"loons in RCP"

Chris Burford cburford at gn.apc.org
Thu Apr 20 07:14:07 MDT 1995

See below snip
 > Date: Wed, 19 Apr 1995 22:33:51 -0400 (EDT)
 > From: Justin Schwartz <jschwart at freenet.columbus.oh.us>
 > Subject: Re: "loons in RCP"

 > I'm not sure I want to go on about this, but I have, briefly, three
 > problems with RCP. (a) Maoism is irrelevant in a country with no peasants.

My comment is not about the RCP about which I do not exactly feel fully
informed. I  assume it is a mixture of contradictions like most
groups and individuals. I may be making the thread drift but
I wanted to pick up Justin's remark that Maoism is irrelevant in a
country with no peasants. This seemed to me to be not quite as sharp as I
have come to expect from Justin.

While I share with him and I think everyone on this list, discomfort with
"Maoism", and in the past like him and others, eg I understand Althusser,
I considered the Chinese model as one genuinely different in important
respects from the Soviet "Stalinist" model, nevertheless there were major
strengths in the political, organisational and ideological position
developed not just by Mao, but by the Chinese Commuist Party up to the

Even if there are other disadvantages with this model, its
relevance is not restricted to a country with a majority of peasants.
That is what I wanted to clarify with Justin although I accept he may
have meant a different set of attributes when he spoke of Maoism.

In fact any serious marxist in any "third world country" has relevant
things to say to anyone attempting to be a serious marxist in an
"advanced capitalist country" about the problem faced in almost all
countries now: the proportion of the population that make up the kosher
industrialised working class, concentrated by capitalism naturally in
large factories, and amenable to marxist politics and organisation, is a
minority. If you believe in a strategic vanguard, (and the Chinese Party
never said the peasants were the strategic vanguard) how do you
consolidate that vanguard but also manage to be seen as relevant to the
great majority of the population?

It is obviously so abstract as to be a thought experiment, which I hope
will not confuse anyone, but suggest things in a different light:
supposing Mao had died in 1953 and the Chinese Party had kept China at
the stage of New Democracy longer, might this not have had wider relevance?

That is why I have tried to suggest from time to time on this list, for
exploration and critical clarification, that curiously, for marxists in
the "West" the decades old strategy of national democratic movement,
(stripped of any nationalism), or a new democratic movement, is a serious
route to explore.

I don't want to lumber Ron with my terminology or my approach but some
time ago he suggested that the South African political situation might
have relevance more widely. I detected no positive response to what he
said on this, and wondered if most of the list thought it was
far-fetched. But I don't think it is far fetched for the reasons I have
indicated above for myself.

It does mean thinking of coalitions, of a most unlikely
kind. Joe Slovo went into government with Nationalists. Mandela went into
government with Buthelezi. The neo-classical comprador finance minister
has as his deputy a very able communist (Alec Irwin). It requires thinking
analytically and dialectically. It requires posing the overall political
questions in terms of the good of the overall population. It requires a
realistic understanding of the very limited strength of the "pure"
working class, and a shrewd idea of how to strengthen this.

Apologies for shameless thread drift, but I feel encouraged that the
list is grappling with some serious arguments while people on the whole
are just about still able to listen to each other. (?!)


Chris Burford.

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