Internasjonale Sosialister

Maoist Internationalist Movement mim3 at
Tue Sep 12 21:10:55 MDT 1995

On Tue, 12 Sep 1995, Per I Mathisen wrote:

> Hi MIM,
> I'm Per I Mathisen, maintainer of the WWW-page you mentioned. I liked that
> you took the time to comment on our pages and I'll try to reply in kind.
> >We would like to comment on your line on revolution
> >from below. We prefer Lenin who instead said that pitting
> >"below" against "above" was like choosing between your right
> >or left arm.
> That's interesting, could you provide a reference to this quotation as I
> don't have MIM Theory #8 ?

MIM replies: "We hope that the reader will understand why the
Russian Bolshevik, who has known this mechanism for twenty-five
years and has seen it develop out of small, illegal and underground
circles, cannot help regardling all this talk about 'from above'
or 'from below,' about the dictatorship of leaders or the
dictatorship of the masses, etc., as ridiculous and childish
nonsense, something like discussing whether a man's left leg or right
arm is of greater use to him." ("Ultraleftism and Infantile Disorder,"
in Selected Works: Vol. I, International Publishers, 1967), p. 361.

> You say we criticize past revolutions from 'the vantage point of ideals' and
> criticize them 'in the name of unfulfilled ideas'.
> How come ?
> We learn from study what social movements exist and what are their
> possibilities to social change, and we have learnt by studying history that
> the working class may create a society we call 'socialism' in which the
> workers hold power and govern society, both its economics and politics,
> directly through workers councils. Eventually this, we deduct from our
> studies, will lead to a classless society.
> Marx was the first to do this and we follow his steps.
> Empirical examples of workers power and socialism from below includes Paris
> Commune, Russian revolution of 1905 and 1917 and German revolution of
> 1918-1923, and more recently Portugal 1974-75, Iran 1979, Chile during
> Allende and Poland 1980-81.

MIM replies: My mistake: you indeed try to grapple with the material world
as it exists instead of in the religious fashion of those who
like no revolutionary process seen in history or maybe only one.
I was overhasty and only had your WWW page to go on.

We disagree with your choices of socialism from below, but I
take back that specific criticism.

> You say:
> >Did he not realize that the criticism of the bourgeoisie is not
> >accomplished with words but with weapons? It is a shame that the followers
> >of Trotsky now criticize movements that have actually waged successful
> >armed struggle in so many countries this century.
> Is 'armed struggle' IN ITSELF a progressive thing? Was Saddam Hussein
> progressive? Of course you don't think so, but definitions are important here.
> We attempt to make workers revolutionary by uniting the workers' experiences
> of class struggle with ideas about revolutionary socialism. This we do by
> words of agitation and propaganda and through acts of support.

MIM replies: And such is inconsistent with Trotskyism. You are correct
that Saddam Hussein is not progressive, but some armed struggles must be.
You seem to see that, so again, my mistake, if you defend Iran in 1979
as socialism. We disagree with your choices, but see your effort not
to be idealist.

> In a revolutionary situation we will advocate and assist the arming of the
> working class, and in countries where we are repressed we take the necessary
> measures. However, we do not make a fetish out of arms. Socialist
> insurrection is an art where the workers should play the main role,
> not a military coup by a tiny trained minority.
> You criticize us for not participating in the great struggles of late
> history. How can you ? The greatest struggles of all have been led by the
> USSR-loyal Communist Parties who betrayed every struggle, like in France
> 1968. Maoists barely existed at that time and barely exist now.
> The "trotskyist" movement has been very small, but influencial in academic
> milieus, and has only grown considerably the last ten years. That is the
> simple reason why we have been largely 'absent' from the greatest struggles.

MIM replies: These last two paragraphs lack in internationalism and
I am surprised that no one bothered to criticize them on the Marxist
List. I guess too many were busy defending us or supporting the
philistine stream of the "labor" movement.

You must be centering on Norway or Europe.

> Presently, "trotskyists" outnumber "maoists" by far, but in the 70's it was
> the other way around.

MIM replies: Surely you know that on a world scale this is not true.
The Communist Party of the Philippines easily dwarves all the Trots
you are talking about combined. Also, if only 1% of the Communist Party
of China in 1976 still upholds Mao and genuine communism, then you
realize that your numbers argument holds no water.

In the imperialist countries, Trotskyism is prevalent, but that
is caused by the parasitism of the working classes in the imperialist
countries, the prevalence of the labor aristocracy. However, even
here there is an oppressed nation; the Blacks joined
the Maoist Black Panther Party of the late 1960s, quickly outstripping
social-democrcy, CPUSA revisionism and Trotskyism combined and several
times over. Television polls showed that the plurality of Blacks saw
the Black Panther Party as the future--above any other organization.

Nonetheless, you know that Lenin said it would be better to be
one fifth the size of a larger party that vacillated? So numbers
is a social-democratic fixation, not one of Lenin's tradition. I am
still concerned though that you see the international communist
movement including the Third World.

> You say 'socialism from below' is pre-scientific. How come ? Can socialism
> be created from 'above' ?
> Marx always argued against the idea of 'socialism from above'. The first
> socialists argued that socialism could be created by enlightened capitalists
> for the workers. Marx dismissed the idea. Later socialists argued the
> workers could gradually press the capitalist state to give the workers
> socialism piecemeal through reforms. Marx dismissed that idea too. As an
> alternative to both Marx pointed out that socialism only could be created by
> the workers themselves - the 'self-emancipation of the working class'.

MIM replies: Most of this last paragraph is true. But "self-emancipation"
does not mean no leaders or no actual hierarchy. As you know, Marx
criticized the Paris Commune for not being authoritarian enough.

> Stalin and Mao have made large revisions to Marx' marxism. I present Mao
> since he put mosts of this into words rather than just deeds.
> Mao insisted that socialism can be created by peasants. Otherwise China
> could not be socialist. In other words a rationale. Marx and Lenin dismissed
> the idea that peasants could create socialism.
> Mao insisted that 'monopoly capitalism' and not the bourgeoise in general (
> ie peasants too ) was the main enemy. This meant creating "people's fronts"
> against monopoly capitalism and its alter ego imperialism.
> Mao fused nationalism with socialism, something which Lenin and Marx argued
> strongly against.
> You put us together with anarchists. We are not anarchists - we fight every
> day to build ourselves, arm the workers with socialist ideas and actively
> supporting struggles going on.
> What are you proposing we should do that we don't do ?
> We are not following Luxemburg in the question of party building, but Lenin.
> We are building a democratic centralist party.

MIM replies: Again my mistake. Did I pass over that? Then what do
you think of this quote from Lenin above?

> You say:
> >A concrete example is the person who put together
> >the WWW page. S/he can claim it was leadership from
> >below, but it would be a coverup.
> I made it and I don't try to hide the fact that I have made it on behalf of
> my party's "above" ( ie CC ). No problem. It is the socialist revolution
> that is to come from below, not party instructions.

MIM replies: OK, but on that we agree also. Of course the masses make
the revolution.
> We hold that the workers must emancipate *themselves* to create socialism
> and that nobody can create socialism on their behalf. Do you agree to that ?
> In that case you agree to 'socialism from below'.
> Comradely wishes,
>      Per I Mathisen
>      Internasjonale Sosialister
>      Norway

The original letter follows:

>From mim3 Sun Sep 10 16:32:07 1995

Dear Internasjonale Sosialister:

We saw your WWW page maintained by perim at

We would like to comment on your line on revolution
from below. We prefer Lenin who instead said that pitting
"below" against "above" was like choosing between your right
or left arm. We have the citation in MIM Theory #8 on
anarchism. We also mention Trotskyism in that magazine as
well in connection to these issues.

All communists must share the goal of a society without
hierarchy. Such an idea has been present in human history
for hundreds, maybe thousands of years if translations
of Taoist texts are to be believed.

What is new in human history is the science of revolution
pioneered by Marx. We need to figure out a way to get to
society where no group is above another, where there is
no state and where is no need for a vanguard party. It is
our opinion that this will take a long time.

Currently you are able to criticize revolutions in the legacy
of Stalin and Mao from the vantage point of ideals, ideals
that have been around a long time and are not new to Trotskyism.
Of course Trotsky claimed to be a Marxist scientist, but if
so why do his followers today only criticize in the name of
unfulfilled ideas? Did he not realize that the criticism
of the bourgeoisie is not accomplished with words but with
weapons? It is a shame that the followers of Trotsky now
criticize movements that have actually waged successful
armed struggle in so many countries this century.

Trotskyism has become an extreme form of idealism unconnected
to the great revolutionary stream of this century. It had
nothing to do with great anti-feudal revolutions nor
"de-colonization" except to criticize from the sidelines.

Your emphasis on revolution from below is in the same pre-
scientific light. Instead of showing how revolution from
below can be achieved and thereby contribute to understanding
of how society works, Trotskyists merely criticize Stalin and Mao.

The line on revolution from below makes good anarchism,
but it is pre-scientific. Of course, we too agree that non-
party masses should be encouraged in their active
contributions to revolution, and we even have the practice
of supporting professional non-party cadres ourselves.

Nonetheless, at this time, there are only two results of
the line you present. 1) Paralysis. Numerous anarchist
organizations have collapsed while waiting for the masses
to take up the revolution. However, each person alone
fears to take up the struggle first for fearing to
appear as a leader. 2) Unaccountable leaders. In the
rhetoric of Rosa L. or the anarchists, various activists
claim no formal party structure, but what emerges in
place is still a leadership, just without a formal
structure of accountability. Some people spend more
time, energy, money and blood than others in making
revolution at this time in history, where the dialectic
has not seen clear to equality in these matters yet.

A concrete example is the person who put together
the WWW page. S/he can claim it was leadership from
below, but it would be a coverup. At most, 12% of the
people  in the
imperialist countries use INTERNET, so how can work on the INTERNET
be called "from below"? No, you rightly initiated
outreach and did not wait for everyone to be on the
INTERNET. You took an act of leadership--in the wrong
direction in our opinion--but leadership nonetheless.
It would be hypocritical to deny it and in fact,
perim at receives this letter, because
of the natural exposure s/he received from doing leadership

We can declaim reality from the vantage point of Heaven
or we can analyze our own situation as it exists and
struggle to apply the most effective revolutionary science
this century--Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. You should
criticize this revolutionary scientific tradition from
within and not add to the imperialist attacks from outside.

Maoist Internationalist Movement

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