The following were originally made as a response, via Facebook message to a comrade from occupied Azania. I’ve done my best to clean it up, although due to the original format it is still messy. I present it as-is because I feel the topics discussed are useful.
A comrade from occupied Azania asks:
“How do we propose to create an alternate system” to capitalism? How do we go about organising folks along those lines?”
In creating an alternate system you capitalism – I think you are asking the correct question. While we should defend the legacy of past socialist revolutions, and learn from them, we need to understand that they – particularly the Soviet and Chinese revolutions, were flawed in deep ways. If Leninism/Maoism were unflawed, if there were not serious issues which need to be addressed, then we would still see a socialist USSR and China today. So we have to ask, in what way were the Chinese and Soviet revolutions, along with other socialist, social and anti-imperialist revolutions flawed? What mistakes did they make? What ideological errors? That in itself is a long topic, but two of the most fundamental problems in ideology are a failure in regards to global class analysis – in that they failed to understand in what ways Imperialism had changed the world, and capitalism had evolved into a global system with a global class division, and a failure in regard to class struggle – both states failed to continue class struggle far beyond the seizure of state power, and in particular the USSR failed to see its primary enemy as internal – as the resurgent capitalists from within the state bureaucracy and the old petty bourgeoisie and Intelligentsia. Both states saw the building of socialism as synonymous with the advancement of technology, rather than the advancing of class struggle and the building of revolutionary consciousness, and revolutionary struggle independent of the party. This led to certain policy decisions, which I’ll go into next.
In policy, both states attempted to compete with the advanced capitalist states on the terms of the capitalists. Rather than aiming to build a strong, healthy, and conscious proletarian state on the basis of class struggle, as they saw the advancement of socialism as synonymous with the advancement of physical technology, they saw the success of socialism as related to the consumption habits of the population. In order to compete with the capitalists, they had to provide a competing consumer lifestyle – which was never possible from the first place, because the capitalist consumer lifestyle in the west is possible only through the massive looting of the third world – particularly Africa. The socialist states could not compete with the wealth offered by neo-colonial slavery.
That was one major error in policy. Another major error was that both the Chinese and Soviet states ceased trying to analyze, and understand capitalism. They did not see capitalism as elastic, as ever-changing, but instead as stagnant and doomed to failure. Studies of capitalism and imperialism were ceased, and both states fell into mid-20th-century dogma, which became increasingly dated in the era of neo-colonialism and social democracy in the first world, in the era of the globalization of capitalism and of class relations.
Whenever the Chinese and Soviet states encountered information counter to this narrative, they simply censored the information. While in the 1960s, the Chinese state under vice chairman Lin Biao had the correct foreign policy in regards to the revolutionary struggle – that is, that revolutionary struggle must advance from the neo-colonies and colonies into the advanced imperialist states. That the “third world” formed the global countryside of the world, and the first world the cities – and that revolutionary struggle must first take hold in the countryside, and “strangle the cities” as the revolutionary struggle in China and Vietnam did, this foreign policy was swapped out for narrow Chinese nationalism in the 1970s, and a line even more reactionary than the backward Soviet line, which fixated on the advanced imperialist countries.
As to the form that future socialist society or alternative to capitalism should take – it needs to be something new. While a strong state capable of maintaining security is necessary, a future socialist state needs a greater degree of direct democracy. Professor Paul Cockshott wrote on this in his “towards new socialism”. While I have some disagreements with Professor Cockshott in his work, I would absolutely recommend this book nonetheless. A tremendous mistake of past revolutionary societies was imitating the Parliamentarian of bourgeois states. Rather than an electoral parliament, the “peoples assembly” or congress of a future socialist society should be made up of candidates not voted in but chosen randomly from party members within society. So eg, 30 seats in the “Congress” might be reserved for fishermen, 30 for farmers, 30 for soldiers, 30 for housewives, with the vast majority belonging to working people, a minority consisting of the intelligentsia/academics, no means to opt in/opt out, and minimum wage for all members of the Congress.
A future socialist society should, in general, possess a smaller vanguard party, and put more emphasis on building popular mass movements which are loyal to the party. Religious mass movements, workers mass movements, housewives mass movements, mass movements for the disabled and etc, all tasked with raising class consciousness, with building popular militias in place of police, and while building class struggle organically from the lowest levels of society – of having this class struggle directed from the lowest sectors, rather than the upper party.
If the party leadership should betray the interests of the proletariat, they must be brought to heel by the lowest sections of society as quickly as possible. Ideally, you want to make as many functions of the state, of society, as autonomous as possible – outside of the control of the party state, as quickly as possible. While the party state is a necessity during the building of world socialism prior to communism, its roles should be restricted as often as possible, and the leadership should be as temporary as possible. Cults of personality – cults around individuals should be avoided. If cults are to be built, they should be cults around revolutionary ancestors, around martyrs, or “cults of the revolution/cults of humanity” which are not loyal to any particular individual, but to ideas.
The socialist state should be upfront with the masses. The first world consumer lifestyle cannot, and should not be reproduced. It is neither feasible, healthy for the planet, or for human minds The goal of socialism must be to build a beautiful, functional human society not based on consumption of goods, or ownership of things but on the idea of selflessness – self-betterment, and betterment of the community, along with the idea of collectivism and proletarian internationalism.
While it is necessary to a degree for petty bourgeoisie class traitors to play a role in the party – I’m sure after all that the average worker, peasant, slum dweller in occupied Azania probably does not have the education necessary to develop political theory, or to absorb marxism – nor likely the time to do so, a real problem with petty bourgeoisie leadership is that they will always have an element of detachment from the masses. The further they are, the more detached they will be. The more detached they are as people, the more detached the policies of the communist party. This is a major problem.
The party needs to be proletarized as much as possible in the stage prior to seizing state power. In the short term, this can be done by forcing party intellectuals and leadership from the PB to interact with and live among the masses. Organizing the masses should not be left to the mid-level cadre or cell leaders alone.
In the medium term, cadre schools should be developed in the poorest regions – this, in occupied Azania, would likely be rural villages and towns, although it may be possible in the slums too. Simple schools, operating similarly to church “Sunday schools” would alternate between teaching typical school subjects like literacy, numeracy, etc, and political education. These schools could focus primarily on young teenagers & pre-teens – around 11-15 years old, with the goal of producing a generation of communist leadership from the poorest, proletarian and peasant sections of society. This is a longer-term project, but necessary to lessen the dependence on the petty-bourgeoisie in the party. Ideally, students would be taught by college-educated cadre from the PB initially – other skills could be taught, like first aid/medicine which will be essential in later stages of the struggle, as well as serve the people/mass programs.
In the long term, when state power is established – either in miniature, in the form of developed base areas, or in the seizure of a whole country, the legislative and sections of the top leadership should be decided on by a kind of “lottery”, and reserved primarily for those belonging to the working class.
In regards to organizing the masses, in particular, an idea that I’ve had is the use of religion. I think in the past. Communist revolutionaries have been too hard a line on religion. When we consult Marx’s works on religion, he explains that religion is the “opiate of the masses”. By which he is seeing it is the means by which they escape the harshness of reality. This is why the poorest sections of society – particularly women, tend to be the most religious. If their lives are a living hell, and if escape does not seem possible, then at least they have the promise of paradise in the next life. On top of that, the church offers them a sense of community, of collective while is especially attractive to the very lowest and most oppressed sections of society.
Unless Communists are able to replace Religion entirely with something substantial, there is no competing with it. So rather than be hardline opposed, it is better to try to win over the religious, in order to combat reactionary customs and backwards/oppressive religious beliefs from within the religious communities. This should be multi-tiered. On the one hand, winning over progressive pastors and preachers, along with their congregations. Establishing revolutionary religious mass organizations, and denouncing the reactionaries as traitors to the local religion. In the long term, after the seizure of state power, the churches should not be abolished – but rather, membership in a communist party-controlled mass org, university education and a course of political education should be necessary to become a pastor or preacher. The role this will play in combating fake, narcissist and charlatan preachers who abuse and exploit the masses will likely be appreciated by those preachers who truly love the people. Our motto should not be like the Bolsheviks “Burn down churches and prisons” – It should be “burn down the corrupt megachurch, and build 10 people’s churches in its place!” On top of that, Churches should be merged into a single national, and later international organization with unity in doctrine based on a progressive and proletarian interpretation of the Bible, and political education should be a necessary part of a sermon.
Secondarily, local/indigenous religious beliefs should be embraced, pruned of the most reactionary elements, reappropriated and integrated if possible into Christianity, Islam, or whatever the local religion happens to be in that area of Africa. While aspects of these religions can be reactionary, one particular aspect that many local African religions share is Ancestor worship. This has the possibility to play a progressive role if a kind of “cult” of progressive ancestors, and of martyrs is built. To be a reactionary dishonors ancestors dishonors your family, dishonors the nation.
3rd, To take control of language. I have noticed throughout Africa, while the colonial languages are common, most speak a kind of pidgin language. Eg, Pidgin English, pidgin French. To build a new language from scratch will be difficult and take time – while the goal should be to eventually build a pan-African language, in the more immediate term, pidgin English, French, etc, should be built up and emphasized. European/American style English should be denounced as bourgeois English – the English of the slave masters, and a “proletarian English” of Pidgin language – “The language of the plantation slaves, of the workers, of the oppressed” with increasing amount of local language, maybe coming from a unifying language like Swahili, should be introduced. Media, party propaganda, and intellectual/theoretical work should be made in “Proletarian English”, “Proletarian French”, etc. We should understand that language is not just a tool for expressing taught, but a tool for thinking in itself. To speak on the terms of the bourgeoisie, in a language which has evolved emotional attachments with a bourgeois character, is harmful in building revolutionary consciousness.
4th – The creation of a proletarianized/warrior culture – one which emphasizes the imagery of an “African warrior”, an identity of the oppressed. Initially, this could only take place in miniature. Alongside this, a certain psychological mindset toward the imperialists should be created. The crimes of the imperialists should be continuously emphasized whenever possible. The imagery of children being stolen from their mothers, mass rape, colonial slaughters and torture should be pumped out whenever possible. Ideally, you want to transform the African love for foreigners, and distrust of each other – tribalism and disunity, into a unity based on hysteria and anger towards the Imperialists. In the DPRK, which is a progressive anti-imperialist state, this culture exists. The people of the country are in fact, more radically the anti-US than the Korean state, which often has to tone down anti-US propaganda. Government minders have to accompany western tourists for their own safety – there have been cases of westerners out on their own being beaten up by locals for their association with the United States. We should create this in a principled way – unity with those in the first and second world, and zealous hatred of those in the west. Music and art should serve this purpose. Ideally, we want people brought to tears- brought to rage, when they are reminded of the crimes of the ancestors through art, through song. This serves as both a unifying factor against tribalism (the idea can be promoted that tribalism is a tool of the colonizers aimed at dominating Africans, aimed at keeping them in chains) and as a security defense mechanism. The development of nuclear weapons and rocketry takes a lot of time – it may take 2 or 3 decades before an African state can pose a credible nuclear threat to the west as a deterrent to an invasion, or crippling sanctions. Unlike the DPRK, African states will not be in possession of enough artillery aimed at an imperial city to pose a credible detriment. With exception to the most northern regions of Africa – which will likely be among the last to embrace socialist revolution, as the bourgeoisie will be certain to capitalize on and exploit animosity between Arabs and Africans, but even then, to my knowledge the missile technology possessed by even the most militarily advanced African states could at most, hit the most southern parts of Europe – Italy, France and Spain, and would be incapable of carrying a nuclear payload. Against China, which is an increasingly powerful force on the African continent, this will be useless. Thus, any deterrent must be internal, and largely psychological. We want the west or the Chinese imperialists to be terrified at the prospect of having to occupy a people who will fight them viciously to the last man, woman, and child. You want to paint the image to the Imperialists that an invasion and occupation would be totally unfeasible. This is of course in the longer term – in the short term, this can only be built to a degree, but it should none the less be built wherever red power (dual power) can be established. The seeds of this will hopefully provide a unifying factor.
I will say this – less emphasis should be placed on winning over intellectuals, and more on winning over uneducated masses. It is more of a victory if tribal elders in a village can be won over, if a congregation can be won over, than if a handful of intellectuals or a small org can be won over. Intellectuals are few between, and cheap. Many are practically useless. It is better to train new intellectuals from the ground from the masses, new leaders from the ground up than to try to win over groups with established dogma. Real, organic revolutionary leaders. The focus should be made on specific geographic regions. Particular rural regions – ideally isolated and in hilly/wooded regions serve well. Anything that is most isolated from the state and its repressive forces.
With that being said in regards to rural people, it must be said there is increasing urbanization in Africa and the third world as a whole. While rural people are a small majority now, soon this will change. The strategy of revolutionaries must also change from classical Maoist/ML methods to adapt to this. While peasants may be won over with promises of land reform, land ownership programs – land appropriation, as the ANC and EFF promise, do not appeal to the growing slum dweller class. While the demand for land reform, the land appropriation must remain, party propaganda should revolve increasingly around the demands of urban slum dwellers, rather than rural peasants or farmers. As to what these demands are – they are likely more immediate than the demands of peasants. Things like clean water, adequate housing, education, infrastructure projects, or adequate work are more likely to appeal. The promise of full employment, of daycare, of basic healthcare programs, will more and more appeal to the average Azanian, or African period that promises to seize Boer or Asian owned land. This is an area which must be investigated, with a plan of action systematized by comrades within the third world.