8 November 2015

The Present and Future of China

Anti-Imperialism, War and Peace, Part 10b

Mao Declaring the People’s Republic of China in 1949

The Present and Future of China

Attached and linked below is an article by Samir Amin on China, which can serve to finish off our course on Anti-Imperialism.

This article creates a picture of where the National Democratic Revolution takes a country, if care is taken with the alliance that the NDR depends upon. The Chinese communists have taken good care.

More than this, the article is in effect a comparative critique of all of the post-20th-century states, and more especially of the other BRICS countries: Russia, India, Brazil and South Africa.

The article deserves to be read, and read again at intervals. It is a comment by an African revolutionary intellectual on the world as it has been, is and will be for a long time to come.

One piece of unfinished business left by this article may be the definition of socialism.

The difference between the proletariat and the peasantry is not, as Samir Amin correctly notes, that one has no use for property, while the other craves property above all. These are caricatures.

The more functional difference is the one pointed to by Marx in his “18th Brumaire”, with his unforgettable phrase “sack of potatoes”, used to describe the relation of peasant families to each other.

Whereas the proletariat has learned two things in its harsh relationship with capital: discipline and social organization.

The social division of labour that is characteristic of the proletariat is what is otherwise called the socialization of production under capitalism. It is the material root of the idea of socialism.

Socialism means the integration of people over larger and larger fields (village, town, city, nation, world). If it is only de facto, it may in practice be imperialism or it may be “globalization”.

The word “socialism” is not precise. This is clear from the Communist Manifesto of 1848, where Marx and Engels talk of feudal socialism and bourgeois socialism, among others. Socialism is only society organised as a unity, and not as a “sack of potatoes”. The proletariat is the most socialist class because of its highly developed and explicit divisions of labour.

Communism is a more precise word. It just means a classless society. Inherent in the idea of communism is escape from capitalist relations of production. For all that Samir Amin has to say about state capitalism, and correctly, he does not say this much. But the initial reason why post-revolutionary production must be “state capitalist” is only that there is no other relation of production available.

So the move of hundreds of millions of Chinese people from the rural areas to the new cities is bound to be a move from peasant, more-or-less self-sufficient family production, towards wage labour.

Seeing it as a move from the smallholding to the factory is maybe an over-simplification. But the absence of an alternative way of organizing production other than the notional factory, is a reality.

The present absence of an alternative set of relations of production appears to be the reason why the Chinese will say that they don’t expect “socialism” (probably in this instance meaning communism, the classless society) for another 200 years.

The relationship between the proletariat (the hammer) and the peasantry (the sickle) is not a relationship of like with like, but it is a relationship of different classes.

In South Africa, the urban survivalists, and the small businesses, have to some extent replaced the peasantry, but they are also not strictly proletarian. Slogans that include the words “workers and the poor” can obscure this distinction, or illuminate it, depending how they are used, and understood.

Intelligent communist-party leadership is the essential ingredient in the National Democratic Revolution. Samir Amin gives ample evidence and argument for this assertion.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: China 2013, Samir Amin.

7 November 2015

Massacre at Cassinga. War no more.

Anti-Imperialism, War and Peace, Part 10a

Massacre at Cassinga. War no more.

Piero Gleijeses has written a lot. The second and last item in this final part of the “Anti-Imperialism, War and Peace” course is an article of his (download linked below) containing this memorable passage:

‘While Castro’s troops advanced toward Namibia, Cubans, Angolans, South Africans, and Americans were sparring at the negotiating table. For the South Africans and Americans the burning question was: Would the Cuban troops stop at the border? It was to answer this question that President Ronald Reagan’s Assistant Secretary for Africa, Chester Crocker, sought Risquet. "My question is the following," he told him: "Does Cuba intend to halt the advance of its troops at the border between Namibia and Angola?" Risquet replied, "I have no answer to give you. I can’t give you a Meprobamato [a well-known Cuban tranquillizer] – not to you or to the South Africans. ... I have not said whether or not our troops will stop. ... Listen to me, I am not threatening. If I told you that they will not stop, it would be a threat. If I told you that they will stop, I would be giving you a Meprobamato, a Tylenol, and I want neither to threaten you nor to reassure you ... What I have said is that the only way to guarantee [that our troops stop at the border] would be to reach an agreement [on the independence of Namibia]." [15] On August 25, Crocker cabled Secretary of State George Shultz: "Reading the Cubans is yet another art form. They are prepared for both war and peace ... We witness considerable tactical finesse and genuinely creative moves at the table. This occurs against the backdrop of Castro’s grandiose bluster and his army’s unprecedented projection of power on the ground." [16]’

War is a terrible thing. War is never a choice for the revolutionaries. We are not pacifists but we do not choose war and we do not choose to be banned or clandestine. We are for peace and for full participation in all democratic forums.

The Cassinga massacre of 4 May, 1978, is now nearly forty years in the past. For some of us it was once an event in our present life, very shocking for us because we had though that such horrors were already in our past by the time. For others now living, the Cassinga massacre is now so much in the past that it may be a struggle to see what a huge significance this terrible event had. Please read the attached document.

War no more

Perhaps this reflection, and by extension this entire course, is a way of saying that it falls upon all of us, young and old, to strive politically so that such things do not happen again, and will not require again the militarisation of our struggle, here in Southern Africa.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: The Massacre of Cassinga [and after] Piero Gleijeses.

6 November 2015

Liberation Struggle

Anti-Imperialism, War and Peace, Part 10

Jorge Risquet Valdés Saldaña

Liberation Struggle

In political education, our method is to remove ourselves in place and time. We go to the “classics” and to authors of the intermediate period, and we study other places, in the past or in the present.

All of these provide us with examples. The examples provide us with a theoretical and practical “sandpit” that gives us a “codification” or in other words a basis upon which we may have a common dialogue.

Dialogue is where political education happens. Anything that can provide an occasion for political dialogue is good for education.

Our own history can be used, but what do we find? When looking for history of our liberation struggle, and the history of the armed struggle in particular, we find very little. The materials about the culminating struggle in Angola assembled below will have to suffice for now. They can also serve as a small contribution towards recognising the Cuban and Soviet comrades who fought faithfully and often fell for us, until victory came.

Vladimir Shubin has written and published two books in English: “ANC: A View from Moscow” and “The Hot 'Cold War’: The USSR in Southern Africa”. These books are presently available from bookshops in South Africa, or they can be ordered via the Internet.

The Soviet record of events does not correspond in every respect with the Cuban record, and this contrast would force the readers or students to make judgements of their own, as to what was really the critical path that led to the final political result, which was victory in Angola, Namibia and South Africa. Let us hope to find a suitable Soviet or Russian article in electronic form, soon.

Fidel Castro has written a lot. Linked below, as our main item, is the speech he made on 2 December 2005, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the first Cuban expeditionary force to Angola, which became what the US Imperialist diplomat Chester Crocker called an “unprecedented projection of power”.

Jorge Risquet Valdés Saldaña, fighter, negotiator, and currently member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, has written (in Spanish) “El Segundo frente del Che en el Congo” (ISBN 959-210-412-3, Casa Editorial Abril, 2006) – the history of the Patrice Lumumba Battalion, in which Risquet served. The picture above is of the same Jorge Risquet, a great and brave hero, also famous for his friendliness and joie-de-vivre. The person seen to the left of Risquet is Piero Gleijeses, of whom more in the next item.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: Thirty years after Angola and 49 after Granma, Fidel Castro.

4 November 2015

Citizen and Subject

Anti-Imperialism, War and Peace, Part 9a

Citizen and Subject

Mahmood Mamdani’s “Citizen and Subject” (downloadable extract linked below) maps the relations of four class-based powers in the anti-Imperial struggles in Africa: Bourgeois, Proletarians, Imperialists and “Traditional Leaders”. The (national) Bourgeois and the Proletarians are the modernisers and the democrats, who are compelled by necessity to combine together to fight for the democracy that forms the nation.

Capitalism has failed, and Imperialism has failed. In South Africa, capitalist Imperialism arrived more than 114 years ago, and it never delivered to the people or even employed more than a fraction of them at any time. It started bad and it got no better. Recently it has gone from a boom from which the masses somehow failed to benefit, to a recession that will last for years. What’s new? The same excuses have been there all along. Maybe it is truer to say that Imperialism didn’t fail: it only lied. It was never going to deliver, and it never will.

Like Issa Shivji and Walter Rodney (author of “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa”, also downloadable in [1069 KB] PDF format by clicking here), Professor Mamdani is a cadre of the famous Dar-es-Salaam campus. Mamdani is now Director of the Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR) in his native Uganda, and has previously served in many capacities including at Columbia University, New York, USA, and the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

Note that Mamdani's sense of the word “subject” in this work is different and opposite from the usual communist, or philosophical one. Here it means a subordinate person, like for example the subject of a king, and not a free person.

In the book, Mamdani’s principal insight is to recognise the class alliance typically sought by the Imperialists in neo-colonial Africa countries. According to Mamdani, the Imperialists prefer to ally with the most backward rural feudal elements (often called “traditional leaders” or “chiefs” in Africa) in opposition to the modernising bourgeoisie and proletariat of the cities and towns.

Mamdani regards South Africa as the classic case in this regard, although he quotes many other examples. Mamdani’s analysis stands in contrast with a common presumption, namely that the Imperialist monopoly-capitalists tend to work through “compradors”, who are local aspirant bourgeoisie, or bourgeoisie-for-rent, who do the Imperialists work for them.

Such compradors do exist, and clearly they exist in South Africa. Yet Mamdani’s scheme reflects the facts and history of Imperialism in Africa better, at least up to now. Imperialism is in general hostile to the national bourgeoisie. The typical neo-colonial war of recent decades, including the Iraq war, the long war against Afghanistan, the war against Libya, and the war against Syria, is a war of Imperialism against a national bourgeoisie that wants national sovereignty and control over its country’s national resources.

In the light of this analysis it becomes easier to see why it is that the South African proletariat has long been, via the ANC, in alliance with parts of its national bourgeoisie, for national liberation, against the monopoly-capitalist oppressors with their Imperial-globalist links.

The Imperialists make a marriage of convenience with the most retrogressive social power that they can find – tribalism – in a pact to hold Africa where it was under colonialism: partly rich, but mostly dirt poor. In South Africa the Imperialists relied heavily on Bantustan leaders and on the Inkatha Freedom Party, but the ANC was able to form better links with the rural as well as with the urban masses, thus achieving a class alliance that could, and in fact did, dominate the country in terms of mass support.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: Citizen and Subject, Chapter 8, 1996, Mamdani.

3 November 2015

Democracy is Ours

Anti-Imperialism, War and Peace, Part 9

Democracy is Ours

This part is the second-last in the present series on Anti-Imperialism, Peace, and Socialism. This part is designed to invite comrades to reflect upon the place of the anti-Imperialist struggle within the entirety of world history.

That is why Issa Shivji’s address on The Struggle for Democracy and Culture (linked below) is used. It explicitly and correctly claims, on behalf of the national-liberation and anti-colonial struggle, that for the time being this national democratic revolutionary struggle carries the banner of progress for the whole world.

For a long time past, and into the future, until such time as the struggle for socialism itself becomes once again the principal one, the National Democratic Revolutions taken together constitute the main vehicle for human progress, bearing, and rescuing, all that is noble and fine in humanity.

The bourgeoisie is a thieving class and it will steal the clothes of the revolutionaries without any hesitation if it sees the smallest, most temporary, advantage in doing so. The Imperialist bourgeoisie wishes to reverse the appearance of its shameful past and of its hopeless future. It wishes to claim the moral superiority that the liberation movement has, and steal it.

Issa Shivji, the revolutionary Dar-es-Salaam intellectual, shows very clearly how the monstrous fraud is attempted. The constant droning about “good governance” is the extreme of hypocrisy, coming as it does from the worst oppressors in history – the force that has taken oppression to the ends of the earth – Imperialism. Read Shivji. He tells it well. But also note the hypocritical machinations of our present South African anti-communists, including but not limited to the DA. If you did not know better, you could start to believe from what you read that it was liberal whites who liberated South Africa from the old regime.

The struggle for democracy is ours, not theirs. The struggle for freedom is ours. We are the humanists now. We, the liberationists, are the principal creators of human history, and we have been for many decades past. The 20th Century was the liberation century and the first anti-Imperial century. That was when we overtook the others in politics, in morality, and in philosophy. But we were only starting.

In the 21st Century we will finish the job, and finish with Imperialism altogether.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: The Struggle for Democracy and Culture, 2003, Shivji.

2 November 2015

Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Anti-Imperialism, War and Peace, Part 8c


Hiroshima and Nagasaki

To underline the ruthlessness of the Imperialist enemy, we can quote as follows:

“the US decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ... was meant to kick-start the Cold War [against the Soviet Union, Washington's war-time ally] rather than end the Second World War”.

This statement is taken from Norm Dixon’s article “Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Worst terror attacks in history” published in Green Left Weekly, August 3, 2005 (attached; download linked below).

The two worst-ever terrorist attacks in history, by far, were perpetrated by the USA, and for the most cynical and mendacious reasons.

Images of what resulted in Hiroshima and Nagasaki are abundantly available on the Internet, but the ones that show people, whether alive or dead, are too terrible to use here.

To this day the USA does not face up to what it has done by these two vile acts.

This course is on Anti-Imperialism, War and Peace. We cannot leave this thing out. We have to note that the US power that did these unspeakable things is still active in the world, and is still, as it was then, active in the cause of its own dominance over the rest of us. The list of its crimes continues to grow longer every day.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Worst Ever Terror Attacks, Dixon.

1 November 2015

First They Came for the Communists

Anti-Imperialism, War and Peace, Part 8b

First They Came for the Communists

First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist, so I said nothing.

Then they came for the Social Democrats, but I was not a Social Democrat, so I did nothing.

Then came the trade unionists, but I was not a trade unionist.

And then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew, so I did little.

Then when they came for me, there was no one left to stand up for me.

Pastor Niemöller

The third attached and linked document in this part opens up the double question of who backs the communists, and if the communists are not backed, then what happens to the others?

This is the question of self-defence for the political movement, the importance of the communists, and of the non-communists.

Pastor Niemöller’s story is extraordinary, and unexpected. This German anti-Nazi Pastor survived Dachau.

For revolutionaries it is very moving to record the solidarity of people such as Pastor Niemöller.

The revolutionaries must trust the people. They have no choice.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: First They Came For The Communists, Niemoeller.

31 October 2015

Neo-Colonialism, Last Stage of Imperialism

Anti-Imperialism, War and Peace, Part 8a

Neo-Colonialism, Last Stage of Imperialism

The second linked document is included in this part because of Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah’s correct and insistent concern with the continuing threat to Africa (now materialising again militarily as “US Africom”) posed by Imperialism in its last stage of neo-colonialism.

Nkrumah believed that Africa must unite, for the sole reason that if it did not unite, then it would not have sufficient strength to resist the Imperialists. And so it has turned out.

Nkrumah defined neo-colonialism as follows:

“The essence of neo-colonialism is that the State which is subject to it is, in theory, independent and has all the outward trappings of international sovereignty. In reality its economic system and thus its political policy is directed from outside.”

He goes on to add:

“Neo-colonialism is also the worst form of imperialism. For those who practise it, it means power without responsibility and for those who suffer from it, it means exploitation without redress. In the days of old-fashioned colonialism, the imperial power had at least to explain and justify at home the actions it was taking abroad.”

And in his Conclusion, Nkrumah says:

“In the earlier chapters of this book I have set out the argument for African unity and have explained how this unity would destroy neo-colonialism in Africa. In later chapters I have explained how strong is the world position of those who profit from neo-colonialism.

“Nevertheless, African unity is something which is within the grasp of the African people. The foreign firms who exploit our resources long ago saw the strength to be gained from acting on a Pan-African scale. By means of interlocking directorships, cross-shareholdings and other devices, groups of apparently different companies have formed, in fact, one enormous capitalist monopoly. The only effective way to challenge this economic empire and to recover possession of our heritage, is for us also to act on a Pan-African basis, through a Union Government.”

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: Neo-Colonialism, Last Stage of Imperialism, 1965, Nkrumah.

30 October 2015


Anti-Imperialism, War and Peace, Part 8


Exactly how the anti-Imperialist struggle will resolve itself in South Africa, Southern Africa, and Africa in general, is something unpredictable at the tactical level. The question of the armed defence of revolutionary change cannot be ruled out, and we have examined this question.

This part of the present series, referenced to the “Beyond Vietnam” speech (attached, and linked below) of the late Rev Martin Luther King Junior, is designed to point to the subjective political factor in the anti-Imperialist struggle.

Nowadays it has become commonplace to refer to “international solidarity” as not only a specific, but more so a universal idea. But this concept that we have largely stripped of its particularity, generalising it as a formula, does actually have a tremendous history whose meaning is not fully conveyed by a stock phrase called “international solidarity”.

The anti-Imperialist struggle and the democratic struggle can and should be one. It is not a matter of charity of the rich to the poor. It is also not solely a matter of good-hearted and exceptional individuals. But there have indeed been such individuals – “MLK” was one of them – and there will be again.

What Martin Luther King describes, and justifies, is: “why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church – the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate – leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.”

In other words, MLK at the meeting of the “Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam”, in 1967, was preaching the intrinsic, organic unity of the struggle of the common people everywhere. It is not an artificial altruism, but it is a unity of purpose, in concerted action against the single enemy that manifests itself everywhere and oppresses us all: monopoly-capitalist Imperialism.

And further than his literal message, there is also the extraordinary power and style of MLK’s oration. We forget this factor of art too easily. Lenin spoke of “insurrection as an art”. It is an art that goes beyond the military, and encompasses all of our activities. Therefore when reading such a piece as MLK’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech, one should regard it as a source of learning of the art of advocacy, which is part of the art of leadership, essential to the art of insurrection.

“Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God...” – Martin Luther King.

Picture: Rev. Martin Luther King, Junior, at the White House, Washington DC, USA

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: Beyond Vietnam, Time to Break Silence, 1967, King.

25 October 2015

Strategy and Tactics

Anti-Imperialism, War and Peace, Part 7a

Strategy and Tactics

The ANC’s famous 1969 Strategy and Tactics document adopted in the Morogoro, Tanzania Conference involving O R Tambo, Joe Slovo, Chris Hani and others, is attached, and downloadable from the link given below.

As a classic, the Strategy and Tactics document can speak for itself. It is straightforward enough.

This document, like, for example, the Freedom Charter, remains one of a handful that are held in the highest regard by the South African liberation movement.

It is a typical document of National Democratic Revolution.

It is short. It is really a “must-read” for any student of SA revolutionary politics. It has implications for today.

Picture: Morogoro, Tanzania

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: Strategy and Tactics, Morogoro, 1969, ANC.

24 October 2015

The Armed People

Anti-Imperialism, War and Peace, Part 7

Dedan Kimathi, 1920-1957

The Armed People

The practical alternative to the State that appeared in Paris in the beginning of 1871 was not only the right of recall, and the whole people collectively in power and in perpetual session. It was also the reappearance of the Armed People in a new kind of societal framework. So-called Primitive Communism is an Armed People. Here, in the Paris Commune, was an Armed People in advanced productive circumstances.

The security forces - army and police - that had existed before the Paris Commune had been paid to support the bourgeois State and to guarantee the State’s survival by suppressing, whenever necessary, the working class. Under the Commune, these forces were disbanded and not replaced. With hardly any exceptions, all “separations of powers” were abolished in the Paris Commune, leaving only one power: The Armed People.

In Chile, in the time of the Popular Unity government that fell on 11 September 1973, instead of an Armed People, a virtue was made of disarmament, and a “Peaceful Path” was worshipped as the new political Golden Calf.

Volodia Teitelboim, in the document attached, and linked below, gives a brief description, as one of those who was involved, of Chile’s Popular Unity government and its disastrous end at the hands of traitor fascists who used the national army to overthrow it. It was a shocking reminder of the purpose of the “special bodies of armed men” of the bourgeois state.

Teitelboim calls for “A Reappraisal of the Issue of the Army,” meaning a return to the view of the Paris Commune, which Teitelboim mentions in the first line. This document is a sufficient basis for a very good and necessary discussion.

Like the Chilean Popular Unity government, ours is a multiclass government underpinned by a class alliance for common goals. It is a unity-in-action, otherwise called a popular front.

Why have we in South Africa survived after 21 years, while the Chileans did not survive after only 1,000 days?

The answer could be that we are not pacifists. Or, the answer could be that our crisis has not arrived yet. Or, that we have passed at least one crisis (e.g. in mid-2008, resolved by the recall of President Mbeki and the resignation of various ministers including Terror Lekota and Mluleki George), which may not yet be the last.

The next featured text will be the ANC’s original Strategy and Tactics document of 1969. It unashamedly embraces armed struggle, and not any starry “Peaceful Path”. South Africans were in this case in advance of the historic crisis that manifested in Chile. Four years prior to the Pinochet coup in Chile overthrew the Popular Unity government led by Salvador Allende, the Morogoro Conference of the ANC had laid down the necessity for the armed defence of the revolution.

Picture: There are very few photographs of freedom fighters in formation or in action to be found on the Internet, whether of MK or any of any other liberation army; but there are many photographs of freedom fighters in captivity. Full justice has not yet been done. The picture is of a statue of Dedan Kimathi under the blue sky of Kenya. AMANDLA! UHURU!

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: 1,000 Days of Popular Unity Rule in Chile, 1977, Teitelboim.

18 October 2015

How to Master Secret Work


Anti-Imperialism, War and Peace, Part 6b

How to Master Secret Work

The third attached and linked item in this part is the 1980 clandestine SACP publication “How to Master Secret Work”. It makes a point that we need here, which is that there is no virtue in being illegal.

The communists do not volunteer to be illegal.

The nature of secret work is really that it is a systematic struggle against banning and persecution. As much as it is secret, yet its purpose is the re-expansion of communication and the re-legalisation of the Party. Its purpose is the public political rebirth of the organisation.

Within less than ten years of the publication of the attached document, the SACP was unbanned and declared fully legal again, as it has remained ever since, up to today.

The SACP had been banned and was underground (“clandestine”) from 1950 to 1990, a total of forty years. All that time the Party struggled to reverse the situation of banning and illegality. It announced its existence with the publication of the African Communist from 1959. “How to Master Secret Work” was published in the underground newspaper, Umsebenzi.

The great majority of secret work is about communicating, and through communication, deliberately reversing the Party’s excommunication from society.

There is no imaginable situation where the political vanguard will deliberately choose to be clandestine and make a virtue of its excommunication from the masses. There is no virtue in secrecy.

Unfortunately we have none of the lively illustrations from this historic document, only the text.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: How to Master Secret Work, 1980, SACP, Part 1 and Part 2.

11 October 2015

Political and Military in Revolutionary War

Anti-Imperialism, War and Peace, Part 6a

Ho Chi Minh and Le Duan

Political and Military in Revolutionary War

Le Duan’s “Political and Military in Revolutionary War” is a short, powerful piece of writing that manages to include a great deal of wisdom in a few words.

 Le Duan says, confirming Pomeroy:

“… the close combination of political and military struggle constitutes the basic form of revolutionary violence in South Vietnam”

This article is an example of communist simplicity, brevity and clarity that can hardly be beaten. It is ideal for study circles.

If necessary, such an article as this can be read out loud, and serve as its own introduction. It is a good example to anyone, of how to reproduce your theory in plain terms that workers and peasants can understand, without losing any of its quality.

Le Duan mentions the National Democratic Revolution thus:

“Like the national-democratic revolution all over the country in the past, the present South Vietnamese revolution has the workers and peasants as its main force and the worker-peasant alliance led by the working class as the cornerstone of the national united front.”

A small archive of Le Duan’s writing can be found on MIA.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: Political and Military in Revolutionary War, 1967, Le Duan.

7 October 2015

Military and Political

Anti-Imperialism, War and Peace, Part 6

Military and Political

Presuming that we have by now established that we are not pacifists, but are revolutionaries who intend, by any means necessary, to assist the working class to expropriate the expropriator bourgeois class, which by itself, whether with bloodshed or not, is a violent act: Then why can we not move with speed, and without any restraint, towards an armed overthrow of the oppressors?

The late William “Bill” Pomeroy started his essay “On the Time for Armed Struggle” (linked below) from the same point of departure, in the following words:

“Because of the decisive results that can follow from an armed smashing of the main instruments of power held by a ruling class or a foreign oppressor, some of those who acquire a revolutionary outlook are eager to move to the stage of armed struggle; and their concept of it as the highest form of revolutionary struggle causes them to cast discredit upon other forms as 'less advanced', as amounting to collaboration with or capitulation to the class enemy.”

But, he wrote:

“Too often the aura of glory associated with taking up arms has obscured hard prosaic truths and realities in the interplay of forces in a period of sharp struggle.”

And later on, Pomeroy adds:

“The experiences of the revolutionary movement in the Philippines offer an interesting example of the complex, varied and fluctuating processes that may occur in a liberation struggle.”

Pomeroy writes that “analysis and understanding of the revolutionary experiences of others is indispensable”. He proceeds to offer his own rich and extraordinary experience as a military combatant and revolutionary. His main lesson is that the military must never think that it can cease to be subordinate to the political. Such thinking is bound to bring disaster, as it did in the Philippines.

Not only is the military subordinate to the political - in the hierarchical sense that the military takes its orders from the political leadership and reports back to it. It is more than that. The revolutionary movement must proceed away from military, and towards political, essentially peaceful means.

Far from armed struggle being the “highest form”, it is a form of struggle that we do not adopt unless it is forced upon us, and we pursue it, if we have to, with the main aim of returning as quickly as possible to political means.

This is not only a revolutionary political principle. It is also, in terms of the best military theory (that of Clausewitz) a military principle, namely that force of arms can only serve to return the parties to the negotiating table. That is all it can do; and if it fails to do this much, then military force is simply a disaster.

The picture shows William and Celia Pomeroy, next to a newspaper report about their incarceration in the course of the Philippines struggle. William Pomeroy passed away on 12 January 2009 and Celia Pomeroy passed away on 22 August 2009.

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: On the Time for Armed Struggle, 1974, Pomeroy.

4 October 2015


Anti-Imperialism, War and Peace, Part 5

Christopher Caudwell, 1907 – 1937


The Communist Manifesto of 1848 ends:

“The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. WORKERS OF ALL COUNTRIES, UNITE!”

Earlier, it says:

“the violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie lays the foundation for the sway of the proletariat.”

When it comes to the expropriation of the expropriators, the working class will not ask permission.

The proletarian revolution will be an act of force, with no appeal, and in that sense it is bound to be a violent revolution, which does not mean that bloodshed is necessary.

Blood need not be shed. But the revolution will make its own laws. Otherwise, it would not be a revolution.

Bourgeois violence

The bourgeoisie is a violent class. It acquired its position by bloody violence and it maintains its position by constant applications of physical violence and bloodshed. It is the bourgeoisie that invented permanent standing armies, the permanent police force, and the prisons, all of which are in constant use.

In spite of all of its protestations to the contrary, the bourgeoisie is not afraid of physical confrontation. It is well prepared for bloody violence.

What the bourgeoisie fears is not bloodshed, but the other kind of violence: that of unilateral expropriation of the means of production, distribution and exchange. The bourgeoisie fears the violence that takes, not blood, but property.


In the previous parts of this series, we have read Clausewitz, Marx and Lenin on the political/military nature of violence. In this part we will take an essay of Christopher Caudwell (attached; download linked below) so as to establish the moral and/or philosophical basis of Pacifism and Violence, if any such can be found.

Christopher Caudwell (1907 – 1937) wrote some extraordinary communist literature that was only published after he was killed while fighting the fascists in the Spanish Civil War, as an internationalist from England, and as a member of the International Brigades.

Much of Caudwell’s best work was published posthumously under the famous title: “Studies in a Dying Culture”. Three of the essays can be found in the Caudwell section of the Marxists Internet Archive, including his essay “On Liberty”, which contains the statement: “I am a communist because I believe in freedom!”

Another Caudwell collection was published more recently in hard copy under the title “The Concept of Freedom”.


Another source of Caudwell material (including the image above) is Helena Sheehan’s web site, where Helena has made a Caudwell centenary page that is very moving, and will tell you many reasons why Christopher Caudwell is remembered with such passion and love even now, so long after his death.

In “Pacifism and Violence” Caudwell asks almost at once:

“Are we Marxists then simply using labels indiscriminately when we class as characteristically bourgeois, both militancy and pacifism, meekness and violence? No, we are not doing so, if we can show that we call bourgeois not all war and not all pacifism but only certain types of violence, and only certain types of non-violence; and if, further, we can show how the one fundamental bourgeois position generates both these apparently opposed viewpoints.”

What do you say when you are confronted by a pacifist follower of M K Gandhi, or by a Quaker? This text can assist you. Today’s downloadable text will help bring the essence of the question into our dialogue.

This text will show you why it is that communists are not pacifists, although we struggle for peace, and why the bourgeoisie can never be peaceful, even when they call themselves pacifists.

·        The image of Christopher Caudwell reproduced above was painted by Caoimhghin O Croidheain

·        The above is to introduce the original reading-text: Pacifism and Violence, 1938, Christopher Caudwell.