UPS Teamsters and the Sean O’Brien Sham

Ignorant workers, revisionists, and the misleaders of the workers are lauding the victory of reformist Sean O’Brien. This is not a victory for the workers, and it is subjective idealism to even suggest that. It is not enough to replace an individual, actual class struggle has to happen.

Some serious questions for the O’Brien shills to answer: Has O’Brien purged the Hoffa-ites? Has he stripped Hoffa of his pension and other privileges? Has he undertaken a mass education campaign among the membership, so they are better prepared to combat future sellout leaders? Has he removed the thousands of law enforcers organized under the IBT? Has he undone the Memorandum of Understanding that was forced upon the members at the start of COVID without even being voted upon? 

What did he do with his power as secretary treasurer during the historic betrayal of the 2018 contract, when the strike-hungry workers (the package division voted over 90 percent for a strike) were delivered to UPS on a silver platter? Did he not carry out his bureaucratic duties faithfully while leading on the workers with hollow phrase-mongering? Has he not continued to enforce the UPS contract that was never approved by the membership, and was actually voted down?

If O’Brien actually believed Hoffa was a traitor to the workers, why did he work to bring more workers into the Teamsters union while working in Boston? It’s a blatant contradiction to say the union is led by a sellout while bringing more workers under the wing of said leader. 

In actual fact, there is a great amount of overlap between Hoffa and O’Brien’s executive boards. Greg Floyd, François Laporte, Stan Hennessy, Craig McInnes, Tony Jones, John Palmer–these are all members of O’Brien’s executive board carried over from Hoffa Jr. The 79 member National Negotiating Committee that sold out the UPS Teamsters is not even fully public, but some members who made their participation public are still in IBT leadership. (For example, Thor Johnson, who was on the NNC and is now Southern Region Vice President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and Southern Region Package Director.)

So by no means should these recent elections be taken as a victory or a sign that the IBT is heading in a new direction. It is business as usual, and the conflict between these two groups is not between a bourgeois and a proletarian line. It is a conflict between two groups competing over the crumbs that UPS is willing to give to a privileged minority in exchange for ensuring the exploitation of the vast majority of the IBT. At every level, the IBT is completely merged with UPS management. The O’Brien clique has nothing to offer the membership at large except for a handful of nice-sounding phrases they have tacked onto the IBT constitution. They do not represent the members in dealing with UPS. Quite the opposite: they represent UPS in dealing with the members.

Publicité

Philosophical Questions of Autism Spectrum Disorder

The following was originally published in International Mag on October 15, 2021. Regrettably, the editors of International Mag have decided to cozy up to the IMCWP and revisionism in general, so I will not be sending them any more articles.

Two Trends in Neurology

Autism was discovered in two places near-simultaneously—Nazi Germany, and the Soviet Union. In the former, Hans Asperger served the German bourgeoisie, and in the latter, Grunya Sukhareva served the people. Asperger’s studies resulted in child euthanasia as a part of the Nazi eugenics program. Sukhareva’s studies resulted in the improvement of the quality of life of autistic people. This is the basic opposition that continues to this day.


It would be great-man-ism, however, to blame Asperger for eugenics. Eugenics is merely the logic of profit carried to its conclusion—it is a reflection of the drive to standardize the labor market and eliminate “sub-par” products from it. So long as production for profit dominates, autistic people will suffer, regardless of the peculiarities of each autistic
individual.


There are some people who desperately try to deflect attention from this basic fact, and instead blame the ignorance of the populace, or some metaphysical “stigma”. These are the effect, and not the cause. If autistic people were allowed to contribute to society according to their individual capacities, and taken care of according to their respective needs, there
would be no material basis for chauvinism. Since autistic people are often forced into wretched physical conditions, and people are assumed to be responsible for the conditions they find themselves in, autistic people are looked down upon.
There is eugenics, and there is liberation; there is production for profit, and production for use; there is Asperger and there is Sukhareva—in other words, there is pseudoscience, and then there is science.

The Impossibility of Diagnosis

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has to exist—any mention of a cure is a sign of a eugenicist and nothing else. ASD is the result of genetic mutation. These cannot be done away with. Monitoring every pregnancy at every stage for mutations, mapping out which mutations are significant and detecting them with one hundred percent accuracy, and terminating pregnancies accordingly, is an impossibility. (Not to mention it would be highly unethical–but ethics are arbitrary, and belong to a separate discussion.)

The existence of ASD, then, is a guarantee. Diagnosis, on the other hand, is not a guarantee. In fact, around a quarter of autistic children are not diagnosed. ASD diagnoses have serious theoretical obstacles. An autistic person and a non-autistic person will have plenty of overlap in their habits and social behavior. Everyone’s nervous system is different. The qualitative difference between an autistic and non-autistic person can easily be mistaken for mere quantitative differences. Everyone is more or less awkward in a given situation, everyone is a more or less picky eater, everyone is more or less sensitive to certain sounds, everyone follows a routine of sorts, etc. Finding a hard boundary between autistic and not is a theoretic impossibility: only the most hardcore essentialists and positivists believe in such a boundary.

On top of these theoretic difficulties, there is the issue of material conditions. Healthcare in the US is difficult to access at best, and virtually nonexistent for a significant chunk of the population. Accurately diagnosing autism in children is out of the question when millions of people do not even see a physician on a regular basis—consequently, providing the appropriate accommodations is a fairy tale.

Diagnoses that do take place are given out according to bourgeois standards for workers. This means that autistic people without an intellectual disability (or even people with only a mild intellectual disability) will go undiagnosed until well into adulthood. Many autistic people are extremely gifted in a particular field, and compared to non-autistic people, possess a superhuman focus. These gifts either go untapped as autistic people are forced into the worst jobs, or they become a burden on the person who possesses them, as it may be their only way to interact with an otherwise hostile world—and so long as the person is able to mask their “disability”, they will not be diagnosed. Black autistic people are even more likely to be undiagnosed—a black child with an intellectual disability will be written off due to racial prejudice (that is, if they even have access to a doctor) which attributes their intellectual disability or other autistic traits to their skin color instead of ASD.

The notion of ASD as a “disability” to be diagnosed is nonsensical regardless. The Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation explained why “disability” is a misnomer:

In our view, it is society which disables physically impaired people. Disability is something imposed on top of our impairments by the way we are unnecessarily isolated and excluded from full participation in society. Disabled people are therefore an oppressed group in society. To understand this it is necessary to grasp the distinction between the physical impairment and the social situation, called ‘disability’, of people with such impairment. Thus we define impairment as lacking part of or all of a limb, or having a defective limb, organ or mechanism of the body; and disability as the disadvantage or restriction of activity caused by a contemporary social organisation which takes no or little account of people who have physical impairments and thus excludes them from participation in the mainstream of social activities. Physical disability is therefore a particular form of social oppression. From this social point of view it follows that the impoverishment of physically impaired people arises out of the fact that, as a group, we are excluded from the mainstream of social activities. In the final analysis the particular form of poverty principally associated with physical impairment is caused by our exclusion from the ability to earn an income on a par with our able-bodied peers, due to the way employment is organised. This exclusion is linked with our exclusion from participating in the social activities and provisions that make general employment possible.

The UPIAS wrote this with solely physical impairments in mind. ASD ought to be included on account of being a “defective mechanism of the body”, in this case the nervous system, in particular the mechanisms associated with communication and sensory processing. Autistic people are only disabled in the sense that they are unable to adapt themselves to arbitrary social standards, which results in unemployment/underemployment, and the consequences therein. In fact, a study from Yale showed that job interviewees are judged in a matter of seconds based on their speech patterns—a fact which obviously slants against autistic people.

The Limits of Bourgeois Sociology

Neurological and sociological studies on autistic people have greatly expanded in the last few decades. Yet understanding of ASD has hardly budged, and the literature is inundated with comments suggesting further research is needed on this or that topic, and at the same time, suggestions for ameliorating autistic people’s living conditions are hopelessly naive at best and overtly counterproductive at worst.

It is here that the limits of bourgeois sociology are painfully obvious. The bourgeois sociologists are incapable of understanding the causes behind the social conditions forced on autistic people. Without understanding the causes, that is, the relations of production, they are left groping in the dark regarding the relationship between ASD and comorbidities. Autistic people suffer higher rates of substance abuse, depression, and suicidal ideation, among other problems.

Investigation into these problems invariably come up against the hard barrier of sociology, that is, its separation from political economy. It is political economy, and the objective laws of production and accumulation, that provides the answers the sociologists are looking for. Either these problems are inherent in autistic people, in which case they are incapable of leading fulfilling lives, or they are forced on them, in which case the question is by whom and to what end. (This question was already answered in Das Kapital.) The first option is the chauvinist outlook. The second is the objectively correct outlook.

The Contradiction of Practice

Autistic people, and oppressed populations in general, are by definition powerless to fight for their own interests. The result is the most vulnerable people find themselves represented by those who are least oppressed and consequently the most vacillating and most willing to collaborate with the enemies of autistic people. The present situation is one where autistic people (and “disabled” people generally) are led by those least capable of leading.

The most egregious example of this is Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks is the most prominent autistic advocacy organization in the US. A single executive at Autism Speaks makes over $600k in a single year. Not coincidentally, Autism Speaks has accepted support from the Soldiers of Odin, a neo-Nazi organization. Does Autism Speaks serve autistic people? On the contrary, their profits increase alongside the suffering of autistic people. Such is the peculiar phenomenon of “advocates” being the worst enemies of those they claim to advocate for.

There are others who, instead of supporting advocacy organizations, mistakenly place their confidence in science. They believe that as scientific knowledge progresses, living conditions will progress. Scientific research on the matter is a secondary factor in the amelioration of autistic peoples living conditions. All the research in the world means nothing so long as autistic peoples needs are subordinated to capital. In fact, over the last few decades, technology for all “disabled” people to live fulfilling lives and contribute to society has been developed and integrated globally. Yet not one iota of progress has been made!

Only once autistic people, and the “disabled” in general, take their destiny into their own hands, form militant organizations, and struggle against capital and its representatives, can any victory be won. Anything else, whether it be crumbs thrown by the liberal party or gifts from charities, is an insult, and should be treated accordingly. Anyone who wants to be an ally must struggle incessantly against the opportunists of all stripes, especially the traitorous “allies” that have misled the people for so long.

Reassessing Social Fascist Theory with Special Consideration for Zionism

What is right and what is wrong about social fascist theory?

Earlier I said Stalin committed a left error in calling them twins, which was a mistake. Stalin was correct in denying their opposition (“antipodes” as he says) but incorrect insofar as he declared social democracy a “wing” of fascism. Social democracy and fascism are both “wings” of the bourgeoisie, and at any time a given bourgeois state has characteristics of both, with one or the other being dominant. Stalin also says that one cannot rule without the other. This is true of social-democracy but not of fascism. Social democracy gives rise to fascism and strengthens it but not the other way around. That is the dialectic of bourgeois rule: political and economic concessions taken by the workers leads to bourgeois reaction against them for the purpose of liquidating the concessions and the parties that granted them. They are not mutually reinforcing. Bourgeois concessions from the state gives rise to its opposite, bourgeois terrorist organizations outside of the state, and the big fish swallows the little fish, the bourgeois terrorist organizations liquidate the liberal state and its concessions altogether. Not coincidentally, fascist ideology and social democratic ideology share the same premise, that the state is the medium for reconciling classes.

Consider these quotes:

No individuals or groups (political parties, cultural associations, economic unions, social classes) outside the State. Fascism is therefore opposed to Socialism to which unity within the State (which amalgamates classes into a single economic and ethical reality) is unknown, and which sees in history nothing but the class struggle. Fascism is likewise opposed to trade unionism as a class weapon. But when brought within the orbit of the State, Fascism recognizes the real needs which gave rise to socialism and trade unionism, giving them due weight in the guild or corporative system in which divergent interests are coordinated and harmonized in the unity of the State. […] Such a conception of life makes Fascism the resolute negation of the doctrine underlying socalled scientific and Marxian socialism, the doctrine of historic materialism which would explain the history of mankind in terms of the class struggle and by changes in the processes and instruments of production, to the exclusion of all else. […] After socialism, Fascism trains its guns on the whole block of democratic ideologies, and rejects both their premises and their practical applications and implements. -Mussolini, The Doctrine of Fascism

Workers and employees shall be called upon to cooperate in common with employers, and on an equal footing, in the regulation of salaries and working conditions, as well as in the entire field of the economic development of the forces of production. The organizations on both sides and their agreements shall be recognized. -Article 165 of the Weimar Constitution

The unity of trade unions with the state, the necessity of the state as arbiter of any worker-capitalist conflicts, and the renunciation of class struggle and acceptance of class collaboration is the basis of the social-democratic and fascist perspectives. (The fact that the perspectives are so similar is proven in the fact that many important fascist leaders were once social democrats, including Mussolini in Italy, Ebert and Noske in Germany who were at the head of the counterrevolution, and Pilsudsky in Poland.) The actions they take on the basis of this worldview, however, diverge, and complement one another. Bela Kun analyzed the tactical alliance perfectly:

Social-Democracy had to support the bourgeois governments under cover of oppositional phrases. The leaders of Italian Social-Democracy have subsequently done public penance several times for having neglected to play the part of Noske, and for having thereby engendered the Mussolini required by the bourgeoisie as an executioner of the working class. When German Social-Democracy preened itself — as in the highly embellished speech of Wels at the latest party conference — on Germany’s being “no Italy,” it was actually boasting that German Social-Democracy as distinguished from its Italian colleagues — had shown no timidity in looking after the affairs of its own bourgeoisie within the state-apparatus itself.

The disarming of the working class before Fascism is, however, pursued by social-democracy in different ways.

One of these ways is the method employed by Noske, Severing and Wels, that of the brutal force of militarism, of police provocation and of open confiscation of the workers’ weapons by the state-apparatus. Another method is that which we observed in Austria, where Otto Bauer and Julius Deutsch had the revolutionary minority of the working class disarmed by the Social-Democratic troops, and, in addition, surrendered the weapons of the majority of the working class to the bourgeoisie. Besides these, however, there are still other methods, among them one which might almost be designated as the christian method; this was employed by the Italian Socialists. –The Second International in Dissolution

This analysis has proven itself repeatedly in history. Not just during the interwar period in Italy and Germany, but also in Chile under the Popular Unity government. Social democracy limits the workers to legal struggle in the bounds of the bourgeois state, thereby disarming the proletariat against fascism, which has as one of its core components terrorist organizations outside of the state.

Regarding the strategy communists adopt against fascism, there is the right error of capitulating to reformists or allying with the liberal bourgeoisie against fascism, which does not work, and the left error of denying the existence of fascism as a unique tendency among the bourgeoisie requiring unique methods to combat.

Dmitrov says,

Yet it is particularly important that Communists in the fascist countries should be wherever the masses are to be found. Fascism has deprived the workers of their own legal organizations. It has forced the fascist organizations upon them, and it is there that the masses are — by compulsion, or to some extent voluntarily. These mass fascist organizations can and must be made our legal or semi-legal field of action where we can meet the masses. They can and must be made our legal or semi-legal starting point for the defense of the day-to-day interests of the masses. To utilize these possibilities, Communists must win elected positions in the fascist mass organizations, for contact with the masses, and must rid themselves once and for all of the prejudice that such activity is unseemly and unworthy of a revolutionary worker.The Fascist Offensive and the Tasks of the Communist International in the Struggle of the Working Class against Fascism

Dmitrov has found one of the contradictions central to communist organizing: the contradiction between the need to unite the largest number of people possible in order to defeat the bourgeoisie and the increased external and internal threats that come from such unity. Under the conditions of fascism, when all legal forms of struggle are banned, this contradiction is a thousand times more intense, as it is no longer possible to publicly agitate and even a single snitch can threaten the safety of hundreds of Communists. On the other hand, because the conditions under fascism are so difficult for the majority of people, there are more possible recruits than ever. Dmitrov’s resolution to the contradiction between the need for unity and the impossibility of publicly agitating for it is infiltrationism. Dmitrov is correct in saying the Communists need to meet people where they are at, including in the fascist trade unions and whatever mass front organizations fascists have erected. However, it is the second part of his formula that is totally backwards: the question of Communists taking part in the fascist machinery.

During a war, when one sends spies into the enemy camp, do these spies attempt to reform the enemy camp to make it less hostile or less combat-ready? No, the purpose of the infiltration is to use whatever means available to demoralize, disinform, and destroy the enemy equipment and personnel while maintaining cover in order to continue to wreak havoc. Infiltration and espionage have their place in disrupting fascist organizations, but Dmitrov’s call to “win elected positions in the fascist mass organizations” is doubly wrong: it would serve the purpose of risking exposure of Communists at a time when secrecy should be the order of the day, and it would mean attempting to use legal means to do what can only be done illegally. In fact, if these instructions were carried out, it would be infinitely more confusing and demoralizing to the masses of workers if they saw former Communists clamoring for positions in fascist governments and trade unions.

Lenin, in Left-Wing Communism, addressed the question of reactionary trade unions by affirming the need for Communists to work within them. But he characterized the work methods and objectives very differently from Dmitrov:

These men, the “leaders” of opportunism, will no doubt resort to every device of bourgeois diplomacy and to the aid of bourgeois governments, the clergy, the police and the courts, to keep Communists out of the trade unions, oust them by every means, make their work in the trade unions as unpleasant as possible, and insult, bait and persecute them. We must be able to stand up to all this, agree to make any sacrifice, and even—if need be—to resort to various stratagems, artifices and illegal methods, to evasions and subterfuges, as long as we get into the trade unions, remain in them, and carry on communist work within them at all costs. Under tsarism we had no “legal opportunities” whatsoever until 1905. However, when Zubatov, agent of the secret police, organised Black-Hundred workers’ assemblies and workingmen’s societies for the purpose of trapping revolutionaries and combating them, we sent members of our Party to these assemblies and into these societies (I personally remember one of them, Comrade Babushkin, a leading St. Petersburg factory worker, shot by order of the tsar’s generals in 1906). They established contacts with the masses, were able to carry on their agitation, and succeeded in wresting workers from the influence of Zubatov’s agents.

The role of Communists in trade unions is not to reform them to be Communist nor to set up independent Communist unions. The trade unions are meant to be “schools of socialism”, and like any school, the best students should be recruited for the appropriate job, in this case brought into the party and given the tools to carry out Communist work, and the worst students should be isolated and dealt with appropriately. No reactionary trade union will allow this to go on openly, and the repressive forces are a hundred times worse under fascism. Lenin understood this perfectly, and explains that every method, including subterfuge, should be used to meet the workers where they are not for the purpose of tailism but to facilitate their advance. Dmitrov does not believe in the initiative of the workers to take action against the fascists, and so for him the solution is to replace the leadership of the fascist apparatuses with non-fascists, which is great man theory and a revision of the Marxist theory of the state.

Why is Zionism particularly important to this discussion? Israel is a fascist state. At the same time, so-called “labor Zionism” played a crucial role in the creation and consolidation of Israel. David Ben-Gurion himself was a member of the Second International (under the name of International Working Union of Socialist Parties) through Poale Zion. The Labor Party dominated the government until 1977, which includes some of the most violent expulsions including the nakba, and integrated far-right militias responsible for massacres into the IDF. Without the support of hundreds of thousands of Jewish people acquired through political and economic concessions, combined with the logistical support of the Western social democracies following WW2, the Zionist project would have been a colossal failure. Israel is social-fascism in practice: robust welfare state in exchange for undying dedication to the fascist enslavement and ethnic cleansing of the majority. The Comintern pointed out the tendency of bourgeois parties:

As bourgeois society continues to decay, all bourgeois parties, particularly social democracy, take on a more or less fascist character. … Fascism and social democracy are the two sides of the same instrument of capitalist dictatorship. In the fight against fascism, therefore, social-democracy can never be a reliable ally of the fighting proletariat. Resolution on Fascism Adopted by the Fifth Comintern Congress

Today, the IMCWP-affiliated Communist Party of Israel recognizes the two-state solution, as does the Israeli Labor Party which formerly affiliated itself with the Socialist International, the successor organization to the Second International. Recognition of Israel, a fascist state’s right to exist amounts to capitulation to fascism, and in the case of the named Israeli parties, it is in fact fascist collaboration. And so we can see that they have taken on a fascist character, albeit not to the extreme of other parties in Israel.

What, then, is the conclusion? Social fascist theory is correct in attributing a “more or less fascist character” to the bourgeois parties as capitalism develops and the class struggle intensifies. It is also correct in its criticism of the social-democratic parties as allies of fascism. However, it is incorrect in its identification of social democracy as a “wing” of fascism, as it predates it and is able to act independently from it. Fascism is the offspring of social-democracy, which can be observed in every country to a certain degree, and devours the parent. This is a process we see in Israel today, where naked fascism comparable to the policies of Nazi Germany (which some Zionists collaborated with on the grounds of mutual belief in race science and the impossibility of integrating Jews into Europe) coexists with social-democratic policies. Ultimately, defeating fascism means winning the workers away from the parties of fascist collaboration which includes the social democratic and liberal parties that preach tolerance of the fascist organizations. (A strategy which Stalin discusses here.) The defeat of Zionism implies also the defeat of the Arab parties that seek reconciliation with Zionism, which is acknowledged by the PFLP and has been proven in practice since the Oslo Accords. This universally applicable strategy means the proletariat needs a party capable of ruthless struggle against the leaders of social-democracy while deftly negotiating with the social-democratic workers to get them to participate in the anti-fascist struggle, participation which is necessary to expose the traitorous nature of the social-democratic party leaders.

N Tolkunov, Immortality

Note: The relationship between legal and illegal work and compromises is often muddled by the social fascist parties today. The best explanation of the difference between the revolutionary and reformist tactics is provided in the Foundations of Leninism: The revolutionary will accept a reform in order to use it as an aid in combining legal work with illegal work to intensify, under its cover, the illegal work for the revolutionary preparation of the masses for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie. That is the essence of making revolutionary use of reforms and agreements under the conditions of imperialism. The reformist, on the contrary, will accept reforms in order to renounce all illegal work, to thwart the preparation of the masses for the revolution and to rest in the shade of « bestowed » reforms. That is the essence of reformist tactics.

Review of Divided World Divided Class

Divided World Divided Class by Zak Cope is available for free here. I read this criticism of Cope’s work and found it lacking somewhat, although I still recommend it.

Cope’s thesis is that, “the metropolitan working class has been transformed into a petty bourgeois labour aristocracy subsisting in large measure from the surplus labour of the superexploited workforce in the oppressed nations of the Third World.” One of the main pillars of this thesis is the theory of unequal exchange, which Cope describes as the “connection between low prices for bananas, coffee and electronics and the low wages paid to the workers who produce them,” which according to this theory, “If a free market truly existed, capital would accumulate in and flow to the Third World generating dramatic rises in Third World wages (relative to the supply and demand of labour).”

Table II is interesting data about the global division of labor, and Cope says, “World manufacturing is no more than seven times more productive than Third World manufacturing, even according to the deeply flawed and circular reasoning that lies behind using prices as the measure of productivity. […] manufacturing wages are an average 11 times higher in the Global North than they are in the Global South.”

“There has never been a successful revolution in the leading imperialist countries (the one exceptional case of socialism there, in Germany, was established externally, by military occupation). On the other hand, there are countless examples of metropolitan workers’ pro-imperialist behaviour.” [My emphasis]

Cope’s five reasons for the existence of reformist trends in the Third World are even more true in the First World:

Some of the major reasons for the persistence of whatever reformism exists in the Global South since World War II are the following:

(1) Patterns of imperialist, especially US, intervention and military aid;

(2) Rich opportunities for capitalist development and the attendant strength of the national bourgeoisies;

(3) The material interests of the labour bureaucracies;

(4) The inability of the proletariat to lead inter-class alliances to attain national liberation in situations wherein it has not been the dominant part of the working masses; and

(5) The pernicious influence of various kinds of revisionism in the socialist movement, not least amongst which is First Worldism, the tendency to detach the political, ideological and cultural mores of affluent countries from the dynamics of imperialist value transfer

I have written on the problems of the labor aristocracy and petty bourgeoisie and their negative influence on the proletariat before, and Cope does raise an important point here that many communists in the imperial core try to sweep under the rug. However, Cope makes the opposite mistake. The people he is criticizing extinguish every contradiction internal to the working classes to create the illusion that everyone is exploited equally. Cope also extinguishes the contradictions internal to the working classes, but for the opposite purpose, that of erasing exploitation in the imperialist countries entirely. (For instance, Cope says, “Yet none of this [incarceration rates] proves that Blacks, Chicano/as or Indigenous people are exploited or that exploitation, rather than national oppression and population control, is the chief purpose of their subjection today.”) Cope’s entire notion of “superwages”, defined as “wages above the level whereby an hour’s worth of concrete labour can purchase on the market more than the product of an hour’s abstract labour,” goes against the basic Marxist understanding of wages.

The basics of Marxist political economy regarding price, value, and wages is this:

What, then, is the value of labouring power? Like that of every other commodity, its value is determined by the quantity of labour necessary to produce it. The labouring power of a man exists only in his living individuality. A certain mass of necessaries must be consumed by a man to grow up and maintain his life. But the man, like the machine, will wear out, and must be replaced by another man. Beside the mass of necessaries required for his own maintenance, he wants another amount of necessaries to bring up a certain quota of children that are to replace him on the labour market and to perpetuate the race of labourers. Moreover, to develop his labouring power, and acquire a given skill,another amount of values must be spent. For our purpose it suffices to consider only average labour, the costs of whose education and development are vanishing magnitudes. Still I must seize upon this occasion to state that, as the costs of producing labouring powers of different quality differ, so much differ the values of the labouring powers employed in different trades. The cry for an equality of wages rests, therefore, upon a mistake, is an inane wish never to be fulfilled. It is an offspring of that false and superficial radicalism that accepts premises and tries to evade conclusions. Upon the basis of the wages system the value of labouring power is settled like that of every other commodity; and as different kinds of labouring power have different values, or require different quantities of labour for their production, they must fetch different prices in the labour market. To clamour for equal or even equitable retribution on the basis of the wages system is the same as to clamour for freedom on the basis of the slavery system. What you think just or equitable is out of the question. The question is: What is necessary and unavoidable with a given system of production? After what has been said, it will be seen that the value of labouring power is determined by the value of the necessaries required to produce, develop, maintain, and perpetuate the labouring power.

The price of a commodity is its value expressed in money, and its value is the socially necessary labor time required to produce it: the value of a good rises the more social labor is required to produce it and declines as the productive powers of the labor employed increases (meaning less social labor is required.)

Labor is a commodity like any other, and the more social labor required to produce it the more expensive it is, and the easier it is to produce the cheaper it is. Masses of laborers who work in jobs that require little training, little skill, etc will be paid less, regardless of how difficult the job is in physical terms. The labor aristocrats who work comfortable office jobs will receive higher wages to do easier work due to the relatively higher social labor required to produce them. This division of labor exists inside capitalist countries as well as between them. As Marx says in the passage above, equal wages is a pipe dream, for the same reason a computer will never sell at the same price as an apple.

This does have important implications for communist organizing, and certain critics of Cope who try to erase wholesale Lenin’s analysis of the labor aristocracy are mistaken. I agree with Cope when he says,

There is a tendency amongst some calling themselves communists to conflate all sections of workers into a homogeneous and amorphous “working class.” In just the same way that some on the left loudly declaim any and all manifestations of nationalism, even (if not especially) that demonstrated by oppressed nationalities, these imperialist-country “revolutionaries” refuse to countenance the possibility that some groups of workers have class interests distinct from, and even opposed to, other groups of workers. [my emphasis]

State bureaucrats, academics and other credentialed technical professionals, trade union officers, middle managers, and plenty of others are paid to do the work of the bourgeoisie, and so communist organizations ought to keep them at arms length. There is also the existence of a large mass of highly paid wage workers in the imperialist countries, for whom the quantity of their wage is so high it takes on a quality of its own, cutting them off from any workers’ movement.

However, Cope is unable to prove that all First World workers exploit the Third World proletariat. The fact that labor in the oppressed countries is cheaper does not lower the price of consumer goods, but raises the rate of profit on those goods. Cope fails to grasp the Marxist concept of value and wages, and additionally fails to grasp the Marxist analysis of imperialism. Marx and Engels theorized that revolutions would happen first where the proletariat was more developed, and this indeed happened in France and Germany. Lenin made an important distinction, however: they would succeed first where imperialism was weakened, and this came to pass in the Russian Empire and China. This means that in the era of imperialism, communist strategies must develop with imperialism. Mao brilliantly described the complementary strategies of the communists in the oppressor and oppressed nations:

The seizure of power by armed force, the settlement of the issue by war, is the central task and the highest form of revolution. This Marxist-Leninist principle of revolution holds good universally, for China and for all other countries.

But while the principle remains the same, its application by the party of the proletariat finds expression in varying ways according to the varying conditions. Internally, capitalist countries practice bourgeois democracy (not feudalism) when they are not fascist or not at war; in their external relations, they are not oppressed by, but themselves oppress, other nations. Because of these characteristics, it is the task of the party of the proletariat in the capitalist countries to educate the workers and build up strength through a long period of legal struggle, and thus prepare for the final overthrow of capitalism. In these countries, the question is one of a long legal struggle, of utilizing parliament as a platform, of economic and political strikes, of organizing trade unions and educating the workers. There the form of organization is legal and the form of struggle bloodless (non-military). On the issue of war, the Communist Parties in the capitalist countries oppose the imperialist wars waged by their own countries; if such wars occur, the policy of these Parties is to bring about the defeat of the reactionary governments of their own countries. The one war they want to fight is the civil war for which they are preparing.[1] But this insurrection and war should not be launched until the bourgeoisie becomes really helpless, until the majority of the proletariat are determined to rise in arms and fight, and until the rural masses are giving willing help to the proletariat. And when the time comes to launch such an insurrection and war, the first step will be to seize the cities, and then advance into the countryside’ and not the other way about. All this has been done by Communist Parties in capitalist countries, and it has been proved correct by the October Revolution in Russia.

The fact that struggle in the imperialist countries depends on a strategy of protracted legal work to prepare for civil war during a crisis means that there will always be Rightist elements that will take the legal work as an end in itself, and renounce war altogether. The imperialists do everything they can to promote this conservatism, and for a long time it has been dominant. But this does not mean that the situation will never change, or that workers in the imperialist countries have no revolutionary potential. Part of this is Cope’s revision of the definition of proletariat, “Marxists define the proletariat at those workers producing material values in an industrial context (whether in a factory or on a plantation) who are in receipt of less value than is embodied in the commodities they produce. The proletariat as such produces more goods than it is able to command with its wages. Needless to add, this does not imply that other categories of workers are not exploited or oppressed, but the proletariat is that group of workers who possess no property and, as such, has unique revolutionary potential.” Not all proletarians make industrial products for their exploitation: all that is required is that they are forced to sell their labor power for a wage to survive. The proletariat is by no means a uniform mass, and let me use a hypothetical situation to show how a wage differential can exist without one laborer exploiting the other. Note that the rate of profit (and, therefore, exploitation) tends to equalize between industries and countries, a feature which Cope himself acknowledges.

Country 1 (Third World, economy based around resource extraction for production of Dept. I goods/Dept. II products to be consumed by Country 2)

Total value of Good 1: constant capital – 50 + variable capital – 50 = 100 units

50 variable capital divided as 25 units to wages and 25 to surplus value to be realized as profit

Country 2 (First World, production of Dept. I goods as well as market for Dept. II goods)

Buys 5 Good 1s from Country 1 in order to make Good 2

Total value of Good 2: constant capital – 500 + variable capital – 500 = 1000 units

500 variable capital divided as 250 units to wages and 250 to surplus value to be realized as profit

Country 2 has bigger absolute returns by a rate of 10, so absolute investment will be 10 times that of Country 1 and the total capital, the amount paid in wages, and presumably lifestyle will have 10 times the value of Country 1. However, the rate of exploitation of the laborers remains the same, although the laborer in Country 2 enjoys a much higher standard of living. This reinforces unequal development between the countries—if the Third world countries were exploited at a higher rate and therefore granted above average returns, it would receive relatively more investment until its capital composition caught up with the First world.

And in fact we can see that this is how investment proceeds in reality. For example, the US investment in Africa was 43 billion USD in 2019, compared to 3.5 trillion USD invested in Europe from the US. This ratio is stable for the last two decades, as is the differential in living standards. Cope believes the reason investment does not flow to the Third World is due to the First World’s repression of the free market. In reality, it is the “free market” itself that facilitates uneven development and permits the plunder of the oppressed nations by the imperialist ones. The free market incentivizes ever-harsher exploitation and prioritizes short-term gains over long-term gains that could be made from intense capital investment.

To sum up my opinion of Cope’s work, I agree that communists in the imperialist countries need to seriously analyze the class composition of their country and combat all bourgeois-aspiring elements that try to infiltrate their organizations. However, I do not believe Cope demonstrates that all of the First World workers exploit the Third World, and he even makes basic errors in his attempt to prove this thesis. In my opinion, it is not worth reading this book, and it belongs in the same revisionist category as J. Sakai’s Settlers.

Doctor Burgis, Doctor Stock, and Bourgeois Intellectual Trends

Igor Grabar, Portrait of the Painter’s Son 1935

This is a review of the books Material Girls: Why Reality Matters for Feminism by Kathleen Stock and Canceling Comedians While the World Burns: A Critique of the Contemporary Left by Ben Burgis. The first is a laughable attempt to give transphobia a veneer of respectability and academic rigor, while the second is a pointless and tired screed against “tankies” and anarchists. Both read like a compilation of tweets from both of the authors, such is the amount of substance they contain. Taken together, however, they are indicative of broader trends in academia that I would like to point to. I think Daniel DeLeon expressed the relationship between the intellectuals and the workers’ movement beautifully when he wrote:

The general feature of the “Intellectual” is superficiality, coupled, of course, with the usual accompaniment of vanity and conceit—the features that the sage had in mind when he declared that “a little learning puffeth up.” Unschooled in the prime requirement for knowledge – the art of thinking—the “Intellectual” equips himself with scraps of learning, and, decked with these ill-fitting feathers, he forthwith sets himself up as a perambulating lump of wisdom. Of course, he is twisted on every important practical question and revels only in abstractions; of course, he bumps up at every step against facts that, “Intellectual” though be calls himself, he lacks the intellect to comprehend; and, as a natural consequence of all this, he slowly acquires an instinctive, if not involuntary aversion for whatever requires exact knowledge, and a malignant hatred for those before whom, being of superior calibre than himself, his “genius” feels rebuked.

Exactly how superficial is Stock’s and Burgis’ writing?

The most striking feature of Stock’s new book is the lack of real-world problems and solutions, and even a fear of clear definitions. The only time Stock ever tries to bring “reality” into the equation is when she is discussing trans writers’ works, including a couple paragraphs on sissy porn and bimboification, or when she is referring to TERF writers of dubious credibility, including the Gender Critical subreddit! She uses pseudo-scientific ideas such as that of ‘autogynephilia’. Stock’s central arguments all revolve around words and their relations to concepts and both of their relationship to the real world. Stock contradicts herself often and leaves many avenues open for escape should she be called a “trans activist” by other TERFs or a TERF by someone else. For instance, take a passage such as this:

A second objection goes: are you really saying that a female in a relationship with a gorgeous, feminine, post-surgery trans woman isn’t a lesbian, just because she’s sexually attracted in this case to a male, technically speaking? Equally: are you saying that a man in lust with a hot ripped trans man, post-surgery and hormones, isn’t actually gay? Actually, I’m not. Rather, I’ll say what I’ve already had cause to say a couple of times: these sorts of relatively unusual cases stretch existing concepts to their limits. Our concepts weren’t designed for them, and we just don’t know what to say (and that’s OK). There are reasons both for and against saying that this is a lesbian and a gay man, respectively. In the first case, there’s female sexual attraction to a female-like body, at least on the outside, but the female-like body is artificially produced and not an endogenous phenotype. The body is actually male, no matter what it looks like. In the second, there’s male attraction to a male-like body on the outside, but again it isn’t endogenously produced and is a female body nonetheless.

The tricks and maneuvers employed in this passage will be discussed later on as part of a larger trend, but for now let us divine what it is Stock says, or rather, does not say. She unambiguously says that the trans woman in this case is male. But she also says she is not saying that a lesbian attracted to this male is no longer a lesbian. But, elsewhere when discussing the book Whipping Girl, Stock scoffs at the possibility of someone who is attracted to males calling themselves a lesbian. So Stock is caught in a triple bind, either:

1. Trans women are men, therefore lesbians and straight men cannot be attracted to them, contradicting Stock’s claim to not be saying this. (Although this is, in reality, the stance she holds, which is unambiguously transphobic.)

2. Trans women are women, therefore lesbians and straight men can be attracted to them, contradicting the main reason for writing the book, that is, keeping trans women out of women’s spaces.

3. Trans women are both or neither, in which case anyone can be attracted to them including lesbians, contradicting Stock’s attitude towards the use of the term lesbian.

And it is this contradiction that drives Stock’s 276-page-long balancing act of impressive proportions, desperately trying to reconcile her transphobia (which is merely a part of her imperialist perspective) with the reality that she is directly contributing to the oppression of women. Stock’s subheading alludes to materialistic philosophy, but for her this extends only as far as the phrase “adult human female.” For Marxists, “The material, sensuously perceptible world to which we ourselves belong is the only reality; and that our consciousness and thinking, however supra-sensuous they may seem, are the product of a material, bodily organ, the brain. Matter is not a product of mind, but mind itself is merely the highest product of matter. This is, of course, pure materialism.” (Ludwig Feuerbach) Stock betrays the materialist outlook in the above passage when she says the body of a post-surgery post-hormone therapy trans woman is still “male” for two reasons. First, the reality of being trans involves the material sensuous perception by the person of their trans-ness, whether it be through an experience of gender dysphoria, gender euphoria, or some other feeling. So either Stock would have to believe trans people are all lying about being trans (which is likely her actual opinion and she is just too scared to say it) or they are mistakenly attributing the perception to being trans when it is actually the result of something else they are not aware of and which Stock does not feel inclined to hypothesize or they are simply trans. But even if we totally disregard the entire trans perspective and the medical research done on trans people, and examine only people’s bodies to determine whether they are male or female, we reach Stock’s second betrayal of materialism. For Stock, there is a Platonic realm, a realm of ideas which we cannot access, that determines one’s womanhood. Stock says that a post-hormone replacement therapy and post-surgery (let us assume top, bottom, facial reconstruction, everything possible with modern medicine) would still be male. Therefore, what makes a female in Stock’s eyes cannot be something in the immediately perceptible physical realm, since this trans woman would be a woman in every possible physical respect. It is male, “no matter what it looks like”–so Stock in fact deliberately disregards reality whenever it contradicts her transphobic perspective, which is quite often. We know trans women are harassed like women, paid less like women, discriminated against by men in the same way as (if not worse than) cis women, heterosexual trans women date heterosexual cis men like heterosexual cis women, and so on. Trans women are women in reality, and by refusing to recognize them as such, their oppression is deepened: such is the entire purpose of Stock’s book. She is too cowardly to state her beliefs and intentions openly, and so she resorts to sowing doubt about the existence of trans people, their need for healthcare, their ability to follow laws (otherwise why keep them out of women’s spaces?), and most importantly their claim to being women.

Burgis fares little better when it comes to consistency or philosophy, even though he plays logician on YouTube. While his historical references are garbage, particularly offensive to me is his writing on antifascists. On the one hand, Burgis complains about leftism being reduced to a « moral performance » but also complains about the extremely crucial real world praxis of antifascism! In reality, deplatforming fascists and directly combatting fascist gangs is important work and has severely diminished the influence of the alt right in the period since the first Unite the Right rally, in addition to bolstering the credibility of the “far left” in the eyes of the affected populations. But Burgis says:

If you’ve spent enough time poring over Leon Trotsky’s writings about the rise of fascism in Germany and what should have been done by German Socialists and Communists to defeat the brownshirts before they could seize power, it can be easy to forget that the 18 members of the Confederated Knights of the Invisible Empire of the Ku Klux Klan rallying on the courthouse steps (two of the Knights couldn’t make it to the rally), surrounded by three hundred policemen and fifteen hundred counter-protestors, don’t actually represent a remotely comparable threat to anyone in 2020. Their members may well commit hate crimes, but even if every single KKK and neo-Nazi-type organization in the United States dissolved itself tomorrow, the statistical shift in the overall hate crime rate probably wouldn’t be that noticeable. There are multiple implications, all of which are completely incorrect:

1. They do not represent a threat now and so do not need to be fought. (The January 6 riot, and experience, shows that a large proportion of the armed forces and police are sympathetic to if not outright active participants in fascist gangs. The police and legal system provide reinforcement to these gangs and make them into a threat—otherwise, they would just be a handful of racist hooligans getting into bar fights. Even if they were not a threat now, however, there would still be reason to combat them, specifically to prevent them from becoming one in the future, and to use the antifascist struggle to draw people into the workers’ struggle.)

2. They never will represent a threat and so do not need to be fought. (The current antifascist partisans and groups mainly took shape in the aftermath of the 2016 election and especially after the murder of Heather Heyer, when it seemed that the creation of a national fascist party was imminent. The only reason they are not a threat now is because the antifascists have been so effective. To say they should stop the deplatforming/combat efforts now would be like telling a person who just got over the flu that there is no longer a need to wash their hands…)

3. There is an acceptable threshold of fascist violence beyond which it needs to be fought but below which it can be ignored. (Burgis ends the above passage by saying these groups are only a small part of the larger fascist movement—even if we accept this as true, does this mean we should not fight them until they are the largest part of the fascist movement? Burgis does not recognize that these tiny gangs are the fascist version of the vanguard party, and for this reason efforts against them are absolutely indispensable to the antifascist movement.)

One could cite a whole host of such passages filled with anti-Marxist implications, particularly anywhere Burgis discusses the state or bourgeois “democratic institutions”. Fascism is one of the only things that communists and anarchists consistently (and for the most part, successfully) combat together. Ben should be praising the modern antifascist movement in the US for bringing about unity where before there was enmity, and for its ability to maintain focus on specific targets, outline clear tactics, and follow through in real life outside of internet forums. The fact that this is what he chooses to complain about shows just how shallow and divorced from the real movement he is. In reality, this sort of hypocrisy motivates the entire book. Burgis complains that leftists are too obsessed with Internet drama and do not do enough in the real world, and to solve this, he has written a book about Internet drama where he whines about other people’s real world activism?

These two books are indicative of broader trends among the intellectuals of imperialism. The facts of imperialism today are the rate of profit is at historic lows, labor force participation and economic activity has been totally halted by COVID-19 and even if the NATO countries succeed in vaccinating their populations they will still suffer the effects of mass death and slowdown in the peripheral countries. It has been stagnant since the 2007 crisis, and even the bourgeois outlets are warning of an imminent “market correction” of unknown severity.

This stagnation is subsequently expressed in the ideal realm by their intellectuals, who find themselves bereft of any new conceptions and instead resort to meaningless paeans to ideas in general. (In fact, Burgis continues his tactic of coasting on the corpses of Mark Fisher and Michael Brooks while contributing nothing new himself.) Both are far more afraid of the development of organs of workers power than any one feature of imperialism: as a consequence, both books are very different in subject matter but arrive at the same conclusion—that we need to “listen to all affected parties” (Stock) instead of “presenting ourselves as moralistic hall monitors” (Burgis). These are the rallying cries of every feckless pseudo-intellectual from Ben Shapiro to Jordan Peterson to whoever the most recent trend-following blowhard with the money to pay for a doctorate is. At a time when “dialogue” between oppressors and oppressed has been forsaken by both sides, and only a minority of high-wage proletarians can be convinced to go along with capitalist exploitation, the intellectuals have no purpose to serve other than either as blatant apologists for capitalism or, as Burgis and Stock do, try to calm down the simmering anger of the working people and turn them away from acting on their own behalf by convincing them to adopt those tactics approved by the liberal bourgeoisie. This means renunciation of the criticism of weapons, and limiting the weapon of criticism to targets they deem acceptable.

False equivalencies, historical revisionism, outright lies, refusal to take a clear stance on an issue, and most importantly, total detachment from any concrete struggle—these are the characteristics of the bourgeois intellectual work today. It is the writing of a group with no future to look forward to and no past to be proud of. Marx and Engels summed it up perfectly in The Holy Family:

The more the normal form of intercourse of society, and with it the conditions of the ruling class, develop their contradiction to the advanced productive forces, and the greater the consequent discord within the ruling class itself as well as between it and the class ruled by it, the more fictitious, of course, becomes the consciousness which originally corresponded to this form of intercourse (i.e., it ceases to be the consciousness corresponding to this form of intercourse), and the more do the old traditional ideas of these relations of intercourse, in which actual private interests, etc., etc., are expressed as universal interests, descend to the level of mere idealising phrases, conscious illusion, deliberate hypocrisy. But the more their falsity is exposed by life, and the less meaning they have for consciousness itself, the more resolutely are they asserted, the more hypocritical, moral and holy becomes the language of this normal society.

Some Marxist Arithmetic

Last year was undoubtedly the most difficult period of work I have ever had. In January, about twenty percent of the average part-timer’s paycheck was erased, presumably in the hope of squeezing out superfluous workers, as typically happens in January after the holiday season ends. At the same time, particularly in the period of late February to August, the amount of work forced on us exploded due to the closure of retailers nationwide and a general panic resulting from COVID-19 reaching the US. This resulted in a horrendous work situation of extreme strain on people and equipment, numerous injuries, extended hours, and to add insult, our weekly paychecks were less than weekly unemployment checks. A year later, for May Day, I looked back at UPS 2020 SEC filing (http://www.investors.ups.com/static-files/cb6195d8-7129-4ea3-a616-329e8023e1ae) to run the numbers:

Total amount paid out in dividends: $4.04 declared in dividends per share * 867 million shares = $3.5 billion

Operating days: 255

Average daily volume: 24.7 million

Total volume for 2020: 6.3 billion

Dividend per package: $0.56

Net income: $1.3 billion

Net income per package: $0.21

Average weight of a package is 25 lbs

On the average day I load around 400 packages per hour, which is 10k pounds per hour. During the peak of COVID-19, the rate was fourteen dollars an hour nationwide. This means that, to earn a single dollar, I had to load over 700 pounds of packages, and that for every dollar I earned that way, fifteen dollars went to the shareholders and five dollars went to UPS coffers.

It is worth noting as well that UPS makes donations to both Republicans and Democrats, who have both worked tirelessly to uphold this exploitation. UPS spent 8.5 million dollars on lobbying in 2020, while Teamsters in the operation did not have basic PPE or even hand soap at times. Teamsters leadership had their part to play as well, immediately capitulating to UPS by agreeing to not take advantage of the situation to stage walk-outs or strikes or make such demands as hazard pay or reduced hours/work volume.

Where have the communists been throughout this period? Either totally swept up in the farcical election process (CPUSA) or hell-bent on reforming Teamsters (FRSO). Neither of these are a way out for the hundreds of thousands of UPS workers, and certainly not helpful for the millions more who work in the US. Communists need to build cells that serve as fighting organizations of the proletariat (not necessarily violent/illegal fighting) and lead the workers. Instead of attempting to reform Teamsters through their elections, why not build an independent communist power capable of either absorbing it or wrenching concessions from the class collaborationist leaders? How is it that communists readily recognize the dead-end of bourgeois elections and the trap of bourgeois legalism on the one hand, yet are so timid in their approach to the bourgeois unions? Tailism is condemned in the electoral arena, but is given free reign in everything else. If communists don’t dare to struggle, they will never win.

Defend the great results of the Cultural Revolution

Response to Rainer Shea on China and Imperialism

The following is an addendum to this article as well as a response to Rainer Shea’s writing on the subject.

Unknown credit

In relations among socialist countries it would be preposterous to follow the practice of gaining profit for oneself at the expense of others, a practice characteristic of relations among capitalist countries, or go so far as to take the « economic integration » and the « common market », which monopoly capitalist groups have instituted for the purpose of seizing markets and grabbing profits, as examples which socialist countries ought to follow in their economic co-operation and mutual assistance. -Mao Zedong, A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement

This article by Rainer Shea was brought to my attention, and I found it particularly interesting since he analyzes China from the perspective of Lenin’s definition of imperialism yet reaches the opposite conclusion. I take seriously his writing: nevertheless, many of his claims about the Chinese economy collapse under scrutiny. Before looking at this, it is important to demarcate between the idealist and materialist conception of economics. Idealists think capitalism can be utilized, like a tool, to achieve certain ends. Social democrats think it can be made to heel. Bourgeois apologists think it serves the interests of the majority by default. Materialists understand that capital has its own logic, independent of the whims of the capitalists, governments, and workers, and cannot be made to serve the needs of the masses of working people. The above quote from Mao is important in this context. Mao understood that the notion of joining a common market, and profiteering, means exploitation of foreign workers, and directly contradicts socialism.

The first point of Rainer’s is a review of Lenin’s definition of imperialism. I reiterate the defining characteristics as described in Imperialism:

(1) the concentration of production and capital has developed to such a high stage that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life; (2) the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of this “finance capital”, of a financial oligarchy; (3) the export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance; (4) the formation of international monopolist capitalist associations which share the world among themselves, and (5) the territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed. Imperialism is capitalism at that stage of development at which the dominance of monopolies and finance capital is established; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun, in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed.

Rainer says:

Nearly70% of the 119 Chinese firms featured on the Fortune Global 500 list are state-owned, and the twelve biggest Chinese companies aregovernment-owned. The state maintainscontrol over heavy industry, energy, finance, transport, communications, and foreign trade, which are the most important aspects of the economy. Private production is encouraged by the state only because it spurs technological development, employment, and modernization.

Rainer neglects to mention the structure of these state-owned companies. For example, the twelve biggest Chinese companies listed on the Fortune 500 are publicly traded: Sinopec, State Power Investment Corp (only in Hong Kong and mainland China), State Grid, China Petroleum and Chemical Corp, China State Construction Engineering, Ping An Insurance Group, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Construction Bank, China National Offshore Oil Corporation, SAIC Motor, China Railway Construction Corporation, China Railway Group, China Life Insurance Company, Bank of China, Agricultural Bank of China, China Construction Bank—these are all publicly traded, as A-shares in mainland China, and some are even listed on foreign stock exchanges as well. All state-owned means in this context is that the government owns the largest, or majority of shares in a company. The company is still run for profit, and generates returns on investment—that is capitalism! Markets will obviously exist during the transition to communism, especially when there is a great imbalance between town and country. However, to insist that markets in the means of production and labor can exist in socialism and that profit-seeking can serve the interests of the workers means abandoning the materialist outlook. Looking closer at these massive companies, their monopolist (and by implication imperialist) nature is even more apparent. For example, State Grid was the result of a restructuring that split China’s energy sector into multiple companies: State Grid invests abroad in Portugal, Australia, Brazil, and the Philippines, where it won an auction during the privatization of their electrical services! So as for the first two sources, Rainer both misunderstands what state-owned enterprise means in the context of the Chinese economy, as well as takes for granted that they are not imperialist, e.g. multinational monopolies. The third source is not even a source—to back up its claim, it links to an article from the CP of Australia, which also has no citations.

Rainer goes on to assert that the Chinese state is a dictatorship of the proletariat. To back this up, he cites a Bloomberg article discussing the fact that fourteen billionaires were executed over the last eight years. Even at a rate of less than two a year, which is better than zero, one wonders how some people are allowed to become billionaires in the first place if not through exploitation on a grand scale? As for the popularity of the Chinese government, this tells us very little about the class nature of the state. Putin remains one of the most popular leaders in the world, and his approval peaked at an impressive 80 percent—does this mean he serves the interests of the Russian proletariat?

Rainer does list some of the positive actions of the CPC. I am not going to argue against environmental protections/restoration, nor interest free loans for developing nations. However, the idea that Chinese enterprises invest in Africa in order to “help the job markets” is idealist and totally nonsensical. Intentions have zero meaning in the marketplace. Either Chinese enterprises are securing resources and profits for themselves or granting aid. There is no third option of utilizing capitalism for socialist aims. Rainer even admits that, “The fact that China makes efforts to ensure that its companies are profitable abroad doesn’t equate to a colonialist project, and certainly not to an imperialist one. The country doesn’t fit Lenin’s five criteria for imperialism, and the one that it arguably does perpetuate-which is the prioritization of exporting capital over exporting commodities-isn’t used by China to subjugate the countries which it gives funds to and invests in.” (My emphasis.) At the core of Rainer’s ideology is the idea that because Russia and China are not the dominant imperialist powers, they cannot be imperialist at all. He writes:

Therefore from a Marxist perspective, China is the greatest current engine of change away from imperialism. After the U.S. empire has declined enough, China will emerge as a dominant world power that functions as a peacekeeper rather than as a conqueror. Its successful socialist model will set an example for developing nations, and its reshaping of the global economy will empower these nations to act independently from the declining old imperialist powers. China may be a participant in the machine of global capitalism, but any truly nuanced view of it places it as an anti-imperialist presence.

First of all, if he admits that China is a participant in global capitalism, that contradicts the notion that it can function as a peacekeeper. Capitalism is an inherently violent system, and its development into imperialism only entrenches this, as multinational corporations lead to nations forming blocs and warring against each other for control of markets and resources. This would also mean China is not an “engine of change away from imperialism”. The imperialist camp cannot be opposed by another imperialist camp, it is only opposed by the socialist camp, which he admits it is not a part of. Rainer identifies the US with imperialism: the weaker the US, the weaker imperialism is. This is not the case—Lenin was careful to point out that imperialism is a stage of capitalism, when it has completed its spread across the globe and consolidated itself to the point of competition existing solely between a few giant monopolies. The contradiction between imperialists can be utilized by revolutionaries, that is true. Americans should certainly seek the defeat of their own government should a war break out between the US and China. At the same time, holding up China as an anti-imperialist power is incoherent when they are thoroughly integrated into the imperialist system.

Rainer says China does not fit Lenin’s five points, save for prioritizing capital export over commodity export. Well, we certainly see the development of massive monopolies that play a decisive role in economic life. A good number of the largest corporations in the world are found in China. As for the creation of a financial oligarchy created through the merger of bank and industrial capital, we can look at the fact that the world’s largest banks are located in China, and that industry there relies on loans from these banks. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China is the largest bank in the world, and notably has an ex-IMF official and an ex-World Bank official on its Board of Directors. One of its wholly-owned subsidiaries is ICBC Leasing, which rents out industrial equipment. ICBC loans out trillions of renmibi every year to crucial sectors of the Chinese economy, including manufacturing. (A full breakdown is on page 53 here.) Regarding the formation of international capitalist associations, I mentioned China’s entry into the IMF and the World Bank in the original post, and many of the monopoly SOEs possess foreign assets. As for the territorial division of the world among a few powers, that has been true since before WW1. As I said before, China is a junior partner in imperialism. They have troops stationed abroad in Djibouti and are desperate to muscle their way around the South China Sea—not a particularly influential imperialist country, and so they are forced to catch whatever crumbs they can from the US, Russia, and EU. China post-reform and opening up fits all of the criteria of an imperialist nation, and should be understood as such. It cannot be counted on for support for a revolution. Mao himself said of Deng, “This person does not grasp class struggle; he has never referred to this key link. Still his theme of ‘white cat, black cat,’ making no distinction between imperialism and Marxism.” It is crucial for us to follow the Marxist line today in our analysis and practice and not the imperialist line.

For further analysis on the topic of China and world imperialism, the book Is China An Imperialist Country by the Maoist N. B. Turner is a good read. On the transition from socialism to capitalism in China, the German Marxist-Leninist Party has this analysis on the reverse of the gains made, and Mobo Gao’s works are also useful to this end.

Historical Revisionism Concerning Reformists

This post will be much shorter than normal. The phenomenon I have noticed among left wing organizations is the tendency to attempt to claim historical figures as their own. People respect figures such as MLK Jr, Salvador Allende, Abraham Lincoln, FDR, and others who we consider to be on the right side of history. I think it is a mistake to attempt to piggyback the popularity of such figures. To approach it from a dialectical perspective, every historical figure has a positive side and a negative side, and at a given moment one side is dominant. To focus on or give more credit to the positive while neglecting the negative in order to score cheap propaganda points is, frankly, opportunistic.I will illustrate this point by examining the legacies of Salvador Allende and MLK Jr, who are probably the most prominent victims of this historical revisionism. Note that in neither case do I support the repression these people faced at the hands of the bourgeoisie; I think they serve as valuable lessons that we should take seriously today.

He Kongde, Unknown Title

Regarding Allende, off of the top of my head there is this and this article which give him much credit, although I am sure there are many more from various organizations. The main problem with Allende was the fact that he set the working class up for failure, and not only was it extremely predictable given the violence leading up to the coup, but Allende was at least partially responsible for the success of the coup. For one thing, it was Allende himself who promoted Pinochet to General. Allende erroneously believed the military’s sole duty was to preserve social stability, and that they had no class character and could be trusted. At the same time, it was Allende who disarmed the workers militias. Allende expressed his ideology succinctly:

In the revolutionary process which we are living through, there are five essential points upon which we shall concentrate our social and political campaign – the principle of legality, the development of institutions, political freedom, the prevention of violence, and the socialisation of the means of production. These are questions which affect the present and future of every citizen.[my emphasis]

Clearly Allende failed in these goals. By the “principle of legality”, the implication is principle of bourgeois legality. By the prevention of violence, judging by the fact he did not disarm the military, we can only assume he meant street violence, or violence in the form of a popular uprising. Allende represents the “middle road” that tries to reconcile proletarian and bourgeois perspectives: on the one hand he sought “socialization of the means of production”, but resisted the actions necessary to accomplish the task.

This is exactly the tendency which Lenin and Mao struggled against in their days. (Although this struggle took different forms for each of them.) Lenin says quite clearly:

Our slogan must be: arming of the proletariat to defeat, expropriate and disarm the bourgeoisie. These are the onlytactics possible for a revolutionary class, tactics that follow logically from, and are dictated by, the whole objective development of capitalist militarism. Only after the proletariat has disarmed the bourgeoisie will it be able, without betraying its world-historic mission, to consign all armaments to the scrap-heap. And the proletariat will undoubtedly do this, but only when this condition has been fulfilled, certainly not before.

We can even go all the way back to Marx, who said in his criticism of Hegel, “The weapon of criticism cannot, of course, replace criticism by weapons, material force must be overthrown by material force.” To hold up Allende as a positive example, or to even call him a Marxist, is to water down Marxism’s real content.

As for MLK Jr and his Poor People’s Campaign, we have an excellent example of historical revisionism in this assessment from Jacobin. The Poor People’s Campaign was not “radical” nor an attempt to “strike down racial apartheid and class exploitation”. It was a reform movement, led by reformists and explained in idealist phrases about moral revival. This is nothing new for religious communities. In fact, Jacobin even acknowledges that it “pushed for a dramatic pivot toward social democracy through a massive redistribution of wealth and the constitutionalization of the right to dignity.” MLK Jr’s ancestors were the Social Gospel, not revolutionaries, and his descendants are Jesse Jackson (who himself participated in the Poor People’s Campaign) and the modern-day reformists, also not revolutionaries. None of these sought to organize the working class into militant parties. In fact, the Poor People’s Campaign was explicitly nonviolent, and participants were ordered not to resist arrest in the case of police harassment. So for revolutionaries to attempt to claim MLK Jr as one of their own can only mean attributing to him beliefs he did not hold, or endorsing beliefs incompatible with Marxism.

Reformists, including MLK Jr and Allende, disarm the workers and pacify them with illusions of peaceful transition. Communists should condemn the imperialists for their assault on the workers, which often includes attacks on reformists, but this does not mean endorsing reformists or whitewashing their weaknesses. MLK Jr was criticized in his day by more militant organizations; the bourgeoisie has happily erased this criticism from the record and holds him up today as the ideal enemy, one who will not put up any resistance. The same is true of Allende, whose name is spoken with regret by the same people who engineer infiltration and coups today. It is important that, in place of exploiting reformists’ celebrity for our own gain at the cost of sowing illusions among the workers, we provide serious analysis of their shortcomings and explain what needs to be done to avoid their failures. Especially now, when right opportunism dominates the international communist movement.

How China Aids US Imperialism

The bourgeoisie on an international scale has a contradictory nature: they have to struggle against each other to secure profits, and they have to cooperate to sabotage the liberation struggles of the billions of workers and maintain stable markets for themselves. This is the two-sided nature of imperialism. At a given moment, one side will be dominant. For the last three decades, we have seen the bourgeoisie of the big imperialist powers cooperate with each other as they plundered the former socialist bloc. Now, this period of peace between the imperialist countries is winding down, and once again the competition among themselves is building the conditions for a new inter-imperialist war. The tension between the US and the EU countries developed immensely under the presidency of Donald Trump, the UK has decided to abandon the EU to pursue its own aspirations, and Japan and India as well have continued to build up their military under the fascist governments of Abe and Modi.

Mother River by Zhang Da Zhong

The comparatively young Chinese bourgeoisie has been fighting to catch up to the other imperialist powers in terms of political, military, and economic influence. China’s economy continues to be dominated by small and medium size firms, and monopolies remain restricted to certain sectors of the economy. For this reason, the Chinese bourgeoisie remains a junior partner in imperialism, collaborating with the US where possible and asserting itself otherwise while it builds up its own forces.

Unfortunately, some communists operate under the mistaken impression that China is an anti-imperialist power and beacon of world revolution. Even these people are forced to admit that China, far from being the international center of revolution, is thoroughly integrated into global imperialism. The only possible cover they can provide China’s supposed anti-imperialism is the bogus notion of Chinese non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs. This notion does not bear even the slightest scrutiny, and far from being the base of proletarian internationalism, China is in fact an auxiliary of reaction.

The international relations of socialist states has always been a contentious topic among communists. Lenin in Left-Wing Communism says:

There are different kinds of compromises. One must be able to analyse the situation and the concrete conditions of each compromise, or of each variety of compromise. One must learn to distinguish between a man who has given up his money and fire-arms to bandits so as to lessen the evil they can do and to facilitate their capture and execution, and a man who gives his money and fire-arms to bandits so as to share in the loot.

So the question is, has China’s cooperation with imperialists been for the purpose of minimizing damage and biding time, or sharing in the loot? Can China’s policy be characterized as “non-interference”? Is China living up to Mao’s description of socialist foreign policy:

Relations among socialist countries should be based on the principles of independence, complete equality and the proletarian internationalist principle of mutual support and mutual assistance. Every socialist country should rely mainly on itself for its construction. If any socialist country practices national egoism in its foreign policy, or, worse yet, eagerly works in partnership with imperialism for the partition of the world, such conduct is degenerate and a betrayal of proletarian internationalism.

After the destruction of the socialist bloc, which itself was a long process begun that began with Khrushchev and was completed under Gorbachev and then Yeltsin, it is natural that the surviving communist parties would be on the defensive, and would therefore be in a situation to compromise with imperialism. The nature of the CPC’s compromises have not been for the purpose of buying time for revolutionary forces to rebuild, or to attack a common enemy (as the CPSU and CPC did during WW2), but to advance the agenda of the new Chinese bourgeoisie, whose interests occasionally align with those of the US bourgeoisie.

The first example is Chinese-Israeli relations. The largest port by trade volume in Israel is Haifa Port, which was built buy and is administrated by a Chinese corporation, the Shanghai International Port Group, which is majority owned by the government of Shanghai. By constructing this port and allowing trade to Israel through it, the CPC is directly benefiting from the brutal occupation of Palestine and enabling the continued plunder and imperialist military expansion in the region. This is reflected in the CPC’s recognition of the two-state solution, the pipe dream of those who believe in compromise with imperialism. (The PFLP’s recognition of one state, that of Palestine, is the sole solution to the struggle.)

China’s imperialist ventures in the Middle East is not limited to Palestine, of course. One of the most reactionary governments in the world, and notorious ally of imperialism as well as Zionism, Saudi Arabia, has benefited greatly from Chinese weapons sales. China sold tens of millions of dollars of military equipment to Saudi Arabia and the UAE recently. At the same time, Chinese artillery bought by Saudi Arabia has been utilized in their stranglehold over Yemen. Instead of using the resources that goes into arms manufacturing to improve the living standards of the Chinese people, or using the arms to promote revolutions abroad, the CPC has decided to sell to the highest bidder, a policy which naturally favors the imperialist countries.

Also in the Middle East, during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, instead of supporting the PDPA national reconciliators, or the Maoists, China went with the worst possible option of supporting the Sunni mujahideen, the same warlords trained by the US during Operation Cyclone and covertly supported by the US and UK. Recently, the Chinese government has pledged tens of millions of dollars of military support to the Afghan government and also sells them military equipment. The CPC’s Middle-Eastern policy is solely based around profiteering, regardless of who and where the profits come from.

In Sudan, China has invested billions of dollars in order to secure oil resources. China was one of the nations that opportunistically supported the fascist government of al-Bashir after al-Bashir’s attempts to compromise with US imperialism failed. This is also the CPC policy in the Philippines and Myanmar. In the Philippines, China has given guns to the fascist Duterte while he wages war on the CPP. In Myanmar, in 1978 Deng Xiaoping cut ties with the Communist Party of Burma and allied with the Myanmar government, which at the time served as an anti-communist bulwark in Southeast Asia. (Under Mao, support was given to the CPB which waged war on the military junta.) While China invaded Vietnam on one hand, following in the footsteps of French colonialism and American and Japanese imperialism, they were developing friendly relations with the Burmese junta.

China’s cooperation with imperialism has even reached the point where the CPC collaborates directly with the FBI and American intelligence agencies!

This should come as no surprise to anyone who understands the nature of imperialism as the highest stage of capitalism. Today, US-Chinese trade is in the hundreds of billions of dollars annually. Apple, one of the largest companies in the world by market capitalization, remains dependent on the exploitation of Chinese laborers, which continues on with the consent of the CPC. China today boasts of its capital exports, which have grown immensely due to cooperation with the IMF, WTO, and World Bank, the stooges of finance capital and imperialism. The CPC has even made moves to join in the exploitation of the US proletariat, by taking part in landlording on the western coast. (Greenland Holdings, one of the largest real estate developers in the world, was in fact begun as a Chinese state-owned-enterprise and the largest share remains that of the Shanghai government.)

How many more examples are needed of economic and military cooperation with imperialism? How much must the CPC plunder from the workers of the world before communists are willing to admit that it has abandoned the socialist camp and pursued the capitalist road, and by doing so, joined arm in arm with imperialism?

This point is crucial for Western communists, who mislead the proletariat of their own country by pointing to the Communist Party of China as a positive example. Many of the eurocommunists, including the Canadian and American “CP”s, continue to hold up the PRC while denouncing Mao and by proxy Lenin and Stalin as ultra-leftists. These eurocommunists, totally unwilling to fight against their own imperialist bourgeoisie and even going so far as to cheerlead them, are more than happy to pretend as though they are making up for this inaction by supporting the modern CPC. In actual fact, all they are doing is renouncing class struggle, embracing collaboration with imperialism, and misleading the proletariat of their countries as to the nature of the class struggle. As Stalin said in Foundations of Leninism:

But it would be a mistake to think that there were some people to blame for this, that someone was unfaithful to the working class or betrayed it. Not at all! Everything happened as it should have happened. Firstly, because the International, it seems, is « an instrument of peace, » and not of war. Secondly, because, in view of the « level of the productive forces » which then prevailed, nothing else could be done. The « productive forces » are « to blame. » That is the precise explanation vouchsafed to « us » by Mr. Kautsky’s « theory of the productive forces. » And whoever does not believe in that « theory » is not a Marxist. The role of the parties? Their importance for the movement? But what can a party do against so decisive a factor as the « level of the productive forces »?

One could cite a host of similar examples of the falsification of Marxism. It scarcely needs proof that this spurious « Marxism, » designed to hide the nakedness of opportunism, is merely a European variety of the selfsame theory of « khvostism » which Lenin fought even before the first Russian revolution. It scarcely needs proof that the demolition of this theoretical falsification is a preliminary condition for the creation of truly revolutionary parties in the West. [my emphasis]

Marxism demands ruthless criticism of all that exists. The correctness of this attitude is shown today—the parties that followed the Khrushchevite line instead of correctly criticizing Khrushchev’s (and later Deng Xiaoping’s) revisionism are today politically ineffective at best, if not outright counterrevolutionary. The CPUSA, Portuguese Communist Party, PCE, and PCF (among others) have done nothing but shrink in influence since their respective peaks that happened during each country’s social-democratic reform period. Not criticizing Khrushchev’s revisionism and later on perestroika and glasnost, or even promoting them would have been idiotic. Doing the same for the current CPC line is no different—one of the foundations of Leninism is agitation against the parties of compromise with imperialism, and Mao himself railed against the capitalist roaders in the party. It is the duty of modern communists to both agitate for peace between nations and war between classes.