Knowledge from practice

Rubyg580 at Rubyg580 at
Mon May 13 18:18:15 MDT 1996

Mao Tsetung says in "On Practice": "Only social practice can be the
criterion of truth.  The standpoint of practice is the primary and basic
standpoint in the dialectical materialist theory of knowledge."

So that does leave the question open: how does one determine the
truth of a statement that they have no way of testing directly in
practice? Well, one thing is to recognize that human knowledge is
always relative, never complete and absolute; it always lags behind
the objective material world. (In other words, some things you just
won't know for sure)  The other is to recognize that MOST of our
knowledge comes, not from our own direct social practice, but from
that of others.  Most comes thru sources that represent the
accumulated practice of many individuals, such as books, films,
other forms of media (web pages, etc.)

For information that is communicated directly from one individual to
another, the recieving individual must "consider the source".  When
the sending individual is someone who's social practice you know,
this is easier, because you can take into account their known
weaknesses, like, "I never believe anything X says when he's drunk,
or tired, or..., because I know in those circumstances he doesn't see
things rationally." or "I know I can trust Y's opinion on something when
it's of a political nature, because she is very objective about those
things, but if it has personal repercussions, I'm more sceptical
because I know she gets really subjective about those things."

We all form these kinds of "filters" thru which we evaluate the opinions
and statements of others, consciously or unconsciously. But when
the information is conveyed by someone of whom we have only limited
knowledge, like someone on this list, then the problem is more
complicated.  Our only means of judging the practice of someone we
know only from the list is thru what they themselves reveal, and how
well that revleation corresponds to what else we know of the world from
more direct sources. (and, of course, sometimes there's just not
enough information available to make any kind of definitive judgement)

For example, when jokoe talks about doing shit work jobs, those who
have seen such jobs performed have more ability to see that what he
describes is reality than those who have worked all their life in academia.

When someone talks about political work only in terms of what went
on between the members of the political organization, and not about
the organization's relationship with the masses; not what was learned
>from the masses, or how the masses recieved the message, then
there's a lot less reason to give a lot of weight to that account,
because clearly the person talking was heavily influenced by their
own ego, and objectivity may well have been a casualty.

An example of how someone else's account of their practice affected
my understanding of things is in the article "Maoism and the Two
Line Struggle in the RIM" which is now being posted in 5 parts.

Prior to reading this essay, I and some other ex-RCPers had decided
that Bob Avakian was probably being kept in France by deception or
by force, by the party leaders on this side of the Atlantic, who were
obviously opportunist and revisionist, who didn't want Bob coming back
and leading a rectification against them.  We could see their practice,
but all we ever saw of Bob A was the occasional "transcribed from tape"
series of articles in the RW--and in most of those articles what BA was
saying sounded a lot better than what the local party leaders were
doing. (Like in  the 1994 series, he called for a new class analysis of
the US, which is obviously needed, but no evidence of its being done
by RCP has ever cropped up.)

When I read the essay "...Two Line Struggle in the RIM", one of the
first things I recieved from the New Flag, it was the account of the
practice of BA's followers in Great Britain that convinced me that we
were wrong about him.  The account of the avakianists' attitude toward
the striking miners and press operators was exactly what we could
see with our own eyes in the US.  Even though BA could sound better
in writing than Carl Dix or Mary Lou Greenberg, or the "LA Comrades"
who first put forward the great May Day slogan "We are Human Beings",
the practice of the people he could lead directly was no different than
the practice of the people he leads thru taped speeches.

And the behavior of the avakian representatives refusing to answer
questions and calling an end to a public debate when the questions
got too close to exposing their line--that is EXACTLY what we
experience the RCP doing over here time after time.

In fact no amount of fine-toothed comb analysis of Bob A's writings
would ever have achieved the clarity of these few examples from
practice.  And the fact that this was practice reported by people
who were NOT separated from the "great revolutionary leader" by
thousands of miles of ocean, that they were able to report this
practice from the place where it occurred, that they reported it from
their  own experience in the course of their own practice of taking
out the message and issues of the People's War in Peru to the
masses of workers--that was decisive in convincing me of the
authenticity of the report.


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