeoisie has disclosed how it came to pass that the brutal display of vigour in the Middle Ages, which reactionaries so much admire, found its fitting complement in the most slothful indolence. It has been the first to show what man’s activity can bring about. It has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals; it has conducted expeditions that put in the shade all former Exoduses of nations and crusades.

The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his, real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.

The means of production, at least here, in Australia, is being constantly revolutionised. The demographic make-up of the workforce has changed significantly since the 1980's, with more women at work, far greater casualisation, more people working from home, and far few people involved in organised labour. Industrial relations legislation and policy is continually changing, to the extent that few know what it actually means any more.

I'll leave it here for now, with the final paragraph above showcasing some of Marx's purple prose. Next time, I'll continue with the remainder of this section on bourgeois and proletarians.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Manifesto of the Communist Party, Part 1

I'll begin our reading with a brief look at the preface, of sorts, with which the Manifesto begins.

A spectre is haunting Europe - the spectre of communism.

One of the most famous lines in Marx's oeuvre, the metaphor of 'the spectre' was given an extensive treatment by philosopher Jacques Derrida. (You can read an excerpt here).

The choice of metaphor by Marx is interesting - as a champion of 'materialism', he is here invoking something that lacks materiality. At one level, it is as if he is saying that whilst communism is 'a long way off', it is nonetheless here to haunt the economic and political systems of Europe.

To elaborate a little further, I'll use an analogy from psychoanalysis, which also has materialist underpinnings. Lacan said that Marx invented 'the symptom'. In its simplest guise, the psychoanalytic symptom results from the inevitable clash between the conscious and the unconscious. An 'ideational representative' that is unacceptable to consciousness is banished to the unconscious. The outcome of this process, however, is not merely 'ideational' - the subject experiences any one of a range of neurotic symptoms, such as hysterical pains, feelings of anxiety, obsessive fixations, or whatever. The symptom is in a sense 'material', and results because the human subject carries within himself/herself an insoluable contradiction between conscious and unconscious.

In the same vein, capitalism implies, of necessity, the formation of antagonistic classes. The sites of clashes between these classes are the 'symptoms' of communism. In Marx's time, these symptoms included the various worker's uprisings in Europe, and the formation of trade unions and worker's parties.

Wither the spectre of communism today, when, in the post-Soviet world, few Marxist parties wield any power at all? It could be argued that the symptoms of class antagonism continue to emerge - global financial crisis, food shortages, rioting in Paris, in Athens, the intifadas of the Palestinian territories, the Zapatista movement of Mexico, the widespread hatred for 'deregulatory' industrial policy in Australia, to name but a few examples. Whether this 'spectre' is properly communist is debatable, but that it still exists is not.

Communism is still haunting Europe, and even the US. The evidence for this is the zeal with which politicians and the media seek to expunge anything vaguely 'leftist' from their discourse. The French philosopher Alain Badiou remarked upon this point in relation to Sarkozy:

At first sight there may seem something strange about the new President’s insistence that the solution to the country’s moral crisis, the goal of his ‘renewal’ process, was ‘to do away with May 68, once and for all’. Most of us were under the impression that it was long gone anyway. What is haunting the regime, under the name of May 68? We can only assume that it is the ‘spectre of communism’, in one of its last real manifestations. He would say (to give a Sarkozian prosopopoeia): ‘We refuse to be haunted by anything at all. It is not enough that empirical communism has disappeared. We want all possible forms of it banished. Even the hypothesis of communism—generic name of our defeat—must become unmentionable.’

The notion of this spectre as a 'symptom' is clear in Badiou's comment - communism, even in the form of mere 'hypothesis', is 'unmentionable'. It must be 'banished'. Rightist critics of public education will allege, for instance, that in university courses, Marxist perspectives are employed to analyse literature, film, or philosophy. Granted, this is true, but this has nothing whatsoever to do with communism.

I would also argue that there is today another spectre haunting Europe, and elsewhere, namely, the spectre of fascism, the 20th century's most infamous political invention.

Marx continues:

All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Pope and Tsar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police-spies.

This was not the only occasion in which otherwise squabbling parties united to repel the Red Menace. Almost a century after the Manifesto was published, a broad alliance was formed to oust the left from power in Germany. The upshot of this was a rather infamous Chancellor.

Where is the party in opposition that has not been decried as communistic by its opponents in power? Where is the opposition that has not hurled back the branding reproach of communism, against the more advanced opposition parties, as well as against its reactionary adversaries?

Words such as 'socialism' and 'communism' remain terms of abuse in much of political discourse in the English-speaking world. The haphazard way in which the term 'fascism' has been used (by both sides of politics) is repeated here, though to a lesser extent. A bail-out of car manufactorers in the US is termed 'socialist'. John Howard's centralising of the industrial relations system was derided by free-marketeers (HR Nicholls) as 'Stalinist'. Socialism and communism are used interchangeably, and are held to be self-evidently both economically mistaken and morally evil. The crimes of Stalin are held up as evidence of the depravity, or stupidity of Marx. Often this is done with some appeal to a 'human nature' that is, again, self-evidently incapable of communism.

Two things result from this fact:

I. Communism is already acknowledged by all European powers to be itself a power.

II. It is high time that Communists should openly, in the face of the whole world, publish their views, their aims, their tendencies, and meet this nursery tale of the Spectre of Communism with a manifesto of the party itself.

So, the Manifesto was intended to be a clear statement of position as against the 'nursery tale' of communism as told by the latter's detractors.

To this end, Communists of various nationalities have assembled in London and sketched the following manifesto, to be published in the English, French, German, Italian, Flemish and Danish languages.

Immediately, we see here one feature of Marx's Manifesto that distinguishes it from other political approaches, namely, its internationalism. In fact, I'm struggle to think of many other genuinely internationalist political perspectives, other than (perversely) perhaps neoconservative 'democracy-building', coupled with globalised free trade. The Manifesto was initially translated into the languages of industrialised Western Europe, but it would soon travel much further than this, most notably in the Русский язык.

I'll leave it there for now. Any discussion or non-trolling debate is welcome. I'm certainly no Marxologist or specialist in this area, merely an educated layperson, so please feel free to point out any inaccuracies or oversights.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Manifesto of the Communist Party

I thought it would be good to kickstart the reading group with a back-to-basics text, namely, Marx and Engels Manifesto of the Communist Party. I'll be using the online translation found here, but I have another translation (from The Portable Marx) that I may use for comparative purposes.

The text is relatively short, and I'll be lingering much longer on some points than others. At any time, my interlocuters here are most welcome to make suggestions, or even contribute a guest post on all or part of the text.

There are multiple versions of this text around, and many are accompanied by lengthy essays explaining the background to the manifesto. Anybody who has some points that they would like to share in this regard is more than welcome.

For a brief outline of the context: the Manifesto was written in 1847, and published the following year. By this stage, Marx had gone from being a mere philosopher to moving in revolutionary circles. The piece was written specifically for the Second Congress of Communists in London, in November 1847.

The year 1848 was marked by failed proletarian revolutions throughout Europe. If some find the Manifesto somewhat 'undemocratic' in tone, it should be remembered that continental Europe did not, at that time, have anything resembling a modern day 'liberal democracy'. This latter entity is a relatively recent (and unstable) invention.

The text is important for a number of reasons. First, it is one of the most famous 'Marxist' texts, and, whilst it certainly is not Marx's magnum opus (this title belongs to Das Kapital), it is one of his clearest and most programmatic.

Secondly, Marx and Engels use the text to clarify specifically what 'communism' is, or ought to be: trolls should take note that it does not involve Stalinism, Pol Pot, or the eating of babies. Significantly, the Manifesto outlines what communism is not, and we shall see that Marx was at pains to differentiate his own communism from various competing contemporaneous strands.

Finally, the text is at once revolutionary but also, it should be said, 'moderate', in many important senses. These shall hopefully become clear as we proceed through the text.

So, happy reading friends, and I hope to provide you with the first installment fairly shortly.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mao - Part 1 of 'On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People'

This Mao text in question is somewhat longish (it can be found here). It is composed of 12 sub-sections, of which the longest is the first. To kick things off, it might be useful to proceed with one chunk of this paper at a time.

I should add that I'm certainly no Mao scholar, and have only a fairly vague familiarity with his ideas. I encourage anybody whose more familiar with Mao to add a few thoughts below.

The first section is entitled 'Two types of contradictions differing in nature'. In a nutshell, Mao summarises these as follows:

We are confronted with two types of social contradictions -- those between ourselves and the enemy and those among the people. The two are totally different in nature.

Contradiction appears to have been at the heart of Mao's philosophy long before this particular speech. In an essay from 1937, Mao wrote a more 'theoretical' treatise on contradiction and revolutionary theory, which can be found here. The present paper, however, is an attempt to apply the theory to the post-revolutionary situation of Communist China. The broader context is that of the ascent of Khrushchev, the denunciation of Stalin, and the Soviet crushing of the Hungarian uprising in 1956.

Whilst the notion of contradiction has a fairly long history in the philosophical canon - it is absolutely central to Aristotle's metaphysics - Mao is using the concept in a way that draws from Hegel, via Marx and Lenin. Contradiction in Mao seems to ultimately refer to the opposition of classes.

Mao begins by defining just who are 'the people', and who is 'the enemy':

At the present stage, the period of building socialism, the classes, strata and social groups which favour, support and work for the cause of socialist construction all come within the category of the people, while the social forces and groups which resist the socialist revolution and are hostile to or sabotage socialist construction are all enemies of the people.

As Mao later concedes (sort of), this view is rather rigid and binarist, and some individuals are bound to be mis-categorised within these two positions. One can imagine mischievous deconstructionists seeking an excluded third-term that might undermine this opposition.

Mao avers that his government 'is one that genuinely represents the people's interests', but that 'there are still certain contradictions between this government and the people'. Mao goes on to enumerate these, and distinguishes between contradictions that are antagonistic or not:

The contradiction between the national bourgeoisie and the working class is one between exploiter and exploited, and is by nature antagonistic.

Mao believes that this contradiction can be overcome:

But in the concrete conditions of China, this antagonistic contradiction between the two classes, if properly handled, can be transformed into a non-antagonistic one and be resolved by peaceful methods. However, the contradiction between the working class and the national bourgeoisie will change into a contradiction between ourselves and the enemy if we do not handle it properly and do not follow the policy of uniting with, criticizing and educating the national bourgeoisie, or if the national bourgeoisie does not accept this policy of ours.

With a hint of Spinoza's 'determinatio est negatio', Mao makes much of the need to draw 'a clear distinction between ourselves and the enemy'. Class struggle is the basis for all questions of morality, or 'right and wrong', as Mao puts it. Determining right and wrong when dealing with 'the people' is an entirely different matter to resolving disputes between the government and the 'domestic and foreign reactionaries' and the other enemy classes.

Mao explains that the purposes of China's dictatorship, 'led by the working class', are manifold: first and foremost, the dictatorship resolves contradictions by suppressing the 'internal enemy', then, the dictatorship wards off external counter-revolutionary influence. The dictatorship, according to Mao, nonetheless has a democratic component, as it is based on the worker-peasant alliance. Mao is quite explicit in insisting on the need for civil rights and freedom within society, but has a rather centralised notion of what this entails:

But this freedom is freedom with leadership and this democracy is democracy under centralized guidance, not anarchy. Anarchy does not accord with the interests or wishes of the people.

Mao does not elaborate upon this point, and unless a reader knows something about the original, it is difficult to establish whether Mao means 'anarchy' in terms of the political ideology, or is simply using the word to indicate generalised disorder and lawlessness.

Interestingly, and problematically, Mao then makes several references to the 1956 Hungarian uprising. The first reference occurs merely in passing, and serves as an opportunity for Mao to critique the conceits of 'Western parliamentary democracy' and the two-party system:

[T]his so-called two-party system is nothing but a device for maintaining the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie; it can never guarantee freedoms to the working people. As a matter of fact, freedom and democracy exist not in the abstract, but only in the concrete. In a society where class struggle exists, if there is freedom for the exploiting classes to exploit the working people, there is no freedom for the working people not to be exploited.

For me, the above passage is the high point of the paper thus far. Mao relates the above to traditional Marxist critiques of 'democracy' - namely, that it is part of the superstructure, and that democracy and freedom are relative, rather than absolute. Many readers who agree with Marx's fundamental ideas may largely agree with Mao, up to this point. However, he quickly reminds us that 'democracy is correlative with centralism and freedom with discipline'. In fact, they are not merely 'correlative', as Mao goes on to indicate that they are indispensable for the socialist project.

Mao attempts to distance this centralism and discipline from sheer authoritarian coercion:

All attempts to use administrative orders or coercive measures to settle ideological questions or questions of right and wrong are not only ineffective but harmful. We cannot abolish religion by administrative order or force people not to believe in it. We cannot compel people to give up idealism, any more than we can force them to embrace Marxism. 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, criticism, persuasion and education, and not by the method of coercion or repression.

This latter point is interesting, and I'd very much like to hear from anyone who can shed some light on it. Mao alludes to something in 1942 (perhaps another speech or paper?) that encapsulated the formula 'unity - criticism - unity'. Again, I'd like to hear what others have to say about this critical method, which for Mao is a means of resolving contradictions peacefully. Again, Mao insists of the importance of carefully handling contradictions, lest there be a Chinese version of the 'Hungarian incident'.

Mao goes on to make some more general remarks about the nature of contradiction. He admits that the failure to draw accurate distinctions between friend and foe has led to some mistakes. He reiterates that 'Marxist philosophy holds that the law of the unity of opposites is the fundamental law of the universe', a view that may challenge radicals who prefer their Marx de-Hegelised. Contradictions within capitalist society result in acute conflicts, and these can be resolved on by way of socialist revolution. Contradictions within a socialist society are fundamentally different in character.

Mao repeatedly stresses the importance of managing contradictions competently, and draws our attention to the fact that Chinese socialism was then in its infancy, and reportedly plunged into rapid industrialisation. Mao lists his aims, and I could not but be struck by the contemporary resonances of one of them - the 'battle against nature'! I wonder if, in industrial China today, whether nature is badly losing this battle.

This concludes the long first section of the speech. It's interesting that Mao doesn't criticise any particular Soviet leaders explicitly, though I wonder if particular references may have alerted his audience at the time.

Anyway, please have a read of the first section of Mao's speech, and hopefully we can have a discussion about some of these points.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Mao Tse-Tung: On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People

This is the very first installment of the online reading group, and I hope that it isn't the last.

The text in question is a speech delivered by Mao (which can be found here). Jack Stephens, author of The Mustard Seed blog, has kindly provided an introduction:

The speech "On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People" was given in Feb. of 1957 to the 11th Session of the Supreme State Conference which was held in Peking. The main purpose of the speech was in response to the Hungarian Uprising the year earlier and why the uprising happened and how one could be avoided in China. While Mao was obviously misguided in his belief that the uprising (done by Communist party cadres and revolutionaries against Stalinism) there were some key points in Mao's speech that can be looked at today.

He further elaborated on antagonistic contradictions he had further written during the civil war. The antagonistic contradiction held that the bourgeoisie and proletariat and peasants can ally in certain instances which are not antagonistic towards them, such as the 1911 uprising against the monarchy. But, other times the contradictions are so great that only armed struggle can solve them, this is especially true, Mao holds, between the peasants and the land lord class.

Another important aspect in his speech was the phrase, "Let a Hundred Flowers Blossom, Let a Hundred Schools of Thought Contend." In this Mao wanted to open up debate between intellectuals and the people on different opposing viewpoints on socialism as well as letting artists open up their styles and letting scientific ideas contend with one another. However, this ended in failure with a crackdown against those who the CCP thought had disregarded the "healthy criticism" standard.

The speech also developed six criteria to judge one's own works and actions and to distinguish those who fought for Marxist ideals and those who were counter-revolutionary.

Let the discussions begin! I shall keep the post up for as long as necessary. All thoughts, comments, questions about this text are welcome, as are people from a range of backgrounds.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


For the remainder of 2008, I hope to host discussions of a few short texts. The texts will be short as I'm going to be largely unavailable for much of the latter part of this year. However, if the experiment is successful, I'd love to have an online reading group that examined some weightier tomes.

Some suggestions that I have for upcoming texts are as follows. Please feel free to offer any of your own, as well as a link, if available.

Adorno - On enlightenment and mass deception

Benjamin's famous essay on art and 'mechanical reproduction'.

Lacan's paper on the Mirror Stage, which is pertinent to this reading group for reasons that I hope to explain.

Perhaps Nam Le's short story, Tehran Calling, discussed by the author here.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

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