Combat Liberalism (as Mao Meant It)

On September 7th, 1937 Chairman Mao publicly put forth a work named “Combat Liberalism”. The title of this work is misleading to those who do not understand the Marxist meaning of the word “liberal”. This should not be confused with the liberal we know today. This is not “liberal” as in the political scale that exists in contemporary politics today. This is not some lambasting of Barack Obama or Bill Clinton type people. Nor is this a criticism of the popular liberal positions that exist in the media or the popular consciousness of our society. For example the Al Franken defence of gun control or the very toothless criticisms of the War in Iraq by CNN.

The Marxist definition of liberal has more to do with a liberal way of life, as in a non-confrontational Kay-sera-sera attitude. Liberalism is the idea that we should just stand by while harmful things happen so as to not supposedly risk a situation becoming worse. It is being free with speech without fully analyzing what we are saying, thus leading to a promotion of ignorant statements and phoney criticisms. For example, people calling Barack Obama a communist for bailing out the banks (like George Bush did), while failing to understand that a communist would have actually abolished the banks and made them state property. This would be an irresponsible (and stupid) criticism to make. Those who made such an ignorant remark would deserve (and need) to be called out and criticized themselves.

This Marxist (but mostly Maoist) liberalism manifests itself in various ways. For brevity’s sake, I’ll be sticking to the main forms of liberalism:

“To let things slide for the sake of peace and friendship when a person has clearly gone wrong, and refrain from principled argument because he is an old acquaintance, a fellow townsman, a schoolmate, a close friend, a loved one, an old colleague or old subordinate. Or to touch on the matter lightly instead of going into it thoroughly, so as to keep on good terms. The result is that both the organization and the individual are harmed.”

An example of this is say you are out with one of your friends and he/she says something racist that (hopefully) was meant in jest. Of course these “just joking” moments are almost always a cover for some type of racism the person is expressing under the surface of their “publicly acceptable” appearance they give. It is of important not to allow this to pass simply because they are a friend; they have said something racist and on a deeper level they meant it. As their friend more than anyone, you have a responsibility to tell your friend they are doing something harmful and remind them of that. You should not be complacent simply because you don’t want to get into a debate about what is and is not racist or how much they actually meant it.

“To indulge in irresponsible criticism in private instead of actively putting forward one’s suggestions to the organization. To say nothing to people to their faces but to gossip behind their backs, or to say nothing at a meeting but to gossip afterwards. To show no regard at all for the principles of collective life but to follow one’s own inclination.”

In a socialist society it is of the utmost importance that criticism be made public so as to not only expose failings, but to have a free and open discussion of policy and the different directions and ideas that are before us. Any attempt to hold back a criticism is the first step towards cronyism. Cronyism is a backward and useless trend among fascists. We all have those visions of pathetic “yes men” who automatically agree with everything their boss says so as to retain favour. This harms the entire essence of collectivism and might as well be regarded as reactionary.

Not to obey orders but to give pride of place to one’s own opinions. To demand special consideration from the organization but to reject its discipline.

This is a very harmful liberal attitude. If the collective has spent the time and effort to create a plan to solve a problem, it should e followed out and judged on its results. One should never have the arrogance to assume that their opinion is greater than that of the collective decision making of the people. This is a total objectivist/fascist position to assume one individual knows better than the decisions making power of all people affected by the decision. It assumes that the individuals actions have no effect on anyone else.

To indulge in personal attacks, pick quarrels, vent personal spite or seek revenge instead of entering into an argument and struggling against incorrect views for the sake of unity or progress or getting the work done properly.

This is something I think we are all guilty of. How many times have we lost our tempers with someone who has promoted an idea that we thought was counter to a proper Marxist line? I am reminded on one such incident where a comment left by another Marxist claimed that Chinese women were dragged into the streets and beaten for dressing in provocative way. Of course this is completely untrue; but instead of countering the claim I just lost my temper and make angry insulting remarks.

Intelligent well-meaning people do not engage in this type of activity, its childish and counter productive. Problems are solved only by working out differences of opinion through a discussion of aspects and possible results and how they affect the subject matter.

“To be among the masses and fail to conduct propaganda and agitation or speak at meetings or conduct investigations and inquiries among them, and instead to be indifferent to them and show no concern for their well-being, forgetting that one is a Communist and behaving as if one were an ordinary non-Communist.”

If you’re at work or at some kind of social function and someone says something reactionary or asks a question without understanding, it is your duty to say something or answer them. Whenever someone complains about the price of gas and blames taxes, I remind them that the price jump from 1.18 a litre to 1.37 was not taxes, it was the market. I also make a similar point when people blame the gas price on Arab countries, not the capitalist system.

We should always listen to and understand the complaitns and problems faced by the proletariat. It is in understanding our lives in relation to the lives of others do we understand how our society functions. Not doing this, effectively places ourselves outside the masses of the people. This is the first step towards the perpetuation of a rightist sense of superiority and reactionary behaviour and thinking.

“To work half-heartedly without a definite plan or direction; to work perfunctorily and muddle along — ‘So long as one remains a monk, one goes on tolling the bell.’”

This is mindlessly working for work’s sake. As revolutionaries we operate with a social and political goal in our work and attitude. If we become lackadaisical in our effort to build the better society we will end up with revisionism. We are here to make things work, not just get through the day. This how the bourgeois have us work in their system because we only serve their wealth. We are not them, we serve the people.

To be aware of one’s own mistakes and yet make no attempt to correct them, taking a liberal attitude towards oneself.

Self-criticism, self-criticism, self-criticism this is the single most important thing we can do with ourselves. This is the most devastating thing we can fail to do. The end of all socialist societies have been as a result of the people unable or unwilling to criticize its leaders. Not to mention the leaders unwilling to do it to themselves. It is far to liberal to simply stand by and keep quite for the sake of not being called a reactionary. We must constantly criticize ourselves and our path in order to move forward correctly.

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“Liberalism is extremely harmful in a revolutionary collective. It is a corrosive which eats away unity, undermines cohesion, causes apathy and creates dissension. It robs the revolutionary ranks of compact organization and strict discipline, prevents policies from being carried through and alienates the Party organizations from the masses which the Party leads. It is an extremely bad tendency.

Liberalism stems from petty-bourgeois selfishness, it places personal interests first and the interests of the revolution second, and this gives rise to ideological, political and organizational liberalism.

All loyal, honest, active and upright Communists must unite to oppose the liberal tendencies shown by certain people among us, and set them on the right path. This is one of the tasks on our ideological front.”