01 Juni 2006

Lively debate on communism & reality

Alright, so posted here (with everyone's permission of course) is a discussion I been having with this guy; his personal page is here & his music page is here. We thought it would be good for others to read & think about this stuff too.

My words are green text, his are black text.

Feel free to join in the debate by posting a comment...

where do you stand politically? i agree with a lot of the basic marxist premise but i'd never follow stalin or mao. what about you?

Well I support the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, which is to say I'm a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist. (Not that I therefore agree with every last word every genuine MLMer says, much less self-described "maoists" or "communists", contrary to "popular belief" we ain't all "groupthink" or whatever.)

But anyway, to give you a short answer, Stalin -- & he himself was important but "Stalin" is also kinda shorthand for the party, government, mass movement, etc going on in his place & time, no individual is all-powerful whether they have positive or negative impact -- was like a 50/50 kinda deal in sum. Lots of negative experience (but not to the extent you've probably heard) but lots of positive things happening too, overall in the Stalin era the USSR was a socialist country but with lots of problems; not something to repeat but to learn from.

Mao on the other hand -- & again that's shorthand for "the leading revolutionaries in China of that era as well as Mao" or whatever -- was more like 90/10 mostly positive. Mainly positive experience there, obviously there were still problems to be overcome & then there were also some problems they created but that's secondary in an objective analysis. If you are thinking of the whole "cult of personality" hoopla -- not just respecting him as a good leader but worship kind of shit --, a lot of that was stirred up by (a) counterrevolutionaries who literally turned around to criticise him for it a few months or years later (much like Khrushchev who called Stalin "great father" numerous occasions only to after he's dead decry "cult of personality" etc) & (b) honest people who liked Mao but were still stuck in a feudal/religious/hero-worship mindset even though subjectively they wanted to be communists. So overall the Mao era is a model to look up to; but again not something to repeat but to learn from.

Alright well so much for my "short answer" I guess that's more a medium answer.

Hey so you live in Wales? I wonder, what's your take on Welsh people in terms of revolution; should it be independent or just be an autonomous region in a socialist "former-UK" or what? The case of oppressed nationalities in Europe is interesting -- of course it's somewhat different for each one, but -- on the one hand they are oppressed as nationalities & usually have much worse economic situations (not that English or French proletarians are livin' the dream or whatever!) in addition to the cultural oppression, but on the other hand it ain't on the same level at all as Native Americans or Australian Aborigines.

Please forgive me, today I'm having a run-on sentence marathon apparently. But in closing I'd love to hear what you think about stuff, & as you're in the UK I'd encourage you to hook up with the World People's Resistance Movement (they don't have a chapter yet in Wales, but do in London & Belfast), that is an activist organisation supporting people's antiimperialist struggles around the world, e.g. Palestine, Nepal, Iraq as well as trying to heighten the antiimperialist struggle in their own locations; it's not specifically communist or anarchist or others, but is open to all antiimperialists.

gotta disagree about the stalin and mao governments. especially mao. i've been to china and seen the look in people's eyes when you mention the cultural revolution. both governments missed the point. i thought the point of communism was to govern by and for the people. as it turned out, the soviets were lost in the stalin system, and the cultural revolution was hardly what the people of china were crying out for. in fact, when the chinese people tried to take matters into their own hands we have the massare of tienmen square. so yeh, basically what i think is that any government that oppresses and disappears its own people has missed the point.

not being communist i wouldn't be in a position to comment on revolution in wales, except for the fact that almost no-one here cares about politics or world issues, let alone a revolution. it's hard enough to get them to get off their arses and protest a corrupt welsh assembly (check myspace.com/strippingthecitizens), let alone overthrow anyone. but for a start lose the idea that wales is oppressed by england. that's what a lot of welsh people like to think but really it's not true. for a start most "welsh" people are the grandkids of miners who moved here from england, and they love to hate the english, but if you actually ask them why they never have a legitimate reason. mostly they'll say the english people hate them, which is bullshit. secondly, yeah although the valleys are quite poor, that is not due to english oppression. if the welsh assembly government wanted to do something about that it's had loads of opportunities.

so basically the way i see it, the climate in the usa seems to be changing gradually in favor of some schism or revolution. but in the uk, no way. we can't even elect a left wing government.


First on China. Well I've been there & talked with people too (& I speak Chinese, I don't know if that might effect what kind of people we each have opportunity to talk with...?). Not that anecdotes are the main thing -- look at the statistics, the revolutionary period (49-76) was good for the masses of people by any measure (freedoms, economy, standard of living, health, etc). Not perfect, but good & more importantly moving in the right direction rapidly. For example, it became self-sustainable in food for the first time. On Tian'anmen Square massacre, of course that was horrible, but to remind you that was not socialist country by then -- there was a counterrevolutionary coup in 1976. The guy in charge of the country then ('89), Deng Xiao-ping, was probably the most (in)famous & exposed counterrevolutionaries who was dethroned during the Cultural Revolution. So right there you can see the importance of that struggle to weed out the fake "communists" from the real ones -- when the revisionists like Deng Xiao-ping come to power you get things like that massacre. To read more about modern China (incl. Tian'anmen 89) from a revolutionary perspective, click here.

And as is obvious from your opinions, revisionism is double-bad becasue not only does it oppress people in the immediate sense when in power, but gives communism a bad name overall. "A rose by any other name is still a rose", same with weeds. Just like Bush & Blair aren't liberators nor spreading democracy, the rulers of China since '76 are not communists.

As far as Wales, well yeah I don't know much but that's why I'm asking. But I will say that trusting parliament to change things, whether there's national oppression going on particular to Wales or just the normal oppression of the capitalists against everyone else, is not going to work.

course it's not gonna work. my point is it's not specific oppression of the welsh.

as far as china's concerned i don't favor that style of communism over what we have at the moment because there was still all sorts of oppression going on, disappearences, reeducation etc. though i do take your point about the post '76 government. i just think that unless a government serves what the majority of people actually want it doesn't matter what doctrine it adhere's to, it's just as useless. that's why i feel communism as a whole misses the point. it has its revolution and may or may not improve stuff here and there, but the majority of what it does is to protect itself from successive coups which, lets face it, would not be so succesful unless they had some kind of popular support. so the communist government fears its people instead of serving them, becomes paranoid and gets overthrown by something which turns out to be worse.

Well the difference between a coup & a revolution (communist or not) is huge. A revolution is exactly what most people want, if it is a real revolution (like those in China & Russia back in the day, or Nepal now) it takes huge numbers of ordinary people to do it. Whereas a coup is done by a handful working conspiratorially, isolated from the masses (like not only China '76 but for example Pinochet in Chile or other things like that). Not all attempted coups are reactionary, there have been some in Africa that subjectively wanted to be helping the people, but they never worked out because that method is not appropriate for really changing the system & society. My point is that coups can be successful without popular support, like Pinochet in Chile, or Franco in Spain -- there was a whole civil war, the whole country against him & his fascists, incl communists & anarchists & liberals, even international brigades came, but they still not only lost but fascism was in place for many decades there, way past WW2.

Obviously if people had been more resolute, willing to act, & had a good strategy to carry it out succesfully then the coups in China or Spain would've been defeated. So it's not pure & simple a matter of people supporting the reactionaries, the problem to me seems more that they are passive. Which is very similar to today actually, I don't know about in the UK but over here just about everyone hates Bush (even those poll things say like 29% approval ratings), & such situation has been going on for a few years already, yet he is still in power. This is because for various reasons, which I certainly haven't figured them all out, people are not acting on their wants & needs. Bush staying in power doesn't mean popular support for him.

That was also the educational & organisational side of the Cultural Revolution, to get the masses aware & involved. So they can tell the difference themselves between a real communist & a fake one, & so they can do something about it should sections of the Party or army or government be taken over by the revisionists. As I said before, such takeovers & re-takeovers happened numerous times successfully during the CR but obviously the capitalists eventually won overall power. So there's definitely truth to that people were not willing &/or able to stop the coup (some were, there was fighting & protesting etc going on, but they lost).

It's a very tricky thing, dealing with revisionists. They don't just come out & say "we're for capitalism!", if they did that in a socialist country nobody would follow them. Rather they use socialist language & talk about workers & equality & all the rest, but when you dig deeper their actual content & plans are capitalist in substance. Like the Labour Party, they are not really helping labourers. Or the SWP, they are not going to lead a socialist revolution to put workers in power.

One last thing to point out. Part of the great thing about having socialism, as opposed to the anarchist idea that you can have revolution & then forget about the state right away, is the ability to make mistakes. If we're going to try to make a whole new world, we won't know how to do it all perfectly right away, especially growing up with all these thousands of years of class society's traditions etc on our backs. So with socialism, if something goes a bit wrong, not completely wrong, but a bit, then you still have an army & a structure & laws to keep things in place whilst you figure it out better. Whereas without that the imperialists from another country or the capitalists in your own country who've been waiting for an opportunity will jump in & smash you. For example, you try collectivising an area of agriculture, or a certain industry or whatever & you do it in a certain way with certain procedures & whatnot; but it doesn't work out right, not enough food gets produced or it turns out to not work fairly so people don't like it -- well instead of scrapping it all or instead of letting saboteurs take advantage or instead of keeping on going with not enough food so everyone starves, the socialist system gives breathing room to improve it or try it from a different angle or whatever.

That to me is one of the main things that makes socialism without question way way better then what we have now. It won't make everything into a perfect utopia overnight, but it will make a better world possible. Wouldn't you rather deal with the problems of how to achieve e.g. economic equality & plenty for all the quickest & fairest, rather then as currently whether or not tens of thousands will ever have a home or enough food at all? There are no guarantees of complete victory, but communist revolution makes things possible whereas the current setup guarantees an impossiblity of positive change, in fact at this point it pretty much guarantees the end of humanity in a few decades due to environmental issues.

well i won't go into china, just agree to disagree. the only thing i will say is that to me, a state should not see its people as its enemy. you talk about revisionists being identified and weeded out, but if that's what people want to be, as individuals, why stop them? only because the state was so paranoid. so then you have a situation where people are scared to express themselves and have to tow the party line. anyone who doesn't disappears eventually. now how is that state serving its people? where in that situation is the ideal of the soviet?

is that state creating an atmosphere that promotes positive change? no. the state has become the whole point of the state, all resistence is crushed and no-one has any right to an opinion.

anyway, at least we're talking the same language and agreeing that change is necessary. i agree totaly about new labour. they've gone right wing, somehow. i think the problem in the usa is greater than in the uk though. the uk at least has some semblance of sanity even though i personally don't agree with most of the things they've done, whereas bush and co are so increadibly dangerous they must be overcome as soon as possible. also, i think the mood of the people in the usa reflects how insane their government is. there's no mood for revolution in the uk, just a change of government. maybe. (though no-one's yet realised the conservatives - the only party likely to win - are exactly the same as new labour.) but in the states, i can tell there's a lot of anger and a rising movement to oust bush whatever it takes. in the next 20-30 years, certainly, i'd expect to see major social change.

but still i see communism as a type of society like democracy and anarchism that can only ever work properly in a very small society like a city state or commune. it's been proven time and time again that superstates don't work.

OK well sometimes we're not talking the same language, in the case of "weeding out revisionists" it's apparent I wasn't clear enough. That doesn't mean just anybody who wants capitalism but talks like a socialist. The only threats which would need to be stopped are those who actually have some power & are organising to overthrow socialism. In China for example Lin Biao was found to be organising a military coup (this was unsuccesful & he ran away after being found out). Or in USSR Khrushchev, before he became in charge of the whole country, he was one of the main leaders of Ukraine they basically ran it like capitalist plantations; unlike in China with its Cultural Revolution the masses were not being mobilised & relied on much, so this just went on, & this was the area where there were actual food shortages. Which is ironic because the bourgeois historians cry about collectivisation causing famine, when the reverse is true: the collectivised areas did much better than the capitalist-style areas.

On the contrary, under socialism there will be way more freedom of ideas than there is now. Because communism is a scientific ideology based on objective reality, getting at the truth no matter what to better the people's condition, we actually want debate etc. So if there is a wrong idea out there, we want it not to be swept under a rug but to exposed & disproven. And if there is a correct idea out there which is not the Party's line, well it should become the Party's line (once it's figured out to be correct of course).

Bob Avakian, chairman of RCPUSA, says "All truths are good for the proletariat." Notice that it's "all truths" not "all truths said by communists", & that he cares about what's "good for the proletariat" not just what's "good for the proletarian party"...

Some of this approach -- not just allowing but valuing dissent, & so on -- was practised in the previous socialist countries, & some of it is new. That's why I said in my first reply to you that although revolutionary periods of China & USSR were positive overall, we don't want to repeat it but rather learn from & improve upon it.

Another quote we Maoists promote is "I uphold very firmly the experience of the socialist revolution so far, but I wouldn't want to live in those countries" (the comrade who said this is anonymous).

As far as the "superstates don't work" thing, I'm curious where you read/heard that? Because I've heard that not a whole lot, but enough that it seems to be more than some people's guessing. My response on one level is that, hey, city states & other small formations have been proven to not work also. So that's not really the issue. What we are aiming for as communists -- what we'd have when we can say "this is a fully communist (not just socialist) society" -- is a worldwide society of freely associating individuals. In other words, no borders, no states, no governments, no classes, no oppressive divisions of any kind. Now I don't know exactly what it will look like, I know it sounds like a bit of a cop-out but it's the truth, that's part of what we need socialism for is to figure it all out. We need the freedom to try things out, "we" meaning humanity, collectively. We need to make revolution to get that freedom to breathe & to try, & since this isn't a perfect silver-platter situation we won't get it all at once & the capitalists won't just start playing nice. So we're forced to do it unevenly, in a few countries at a time, & we'll need a state with an army to protect what we've gained. At the same time we need to guard against forces in that same state or party or army, from taking advantage of their positions & dragging us all back to capitalism. Another note, the revisionists are not just bad apples but are representatives of actual class forces, given that even if you have a socialist country there is still capitalism internationally, & seeds of capitalism within your own socialist society since it's not fully communist yet (& can't be until it's worldwide with no state etc etc). So it's a very tricky road to manoeuvre, but it's also the only road that leads at all to where we need to go.

But back to the size question. First, the bigger the collective, the more there is to cooperate on & to share; a sharp specific example would be sharing water with a desert area. Second, bigger size protects against revisionist take-overs; if some bastards succeed in restoring capitalist practises in the Welsh countryside for example, a cohesive larger society of the whole British island or even all of Europe would be more likely, & more able, to help out. Of course as I said above this is a double-edged sword because in the event of seizure of power at the centre, it's that much harder to prevent a capitalist restoration -- for example if Wales was the only place people were able to hold out, everywhere else was under capitalists' control, you'd basically be talking about a whole new revolution at that point. In any case smaller size won't solve any of the tricky contradictions.

Anarchy & democracy wouldn't work on a small scale either, at least not in terms of the whole world. Which is kind of the main problem with those ideologies, or the way they're promoted at least. See, all of humanity has these horrible problems to deal with, right? Some anarchists might like to say that you just need a small village collective, & everybody should just do that their own way, but that's disconnected from reality because it simply ignores all the interconnectedness of the world's people, both good & bad. And some democrats might like to say that it's all about the democratic method, but divorced from actual conditions does it mean anything? No. Anarchism is nothing more than a benign form of pre-capitalism feudalism if it were ever carried out in practise worldwide, there's nothing more than faith to prevent all these small "collectives" from first oppressing within themselves & then turning outwards -- if that sounds familiar, good, because that's how slavery, feudalism, & capitalism developed in the first place, out of various egalitarian tribes & small communities. And democracy has always had class content -- sure there was democracy in ancient Athens, amongst the slaveowners! Sure there's democracy in the US & UK, amongst the capitalists! (In fact fascism is when there stops being even such democracy, one section of the ruling class starts dictating to everyone, including their fellow bourgeois.) So in sum it's not purely about size or some magical set of rules -- though those are important, under socialism we shouldn't just jump & declare the entire population as one big collective, & we do need to have some established laws & protections of individual rights & processes of government etc etc -- they're important factors but not the main thing, & certainly not something to rule out socialism, the only tool we have to take any steps towards that global society of freely associating individuals.

So I know I been throwing links at you all the time, but I really encourage you to read some:
* Draft [i.e. not finalised] Programme of the RCPUSA is a well-organised document that goes point-by-point into an analysis of what's wrong with capitalism, how we can get rid of it, & how we should run things in a new socialist society -- again this plan isn't just a regurgitation of China in the 1960s or whatever, but learning from & improving that
* Set The Record Straight gets into the history of socialism so far
* A World To Win is an internationally written & distributed maoist journal (it's actually published in the UK, even though there's currently no maoist party there)
* Revolution newspaper is the newspaper of the RCPUSA, although obviously a lot of the content is US-specific, as communists & members of an international class a lot of the content is theory applicable universally as well as content specific to other countries or global issues; you can click on "topics" & browse around for whatever you're looking for if it's not in the recent issues

On the possibility of revolution in the US & UK... Well there's a lot of pissed off people here but whether they act on it or not is still an open question. There is definitely a very very noticeable increase in people's receptiveness to the idea of revolution, but at the same time you have to wonder when Bush's approval rating is at 29% but a few tens of thousands (in a country of 300 million) consistently even show face on the streets to call for him to resign or be driven out. Even the massive May Day this year, mainly fueled by immigrants' issues -- which, don't get me wrong, are central to this country -- had about 3 million total in the country, which is 1%. You don't need 90% of the country consciously behind you to make revolution, & peaceful protest is not going to overthrow capitalism, but still we're not quite where we need to be, that's for sure.

On the other hand, in an interview in 1912 Lenin said he thought he'd never see revolution in his lifetime, yet only 5 years later he was leading one! So things change very quickly, or as we communists would put it, contradictions are resolved in leaps not in a steady linear advance. (Kind of like punctuated equilibrium, if you are familiar with evolutionary science.)

Well I think I've been more than long-winded enough today. But then again I doubt you'd get much out of "socialism better, end of story", so I decided to explain longer.

Y'know what's really funny is all this talk is going on under title of "re: re: re: no subject".

nah, see, this is exactly the problem. as soon as you have One Accepted Truth that can be proved or disproved you lose the capacity for multiple truths, and it's this sort of reductionism that leads to a lot of the problems of any type of government. people are complex. there shouldn't be a party line - if the system works it'll stay in place through the power of public opinion. this is why dictators come and go relatively quickly but as soon as people are given a choice and made to feel as if they have some control over their situation, as soon as they start thinking the system works, the system becomes relatively hard to replace. hence the success of "democracy".

that, in my view, is what communism lacks. the people don't feel like they have a voice. in fact, in many communist situations, they haven't.

i'm not saying this is why communism has failed so far - there are other factors such as lack of support from the international community. but people are the most powerful thing in a country, and in my opinion to focus on worldwide communist revolution when the people aren't literally crying out for it is trying to run before you can walk.

all the communists i've ever talked to seem to see the construction of a communist state as the objective. this is why i say they're missing the point - shouldn't the construction of a system that fully represents the best interests of the majority of people be the objective? because history has taught us that these are not one and the same, and science has taught us that with modern communications technology the latter is possible.

this is why i favor the idea of small democracies. i didn't hear or read it though i'm sure i'm not the only one to have thought of it. imagine a bunch of small semi-independant city states and local governments which sanction and trade with each other through a large, democratic community presided over by a politically weak central bureaucracy. there are only, say, a few thousand people in each state, which means everyone feels they have a voice, and they do because they are able to vote for and against individual policies via the internet, mobile (cell)phones, interactive tv, ballot and soviets in which everyone is a member. each state is governed by the people but presided over by a policy-suggesting cabinet of officials voted for and against in real time by the people. this means if an official becomes unpopular they are kicked out as soon as they drop below 50pproval rating. no waiting for elections.

what i just described is a democratic network of democratic states that have to trade and cooperate with each other to survive because each state will only control a small amount of resources. a bad government is extremely rare because they just get kicked out, everyone gets a meaningful vote, everyone's happy. it's like athenian democracy except everyone can vote.

how about that?

If the truths people (or parties, or whatever else) believe can be proven or disproven, that is wonderful. That is the scietific method & being grounded in reality. This communist approach is basically the opposite of what is implied by saying "One Accepted Truth". The only "accepted truth" of communism is that there is objective reality & people are fully capable of figuring it out & changing it to their collective betterment. (Not that we will ever figure literally everything out about the universe...)

Using the scientific method (of investigating & interacting with reality, making conclusions based on that, testing & checking these ideas in reality, repeat) there are certainly many conclusions we can & have reached, that can be called facts or truths. For example, capitalism is bad for people & most other life-forms, evolution is how nature works, the US is founded on slavery & genocide, water turns to ice when the temperature drops below zero making the molecules stop moving around so much, & more. All of these could, theoretically, be disproven -- but they're quite well established after much investigation & testing so they're facts. There are other facts too, that may be more controversial but in my opinion still true, e.g. people need a new type of state to fully & successfully dismantle capitalism & build a new system.

As for multiple truths, I'm not sure exactly what you mean. If you mean that people should be able to look at things from different angles, have different opinions on what the facts are or what the best thing to do is, etc, then I couldn't agree more. However the main thing is that there is only one reality that we all live in (even if we experience it differently, objectively it's just one reality), so if there is a conflict of ideas, here are some of the main possibilities:
1) they're all wrong
2) one is right & one is wrong
3) one is mostly right & one is mostly wrong
4) parts of each are right, but neither has got the whole picture

So again the point is to figure out the reality, & differences of opinion usually help rather than hurt that effort. At the same time it's not just "everybody can be right all the time even if they're mutually exclusive". Everybody can think what they want, but (1) they aren't necessarily correct, & (2) if they act on it other people with opposing ideas have every right to counter-act. And if the "counter-acters" are communists, the level should be appropriate e.g. ideas countered with debate, harmless symbolic actions countered with debate or maybe our own symbolic actions, only illegal/violent/etc actions to be countered with actual repression.

As for your outline of a society of small but interconnected communities but with at least some kind of central organising power, it sounds wonderful! I really mean that.

The difference come in though, in how do we get to that?

It's very frustrating because on the one hand, it is possible right away in terms of having the technology, productive capacity, etc for people to do this. But on the other hand it isn't possible because there are obstacles in the way. As you pointed out the whole world is not subjectively (i.e. consciously) calling for anti-capitalist revolution right now. Even in Nepal where most people are & tens of millions have been actively participating in it, they haven't won because of domestic & international enemies. And when you consider the cases of not just China & USSR, but any large progressive movement whether it seizes state power or not, there will be people who drop out or even become saboteurs. So even beyond making revolution against the current masters of capitalism in one's own locale, there are plenty of things that will destroy a fledgling communist society if there is not a state & army to protect it.

PS. The other thing I forgot to clarify about the Cultural Revolution, "weeding out revisionists", etc, is that the targets were party members in power & the most common punishment was simply denouncement & removal from their post. Quite logical really, if they're not about implementing socialism why should they have authority & responsibility in a socialist system?

too simple. what i meant by multiple truths is that some more complex things can be explained equally well in 2 ways. i'm not a philosopher so i can't give an example, but my dad could give you loads. the point is, the idea of the party line cannot account for this. in fact the idea of one truth which is either right or mostly right completely denies most of philosophy, so our understanding of concepts more complex than the physical and scientific examples you described would be crippled or killed. not everything can be reduce to this notion of a universal scientifically proven truth.

as for my proposed society, yeah of course there are problems getting there. but that's equally if not more true for communism, not least because the word communism has been so thoroughly associated with bad things in capitalist society. i'm not fighting for the introduction of my society cos quite frankly there are bigger, more immediate problems. like corporations and the environment and wars which are happening right now. human rights violations. the little things. i just think if everyone was to put aside 'labour' or 'communist' or 'republican', 'green', 'democrat', 'conservative', whatever divides them, and just pull together on things they agree on as individuals rather than waiting for their party to make the first move everyone would be better off. the democrats won't impeach bush if they win a majority. well fuck it, get out and occupy washington.

Although there is only one reality, there are multiple schools of philosophy. I don't think that anything anyone says would completely deny philosophy. But look, the reason I got into the scientific method is that it's not just for microscopes etc. It is the best way to understand reality, social reality included.

And by the way the "party line" is not a static thing, all the term means is "what the party thinks at this time".

Anyway, there is only one objective reality.

That's the main thing, as far as philosophical basis goes. I do agree with what you're saying that "some more complex things can be explained equally well in 2 ways". What I'm pointing out is that whilst there may be many ways to explain or describe it, there's still just the one thing. And in terms of solutions, there may also be more than one way to do something & still have it turn out good. But there is a definite line (or philosophical trend, or way of thinking) out there -- not that you are upholding this line, but I want to contrast against it anyway -- that basically says that everyone has their own reality, or some other words to the same effect.

From another angle, what would we do if not act on proven truths or scientific facts? If something is proven false, do we cling to it anyway (like fundamentalists & creationism)? And if something is proven true, do we reject it anyway (like fundamentalists & evolution)? And if we don't try to see if things are true or false, how would we decide what to do at all? (Not that you investigate every last little detail to death, you'd never leave your room that way, but I think you get my general meaning.)

With the scientific method any conclusion should be falsifiable, i.e. you can prove it wrong somehow. So, literally speaking, everything is tentative at some point & not a completely hard 100% fact. But if it is a 99% fact & the probability of that 1% ever appearing is next to nothing, then we should treat it as a fact, as far as how we think & act in the world.

The point of "only one objective reality" is not to say that we communists know what it all is, merely that it is there. If we are wrong, that's because our position doesn't match up with objective reality. But objective reality can't be wrong, it just is. And if one thinks they're right but you really aren't, that's one thing; whereas if one has been proven wrong & is capable of understanding it, but chooses to go on thinking they're right anyway because that's just "their take on things" or "their perspective" or "their personal opinion" or whatever, well that's quite another thing.

And again, if someone acts like that under socialism, fine, they can do that if they want; but if the party or government or other forces with a big effect on society act like that, it's a problem which needs to be fixed.

As for the tossing aside differences bit...

When we unite or do short-term-oriented actions, genuine communists still think it's correct to keep our final goals in mind & to be open & honest with people about that. This doesn't prevent us from working with anyone, but at the same time just because someone is on our side in a certain struggle, or even in many struggles or overall, doesn't mean that they are necessarily a communist also. To give an example, some "communists" allow progressive religious people to be in their parties & call themselves "communists". Of course we should unite with progressive religious people, but we should also be honest that there is no God or other superstitious stuff, & that much of what's in religious texts is quite reactionary & not something to consider divine. Similarly we'd hope the progressive religious people to be willing to cooperate with us to achieve common goals, but we aren't going to tell them to "shut up with their god nonsense" (as opposed to having intelligent discussion about our differences within an atmosphere of unity).

Communists call this approach the "united front". Which brings me to another thing which is different about us now from even Maoist China. One of the main new things Bob Avakian has brought forward in communist theory is that the united front should continue in, & in fact be a big part of, socialism. Previously the idea was that you unite with other trends to get rid of the capitalists, & there's some kind of transition period, but then you basically have communism as the be-all & end-all philosophy. Which interestingly is what you seem to be so opposed to. Well we're fixing that! Socialism is a transition phase all throughout, until we can get to that global communism which will probably be very similar to your "proposed society". Whilst there is a role for coercion (e.g. rapists will be punished not just argued against), if you do too much of it -- even with a "good excuse" -- the whole character of your society will turn wrong. As I've said before, a big part of socialism is figuring out how to run things (not like we know it all & just need to impose it). Marx said that in addition to overthrowing the capitalists the proletariat must change itself too, & I'd add that that includes the communists also, not just "a few ignorant workers" as some would interperet that quote.

So to bring it all back to the facts thing. Nobody can possibly know right now, under current conditions & with current experience, exactly how to run communism. But we do know that to even have a chance at it, we need to make revolution & for a while at least we need to utilise the state as an organisational form.

the idea of one objective reality is too simplistic. some people so firmly believe in their religion, for example, that that is reality for them, and totally provable under their terms, while for you and me it's a load of bollocks.

one thing you do deny which in my reality does seem relevant is stuff like tarot and the i-ching. i'm not big into that stuff but i've seen it work repeatedly. it's what people call non-ordinary reality, stuff that has a bearing on the physical world but cannot be explained by scientific methods. yet in your reality it's a load of bollocks.

all i'm saying is reality is too broad a concept for this seeking of universal truths. no truth is universal.

also, i oppose the idea that any state should have an opinion about what it's right or wrong for me to think. a government's place should be to keep peace and facilitate decisions within society. the moment the party has its own line its 'accepted' truths become the norm, and that creates an atmosphere that encourages people not to question. then if you're questioning does that mean you're not a communist? because you're going against the accepted communist view. then it's too small a step from that to the party making it illegal to take a 'disproven' view, and from that we get purges and orwellian thought police. i'm not saying communism advocates that, it just starts us down the wrong road. too much control.

"To give an example, some "communists" allow progressive religious people to be in their parties & call themselves "communists"."

from the way you use speach marks i take it that you disagree that progressive religious people can be communists. this evidences what i said above - there seems to be a feeling that if you hold different views to the party that you can't be a communist. in a one party state that can be an extremely dangerous position. anyway if these views are not harming people (with some religious people they may even be driving charitable or egalitarian acts) why challenge them?

gotta ask yourself, why should a government seek to control as opposed to keeping the peace? because they are not the same thing.

You said: "...stuff that has a bearing on the physical world but cannot be explained by scientific methods." I think you're not understanding everything I'm saying (& then there are parts where you understand but disagree, of course). The point that there is only one objective reality has nothing to do with whether we understand it or not, whether communists are right about it, etc etc. The point is that it exists. The very fact that you needed to say that something "has a bearing on the physical world" is in alignment with this. If something has a bearing on the physical world, then it is part of objective reality. The obvious example is gravity: whether you "believe" in gravity or not, whether you "think it is correct" or not, even whether you have "disproven" it using "scientific methods" or not, gravity is a real force & it will act upon you regardless of opinions or beliefs.

We can debate & investigate etc whether Tarot cards & related beliefs are an accurate reflection of reality, whether acting upon that is the best course of action, etc -- but there does exist objective reality, regardless. That is the philosophical point I'm making, that the correctness of Tarot or anything else depends on how it &/or its conclusions play out in objective (or "physical") reality.

Religion is not consistent with communist ideology, which again is based on reality, things that really exist. Communists are atheists. Now it's not about who's "better" or certainly what should be legal, etc; but if there are two different things there needs to be two different names. I, as an atheist, should not get to call myself a Christian or a Muslim or a Hindu, etc. Similarly a religious person should not call themself a communist, nor should an anarchist or a fascist or a libertarian.

As for whether the government or the party should have a line or an opinion, that's not really a choice. Your idea that a government should simply keep the peace is itself a line/opinion, the definition of what constitutes "the peace" & how it should be "kept" would need to be decided & this would need some thinking, i.e. a line, behind it, etc etc. So the issue is not whether to have a line, but what line to have.

It's kind of like "think for yourself": you have your own brain, you will think for yourself no matter what, literally speaking -- the question is what will you think with that brain of yours & how much influence will other brains' thoughts have on it.

Another thing I don't think I've made clear is that there is a big difference between saying who is or isn't a "communist", by which I mean they can & should be a member of a genuine communist party, between that & who just is not an enemy of the communists, as well as who is in the government.

Nobody is an outright enemy of the communists except for those who are actively, especially violently, stopping or overthrowing socialism or otherwise hurting the masses of people -- so that would be both those in charge right now (& of course they are staying in charge through force of arms) which is the capitalists & feudalists etc, as well as those under socialism who are overthrowing it (again, not even someone who "thinks socialism is bad" but people who are actively plotting &/or carrying out coups, sabotage, & other actual physical attacks). There is an "in-between" category I suppose, of people who communists would want to expose or debate with sharply, e.g. we want to use education & reason to promote science & discredit religion (mainly I should add, as many religions of course have various beliefs or morals that are quite good & should not be "discredited"). Some people do consider debate or any questioning to be oppression -- & that's not a sarcastic remark of mine, here in the US anyway lots of Christians who are quite willing to talk shit about other religions or atheism or women or anti-war folks or anything, they will whine & run away screaming "disrespect" & "oppression" if you even politely ask, not tell but ask them why they think God exists or to say why they agree with certain things in the Bible; but anyway... -- aside from that "walk on egg-shells" (& hypocritical!) view of "oppression", there is what's real, & in reality there is plenty of ways for different-minded folk to interact & debate, sometimes even argue sharply, without it constituting oppression by either side.

And the party is not the same as the government. Even in revolutionary China you did not have to be a communist to hold a government post. (I don't know all the specifics, you might have had to be a communist to hold a top-level post like premier or general etc, but for the low- & mid-level not only was being a non-communist "allowed", it was true in practise also & many government officials were not communists.) I must also point out that contrary to "public opinion", which is shaped by three decades now of capitalist media & education lies with no major force to counter it, communism was popular: many people were communists, & many people wanted communists as their leaders. Communist revolution is not successful if it is not popular. But even though it is popular, it is not the be-all & end-all, & it is not a "one-party state". Fascist parties & so on would be illegal, though. Under capitalism -- not just fascism but capitalist democracy -- you will be declared illegal if you step out of certain bounds & procedures that prove you are a real imminent threat (or can be usefully construed as such); that's how it works in that class society, with the capitalist class in charge. Similary, under socialism which is a class society (not by choice but by inheritance) with the proletariat in charge, if you are a real threat to our new non-oppressive society then you won't be allowed to continue those kind of activities. You won't be killed either but you just can't do that anymore. You can't set up sweatshops, you can't be a pimp, you can't rove the streets in racist gangs, you can't sit on your arse all day & make a living by being a slumlord, & you can't raise a militia with the purpose of overthrowing the people's government to reinstate capitalism. We maoists have a slogan, "No one is free when exploiters are free to exploit".

But as far as why communists want to do more than "keep the peace", has to do with what I've been talking about with not being able to go straight-away/overnight to communism, we need a transition phase called socialism with state power etc. I won't bore you by repeating everything but there is so much to overcome, so many big tasks to accomplish if we are to get to a situation where "keeping the peace" will be sufficient & will be able to be done by every human collectively without power hierarchies of any kind, that it is the responsibility of those who see the possibility for such a world to struggle for it, to work for it. Without massive effort it just won't be accomplished; at the same time, there must be a balance between this determination & pushing, & the principles that the means don't justify the ends & that like you said "don't run before you can walk".

you're a weird one, you. you've talked like a communist all the way through but your last paragraph revealed you as an anarchist at heart. you see socialism as a means to the end of communism, and communism as a means to the end of "a situation where "keeping the peace" will be sufficient & will be able to be done by every human collectively without power hierarchies of any kind" - a world without government. ie anarchy.

but yeah back to our conversation, most of your points are answerable by rereading some of what i said earlier. what i said i meant. i have understood you but i disagree. yes i did mean more than one reality. every person lives in their own reality and provable fact to one person is utter bullshit to another. and most people in the world don't accept science as a way of proving anything. not saying this is a good thing; it's just what is. in my reality. lol.

i take your point about party lines. but it is possible to have a party line that is to not have a party line about anything more than the basic morals of the majority. eg: hate, murder, rape, fascism, human rights abuses etc are bad. peace and the happiness of the majority of people are good. the latter should not be acheived by using the former. simple.

this takes me back to my original point. you're choosing a system where the government has an opinion and a rule about everything to acheive a society where the government has no opinion because it doesn't exist. that's odd.

one party states. yeah fine it's technically not a one party state, but since only communists can be premiers and all counter-revolutionary attempts are punished, it may as well be. in other words, you can have an opinion but don't you dare try and enact it. this strikes me as not only hypocritical as revolution is the method you're proposing to use against the present system, but also extremely paranoid since if communism really was preferred by the majority of society there would be no risk of popular counter revolution anyway.

and yes you'll come back and say it's necessary to prevent capitalist coups, but a coup performed by an armed minority is not something you can prevent by limiting the power of popular parties or punishing popular uprisings. all you'd have to do is keep the military on a tight leash.

all i can say is decide if you're a communist or an anarchist, and try to remember reality is way too complex to be explained by true or false, correct or incorrect, real or unreal...

sometimes it's both. or neither.

As for the so-called "anarchist" statement, I've said such things to you before, I'm not sure why all of a sudden you mistake it for anarchism when you didn't before. (Which doesn't necessarily mean I'm not weird, haha...) But anyway communism is not a means to the end of no-government situation, that is communism. Socialism does have a government, & that is how you can get to communism. Surely communism will not be a motionless "utopia" but that's as far as we can realistically talk about (unless you want to write sci-fi, which would be cool).

There is only one reality. Different individuals -- & especially different classes, cultures, genders, etc -- see it differently, but it's all the same reality. Not every aspect of this reality is black & white, nor is there only one exact solution to a given problem, nor would various people even view certain things as "problems", & so on & so on. But the gravity example remains valid. Surely you accept that everyone experiences the same rules of gravity? And if you accept that but not other things, what are these other things that are not the same in the different "realities"? (And if you don't accept it, well good luck trying to float around in the air...)

Your list of good & bad things is fine, but in practise how do you do that? What are "human rights", what constitutes "hate" or "happiness", etc etc? It is not like we can or should write every last possible scenario down & have a line on the virtues of proper tooth-brushing methods or whatever, but the fact is that for a society to function you need more details than a 10-point programme. But then, that right there is a line: to be organised yet not micromanage everything. Your line seems to be, let's have a few guiding principles & the rest can be worked out as we go along. (Again, there are 2 related but different issues: whether that is a line at all, & whether that line is correct or not.)

Under socialism the government does not have a rule about everything.

You said, "a coup performed by an armed minority is not something you can prevent by limiting the power of popular parties or punishing popular uprisings. all you'd have to do is keep the military on a tight leash." OK let's do this one by one. "Limiting the power of popular parties", well again I must point out it's not really correct to phrase it like there's "popular parties" on one side & the communist party (presumably "not popular") on the other. Then, like I've said, there's only 2 restrictions: {1} legal restrictions (no killing, cocaine-dealing, spying, etc, etc) & {2} very liberal political restrictions, e.g. in the communist-led areas of Nepal (now about 80% of the country) they have a policy of "political competition within the constitutional limits of the anti-feudal and anti-imperialist democratic state", in other words you can have all kinds of leftist or even centrist political organisations but fascists, monarchists, etc are out of question. And again, even that is just as political organisations, if an individual wants to think something & express themselves, that's fine but they will have to be prepared to get into debate about it & defend their position (not in a formal hearing or anything at all, just by their fellow citizens who disagree with them) -- which is true under any system.

See that's another thing about communists, we are open & up-front about things. If you hold a certain opinion, right or wrong, reactionary or revolutionary, naughty or nice, etc, it's almost universal that you will end up talking with somebody about it, & if that somebody has a disagreement you will have to defend your position. This doesn't have to involve oppression at all, yet somehow stating such simple facts makes some think that we are forcing people to think certain things.

It's the same principle with saying we want a class dictatorship by the proletariat. Some people get all shocked by that, how can you put one class on top, shouldn't they all be equal, blah blah blah? No it's not about "should". What we "should" do, & what the communist goal is, is to get rid of the existence of classes in the first place. But as long as they exist, there will be some form of class society, & one class or another will have the upper hand. We have a bourgeois (capitalist) class dictatorship now, but it's mostly hidden, especially in the "democratic" imperialist countries like UK, US, Germany, etc etc. So we are being open about the situation, & saying that the proletariat (rather than the bourgeoisie or petit bourgeoisie ("middle-class")) should be in charge -- as a class -- because that is the class in whose material interests it is to get rid of all classes' existence, including their own.

Back to your statement though. ("a coup performed by an armed minority is not something you can prevent by limiting the power of popular parties or punishing popular uprisings. all you'd have to do is keep the military on a tight leash.") There have been no popular uprisings under socialism, except for the Cultural Revolution, which once the first few incidents had occurred, was popularised & encouraged by the revolutionary leadership (which was by no means a solid majority of the communist party, unfortunately). So far from being punished, popular uprisings are encouraged. The government under socialism is just a form for the proletariat to exercise power, so if it's doing a bad job, the proletariat is well within its rights to fire that employee, so to speak. But to continue the analogy, until things can be run smoothly without it, that position will need to be refilled.

As for the military, the communists' policy has always been "the party controls the gun & never the other way around". That's the policy, that's usually been the practise, but having a certain policy in place is not fool-proof prevention. So basically we agree on that point, but I'm just adding that unfortunately just saying that is not the end of the story. Not that it's inevitable that the some army folks will try a coup, either, it's not like everything that can go wrong will go wrong.

On reality, come on really? Again the issue is not whether I am correct about various things aspects of reality, or whether communists are correct about various aspects of reality -- though those are important issues --, the issue at hand is whether there is one reality or not which affects us all regardless. And whether opinions can be measured in relation to that one reality, if they reflect it accurately or not, which for shorthand we can use words like "correct" or "true" or "fact". Now you could very well say that certain people or groups can't measure that, can't say what's correct or not, because they have no grip on reality. For instance somebody who is on acid at the moment, may not really be trustworthy to ask about what's going on even right in front of them. Which brings up another "reality issue", I suppose. Is their hallucination "real"? Well yes & no. It's real in that they are really experiencing it, there are different chemical reactions going on in their brain, various signals bouncing around their head & being interpreted as, let's say, there's a big dragon eating fish & chips with Kurt Cobain over in the corner of the room. But in reality there is no big dragon, Kurt Cobain is dead, etc. So what is objectively real is that those things are not going on, but also objectively real is that the acid-taker is having a trip i.e. there are certain processes going in his head.

Now what about reality in relation to our political conversation? The reality is that people all over the world are being oppressed & exploited & murdered, that the cause of this is the capitalist system, that the best solution is to make armed revolution installing socialism as a transition phase to communism. It's also reality that socialism so far has been mainly positive but also had many things wrong with it, & that nobody has all the answers of step-by-step how to get to communism or what it'll look like exactly. So maybe you disagree with these conclusions I've made about reality. Well then I need to be proven wrong, either through discussion about or experience of reality, in other words shown somehow that my conclusions are actually not an accurate reflection of reality. It's not black & white either, as I said, I could be partly wrong & partly right, or maybe somebody can prove me wrong but their different conclusions are wrong also (in a different way), etc, etc. But no matter how you spin it, there is only one reality, & we all take part in it whether we like it or not. (And if we make successful communist revolution there'll be more people liking it than not...)

To emphasise a last point, though, someone with your opinions will have much more freedom under socialism than under capitalism. (Or compared with anarchy too I guess, in the sense that anarchy is impossible in practise for more than a year or two at the most before it gets crushed by capitalists...) See, because socialism is not about the government's self-preservation, but about empowering the proletarian class & the people as a whole, obliterating class distinctions entirely, until there is no need for a government -- because of that genuine socialism not only tolerates but values dissent & questioning of all kinds. We want what will accomplish those goals, not the betterment of individuals or groups who first proclaimed those goals or whatever.

Oh, & before I forget, would you mind if I posted our discussion up as a blog entry? I think lots of people would find it interesting &/or informative, whether they are more agreeing with me or with you (or have some other opinion entirely). I could put it up with or without your name, with or without link to your page, & of course I could just not put it up at all, your choice.

sure you can post it as a blog. lol i was about to ask if i could do the same. and yeah link to me, i don't mind :)

right, the way i see this neither of us are going to win this. i see it as a perfect example of 2 truths. in my reality i am more or less right because i have thought through political systems and thought about where they go wrong. in my reality communism can't work for a variety of reasons, not least that it denies human nature. in my reality it would probably not be a good thing if it did work because of some of the things you've said like "the party controls the gun" (ie not 'the people control the gun' because they are NOT necessarily the same thing), and because there have been seriously ugly incidents in communist history that you've glossed over, like what happened to 'intellectuals' in the cultural revolution. in your reality you are right because you're following an established, tried and tested political philosophy which to you sounds great. everyone's equal and in the long run no-one will need a government (anarchist lol), but for the moment what better government could you have than one made up of the proletariat?

2 separate realities. neither is objectively true, yet subjectively we are both right and both wrong.

so lets just agree to disagree, k?

btw what i meant about popular revolutions or parties or whatever was that it would be a revolution or party of the people. it is possible to have a people's movement for democracy, so that would be a popular democratic party.

didn't think i'd ever say this but no more political discussion here!! pleeeeeaaaaaase cos we're not getting anywhere..

OK, real quick (for once)...

Those 2 "realities" you are describing are not realities, they are views of reality. We can agree to disagree, that's fine. I could get into specifics of why I think my view is objectively true & blah blah blah, but the main point on the "reality issue" is that although our views are different, the reality we're talking about is the same.

Oh yeah & to clarify, under socialism the people control the party, the party controls the army, & there are other armed people outside the army also (people's militias).

Alright I'll stop, hey I finally wrote you a short message, cool.

So if you want to continue discussing, it'll be a blog on my page entitled "Lively debate on communism & reality", I'll put it up in a couple minutes...

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