An uncomfortable truth that must be acknowledged, Trotskyists have more influence in the first world than Maoists do. If we are honest with ourselves, we’ll see that Troskyists are a growing influence in the U.S., while the Maoists are declining. We must see past the vitriol, and our feelings towards the reactionary Trotskyism to see the truth.
Where are the Maoists in the Untied States? Immediately we think Bob Avakian’s RCP, or even the Kasama project. Of these two groups, the RCP is still alive, however reactionary. Outside of these two groups we have collage activist circles trying to pass themselves off as legitimate revolutionary movements. The New Communist Party (a.k.a. the New York Maoists) has proclaimed itself to be “the leaders of the Maoist rebellion of New York.” The Revolutionary Communist Party of Canada literally claims to be doing People’s War. Both of these statements are utter nonsense, there is no war going on, there is no rebellion or armed struggle taking place. At best each is a few handfuls of people. They’re both collage activist groups composed of mostly upper-middle class twenty-somethings, whom one would be surprised if they even owned a gun.
Now, contrast this with the strength and popularity of Trotskyist groups. The ISO (International Socialist Organization) is a primary example. They’re a very large political group that stretches across many countries. They can even be found in places like Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Take a look at all the noise being made around Kshama Sawant in Seattle. A minor position in a city council is significant when compared to the influence and power Maoists have in the U.S. Socialists all across the first world are enamoured with her victory and it has garnered her Trotskyist group (Socialist Alternative) a lot of support. Her actions have also driven a lot of people towards Bernie Sanders (even though he’s not a Trotskyist). They have legitimate union connections all across the country, while the Maoists have none. This disparity in influence and power is plain to see, if people but only look. Are these Trotskyists revolutionary groups? No, they call for social democratic reforms.
Does that mean Trotskyism is correct and Maoism is wrong? Absolutely not. Trotskyism is a terrible reactionary, racist ideology, and social imperialist on a theoretical level. All I am pointing out here are their levels of popularity. Trotskyism clearly does wield much more influence in the real world. It does this over Marxist-Leninists as well. This is by no mean a failing exclusive to Maoism. What is important here is to acknowledge the reality of the situation. One group merely pretends to be revolutionary and have no support, while the other is openly reformist and enjoys large support.
Why is this happening? Essentially, this is a symptom of First Worldism. As there is no significant presence of a proletariat in the first world, people tend towards reform not revolution. The revolutionary potential is not there. Almost all activist groups openly reject the idea of revolution, while the Maoists promote revolution over reform. It should come as no surprise that Trotskyists have more support.
First Worldism is a reactionary tendency, it must be rejected.
41 thoughts on “How is Trotskyism Winning over Maoism?”
Calling for reforms does not necessarily a reformist make. Not that I support them as an organization or what they’re doing, but I think you misrepresent groups like Socialist Alternative’s position. The concept of the transitional program is what they work with. Both revolutionists and reformists call for reforms, with the difference being that the end game for the reformist is to save capitalism and for the revolutionist it is to side with workers struggling to implement popular reforms as a way to build momentum towards more radical change and raise consciousness. For example, if workers are demanding an end to child labor, a revolutionary can, and should, support that demand, while at the same time drawing attention to the need for more profound system change.
IMHO it is a stretch though to say that Kshama Sawant or SA has played much of a role in garnering more support for Sanders, rather they are tailing after him as that is where they see the largest left-liberal-progressive social element gathering which they might push further left, as they have tried to do with Ralph Nader’s campaigns in the past, which I agree, does show underlying opportunistic, reformist organizational tendencies.
Can you explain what makes Trotskyism reactionary, racist, and imperialist?
First world people refuse to do revolution. And yes, reforms actually harm revolutionary potential. No revolution has been born from gettign concessions. Permanent Revolution alone almost insures imperialism. His belief was that the most backward countries had to be forced by the advanced to progress. I’d also show that Trotskyism leads to neo-cons. http://llco.org/who-and-what-are-trotsky-cons/
I must say I disagree with your view on the harmfulness in getting concessions. Would you tell ~5 million Bengali children remain workers because them going to school harms their “revolutionary potential”?
Revolution is ultimately the big concession of the bourgeoisie surrendering its power to the proletariat. But revolution is also like a war in which you must win smaller scale battles to win the war. For example, the expulsion of US imperialism from the RoK and the unification of Korea under socialist leadership would ultimately only be a reform, since if this was done in isolation and US imperialism was not undone elsewhere there would always be the danger of a reintroduction of imperialism into the region and as a system it would continue to exist. Another example: the February Revolution, establishment of the Provisional Government, resignation of Prince Lvov, could all be seen as concessions on the part of the Russian nobility made on the path to the Bolshevik Revolution.
I see Permanent Revolution as being less about dragging the Third World to catch up with the First, but actually quite the opposite; it’s about recognizing the possibility of a path of development to socialism that does not mirror that of Western Europe (passing first through a stage of development resembling bourgeois liberal democracy). The idea isn’t that it’s pointless to start developing socialism in one country (this is actually very necessary!), it’s that that country can’t forever, or even for very long at all, be an island of socialism in a globalized capitalist system. Ultimately, the idea of ‘socialism in one country’ logically flows into that of ‘peaceful coexistence’ with capitalist states. ‘Socialism in one country’ can only survive if your revolution does not threaten the global capitalist system, otherwise the bourgeoisie will wage war on you.
The language of that LLCO article actually betrays a rather ethnocentric view; the idea that the ability of “backward” countries to “match” the West’s atomic bomb technology is an indication of their elected path of development suggests a game of catch-up. Socialism, being a higher state of social organization than imperialism, naturally surpasses capitalism. If the measure of country’s advancement and progress is relative to the technology and living standards of Western capitalist societies, is that not a case of imperialism? the West using its military might to define the gold standard of what it means to be “civilized”?
Also, I’m curious, where does the former Second World (e.g., Eastern Europe today) enter into the Third Worldist equation?
Okay, please show me a revolution that came from concessions.
Take the example of the Russian Revolution that I already mentioned. After its February phase (which could hardly be considered a revolution in the Marxist sense any more than the coups d’etat in February 2014 in Ukraine or December 1989 in Romania or the kind of ‘revolution’ Bernie Sanders is calling for in November 2016 in the USA), Tsar Nicholas II gave up power to Prince Georgy Lvov, a nobleman who wanted to continue Russian participation in WWI and who even sat in the royal court. The demission of Prince Lvov was then proffered under circumstances resembling the recent resignation of Victor Ponta (lack of support expressed via demonstrations), leading to the ascension of the reformist/unscientific socialist Kerensky who began initiating liberal reforms (such as freeing political prisoners, extending voting rights, and suppression of the death penalty).
You actually think that lead to revolution, and not the war and material conditions themselves? That’s utter nonsense.
The “war and material conditions” led to both the February Revolution and the October Revolution. Do you think the workers didn’t learn anything from the events throughout 1917? Did the February Revolution and its reforms make the October Revolution less likely to happen? I would reckon it made it more likely because they saw that the reforms were not enough, but they had also gained confidence, experience, organization, skills, awareness, etc. in fighting for those reforms.
I want to ask you again, would you tell ~5 million children in Bangladesh that they shouldn’t go to school because it would harm “revolutionary potential”?
How do you confuse going to school with concessions?
Reformist demands to institute universal public education and abolish child labor require(d) concessions on the part of capitalists who profit from children working for them instead of getting education. Capitalists have historically been very resistant to laws limiting or abolishing low-wage child labor because it gives them a competitive advantage over firms employing adults, who are also generally more capable of organizing and demanding higher wages.
Actually basic education was instituted because capitalists needed better educated workers, like basic reading and math skills.
Then why do capitalists still employ child laborers? And why were Afro-American children given de jure inferior education until mass protests pressured the US bourgeoisie to concede that “separate but equal” needed reform?
Because of racism. Generally workers needed to be better, but they also excluded Blacks. Which BTW was a bad idea, later they changed it to inflate the labour supply to lower it’s cost.It’s a balance, they want more labour, but they also have to play into racist sentiment to divide.
Obviously it was because of racism. But it also shows that reforms around issues like education, child labor, 8 hour work day, etc. aren’t just unilaterally instituted by the capitalist class after their risk managers calculate the odds of revolutionary overthrow. Rather they are concessions won through bitter class struggle. And even if the capitalists do hope to de-escalate the class struggle and pacify the proletariat in granting them concessions (and they surely do hope this), this de-escalation/pacification is not guaranteed, as the reformist phase of the Russian Revolution shows.
You’re not demonstrating how reforms make people ore revolutionary. FDR pretty much proved the opposite. Western social; democratic Europe proved the opposite. And don’t; compare basic needs with Russia to welfare the state.
I’d actually venture to say that history demonstrates the opposite; it’s not so much the reforms that make people revolutionary, but more-so the revolutionaries who trigger the reforms. So reforms are a sign of greater revolutionary potential rather than lesser.
The New Deal occurred at a time when Communists were leading major general strikes in US industrial centers.
The point at which Maoism exerted its highest level of influence in Western European social democratic society was perhaps during “mai 68”, after the post-WWII welfare state had increased living standards.
And it’s not a coincidence either that heyday of revolutionists like the Black Panthers are correlated to the time significant reforms to American capitalism were enacted.
Contrast these with the last period, when there is less revolutionary organizing and agitation. We are seeing the erosion of social protections in Western societies–cuts in “entitlement spending”–and virtually no significant reforms being made.
Then you’d venture wrong. World War 1 was what sparked the prairie fire. The immeseration of the working class brought on by the war, even Lenin acknowledged this.
“The prairie fire” being the Bolshevik Revolution? I already said that I agreed with you about WWI being the spark. I simply contend that the February Revolution didn’t make the October Revolution any less of a potentiality.
Indeed, in this passage from “Left-Wing Communism”, Lenin acknowledges that experiencing (and becoming disillusioned with) the reformist Kerensky government was a necessary phase without which the Bolsheviks would not have brought about the instauration a Proletarian Dictatorship.
[QUOTE, p.65-66] “(…)the fact that the majority of the workers in Great Britain still follow the lead of the British Kerenskys(…) and that they have not yet had the experience of a government composed of these people, which experience was required in Russia (…)to secure the mass passage of the workers to Communism, undoubtedly shows that the British Communists should participate in parliamentary action, that they should from within Parliament help the masses of the workers to see the results of a [reformist] government in practice(…). To act otherwise would mean placing difficulties in the way of the revolution ; for revolution is impossible without a change in the views of the majority of the working class, and this change is brought about by the political experience of the masses, and never by propaganda alone.” [END QUOTE – Lenin]
Lenin goes on to say that British Communists should work to help the “British Kerenskys” (Hendersons and Snowdens, i.e., petit bourgeois reformist socialists) defeat the conservatives, then show workers that they (the revolutionists) were right about the reformists being bankrupt and the workers overthrow the reformists, same as it happened in Russia in 1917!
We can leave it at that if you don’t want to address my points: why do we see reforms being granted during periods of heightened revolutionary activity and social protections being eroded during periods of generally stagnating class struggle?
You literally are trying to claim that reforms spur on revolution. This is false. Material conditions do, what you propose is anti-Marxist. No amount of “yea well there was reforms in Russia” means that reforms created it. By this logic Western Europe today would be the most revolutionary place. You;re trying to justify doing reforms instead of revolution when every communist theorist has said otherwise and history has demonstrated otherwise. First World people are refusing to do revolution, and reforms, a bigger slice fo the imperialist pie does not make them anymore revolutionary. Trying to compare feudal Russia to modern day First World countries is nonsense. Lenin’s point was to vote anti-imperialist war. You’re only trying to justify not doing revolutionary struggle.
“The industrial workers cannot accomplish their epoch-making mission. . .if they. . . smugly restrict themselves to attaining an improvement in their own conditions, which may sometimes be tolerable in the petty-bourgeois sense. This is exactly what happens to the ‘labor aristocracy’ of many advanced countries, who constitute the core of the so-called socialist parties of the Second International; they are actually the bitter enemies and betrayers of socialism, petty-bourgeois chauvinists and agents of the bourgeoisie within the working-class movement.”
“To tell the workers in the handful of rich countries where life is easier, thanks to imperialist pillage, that they must be afraid of ‘too great’ impoverishment, is counter-revolutionary. It is the reverse that they should be told. The labour aristocracy that is afraid of sacrifices, afraid of ‘too great’ impoverishment during the revolutionary struggle, cannot belong to the Party. Otherwise, the dictatorship is impossible, especially in West-European countries.”
So, since Kerensky continued the war, how do you figure that Lenin was telling the Brits to vote against imperialist war by siding with the “British Kerenskys”?
Lenin was describing the Transitional Programme. Workers don’t just wake up one day and say badda bam let’s do a revolution. You engage their consciousness on the level it’s at and help them find the path.
I’m not trying to justify doing reforms INSTEAD of revolution. I’m saying that reforms happen as a consequence of the class struggle. We are back to a point I made in my first comment: Reformists are those who “smugly restrict themselves to attaining an improvement”; Revolutionists support improvements, but do not restrict themselves to improvements!
Improvement is a little bit subjective. Reform does not necessarily equal “improvement”, such as in living conditions, or comfort, or safety. In the US, segregation in schools has actually increased since de jure racism was reformed away. And plenty of emancipated slaves died of impoverishment. Lynching increased following the abolition of slavery, a reform which Karl Marx praised.
Reforms literally do not help revolution. Material conditions are what drives them, this is basic Marxism here. And the civil rights struggle is a bad example.
Why is it a bad example?
Because the Civil Rights movement never went into revolution. Reforms DO NOT increase the potential for revolution. All history has shown the opposite for the advanced countries.
The Civil Rights Movement never brought about revolution, but it did become more revolutionist as it progressed. The founding of the Black Panther Party, easily the biggest and most influential Maoist organization in US history, in 1966, 2 years after the passage of the reformist Civil Rights Act of 1964, shows this. Struggles for reformist demands like desegregation of public transportation and schools led to increasing levels of violence which led many to question the doctrine of non-violence and develop revolutionary politics.
So the answer is no, it didn’t help revolution.
Actually, the unrest on the US home front was a key element in demoralizing US troops in Vietnam and altering public perception, ultimately helping secure the victory of the revolutionary forces there. SDS, which began as a reformist, explicitly anti-communist civil rights group also turned to Maoism at the tail end of the Civil Rights Movement.
This map (“Guerilla War in the United States, 1965-1970”) shows that revolutionary potential was growing: http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon2/domguemap.html
Growth in the potentiality of revolution does not however guarantee inevitability.
So no, reforms do not lead to revolution.
You are simply repeating ultraleftist dogma without sincerely addressing all the evidence to the contrary.
Your line is essentially no different from that of those who claim that the fact the Soviet project ultimately ended in failure means that socialist revolution can never lead to a stateless, classless society.
Cheers and nice talking with you.
Ultra left dogma? By acknowledging that reforms don’t lead to revolution, they don’t spur on revolution. No, you’re reactionary social democrat. Check out Venezuela now.
Your question is a tautology. It’s not possible to answer that and it is not very different from “have you stopped beating your wife?”. Maybe you should answer how it is possible to reform? Where does surplus to such come from? The 3rd world.
Every time there is a reform, capitalism expands geographically to exploit someone else . There is not a global improvement of workers’ condition, rather there is expansion of imperialism. And, one of the consequences of such reforms is the gradual move to the right of socialist movements until they self destroy. The imperial morality requires the destruction of socialism.
I was taking a look at brazilian communist/socialist parties ,and I was sort of surprised that none of them acknowlegded maoism.They consider themselves marxist-leninists and on there virtual library they got marx,engels,lenin,trotsky and no mao zedong
a lot of them are down with Gonzalo
Who is Gonzalo?
Chairman Gonzalo of the Shining Path
Actually, the biggest influence seems to come from Nahuel Moreno, which yielded the largest parties. It is even a further degeneracy of Trotskism. Though, it seems Marxism Leninism, at least following the line of Stalin is growing. But what has been growing the most (mainly withing those Morenists) is Justice Warrior people, funded by CIA, through Ford foundation.
You’re right about Trotskyism being rampant in the first world, except that Maoism isn’t really in decline. It hardly had any influence in the first world to begin with so this isn’t really a whole lot that is new here.
We still have people complaining “Mao killed 9065065069504440965 people” and that has hardly changed.
To be fair the Black Panthers were Maoist, and there were small Maoists groups around. Now its reduced to a handful of collage activist circles.
The Eurocentricism in Trotskyism turned me to Maoism.
Jason, since you are a self-declared Third Worldist: what kind of relationship do you see between Maoism Third-World and post-colonial theory?
To be honest, not sure. The end result of MTW is the same as Marxism.
Post-colonial theory explains the reactionary culture in the First World IMHO. The First World has a culture rooted in the colonization of the Third. Not only consumer items but the mental images the First Worlder has of the Third Worlder too (as an inferior specimen). That’s why you won’t see solidarity between worlds. The average First Worlder sees blacks as stupid, Mexicans as lazy, Muslims as savages and such. The average American doesn’t see they benefit from the exploitation of the Third World, but they do see the cultural inferiority of Third Worlders shown to them by First World culture.
I like how you get the basic gist of the economic relations, but I think it would do you some good to look into the cultural relations too.
Not sure if you received my other comment, but post-colonial theory should be crucial to Third Worldism. So far you’ve done a great job of explaining the base. Post-colonial theory explains the cultural superstructure that arises from colonial relations. The First Worlder is conditioned to see the Third Worlder as inferior. Think of the way white people see blacks, Native Americans, Mexicans and Muslims. Think of the way White South “Africans” view Black South Africans, or the way Zionists view Palestinians.
It explains why First Worlders will never show solidarity with the Third World. It’s not just because the First World benefits from their exploitation, but because the Third Worlder is literally seen as a savage in the mind of the colonizer.
I think trotskyism is popular in part because it has some kind of bourgeois glamour to it, you know, while Stalin was busy rebuilding the USSR Trotsky was in France and Mexico having his picture taken with Andre Bretón, Diego Rivera and other famous artist
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