Reading Notes 1: Mao Zedong’s “On Practice“

This is the first of a series of reading notes. I intend to begin by working my way through Mao’s book, Five Essays on Philosophy. Some of this will expand upon material I’ve touched on in my article, Some Points on Stalin (and Mao). This post will include my reading notes for On Practice. The rest will be forthcoming as time goes on. I’m doing this for two reasons: (1.) To help popularize and aid in the study of Marxism-Leninism in general and in the thought of Mao Zedong in particular, and (2.) to help sharpen my own thinking and raise my own theoretical level and understanding. I should add, finally, that in this and all of the other reading notes, this reflects a work in progress in my own study, and therefore, comments and Marxist criticism is encouraged.

Five Essays on Philosophy

  1. On Practice
  2. On Contradiction
  3. On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People
  4. Speech at the Chinese Communist Party’s National Conference on Propaganda Work
  5. Where do Correct Ideas Come From?

Reading Notes on Mao Zedong’s “On Practice“

Members of the Black Panther Party studying Mao's Little Red Book

Members of the Black Panther Party studying Mao's Little Red Book

On Practice is Mao Zedong’s main text on Marxist epistemology, that is, on the Marxist theory of knowledge. In it he examines from a Marxist point of view the problem of how people learn, how their consciousness develops, and how correct theory is developed through practice. It was written along with On Contradiction to challenge dogmatism and subjectivism in the Chinese Communist Party and to help encourage a scientific outlook. We should look at it and study it as revolutionaries struggling to advance mass movements and popular struggles toward revolution, and with the understanding that to do this we must raise the level of consciousness and understand of the masses as we fight along side them.

Dependency of theory / knowledge on practice

Knowledge depends on social practice, that is, mainly on production and class struggle, but also on political life, scientific and artistic pursuits. “In class society everyone lives as a member of a particular class, and every kind of thinking, without exception, is stamped with the brand of a class.”

Here Mao is talking about ideology, the kind of thinking that is enforced and produced by the mode of production (be it capitalist, feudal, etc.) and which in turn helps to prop up that mode of production and help it function. A big part of our thinking is ideological, it is socialized or conditioned by the mode of production under which we live, and it makes it difficult for us to come up with clear understanding of what is really going on. Mao makes the point that through social practice and through the application of the Mass Line we can cut through this and come collectively toward higher levels of understanding and consciousness.

“Marxists hold that man’s social practice alone is the criterion of the truth of his knowledge of the external world. What actually happens is that man’s knowledge is verified only when he achieves the anticipated results in the process of social practice (material production, class struggle, or scientific experiment). If a man wants to succeed in his work, that is, to achieve the anticipated results, he must bring his ideas into correspondence with the laws of the objective external world; if they do not correspond, he will fail in his practice. After he fails, he draws his lessons, corrects his ideas to make the correspond to the laws of the external world, and can thus turn failure into success.”

Think about this in relation to the Marxist-Leninist practices of summing up experiences and criticism and self-criticism. How do we get rid of incorrect ideas and form correct ideas or theories?

Process of the development of knowledge – Two stages of cognition

  1. Perceptual stage of cognition – the stage of sense perception and impressions. “particular things…act on the sense organs…, evoke sense perceptions and give rise… to many impressions together with a rough sketch of the external relations among these impressions.” This means contact with the external world, participation, activity, struggle.
  2. Rational stage of cognition – “As social practice continues, things that give rise to man’s sense perceptions and impressions in the course of his practice are repeated many times; then a sudden change (leap) takes place in the brain in the process of cognition, and concepts are formed.” Concepts “grasp the essence, the totality and the internal relations of things. Between concepts and sense perception, there is not only a quantitative but a qualitative difference. Proceeding further, by means of judgment and inference one is able to draw logical conclusions.” This means to synthesize data of perception by arranging and reconstructing them.

The errors of “Rationalism” and “Empiricism”

Mao explains that there are two historic tendencies in philosophy prior to Marxism that got this question at least partially wrong.

  • “Rationalists” downplay the importance of experience, of perception. They believe the reason alone can solve all problems, and that practical experience is unnecessary. They are idealists who wish to skip over the perceptual stage of cognition, leaving them with “knowledge” that is “subjective, self-engendered, and unreliable.” Many people we encounter in our mass work often think like this.
  • “Empiricists” stop at the perceptual stage of cognition, endlessly collect data and information without moving to the conceptual stage of cognition. “They are merely one-sided and superficial, reflecting things incompletely and not reflecting their essence.” Bourgeois political science and sociology is often guilty of this.

“Rational knowledge depends upon perceptual knowledge and perceptual knowledge remains to be developed into rational knowledge – this is the dialectical-materialist theory of knowledge. In philosophy, neither ‘rationalism’ nor ‘empiricism’ understands the historical or the dialectical nature of knowledge.”

On the theory and practice of changing the world

We study theory in order to apply it, and Marxist-Leninists understand that knowledge is not for its own sake. Furthermore, once the rational stage of cognition is reached and we make some analysis of some problem or situation, it is essential to test our analysis in practice and begin the process again.

“If the dialectical-materialist theory of knowledge were to stop at rational knowledge, only half of the problem would be dealt with. And as far as Marxist philosophy is concerned, only the less important half. Marxist philosophy holds that the most important problem does not lie in understanding the laws of the objective world and thus being able to explain it, but in applying the knowledge of those laws actively to change the world. From the Marxist viewpoint, theory is important, and its importance is fully explained in Lenin’s statement, ‘Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement.’ But Marxism emphasizes the importance of theory precisely because it is a guide to action… Knowledge begins with practice, and theoretical knowledge which is acquired through practice must then return to practice. The active function of knowledge manifests itself not only in the active leap from perceptual knowledge to rational knowledge, but – and this is more important – it must manifest itself in the leap from rational knowledge to revolutionary practice.”

“Discover the truth through practice, and again through practice verify and develop the truth. Start from perceptual knowledge and actively develop it into rational knowledge and actively guide revolutionary practice to change both the subjective and objective world. Practice, knowledge, again practice, and again knowledge. This form repeats itself in endless cycles, and with each cycle the content of practice and knowledge rises to a higher level. Such is the whole of the dialectical-materialist theory of the unity of knowing and doing.”

On Practice and the Mass Line

The Marxist-Leninist theory and practice of the Mass Line which Mao Zedong developed and explained, is based on the Marxist theory of knowledge, or Marxist epistemology. Point four of Some Questions Concerning Methods of Leadership, which is Mao’s main text on the Mass Line, he writes:

“In all the practical work of our Party, all correct leadership is necessarily ‘from the masses, to the masses’. This means: take the ideas of the masses (scattered and unsystematic ideas) and concentrate them (through study turn them into concentrated and systematic ideas), then go to the masses and propagate and explain these ideas until the masses embrace them as their own, hold fast to them and translate them into action. Then once again concentrate ideas from the masses and once again go to the masses so that the ideas are persevered in a carried through. And so on, over and over again in and endless spiral, with the ideas becoming more correct, more vital and rich each time. Such is the Marxist theory of knowledge.”

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17 responses to “Reading Notes 1: Mao Zedong’s “On Practice“

  1. You can stamp ‘every kind of thinking’ with the ‘brand of a class’ if you like, and for many kinds of thinking, it’s rather obvious. For some, it’s not so obvious, but still there. For many others, though, there’s no ‘brand of a class.’ Much of science, mathematics, even music is unbranded, or only tortuously branded by dogmatists. You can even assign every thinker to a given class if you like. But not every kind of thinking. Mao is simply wrong here, and to ill effect, given the excesses of the GPCR.

  2. I’m skeptical–in a good way. I am interested to understand better your argument. What type of music does not have the brand of a class on it? I know less about science and math, so music examples will be more challenging. Just to say, most of the music I like is considered “classless”!

  3. Carl, I only partially agree, science is not bound by class but certain “scientific” theories are. For example much throughout the 20th Century there was “social Darwinism” which twisted the theories of Darwin to say that the poor were “destined” to be poor because they were supposedly stupid and genetically prone to poverty. Similarly, Music overwhelmingly has a class nature to it. Today’s music you see on MTV glorifies the rich, violence and perpetrates Sexism, I agree with their apologism for it that its only a “reflection of society”, which is why it must change.

  4. When Carl refers to “dogmatists” on this question (and interestingly enough “On Practice” was targeted mainly at dogmatism) I think he means articles like “Has Absolute Music No Class Character?” from Peking Review. Would I be wrong to make such an assumption, Carl?

    In my view there is also the issue of using criticism of the Ultra-Left excesses of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution to throw away all that was correct in it as well. The baby with the bath water. And on this question I’m not convinced that this isn’t what Carl is doing here.

    I think this whole question of “dogmatism” in terms of ideological struggle therefore deserves some very careful attention, for as Mao said elsewhere,

    Mistakes must be criticized and poisonous weeds fought wherever they crop up. However, such criticism should not be dogmatic, and the metaphysical method should not be used, but instead the effort should be made to apply the dialectical method. What is needed is scientific analysis and convincing argument. Dogmatic criticism settles nothing. We are against poisonous weeds of whatever kind, but we must carefully distinguish between what is really a poisonous weed and what is really a fragrant flower. Together with the masses of the people, we must learn to differentiate carefully between the two and use correct methods to fight the poisonous weeds.

    At the same time as we criticize dogmatism, we must direct our attention to criticizing revisionism. Revisionism, or Right opportunism, is a bourgeois trend of thought that is even more dangerous than dogmatism. The revisionists, the Right opportunists, pay lip-service to Marxism; they too attack “dogmatism”. But what they are really attacking is the quintessence of Marxism. They oppose or distort materialism and dialectics, oppose or try to weaken the people’s democratic dictatorship and the leading role of the Communist Party, and oppose or try to weaken socialist transformation and socialist construction. Even after the basic victory of our socialist revolution, there will still be a number of people in our society who vainly hope to restore the capitalist system and are sure to fight the working class on every front, including the ideological one. And their right-hand men in this struggle are the revisionists.

    So the question of dogmatism and revisionism turns around the question of mechanical or dialectical thinking. Both are mechanical and metaphysical in their outlook, one from the “left” and the other from the Right. Does either characterize something like “Has Absolute Music No Class Character?” or not?

    Certainly Mao made basically the same arguments in his important “Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art“:

    In the world today all culture, all literature and art belong to definite classes and are geared to definite political lines. There is in fact no such thing as art for art’s sake, art that stands above classes, art that is detached from or independent of politics. Proletarian literature and art are part of the whole proletarian revolutionary cause; they are, as Lenin said, cogs and wheels in the whole revolutionary machine.

    For more on all of this, including writings by Lenin, Stalin and others on the subject, see the section of my ML study guide on art, literature, and culture.

  5. “In class society everyone lives as a member of a particular class, and every kind of thinking, without exception, is stamped with the brand of a class.” So says Mao.

    Animals are branded mainly to identify them to their owners. Seems doubtful that Mao would argue that a brand was the essence of the animal or defined the animal. It is an odd logic.

    Where do ideas come from? Who do the ideas belong to? What activity do the ideas, science, math, or music promote? I think the Mao quote is meant to sharpen up the thinking of those who want revolution. The opposite of dogmatism.

  6. Tom asked for an example of ‘classless’ music, punk rock not included!

    How about Beethoven’s ‘Fur Elise,’ one of my favorites, that captures many people in many places? And just because you can tag it in a given historical time frame, I’d argue, that still doesn’t give it ‘the brand of a class.’ Otherwise, we could simply determine the class of the composer and/or audience at the time of its birth, and tag it, which is rather reductionist.

    As for summing up the GPCR, I’ll leave it to the Chinese. I’ll only note that the few Chinese I know who were also Red Guards in their youth, do not celebrate it and certainly don’t want to repeat it.

  7. Carl gives an example but doesn’t answer the arguments being made. Then he presents class analysis and ideological struggle as “reductionist” by caricaturizing it as “tagging”. He only cites Beethoven, which seems like just the sort of thing the Chinese comrades were talking about in the essay “Has Absolute Music No Class Character?“, which I mentioned in my comment above. Is that essay “dogmatism” or is dialectical in its stand, viewpoint and method?

    It seems to me that there is another point to be made here, which is that the notion of “art for art’s sake” and art transcending classes and class struggle was vigorously promoted by imperialism to subvert the development of proletarian art and culture (see The CIA as Art Patron and The Portrait of the CIA as an Artist).

    As for his argument about the Cultural Revolution, an ideological struggle on a mass scale, which in my opinion was overall good and necessary, Carl pretends that all Chinese sum it up in uniform way, or that the few he knows are representative of the “whole people” of China and that different classes in China do not sum it up differently. Since this discussion is taking place in the comments for a post on “On Practice” it is probably worth mentioning that this is what Mao talks about in terms of “empiricist” errors. Certainly the argument of Mobo Gao in his book “The Battle for China’s Past: Mao and the Cultural Revolution” suggests something quite different and more complex than the view Carl seems to accept and put forward on how the GPCR should be summed up.

  8. First, it helps to deal with what I said, not what you imagine I said.

    I made no claim about the Chinese people being ‘uniform’ about anything, let alone the GPCR. Nor did I make any claims for how representative my few friends who were former Red Guards are. You can consider the GPCR as a line of demarcation if you like, but I don’t. And I’m hardly alone.

    Second, I was asked to give a musical example, which I did. The ball is now in your court. Listen to Fur Elise, and tell us where the ‘brand of a class’ is stamped within your experience of it as a piece of music, or in the experience of groups of people you know. I’m sure you can find an mp3 of it on the net. I think that’s better than commenting on decade-old articles in Peking Review.

    Third, on ‘ideological struggle.’ I’ve become convinced that ‘bourgeois ideology’ vs. ‘proletarian ideology’ is a big diversion. I’ve decided, after much study, that Karl Marx had it right. He used the term ‘ideology’ as a pejorative, meaning the ossified ideas of the old order, all ideologies, to which he counterposed ‘science’ as its opposite, without the class labels.

    Generally speaking, science and scientific progress bends toward democracy, by the nature of scientific experiment, ie, it must be provable by anyone, not just a priestly class. While all modern classes benefit from science, the working class is the main beneficiary over time.

    My point is that we do best when we base ourselves on an open future, on cutting edge 21st Century science, and on ‘working hypotheses,’ rather than ‘correct lines,’ that can be summed up as relative truths rather than Truth.

    It means you have to work a little harder, but like the man said, dogmatism is for lazy-bones.

  9. Democracy for whom?

    I agree that all music and art has the stamp of class. Fur Elise is no exception. Classical music was made by and for the aristocracy and royalty. Anything “classical” is focused on form rather than function, and I’m sorry but form doesn’t put food on the table or enable people to be in better position to put food on the table. Fur Elise doesn’t talk about the workers and their struggles. I doubt many workers have heard of or care about Fur Elise. All art that doesn’t serve a social purpose seeks to propagate the existing social order. Either by distracting people with bread and circuses or by openly parroting the ideology of the ruling class.

    The idea that Marx was a liberal I thought was long ago buried and dead. You say science “tends toward democracy”? What kind of democracy are you talking about? By democracy do you mean having multiple bourgeois parties compete for votes to decide on how many crumbs to give the workers? Or by democracy do you mean government run by the workers (and peasants, or in the American context workers and oppressed nationalities)?

  10. Frankly, I find the idea that Marx sought to “de-class” concepts like ideology completely perplexing. I’ve never heard of such an interpretation of Marx. Certainly in his discussion of base and superstructure, Marx pointed out that the superstructure, which included things such as art and music, represents/reflects the interests of the ruling class. This is yet another attempt by people who want to Marx more palatable to liberals (and let’s be honest, the petty bourgeoisie). Revolution gives some people indigestion.

  11. The good thing on the articles of Comradezero. is that he attrack the attention to read and study the books of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao Zedong AS A WHOLE.

    My opinion is that there is just a minor mistake, a form of opportunism as I see it, and that is that he uses to much quotes to “prove” what for example Mao Zedong said or wanted to say. There lies a danger of “idealism”. I am analysing on my weblog, how in these forms of (perhaps minor) opportunism, when they are not beaten, lies the danger that they are used by persons INSIDE the communist movement or a communist party that are degenerated (become conscious bourgeois, but hide their classpoint behind “marxist fraseology” using the same wrong use of “marxism” but in fact opportunism CONCSIOUSLY, chosing quotes and “the proof by analogy”…)

    And there lies also the danger that discussions are going about a quote, where Mao but also Lenin or Marx just give just one aspect of a whole analyse. And their statements in that little quote SEEMS rather general, but when you read the WHOLE text you will see (Marx and Co were DIALECTICAL materialists AND they were in those respectively WHOLE texts CONCRETE analysing and not GENERAL) that those statements (in the chosen quotes) that SEEMS general, were always a part of a CONCRETE, specific HISTORIC (for them ACTUAL) situation or problem. When you are in fact discussing about what Mao said IN A QUOTE, you let Mao say things that he never said or wanted to say.

    And then, I think, is lost what Comradezero in fact wanted to say: to read and study the works of Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao Zedong to see how those men analyse problems and come to solutions, so how to learn about using the method of Scientific Socialism (Dialectical and Historical Materialism as Marxisme is named – WE are talking about Marxism, not Marx himself; WE are talking about Marxism Leninism, not Lenin himself; WE are talking about the Thought Mao Zedong, not Mao himself…).
    The positive thing is that you can have also the knowledge of the HISTORIC situation about what that analyse was about. You can have also the knowledge of the historic situation in which the conclusions of Marx and Co are used, so you have the proof if their CONCRETE (but historic) analyse or conclusions or the developed line were correct. Then you can use what you find in those texts to use for your analysing work for YOUR concrete situation, problems, communist tasks….. But don’t let Mao or Marx or Lenin or Stalin say for you (in the form of quotes) what those conclusions, analyse or communist tasks are. That is not THEIR responability, that is YOUR responsability.

    So is my opinion, and that I will discuss with Comradezero one time, that what he is saying about “Massline” is IN FACT built on QUOTES out of the little red book (propagated once by Lin Biao and with a foreword by Liu Chiaochi who was always OPPOSED to the line developed by Mao Zedong – that should be already a sign to be carefull using that little book)
    In all those texts (where those quotes came from) Mao Zedong is not analysing “massline” as a DISTINCT THING, and not as a GENERAL theory that always as such should be applyable in all circumstances. I will prove, for example, that the “theory of the massline” (made on these chosen quotes) and its conclusions are OPPOSED to what Lenin, for example, writes in “What to do” – and also in fact OPPOSED to the line that Mao Zedong was analysing AS A WHOLE. (and certainly when you should use only QUOTES of Lenin to put them against QUOTES of Mao Zedong)
    And in the WPB, were I was once militant of, these way of developing the “theory of the massline” is used…… to develope revisionism…. And THAT I can and will prove CONCRETELY.
    (but I have therefor to translate Dutch texts in English…. and that costs time…)

  12. My view of the mass line is not “built on quotes”. I use quotes in my writing, that is true, but that’s not the basis of my understanding. I understand that writing “built on quotes” is far from ideal, but it is a style that comes from my training as a student of academic, bourgoeis philosophy, which I haven’t gotten rid of yet. If using that style means that that is also the method that I put forward and demonstrate, then I’ll try to correct it an be more concrete. But overall I think this blog is pretty concrete and pretty dialectical in its approach.

    But my understanding of the mass line is built mainly on a combination of practical activity, criticism and self-criticism, summation of experience, and study of Marxism-Leninism.

    There are lots of whole texts of Mao’s that deal with the mass line.

    A Talk to the Editorial Staff of the Shansi-Suiyuan Daily
    The United Front in Cultural Work
    Some Questions Concerning Methods of Leadership

    We don’t have deal just with Mao, either. Let’s look at the chapter on the Bolshevik use of their mass newspaper, Pravda, in History of the C.P.S.U. (B.) – Short Course. We could also read Lenin’s important article, “On Strikes“.

    I’ve also posted concrete analysis of concrete conditions here in the U.S. in dealing with the question of the mass line, like FRSO’s “Lessons from the RNC: Mass Mobilization and Militant Actions Advance the Struggle“. And of course the FRSO’s pamphlet, “Some Points on the Mass Line“, which I have posted here as well, deals with the mass line not on the basis of quotes from the classics (though it does include quotes) but mainly on the basis of the summation of experiences.

    In fact the mass line, as a style of work and method of leadership, is itself opposed to just the sort of abstract phrase-mongering you are talking about, and instead insists on just the sort of concrete analysis and summation of experience that you are likewise insisting that Marxists use.

    So, to make a long story short, I unite with what you say, Nico, about how quotes can be used in an opportunistic way, but I don’t agree that I am guilty of it. And I certainly don’t agree that the mass line somehow contradicts the general line of Marxism-Leninism.

    As for these reading notes, as I said above I wrote them mainly to “help sharpen my own thinking and raise my own theoretical level and understanding” and I posted them and shared them here on this blog to help popularize Mao’s thought. I thought it would be obvious that I was focusing on texts like “OnPractice” because I am really much more interested in the application of Marxism-Leninism than on what Mao himself so charmingly called “stereo-typed party writing” or “book worship“.

  13. Brian, you’re a trip. In one post, you manage to sum up everything that’s wrong with ‘left’ dogmatism. And your views on classical music show you know little about it, or the working class either.

    For instance, during a stint in my life selling truck parts on the road, I discovered that between 10 and 20 percent of truckers listened to classical music in the cabs of their 18 wheelers, believe it or not.

    But at least you addressed the matter, unlike the others.

    I’m still waiting for someone to show me the ‘brand of a class’ in their experience, individually or collectively, in listening to Fur Elise.

    That was the initial challenge put to me here, after all.

  14. Well I guess from your “stint” selling truck parts, you have out proletarianized me. Maybe you could write an ethnography on the working class and all their thoughts and feelings based on such a stint. My congratulations to you. And if you re-read, I say I doubt that “many” workers know or care about Fur Elise. 10-20% isn’t exactly many. I’m more interested in the type of music that speaks to and empowers the other 80% of workers.

    The fact of the matter is classical music was written by and for the aristocracy. Art doesn’t appear out of a vacuum, devoid of economic, cultural, and historical contexts (or devoid of economic, cultural and political purpose). Your “interpretation” of Marx is a flat out distortion and doesn’t make a shred of sense.

    Now if you could make an argument (instead of engage in silly ad hominen attacks) about how somehow classical music is devoid of class, that would be nice. As of now you simply assert it to be so, and call everybody who disagrees names.

  15. To Comradezero
    I support your propagating to LEARN to apply dialectical an historical materialism (or the revolutionary knowledgd theory as Mao Zedong named it) as a first condition to be a revolutionary.
    Engels wrote: Socialism from Utopy to Science.
    Lenin wrote: Materialism or Empirocriticism
    Stalin wrote: On Leninism
    Mao wrote: On practice and On contradiction

    That knowledge led to all kinds of writings about “what to do”: “Socialist revolution is the only possible way, imperialism(capitalism) can solve no problems in society anymore and HAS TO BE beaten.”
    Lenin wrote about his experiences in making revolution in all kinds of texts to the Third International. He said that the experience of the October revolution proved that there has to be a party of the vanguard of the proletariat AND a MASS STRUGGLE ORGANISATION of the workers (Council of workers….. or SOVIETS in Russian)
    Round 1905 (in What to do) he still wrote about “professional organisations “ or “Unions” as organisations of the MASS of workers.
    And Mao was organising, the peasants at least, in Sovietlike organisations (the red army was A PART of this), with a communist party leading all this and combining openly and hidden work. The workers in the city were under responsibility of Liu Chiaochi more or less “only” organised in Unions, more or less “only” openly.
    The communist party has to propagate her revolutionary program under the masses (OPENLY but also “Hidden” by communist workers that are therefore not known as communists. So certainly in de second way a communist has to be very CONCRETE about revolutionary program points and USING indeed the experiences that his co-workers have to make those revolutionary program points clearly and understandable. So will be in the mass of workers , that are not automatically evoluate “en mass” to acceptance of the program to revolution, a development of more and more acceptance for more and more CONCRETE points of that revolutionary programm points.
    One condition of course is that that communist party HAS a CONCRETE program for the revolution wher she will be responsible for.
    When a communist party has no real view on that revolution were one day she will be responsible for, how will there be in the masses already a clear view?
    When you would say THEN (but perhaps you and FRSO ar NOT saying that): “We will organise the masses round the points were she is already struggling for, because that struggle will give them more experience on what final struggle the masses (and that Communist Party also?) has to undertaken” and perhaps “ we will make that economic struggle more politic”, Lenin say: “Then you ar not revolutionary but only economist” The task of the vanguard of the workers, that have one way or another learned about Scientific Socialism (mostly because intelectuals begin to work as a worker among workers), is to spread the need of making revolution among the masses (because they will not become ONLY by experience in struggle revolutionary)
    My opinion is, when you focus on “massline” as a DISTINCT matter and not as a part of a whole conception “what to do as a revolutionary” (building an party, building a revolutionary PROGRAM and THAN with ORGANISATION principles CONDITONED by that PROGRAM, mobilising the masses for the organisation for that mass-struggle-organisation that will make the revolution (and here is the principle of “the masses make the revolution”) AND mobilising the masses for that the revolutionary program of the PARTY become the program of the quasi-totality of in “Soviet” organised workers – and all aspects of massline are PARTS of this tasks) you are making a mistake of metaphysics.
    Now I can not say that you or FRSO ar making mistakes like that, because I know not enough about your daily practice, and about the concrete tasks that give the concrete situation in de US to communists in the US. I can just speak of my experiences in a once revolutionary organisation (and of several sisterorganisations in Europe) and than give my warning and concerning to other communist organisations in the world.
    What I will do later is for example, study very good the texts of for example FRSO and give my opinion about them and just discuss about it for example with you. I think that I will begin to study your PROGRAM to start with (because there starts the communist organistion with)
    I will for example explain to you what I think what should be the program of a European Communist Party (and what still not existing in Europe for what I know) and how the most communist organisations (working mostly inside the borders of a memberstate of the European Union only have a GENERAL program about revolution in the bounderies of that memberstate (so the Communist Party of Luxembourg will FIRST do the revolution in Luxembourg???) and for “their daily work”, a program of radical reformings. This is a form of opportunism (sort of dogmatism and practice of economism) that creates the DANGER of emerging revisionism. The reality in the WPB of Belgium and the Socialist Party (once “maoist”) of the Netherlands are the “proof in the practice”.

  16. Brian, all you have told us is something about Beethoven and his times, around 1800, before Marx’s time, and before mass media. You can stamp him with the ‘brand of a class,’ if you like, as well as his aristocratic patrons. I think you might find that he had a wider audience, though, than you might think. In the days before electronic amplification, the orchestral hall was the widest public that a given performance could reach, attended by the middle classes for the most part. The workers and peasants had to wait to hear Beethoven mainly in church on feast days.

    But that wasn’t the question put to me. I was asked to offer a piece of music without the ‘stamp of a class’ in it, and I did so. I subscribe to the theory of art as experience, where the most important aspect of art is not the object, score or words in themselves, but at the experience that exists between such objects and those enjoying them, individually and collectively, at any time, of whatever class or strata, but in our case, in our time, not Beethoven’s, and of your class, whatever it is. My challenge to you and others here was to listen to it, and from that experience, show me the ‘brand of a class.’

    From your approach, all we have to know about, say, Shakespeare, is that he was supported by feudal and bourgeois patrons, and was not a proletarian himself, nor discussed topics of the working class struggle, which was rather difficult for the 1500s. Add to that the fact that most workers, unfortunately, aren’t familiar with one of the greatest voices in the English language, and you can dismiss him. You wouldn’t have to read a single play, just like you don’t have to listen to Fur Elise to tell me the ‘brand of a class’ it supposedly has. I don’t know, maybe you’d find some saving grace regarding Shakespeare, even if you can’t for Beethoven.

    As for Karl Marx and ideology, his use of ideology as a pejorative, and counterposing science to ideology, I think you’ll find that it’s not me who’s distorting him or taking him elsewhere. My view here is fairly orthodox. ‘Proletarian ideology’ vs ‘bourgeois ideology’ was brought in later, mainly by Stalin and Mao, and also Lenin, to a lesser degree, and to ill effect.

    Your dismissive approach to the science and culture of other times and periods, or from that from the non-proletarian classes funded by the bourgeois institutions of today, which is almost all modern science and most modern culture, is a case in point. Time to emancipate our minds from these shackles of dogma; in fact, way past time.

  17. Hey, anyone knows the difference between the philosophy of Confucius and Mao ZeDong?

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