Friday, June 27, 2008

Suggested Reading in Marxism

Here is some literature I would suggest people read, some of my favorites. Listed below is what is in the photo above. Some of this material is available online, and I'll provide a link where that is the case. I don't agree with every word of everything in these books, but I do agree with them overall. Finally, I should add that there are some things I would suggest which aren't included, merely because I structured this list around a picture of some books I actually physically posses. So some books are included as representative a larger body of work, such as that of the important U.S. Marxist-Leninist leader and theorist William Z. Foster, for example.

Marx & Engels, "The Communist Manifesto"

V. I. Lenin, "What is to be Done?", "Left-Wing Communism", and "Marx-Engels-Marxism"

J. V. Stalin, "Problems of Leninism"

Mao Zedong, "Selected Works" and "Quotations from Chairman Mao"

Harry Haywood, "Negro Liberation", "For a Revolutionary Position on the Negro Question", and "Black Bolshevik"

William Z. Foster, "American Trade Unionism"

Revolutionary Union, "Build the Anti-Imperialist Student Movement"

Revolutionary Workers Headquarters, "Build the Black Liberation Movement"

Proletarian Unity League, "2, 3, Many Parties of a New Type?"

League of Revolutionary Struggle (M-L), "Founding Statement"

Freedom Road Socialist Organization, "Unity Statement", "Unity Statement on the National Question", "Some Points on the Mass Line", and "Summing up the Communist Movement"

Workers Party of Belgium, "Another View of Stalin"

Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - People's Army (FARC-EP), "Historical Outline"

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, "A Strategy for the Liberation of Palestine"

Communist Party of the Philippines, "Philippine Society and Revolution"

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Big Oil Going Back into Iraq

Commentary by David Hungerford

It’s in the news that four big oil companies that once formed the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC) are back in Iraq. Up until 1972, Iraq did not ‘own’ its own oil. - Iraqi oil belonged the to IPC.
The four have been back in Iraq for a number of months. They are about to sign ‘service contracts’ for reconstruction of the country’s oil production infrastructure. The contracts do not require approval by the occupation puppet Green Zone ‘government.’

The big oil cartel is arguably the most powerful corporate combine in the world. It has its foot in the door and that’s all it needs to regain dominance. It’s far more than just another ‘war for oil’ story, however. Rather, it raises two other, essential questions about the war: Why war? Why Iraq?

There are many ways to get oil. War is the worst. So why war? There are many countries that have oil. Saudi Arabia has oil but we are not fighting them. So why Iraq?

These are absolutely critical questions but rarely asked. Now Big Oil has raised them in spite of itself.

The IPC was a cartel of four giant oil companies. Today the companies are known as Exxon Mobil, BP, Shell and Total. At one time they had been in Iraq for many years. Then in 1958 the Iraqi Revolution put an end to British domination of Iraq. The IPC retained control of the oil, however.

When Iraq achieved a stable government under the Baath Party in 1968 it set about claiming its own oil. Many problems had to be solved.

Iraq needed oil extraction technology of its own and capital. It needed to avoid overthrow by the imperialist countries, as had happened in Iran in 1952 when the government of Mohammed Mossadeq was overthrown in a CIA-instigated coup. Iraq needed to overcome the ability of the oil giants to embargo sales of its oil, something that had also happened to Iran.

The person Iraq turned to for answers to hard questions was Saddam Hussein. Time and again Saddam’s solutions worked. By 1972 the Iraqis were able to tell the IPC that the ‘party was over,’ the oil now belonged to them. As Lee Raymond, a former chairman of Exxon Mobil told Newsweek, “Saddam Hussein threw us out.” (Sept. 15, 2007)

Although he was not yet formally head of state, from that point on Saddam Hussein was the key person in Iraq. He came to power not because he killed or terrorized anyone but because he was the one who figured out how to nationalize the oil. That’s why the U.S. demonized him. That’s why they hanged him.

After the 1973 war with Israel and the use of the ‘oil weapon’ by the Arab countries, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), a previously insignificant force, was able to take control of oil pricing away from the big oil cartel. It was a great step forward for all of the OPEC countries not just economically, but also in sovereignty.

Now we have the answer to the question of why there is a war for oil: It is due to the conflict between imperialist domination and national sovereignty

But why Iraq and not the others? Among Arab countries in OPEC Iraq alone had full control of its oil from production through sale. It was the only fully sovereign Arab country in the Persian Gulf. By 1990 the conflict had become so intense that the imperialists could think of nothing better than to rig up the Kuwait crisis and commit aggression against Iraq.

The IPC could get back into Iraq only at gunpoint, by invasion and occupation. That’s the only way it can stay. That’s what John McCain meant when he said he is willing to stay in Iraq for “maybe 100” years. It can’t be done. As long as the occupation stays the Iraqi people will fight. The war has its ups and downs but the people will always fight. Their cause is just. In the end they are certain to win.

[article from Fight Back! News; cartoon from Workers World]

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Fourth of July: A Marxist-Leninist look at the Revolution of 1776

Since the 4th of July (Independence Day) is approaching, I thought I would post up the writings of two important communists from the United States, William Z. Foster and Harry Haywood, who have made major contributions to the application of Marxism-Leninism to proletarian revolution in the U.S. The conditions for the proletarian-socialist revolution were set, or at least set in motion to a considerable degree, by the bourgeois-democratic revolution of 1776 and its sequal, the American Civil War and Reconstruction.

Here is what the Communist Party USA founder and leader William Z. Foster says about the U.S. American Revolution in his History of the Communist Party of the United States:

'The American Revolution of 1776, which Lenin called one of the "great, really liberating, really revolutionary wars," began the history of the modern capitalist United States. It was fought by a coalition of merchants, planters, small farmers, and white and Negro toilers. It was led chiefly by the merchant capitalists, with the democratic masses doing the decisive fighting. The Revolution, by establishing American national independence, shattered the restrictions placed upon the colonial productive forces by England; it freed the national market and opened the way for a speedy growth of trade and industry; it at least partially broke down the feudal system of tenure; and it brought limited political rights to the small farmers and also the workers, who were mostly artisans, but it did not destroy Negro chattel slavery. And for the embattled Indian peoples the Revolution produced only a still more vigorous effort to strip them of their lands and to destroy them.

'The Revolution also had far-reaching international reprecussions. It helped inspire the people of France to get rid of their feudal tyrants; it stimulated the peoples of Latin America to free themselves from the yoke of Spain and Portugal; and it was an energizing force in the world wherever the bourgeoisie, supported by the democratic masses, were fighting against feudalism. The Revolution was helped to success by the assistance given the rebelling colonies by France, Spain, and Holland, as well as by revolutionary struggles taking place currently in Ireland and England.

'The Revolution was fought under the broad generalizations of the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson, which called for national independence and freedom for all men. It declared the right of revolution and the dominance of the secular over the religious in government. But these principles meant very different things to the several classes that carried through the Revolution. To the merchants they signified their rise to dominant power and an unrestricted opportunity to exploit the rest of the population. To the planters they implied the continuation and extension of their slave system. To the farmers they meant free access to the broad public lands. To the workers they promised universal sufferage, more democratic liberties, and a greater share in the wealth of the new land. And to the oppressed Negroes they brought a new hope of freedom from the misery and sufferings of chattel bondage.

'The Constitution, as orginally formulated in 1787, and as adopted in the face of powerful opposition, constituted primarily the rules and relationships agreed upon by the ruling class for management of the society which they controlled. The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments of the Constitution, providing for freedom of speech, press, and assembly, religous liberty, trial by jury, and other popular democratic liberties, was written into the Constitution in 1791 under heavy mass pressure.

'Great as were the accomplishments of the Revolution, it nevertheless left unsolved many bourgeois-democratic tasks. These unfinished tasks constituted a serious hendrance to the nation's fullest development. The struggle to solve these questions in a progressive direction made up the main content of the United States history for the three-quarters of a century. Among the more basic of these tasks were the abolition of slavery, the opening up of the broad western lands to settlement, and the deepening extension of the democratic rights of the people. The main post-revolutionary fight of the toiling masses, in the face of fierce reactionary opposition, was aimed chiefly at perserving and extending their democratic rights won by the Revolution.

'It was a great post-revolutionary political rally of these democratic forces that brought Jefferson to the presidency in 1800. Coming to power on a program of wresting the government from the hands of the privileged few, Jefferson sought to create a democracy based primarily upon the small farmers, but excluding the Negroes. From this fact many have drawn the erroneous conclusion that his policies were a brake on American industrial development. Actually, however, by the abolition of slavery in the North, the opening up of public lands, the battle against British "dumping" in America, and the extension of the popular franchise, all during Jefferson's period, the growth of the country's economy was greatly facilitated.

'The extraordinary rapidity of the United States' economic advance in the decades following the victorious revolution was to be ascribed to a combination of several favorable factors, including the presense of vast natural resources, the relative absence of feudal economic and political remnants, the shortage of labor power, the constant flow of immigrants, and the tremendous extent of territory under one government. Another most decisive factor was the immense stretch of new land awaiting capitalist development, the opening up of which played a vital part for decades in the economic and political growth of the country. It absorbed a vast amount of capital; it largely shaped the workers' ideology and also the progress and forms of the labor movement; and it was a main bone of contention between the rival, struggling classes of industrialists and planters. As Lenin, a close student of American agriculture, noted, "The peculiar feature of the United States ... the availability of unoccupied free land" explains "the extremity and wide and rapid development of capitalism in the United States"' (pp. 16-18).

W. Z. Foster also deals with this question in his Outline History of the World Trade Union Movement:

'With the [Revolutionary] war won, the bourgeoisie typically tried to have the people forget the glowing democratic principles and promises which it had outlined in the Declaration of Independence of 1776. Consequently, at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, which was completely dominated by merchants and planters, the new rulers wrote a constitution that not only left substantially intact the monstrous system of Negro chattel slavery, but also accorded very few civil rights to the white working masses" (p. 98).

Also interesting is what Foster says in his heavy, 600 + page book, The Negro People in American History. People should reference this text if they can find it because it is very helpful in understanding the realtionship between the African American national quesiton and the American Revolution, as well as how the African American nation develops over time.

The discussion of Emancipation and Reconstruction is also dealt with all of these books by W. Z. Foster. People should also look to the great African American Marxist-Leninist theorist, Harry Haywood, who discusses it at length in Black Bolshevik and Negro Liberation. Haywood developed the Marxist-Leninist understanding of the African American national question in the U.S. with others in the Comintern, and after revisionism seized the CPUSA, he became a leader of the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist), an important organization in the pro-Chinese "New Communist Movement". Haywood, following in the footsteps of Lenin and Stalin, argued that African Americans made up an oppressed nation with the right to full equality throughout the United States and the right to self-determination in the Black Belt South, meaning Black people had a right to declare independence themselves if they chose to. The African American national question, now a central issue of the proletarian-socialist revolution for the multinational working class, was also an important aspect of the bourgeois-democratic revolution in the U.S., and it really came forward as a continuation of the bourgeois-democratic revolution with the American Civil War between the feudal planter class in the South and the Northern industrialist bourgeoisie.

Here is what Haywood says in Negro Liberation:

'The Negro was not freed by the Revolution of 1776, nor was he fully freed by the Second American Revolution of 1861-77the Civil War and Reconstruction. The fact is that the first American republic contained a glaring flaw the institution of chattel slavery. This despite the aims so proudly proclaimed by the Declaration of Independence of man's inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Excluded from these "inalienable rights" was an important segment of the American people the Negro slave who, at the time, comprised one-fifth of the country's population.

'Thus, the new American national state created as a result of revolution got off to a false start. This "omission" was to prove almost fatal. The glaring ambiguity of a nation half free and half slave was recognized by the most advanced statesmen of the period, by Paine, Jefferson, Franklin, Samuel Adams, and others.

'It was the belief of the Founding Fathers that slavery would soon die out. Slavery was not particularly profitable, except in a very few areas. The tide of history turned with the industrial revolution in England and the various inventions, topped by the cotton gin, which created a world-wide demand for cotton. In 1789, when the 'Constitution was adopted, no one doubted that there would soon be an end of slavery. By 1818, when the debate began on the admission of Missouri, a new slavocracy had arisen which was demanding expansion into new lands.

'The compromises which the Constitution contained on the issue of slavery precluded the participation of the Negro in the first American republic. It prevented his democratic integration into the new national state. He was thus cheated of the fruits of the victory to which he had contributed in terms of 5,000 of his people in the revolutionary armed forces.

'But the constitutional compromises only postponed the issue of slavery. This issue was to flare up anew in the second decade of the nineteenth century and was to occupy the spotlight in American politics up to the end of the Civil War.

'The question of slavery, as Marx observed, was for half a century the moving power of American history. The issue was finally resolved only by the Second American Revolution - the Civil War and Reconstruction.

'Here again, for the second time, hope was held for the full integration of the Negro into American life as a free and equal citizen, for the consolidation of Americans, black and white, into one nation. But again the revolution was aborted, again the Negro was left outside the portals of full citizenship. The great betrayal of 1877, sealed by the Hayes-Tilden gentlemen's agreement, turned over the management of the South to the new Bourbon classes, who were given the chance to reconstruct that region "in their own way."

'Again the Negro was denied the fruits of the victory, which he had helped to win. Deserted by his erstwhile allies, he was left landless and at the tender mercy of the former slaveholders. Again, as in the Revolution of 1776, he was placed at the doorstep of full freedom only to have the door slammed in his face an unwelcome intruder. This second great defeat blasted his hopes for democratic absorption into American national life.

'But a qualitative change had taken place in his status. Freed from chattel slavery by the uncompleted revolution, he -was now ready for the appearance of economic classes within his group, which under the conditions of segregation and imperialist oppression, necessarily served as driving forces for a movement of national liberation. The process of class stratification among Negroes was of necessity a slow and tortuous one, taking place as it did against the overwhelming odds of post-Reconstruction reaction. But proceed it did, so that the Negroes, who at the time of their release from chattel bondage comprised an almost undifferentiated peasant mass, had by the beginning of the twentieth century become transformed into a people manifesting among themselves the class groupings peculiar to modern capitalist society. Along with an increasing mass of wage laborers, there began to appear a class of small business people, with more or less well-defined capitalist aspirations. This class was to find its spokesmen among the educated middle class. The rise of a Negro bourgeoisie marked the appearance of a class which, striving to defend its own interests under American conditions, was destined to initiate an historical movement, which could only develop in the direction of national freedom. The process of class differentiation developing against the background of Jim-Crow oppression, and in conditions of continued majority concentration of Negroes in the Black Belt, thus formed the main objective conditions for their emergence as an oppressed nation.

'The advent of imperialism, the epoch of the trusts and monopolies, at the turn of the century, riveted the yoke of white ruling-class tyranny still tighter, with the result that the Negro was thrust still further out of the pale of American democracy into deeper isolation within his own group. The rise of a finance-capitalist oligarchy to dominant position in American economic and political life precluded the possibility of peaceful democratic fusion of the Negro into a single American nation along with whites. Thenceforth the issue of Negro equality could be solved only via the path of the Negro's full development as a nation. The Negro question had now definitely become the problem of an oppressed nation striving for national freedom against the main enemy, imperialism' (pp. 141-143).

Harry Haywood also deals with this in his autobiography, Black Bolshevik:

'The evolution of American Blacks as an oppressed nation was begun in slavery. In the final analysis, however, it was the result of the unfinished bourgeois democratic revolution of the Civil War and the betrayal of Reconstruction through the Hayes-Tilden (Gentlemen’s) Agreement of 1877 . This betrayal was followed by withdrawal of federal troops and the unleashing of counter-revolutionary terror, including the massacre of thousands of Blacks and the overthrow of the Reconstruction governments which had been built on an alliance of Blacks, poor whites and carpetbaggers . The result was that the Black freedmen, deserted by their former Republican allies, were left without land. Their newly won rights were destroyed with the abrogation of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and they were thrust back on the plantations of their former masters in a position but little removed from chattel bondage. The revolution had stopped short of a solution to the crucial land question; there was neither confiscation of the big plantations of the former slaveholding class, nor distribution of the land among Negro freedmen and poor whites. It was around this issue of land for the freedmen that the revolutionary democratic wave of Radical Reconstruction beat in vain and finally broke. The advent of imperialism, the epoch of trusts and monopolies at the turn of the century, froze the Blacks in the post-Reconstruction position; landless semi-slaves in the South. It blocked the road to fusion of Blacks and whites into one nation on the basis of equality and put the final seal on the special oppression of Blacks. The path towards equality and freedom via assimilation was foreclosed by these events, and the struggle for Black equality thenceforth was ultimately bound to take a national revolutionary direction. Under conditions of imperialist and racist oppression, Blacks in the South were to acquire all the attributes of a subject nation. They are set apart by a common ethnic origin, economically interrelated in various classes, united in a common historical experience, reflected in a special culture and psychological makeup. The territory of this subject nation is the Black Belt, an area encompassing the Deep South, which, despite massive outmigrations, still contained (and does to this day) the country’s largest concentration of Blacks' (pp. 231-232).

It is worth noting that Black Bolshevik contains an important epilogue, in which Harry Haywood looks at the "Black upsurge" of the 1960s and 70s in light of the national question and the role of Marxist-Leninists. That epilogue begins and ends with two quotes from Mao Zedong:

"The evil system of colonialism and imperialism grew up along with the enslavement of Negroes and the trade in Negroes, and it will surely come to its end with the thorough emancipation of the black people" ("Statement Supporting the Afro-Americans in Their Just Struggle Against Racial Discrimination by U.S. Imperialism")


"The struggle of the black people in the United States is bound to merge with the American workers' movement, and this will eventually end the criminal rule of the U.S. monopoly capitalist class." ("Statement by Comrade Mao Tse-tung, Chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, in Support of the Afro-American Struggle Against Violent Repression").

Happy Independence Day!

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

New pamphlet from Freedom Road: "Summing up the History of the Communist Movement - From Marx to 1999"

Though the text of the document has been on the Freedom Road Socialist Organization website for a long time, FRSO has just released the 1999 Declaration of the International Communist Seminar as a new pamphlet: 1999 Declaration of the International Communist Seminar: Summing up the History of the Communist Movement - From Marx to 1999.

FRSO is one of many Marxist-Leninist parties and organizations from around the world who participate in the International Communist Seminar and who signed onto this important document. As such, it represents Freedom Road's understanding of some of the key questions of Marxism.

This document represents a superb attempt at summing up the experiences of building socialism in the 20th century. It looks at the contributions of V. I. Lenin, J. V. Stalin, and Mao Zedong in particular and, examining the rise of revisionism and the struggle against it, draws out some principal theses of Marxism-Leninism.

I'd like to encourage everyone to read it. Marxists should print out the pamphlet and distribute it. It is an excellent piece for introducing people to Marxist theory and practice and provides a good basis for deeper discussion of some of the more complex questions of the experiences of socialist revolution in the last 100 years.

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Freedom Road 2008 Election Analysis

2008 Presidential Elections: Defeat McCain

By Freedom Road Socialist Organization

The anti-war movement and a wide array of progressive people’s forces is set to protest outside the Sept. 1 Republican National Convention in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Organizers are predicting more than 50,000 will fill the streets on Labor Day 2008. Protesters will confront the war-makers, racists and reactionaries who just a few years ago were bragging that Republican rule would last forever.

The Republicans are desperate to turn around their decline, after losing big in the November 2006 congressional elections. More recently they lost three special elections, one each in Mississippi and Louisiana as well as the seat held by former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert of Illinois. The American people are frustrated by the Iraq war, worried about the economy and angry about corruption. The writing is on the wall. It may be in misspelled English, and it may be on the wall of a destroyed house in Iraq, but it is clear that the U.S. occupation is going down and taking the Republicans with it.

So up steps John McCain to receive the Republican crown. McCain is the war and occupation candidate. He is determined to carry forward the Bush agenda and is dedicated to the occupation in Iraq for “maybe 100 years.” “That would be fine with me,” McCain said at a January 2008 campaign stop. More recently McCain changed his tune with a plan to get troops home by 2013 - just in time for the next presidential election. We ask, “Who is he trying to fool?” McCain is more of the same - more war, repression, inequality and tax cuts for the rich. The same tired, worn out politics. Besides, have you seen this man when he gets angry?

On Nov. 4, 2008 we are calling for a vote against McCain. The stage is set to vote out the Republicans and to reject their reactionary agenda of war, immigrant bashing, rolling back the rights of women, racist inequality, discrimination against gays and lesbians and poverty. A vote against McCain will create better conditions for working class and oppressed people to make change in our society. Most importantly, we are calling for a vote against McCain because it will be seen as a referendum on the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Four years, let alone 100 years, is too long to wait.

Barack Obama is on track to be the candidate of the Democratic Party, the other party of big business. This is despite Hillary Clinton’s racist demonization campaign of Obama and his supporters - the distorted attacks on Reverend Wright and the ideas of Black liberation theology, ‘voter registration’ campaigns designed to confuse Black voters and turn them away from the polls and Hillary’s racist appeals to “hard working Americans, white Americans.”

While Hillary Clinton has sunk to her lowest, Barack Obama has risen to answer the attacks and prompted uncomfortable discussions at coffee shops, lunch counters and dinner tables across the country. The United States was built on national oppression: the seizure of land from Native Americans, the slave labor of Africans, the exploitation of immigrants from Asia and Latin America. The struggle against racism and for equality are not just struggles of the past, they continue today, as seen in the fight for immigrant rights, justice for Katrina survivors and against the harassment of Arab Americans and American Muslims.

The facts are plain; Obama parts ways, to a degree, with Clinton on the Iraq War, free trade agreements and racism. He has a message of hope with wide appeal. However, Obama operates well within the confines of the Democrats and their big business backers. That said, his election will create a better political climate for the anti-war, immigrant rights, labor and national movements. And no matter who is in the White House, it is important for progressives to stay active and to fight for an agenda that places the peoples needs first.

Say no to war, racism, discrimination and reaction!

Vote against McCain!

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Mao! Mao! : Review of Jean-Luc Godard's "La Chinoise"

"Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it." - Bertolt Brecht

As of this May, La Chinoise (1967), Jean-Luc Godard's classic film about the Maoist movement in France (based on Dostoevsky's book, The Devils), is now available on DVD! I just finished watching it for the first time, and I'd like to share a few initial thoughts, which, because of the film's freshness in my mind, are not very systematic.

First, I'd seen two of Godard's movies before: Breathless (1960), which I didn't care for, and Le Petit Soldat (also from 1960), which I enjoyed. So I wasn't sure what to expect, aside from a general idea that this was a somewhat experimental film about Maoism. Godard himself identified as a Maoist, and along with Jean-Paul Sartre, was gravitating around the Gauche Prolétarienne (GP). Additionally, this film had a big impact on French Maoism after the events of May 1968. It is characteristic of the ultraleft, however, in that it is fairly light on the Mass Line - "from the masses, to the masses" and all that.

One is reminded of a quote from Mao Zedong's Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art:

'To study Marxism means to apply the dialectical materialist and historical materialist viewpoint in our observation of the world, of society and of literature and art; it does not mean writing philosophical lectures into our works of literature and art. Marxism embraces but cannot replace realism in literary and artistic creation, just as it embraces but cannot replace the atomic and electronic theories in physics. Empty, dry dogmatic formulas do indeed destroy the creative mood; not only that, they first destroy Marxism. Dogmatic "Marxism" is not Marxism, it is anti-Marxism. Then does not Marxism destroy the creative mood? Yes, it does. It definitely destroys creative moods that are feudal, bourgeois, petty-bourgeois, liberalistic, individualist, nihilist, art-for-art's sake, aristocratic, decadent or pessimistic, and every other creative mood that is alien to the masses of the people and to the proletariat. So far as proletarian writers and artists are concerned, should not these kinds of creative moods be destroyed? I think they should; they should be utterly destroyed. And while they are being destroyed, something new can be constructed.'

Here is the Trailer:

While it is an interesting and entertaining film, perhaps targeted at Leftist students and young intellectuals, who were becoming more and more militant in those days, it does indeed seem to be "writing philosophical lectures into our works of literature and art". Godard attempts to incorporate into cinema some of Bertolt Brecht's Marxist theory of "epic" or "dialectical" theatre, which, through "estrangement effect" is all about art as presentation of philosophical arguement through dialogue, along with an audience that must be very conscious of itself as an audience (basically the opposite of "suspension of disbelief"). Godard put it like this in a famous quote: "I don't think you should feel about a film. You should feel about a woman, not a movie. You can't kiss a movie." It even includes direct shots of the camera and other tools of the trade so as not to allow the viewer to forget that they are watching a movie. It is not a subtle film, by any means, but Godard seems to have seen this somewhat in-your-face Brechtian style as necessary towards the destruction of all of those reactionary "creative moods" that Mao said "should be utterly destroyed" so that something new could be created.

It is also worth mentioning as a secondary point and especially for those who are not familiar with the pro-Chinese Marxist-Leninist movement in France, that the Maoist groups in France criticized the film for making individual terrorism (as opposed to mass actions and class struggle) the absolute and central question and making it appear as though the Maoists fetishized violence. This shows a great deal of the youthful impatience that the activists of the 60's felt in the face of the genocidal war in Vietnam on the one hand and the inspirational event of the Chinese Cultural Revolution on the other. But this question of mass or individual violence is actually dealt with quite well in the scene on the train towards the close of the film. Here, in a dialogue between the protagonist, Véronique, and the militant philosophy professor, Francis Jeanson, the question is explored fully from both sides. I'm not going to spoil that for you though.

Here is an interesting and illustrative clip from the film showing the Maoists discussing the Vietnam war:

Like the Maoist GP with which Godard was associated, this is a very intellectual film. As one bourgeois reviewer put it, "La Chinoise is not an easily accessible film, in the same way that the Himalayas are not easily accessible for a casual stroll on a Thursday afternoon. Even within the sphere of other complicated works of Godard, this film requires serious educational cojones to appreciate its multilayered oblique narrative, the dense social theory spouted by its protagonists, the railing assault on Gaullist ideology, and the political context within the growing New Left movement of France in the 1960s. Expect to feel dumb. It is a normal side effect."

"Expect to feel dumb," may be a bit of an overstatement, but the discourse of the movie is at a pretty high level.

I would suggest that people see this film. It is a film about students inspired and stirred up by the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China and all the ideas and struggles surrounding it. And at the same time it is an experiment, by a film-maker likewise inspired, in artistic creation and destruction. Jean-Luc Godard's film, in his words, is attempting to break down a "capitalistic reactionary aesthetic" and create something new. For all of that, for the ideas it discusses and generates, and for the proletarian culture it seeks to help create, it is an excellent film.

For an opinion from the ultraleft regarding the film, you may as well check out the MIM movie review of La Chinoise while you're at it. They may be a little weird, and rather atypical as far as Maoism goes, with their "Maoist Third-Worldism" and all the rest, shunned as nuts by the rest of the Marxist-Leninist and Maoist movement. Nonetheless, let's give credit where credit's due; you gotta love their propensity for watching a lot of movies and writing about them, if nothing else!

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Sunday, June 01, 2008

Video: Interview with Dr. Baburam Bhattarai of CPN (Maoist)

This is reposted here from Revolution in South Asia.

Apparently this video, in which Bhattarai discusses proletarian internationalism, New Democracy, the peace process following the decade-long people's war, and so on, is from shortly before the Constituent Assembly elections which the Maoists won by a landslide.

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