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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What’s a communist to do?

By 史蒂夫 奥托

The inauguration is over and Barack Obama is now our president. It’s great to be rid of George Bush, with his murder, torture and war waged on Arab people. But what lies ahead?

To most people I know, this is a time of optimism and hope. Obama is a hero to the Afro-American community, much as John F Kennedy was to the Catholics. Even if he can straighten out the economy, what happens to the revolutionary left in this country?

Nothing will change in most of the third word. The Afghanistan people must fight for their rights of self determination. Struggles in the Philippines, Bhutan, India and other locations will continue as before.

Revolutionary movements building up in parts of Europe will also continue. But in the USA, we must continue with the same old problem: “how to convert working Americans to the left?”

There are three organized Maoist groups here in the US. The Revolutionary Communist Party is being attacked for making a cult of personality of Bob Avakian by the Kasama Project. Kasama is trying to replace it as a vanguard party of revolution. The RCP also gets attacked from the Maoist International Movement that sees it as too liberal.

MIM is easy to dismiss because of their dogmatic approach, divisive attacks on the Revolutionary International Movement and all its supporters and their ridiculous theory of a “labour aristocracy.” Yes they believe that the American worker is not a victim of capitalism, but a modern form of aristocracy. After all, they have a higher standard of living and it is made possible by the work of third world workers, who live in squalor so our workers can live in luxury.

The problem is that the American Worker has no political power. Leftist theoretician Herbert Marcuse correctly analyzed modern industrialized society in two books, One Dimensional Man and Counter Revolution and Revolt. In these, he explained that the bourgeoisie has made servitude palatable, even unnoticeable. But he never said it had disappeared. As Marcuse pointed out, Industrial society uses elections as a placebo. The mainstream media, religion and the educational system’s focus on anti-communist hysteria, has created a work force which has affluence, but no political power at all. In the US, we have a two party system designed to preserve the status quo. And when we get a charismatic leader, such as Obama, we have a hard time changing anything.

These conditions are unique to industrialized nations as the US. To write off the entire American working class is pure foolishness and prevents any kind of revolution, if the conditions ever allow for it. This theory smacks in the face of revolutionary reality that MIM chooses to ignore.

As for the RCP and Kasama, neither has a sizable following at this time. Countries in Europe have had more tradition of being forced to tolerate large communist parties in France and Italy, for example. That is in stark contrast to the situation in the US, where anti-communism, McCarthyism and a strong religious tradition has prevented a large communist movement with the exception of the 1930s, during the great depression. Neither of the two groups makes a dent on the US political landscape at this time. Kasama is new, but I have not seen “the grand plan” for convincing the religious working class right or the “redneck” working class right to jettison their backward beliefs for a revolutionary left.

So what does a communist do for now? It is more important to defend what we are, than it is to promote what we are at this particular time. We don’t know what will really come of the Obama presidency. It may fail. It may be another JFK cult or Franklin D. Roosevelt cult. Either way, we must prevent the return of rabid anti-communism that has crippled us before. Even today I have to disguise my name when I publish these articles so I don’t lose employment over them. But the McCarthyism attacks have not been as bad, these last few years, as they were in the 1950s or even the early 1960s. We can be communist today, mainly because the ruling class is preoccupied with radical Islamic factions. We need to be ready to defend ourselves before we can promote our ideas.

The next few years will tell whether we will find converts looking for a way out of the capitalist mess we are now in, or whether a successful Obama presidency will put us on the defensive. We may have to settle for supporting revolutions where they are being successfully staged and won for the immediate future. We always work to lay the foundations of change if and when the time is right. We must also carve out a niche in this society and defend our right just to exist.

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