"Knowing what to do next"

ScottH9999 at SPAMaol.com ScottH9999 at SPAMaol.com
Sat Apr 14 22:41:51 MDT 2001


I am disappointed with your response. I thought I recognized something of a
kindred spirit in a way--despite our different backgrounds. It appeared to me
that you went through a long experience in the Trotskyist movement, became
repelled by the dogmatism and sectarianism you found there, and now opposed
that sort of approach. And I had a somewhat similar experience within the
Maoist movement. (Question to ponder: Is it "sectarianism" to criticize

When I saw you raising the issue of how important it is to determine "what to
do next", that too struck a chord. This is precisely the sort of topic that I
seek to discuss with fellow revolutionaries, and that is what I tried to do
in my recent postings. However, nobody else so far, including you, has had
anything to say about issues like HOW one can go about determining "what to
do next", on whether the mass line technique is relevant to this, or about
the mass line technique itself (except to simply deny that it is
significant--in the case of Barry Stoller).

When we talk about issues such as "determining what to do next", of course it
is important to show what happens when you don't. It is also important to
criticize those who apparently do not focus on such key tasks, as you did in
the case of Brian James. The same is true with using the mass line; it is
important to expose and criticize those who don't use this basic method of
revolutionary leadership, and to try to educate them in its importance.

The bulk of my initial posting on this topic was about the mass line, and its
relation to the specific issue you raised, determining what to do next.
However, I did also contrast this with an approach that I thought you might
also find dogmatic and sectarian, that of Jeff Mackler of Socialist Action. I
also made several sharp criticisms of the Maoists in the U.S. for not using
the mass line, but nobody on this list got very upset by that. It was my
comments about Trotskyism that singed the feathers here.

You say that most people on this list are "trying to transcend the concept of
'revolutionary continuity'". You say this includes things like Maoists
fighting among each other over who really has the "Maoist franchise" in Peru.
I think you will not find comments of this sort in my postings. But perhaps
you also mean something more, such as for example that Maoists shouldn't
criticize other Maoists for abandoning important parts of Mao's contributions
to Marxism (such as the mass line). Or that Maoists shouldn't criticize
dogmatic and sectarian Trotskyite groups (like SA), because we are trying to
get beyond that sort of petty squabbling, or some such thing. I wonder if
this all means that no one on this list should criticize anyone else for
abandoning ANY aspect of Marxism? And perhaps it is also bad form on this
list to mention any contributions to Marxism by individuals such as Stalin,
Trotsky, or--God forbid--Mao. Perhaps that also is a form of the dredded sin
of "revolutionary continuity".

Personally, I think it is outrageous that somebody like Henry Liu is taken to
represent "Maoism" on this list. If people can't recognize that China is a
capitalist country these days, they are pretty damned hopeless politically.
The man goes around saying the most incredible nonsense, such as "Most
reasonable thinkers now accept that capitalism and socialism are not concepts
adverse to each other, but are complimentary approaches to keep society
prosperous and just." [From his posting on 2/16/01] Nobody on this list
raised the slightest objection to anti-Marxist crap like that. And now you
say that Henry Liu is "a bona fide Maoist". Really, Louis, I think you better
keep to discussing Trotskyist groups if that is a reflection of your
understanding of Mao and Maoism.

Well, as I said, my posting was an experiment. Looks like another failed
experiment. If there are further comments about my recent postings, or about
the mass line, I'll try to address them. Otherwise I'll slink back into the
woodwork, and let you guys get back to your important work of discussing
postmodernism, Zizek, and gossiping about expellees from the Socialist
Workers Party.

You had my hopes up for a moment, Louis, when you talked for a brief moment
about "knowing what to do next". You really did.

--Scott Harrison

In a message dated 4/14/01 6:13:55 PM Pacific Daylight Time, lnp3 at panix.com

> >>From some of the things Louis Proyect and others have had to say about
>  >Trotskyist organizations, it seems that nothing like the mass line is
>  >used there either. If the mass line is just "common sense", then it is
>  >that common sense is extremely uncommon. Instead, what we have, in this
>  >country at least, is a whole lot of dogmatic sectarian parties and
>  >who think they "know it all", and feel they have nothing of significance
>  >learn from the masses. That is the sad truth of the matter.
>  >
>  >--Scott Harrison
>  Scott, one of the things you'll pick up on after being on the list for a
>  while is that most of us are trying to transcend the concept of
>  "revolutionary continuity". Although this problematic term had a lot of
>  weight in the Trotskyist movement, you can find it elsewhere as well. It is
>  the attempt to establish some kind of blood line between a group or
>  individual going back to Marx and Engels. This usually consists of
>  Trotskyists going on and on about Lenin's last testament. Or Maoists
>  fighting with each other about who is the best representative of the CP in
>  Peru, as if a fast food franchise was involved. Or CP-Moscow types arguing
>  among each other about whether things went bad with Krushchev or with
>  Brezhnev or with Gorbachev. All in all, we've found it useful to defer
>  these questions until after the revolution when we can all sit around
>  drinking vodka and eating oysters, when all the pressure is off us. Let me
>  tell you where I'm coming from on this. I spent 11 years in the Trotskyist
>  movement and still have a very high regard for Trotsky. But of all the
>  people I've met on or off the Internet in the last 10 years or so, there is
>  nobody I have a higher regard for than Mark Jones who is about as much of a
>  Stalin partisan as you are going to find. I allow that Mark and I have
>  differences over this and focus more on the questions that unite us, such
>  as ecology, Yugoslavia, financial crisis, etc. If we are going to rebuild
>  the revolutionary movement worldwide, it will be necessary to put
>  historical questions such as you are alluding to on the back burner. As far
>  as Mao is concerned, I used to be very critical but I have a much more
>  open-minded attitude nowadays because of the participation of Henry Liu on
>  this list. Henry is a bona fide Maoist as opposed to the kind of bonkers
>  ultraleftism that destroyed much of the American left in the 1970s. Pay
>  close attention to anything Henry writes. He is one of the smartest people
>  in the world.
>  Louis Proyect
>  Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org/

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