Friday, December 30, 2011

Newsletter from the Political Information Bureau (December 30, 2011)

Support the Moroccan Prisoners From "La Voie Démocratique Basiste"

This is a rough translation of a statement issued by revolutionary and progressive organizations from the "francosphere" in solidarity with revolutionary prisoners in Morocco:

Since 2008, intense struggles have been waged in Morocco to obtain the release of prisoners of the Baseist Democratic Way MLM (VDB MLM) and other political prisoners. They belong with union workers, the unemployed insurgents (Ifni) and the Sahrawi prisoners as "internal enemies" punished under the reactionary regime of Morocco. Their courage and determination to serve the interests of the people allowed their struggle beyond the borders of Morocco, despite the media blackout. This struggle resonates throughout the world, it serves as an example for all those who stand against the unjust order of the capitalists, feudal landlords and torturers.

VDB MLM is revolutionary current born in the UNEM (National Union of Students of Morocco) is an heir to the "united front of progressive students" that existed in the 1970s. Its ideology is based on Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. VDB MLM activists were imprisoned because they lead the fight for free education for the son and daughters of the people against the "national charter of education," against the privatization and militarization of the universities, they defend the rights of the masses which students are mostly part of, they defend internationalist solidarity, especially with occupied Palestine and with the people's wars. They are locked or have been imprisoned because they are communists.

Others were killed. How can we forget the martyr Abdelrrazak El Agadiri, member of the UNEM and VDB MLM, murdered December 28, 2008, during a protest in support of the people of Gaza? The regime also tried to hide his remains out the back door of the hospital Ibn Tufayl. However, his struggle is still alive.

The struggle for the liberation of the Boudkour Zahra group (imprisoned since May 15, 2008) and for the comrade Ilham Hasnouni (captured at her  home October 12, 2010) has not yet fully accomplished despite the release of these two revolutionary figures and some of their comrades. Hasnouni Ilham succeeding Zahra Boudkour as the youngest political prisoner in Morocco, is a student at the University of Marrakech, 21 years old, a communist activist and trade unionist of the UNEM. Detained for more than ten months without trial, she was arrested without a warrant or prior notice tortured beginning in October 2010 for acts dating back to events on campus in 2008. Similar events were held in Fez in March 2009. Student clashes with the police then led to several waves of arrests. The activists are charged with: destruction of property of the state, participation in an unauthorized rally, humiliation of a public servant in the performance of their functions, use of force and even participation in an armed group.

In November 2011, there are three Baseist revolutionary prisoners languishing in jail:

• Achouini Murad, arrested May 15, 2008, sentenced to four years in prison

• Elhamdiya Youssef, arrested October 10, 2010, sentenced to a year and a half

• Abdelhak Talhaoui, arrested Feb. 23, 2011, sentenced to four years in prison at trial, conviction reduced to 10 months in prison before the appeals court in October 2011.

For the regime, detention is used to break the will of the trade unionists and political activists. But the solidarity movement and the accentuation of class struggle in Morocco have turned prisons into places of resistance and struggle. Eventually the demand for the release of prisoners has grown in the popular movement, it is located on the platform of the "Movement of 20 February." Morocco is, like South America and the Zionist entity, a center of torture, persecution and elimination of opponents. it keeps this sinister privilege. Marx said that when the bourgeoisie, even the most democratic, is threatened, it tramples on its own legality. Kidnappings, extrajudicial executions, disguised killings of militants are weapons of terror used in all plans that guarantee the imperialist order. The imperialist countries are the principals even when they are not the direct agents of torture. The struggle for the release of political prisoners is a matter for the class, an international fight for all those who struggle for the emancipation of the oppressed.

We call for developing initiatives to demand their immediate release while popularizing their fight!

Long live the struggle of the Moroccan people!
Freedom for the revolutionary prisoners!
Down with the reactionary Moroccan regime and French imperialism!

Signatories: Association Générale des Étudiants de Nanterre (AGEN), Comité Anti-Impérialiste [France], Coup Pour Coup 31, Coup Pour Coup 87, Fédération Syndicale Étudiante (FSE), La Cause du peuple newspaper, Libertat, OCML Voie Prolétarienne, Maoist Communist Party - France, Maoist Communist Party - Italy, Revolutionary Communist Party (PCR-RCP Canada), Secours Rouge Arabe, Belgium Red Aid.

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Picket Line in Front of the Indian Embassy in Ottawa

As part of the International Week of Action in Support With the People's War in India, the PCR-RCP Canada is calling for a picket line in front of the Indian embassy, on Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 1:00pm (details to come).

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

On Socialist Organization and Parties

My fellow comrade from SWP days, "DR", has just completed his inaugural programmatic composition, which can be found here:
I do not think it likely that the future revolutionary party we all hope to see materialize
(sooner as opposed to later) will come as a result of a re-groupment of
the eclectic forces in the United States commonly referred to as the
left, but rather as a result of gigantic explosions in the
working-class, along the lines of the movement to bring into being the
CIO but qualitatively larger and deeper, that will result in an epic
mass movement to defend the poor and those slipping into poverty, to
organize the organized so we can organize the unorganized, and to launch
the most likely political variant arising out of these explosions - a
labor party. We can see the logic of the current situation, both
economic and political, made manifest in the past two to three years,
that points to this coming explosion. The value of the socialist
organizations is their ability to bring into the class the ideas of
scientific socialism. For that reason, I believe two of our most
valuable assets are Haymarket Books and Pathfinder Press.
DR has a wealth of revolutionary party experience, and I hope he will not be shy about sharing his experiences.  We need to preserve some of the nuts-and-bolts skills as much as the bigger insights if we are not to keep lagging behind and reinventing wheels already available.

The Glory of a Capitalist "Free Press"

from Товарищ Х

Experts Say Dead Chimp's a Chump

Some ABCs for approaching mass work

Four Ways to Make Job Resolutions Work

By Caroline Levchuck, Yahoo! HotJobs

Every January, millions of people make New Year's resolutions, many of which are work-related. Get a new job. Get a promotion. Get a raise.

Unfortunately, many of these vows will fall by the wayside before the month is out. Folks lose momentum. Some get overwhelmed. And others lose their nerve. Use these tips to make your resolutions a lasting reality this year.

Be Clear About Your Intentions

Terry Wilson-Malam, a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, believes that all resolutions must be born out of clarity if people are going to stay the course. She counsels clients to be as honest as possible about what they want. Not sure what your intent is? "Start a log of your accomplishments, small and large over the past few years," Wilson-Malam suggests. "Those things will tell you where you are and where you can go next."

Also, ask yourself what you want more of and less of. Do you want more flexibility? Less stress? More responsibility? Fewer meetings? Keep a list of your intentions, as they will inform the action you need to take.

Make a Plan with Actionable Steps

"An action plan is absolutely imperative," says Wilson-Malam, owner of Wilson Malam Coaching and Consulting. Create a plan that works toward your goal, whether it's growing your network or looking for new work. Then, she advises breaking the plan down into actionable steps. "Focus on small steps that are realistic," she says. "If your plan is to network, choose events that you'll go to, but choose them carefully to make sure they are in line with your overall intentions."

Getting promoted is a bit harder to be actionable about, Wilson-Malam says. "But you can learn to be in the right frame of mind -- think and act like a manager in certain situations at work to help you move toward your goal," she says.

Measure Your Results

Results motivate changers to stick to their plans, so it's very important that you see measurable results as you adhere to your resolution. "You have to be very clear as to what those results will be," Wilson-Malam says. This stems from having a straightforward plan of action and clarity on what you want to accomplish.

"Being able to tick off things from your action list can even be a result," she adds.

Stay Focused

It's easy to start the year with the best of intentions only to lose your nerve as your goal is within sight. "If you've been in a job for a long time, it's really easy to hate it but love what you know about it," Wilson-Malam says. "A new search and a new job often mean more work and more time and going out of your comfort zone."

To muster courage, she urges job changers to go back to their list of intentions. "If you look at that list and it reminds you that you're stagnating, that will make you less afraid of changing now."

She also suggests enlisting the help of a trusted confidante, mentor or coach who can cheer you on and remind you why you undertook this challenge in the first place.



The Dept of Bourgeois Reality


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Pornographication Of Bourgeois Politics

from a talk by Socialist Workers Party national secretary Jack Barnes, titled "Imperialism's March Toward Fascism and War". Every time I turn on the TV in this election pre-period, I think about these points:

Coarsening of capitalist politics

During periods like we live in today -when a capitalist social crisis is deepening but a communist leadership is not yet growing out of rising mass workers struggles -demagogues get a hearing not only in the middle class but also in the labor movement. If no solutions are being advanced on any mass level to the burning problems created by the decline of capitalism and liberal democracy, then growing numbers reach out for radical, "decisive," and "popular" answers, regardless of their scientific value and ultimate class implications. Growing numbers become susceptible to crank ideas, conspiracy theories, and a variety of reactionary explanations of why society is gripped in a deepening crisis and what can be done to "restore order."

It is from this vantage point that communist workers must judge how we respond to and politically explain the interlaced sexual and financial scandals involving ruling- class figures in many of the imperialist countries. Headlines are being grabbed by exposés involving President Clinton and Hillary Clinton in the United States, Prince Charles and members of Parliament and cabinet ministers in the United Kingdom, prominent bourgeois politicians in Germany, Italy, Spain, and other countries.

The reason that political figures seem more vulnerable to scandals today is not that such conduct is something new in ruling circles over the history of capitalism or class society. Whatever the facts about Clinton's libido, lechery, and all-around offensive behavior, he is certainly not unique among U.S. presidents - including hallowed liberal icons like Franklin Roosevelt, let alone John Kennedy. Nothing that comes out about the current royal family in the United Kingdom can approach King Henry VIII more than four hundred years ago and many of both sexes who followed him. The greater vulnerability to scandals today is a reflection of the instability of the world imperialist order and the growing lack of confidence in this system and its leading personnel expressed both by its beneficiaries and by millions of others.

Of course, most workers justly despise the hypocrisy, the pretenses, the sanctimonious sermonizing of bourgeois politicians in both parties. We despise the "humane" excuses they give for degrading social brutality and racist abuse. We detest the way hired scribblers of the parasitic classes write off entire layers of our class as lazy or self-indulgent. We're sickened by their gall in demagogically railing against "the greed of the eighties," while they themselves have actively engaged in and profited handily from the same greed-inspired conduct.

`Exposures' don't help workers
But the working-class vanguard must not fall into the trap of thinking that simply "exposing" the dissoluteness and corruption of bourgeois politicians helps the workers movement. It's barking up the wrong tree. The problem with the capitalists and their political representatives is not that they are immoral, hypocritical people as individuals. The scandalmongering is an effort - organized from within bourgeois politics, largely by its ultraright wing - to exacerbate and profit from middle-class panic and to drag workers along with the declining class itself down into the pit of resentment and salacious envy.

This "pornographication of politics," as we might call it, is part of the politics of resentment that benefits the ultraright, not the working class. It is demagogues like the Buchanans who raise the banner of "the culture war" and "the religious war" and rail against the degeneracy of "the elite" who set a bad example for the working class. This became a stock-in-trade of the Nazis in the 1920s and early 1930s as they decried the "filth" and "degeneracy" of the Weimar Republic and its dominant bourgeois parties, politicians, and moneyed beneficiaries. This was how the Nazis explained Germany's increasingly desperate economic and social conditions to small shopkeepers and other petty- bourgeois sectors, to housewives and women in the countryside, and to layers of workers as well.

From the standpoint of the working class, it's much better when every worker could care less about the sex life of Clinton, or Kennedy, or Prince Charles - or of any other public figure. It's an enervating diversion, one that gets swept aside in times of ascending class battles.

What the working class needs is not exposés of bourgeois politicians and their personal weaknesses. We need to be able to explain politically why the working class has no common interests with the class these bourgeois politicians speak for. We need to spotlight every form of abuse of power by them, individual or corporate, including the so-called "Whitewater" revelations of how Bill and Hillary Clinton used the Arkansas state house to enrich themselves and promote big-business interests at the expense of working people and the unions - and then used the White House to cover up those earlier abuses. We need to advance a class understanding of politics and help our class forge an independent proletarian political organization that can lead a fight for a social and political program to advance the interests of the oppressed and exploited.

Until resistance grows to the point that workers begin generalizing lessons stimulated by sharp struggles and swelling the ranks of a communist party, the ideology of the ruling class - including its unctuous and hypocritical official moralism -will continue to shape the ideas and values of all but a small vanguard of the working class. But communists and other thinking workers must always fight for our class and its organizations to take the moral high ground and chart our own course independent of the bourgeoisie, its opinion makers, and the middle-class layers they set into motion.

The workers movement strives to develop our own values, collectively, out of working-class political practice.

Perry Anderson on Lukacs

from the Unfashionably Late blog [mentions of Perry Anderson, Georg Lukacs, and Lenin in one post are guaranteed to get my attention]:

Perry Anderson on Lukács' Insurrectionism

Bolded the meaty bits for the TL;DRers:

With the victory of the Russian Revolution, and the collapse of the Hohenzollern and Habsburg empires in central Europe, key theorists of German communism came to believe that, in the aftermath of the First World War, the seizure of power by the proletariat was on the immediate agenda in every imperialist country, because the world had now definitively entered the historical epoch of the socialist revolution. This belief was most fully and forcefully expressed by Georg Lukács, then a leading member of the exiled Hungarian Communist Party, writing in the German-language theoretical review Kommunismus in Vienna. For Lukács, there was now a 'universal actuality of the proletarian revolution', determined by the general stage of the development of capitalism, which was henceforward in mortal crisis. 'This means that the actuality of the revolution is no longer only a world- historical horizon arching over the self-liberating working class, but that revolution is already on its agenda . . . The actuality of the revolution provides the key-note of the whole epoch.' This fusion — confusion — between the theoretical concepts of historical epoch and historical conjuncture allowed Lukács and prominent colleagues in the KPD such as Thalheimer and Frohlich to ignore the whole problem of the concrete preconditions for a revolutionary situation by abstractly affirming the revolutionary character of the time itself. On this premise, they went on to argue for a novel practical tactic: the Teilaktion or 'partial' armed action against the capitalist State.

Within the ranks of the Second International, Bernstein and co-thinkers had maintained the possibility of 'partial' ameliorations of capitalism by means of parliamentary reforms, that would in a gradual process of evolution eventually lead to the peaceful completion of socialism. The illusion that the inherent unity of the capitalist State could be divided or attained by successive partial measures, slowly transforming its class character, had been a traditional prerogative of reformism. There now, however, emerged an adventurist version of the same fundamental error in the Third International. For in 1920-21, Thalheimer, Frohlich, Lukács and others theorized putschist 'partial actions' as a series of armed attacks against the bourgeois State, limited in scope yet constant in tempo. In the words of Kommunismus: 'The principal characteristic of the present period of the revolution lies in this, that we are now compelled to conduct even partial battles, including economic ones, with the instrumentalities of the final battle', above all 'armed insurrection'. There was thus created the famous theory of the 'revolutionary offensive'.Since the epoch was revolutionary, the only correct strategy was an offensive one, to be mounted in a series of repeated armed blows against the capitalist State. These should be undertaken even if the working class was not in an immediately revolutionary mood: they would then precisely serve to 'awaken' the proletariat from its reformist torpor. Lukács provided the most sophisticated justification of these adventures. He argued that partial actions were not so much 'organizational measures by which the Communist Party could seize State power' as 'autonomous and active initiatives of the KPD to overcome the ideological crisis and menshevik lethargy of the proletariat, and standstill of revolutionary development'. For Lukács, the rationale of the Teilaktionen was thus not their objective aims, but their subjective impact on the consciousness of the working class. 'If revolutionary development is not to run the risk of stagnation, another outcome must be found: the action of the KPD in an offensive. An offensive signifies: the independent action of the party at the right moment with the right slogan, to awaken the proletarian masses from their inertia, to wrest them away from their menshevik leadership by action (in other words organizationally and not merely ideologically), and thereby to cut the knot of the ideological crisis of the proletariat with the sword of the deed.'

The fate of these pronouncements was rapidly settled by the lesson of events themselves. The radical misunderstanding of the integral unity of capitalist State power, and the necessarily all-or-nothing character of any insurrection against it, naturally led to disaster in Central Germany. In March 1921, the KPD launched its much vaunted offensive against the Prussian State government, by falling into the trap of a badly prepared rising against a preventive police occupation of the Mansfeld-Merseburg area. In the absence of any spontaneous working-class resistance, the KPD desperately resorted to dynamiting actions designed to prove police bombardments; seizure of factories and street fighting followed; wandering guerrilla bands submerged any discipline in anarchic forays through the countryside. For a week, heavy fighting raged in Central Germany between KPD militants and the police and Reichswehr units mobilized to suppress them. The result was a foregone conclusion. Isolated from the rest of the German proletariat, bewildered and dislocated by the arbitrary character of the action, hopelessly outnumbered by the concentration of Reichswehr troops in the Merseburg-Halle region, the vanguard flung into this confrontation with the full might of the army was routed. A drastic wave of repression succeeded the March action. Some 4,000 militants were sentenced to prison, and the KPD received its quietus in Prussian Saxony. Not only was the objective of State power never achieved, but the subjective impact on the German working class and the KPD itself was calamitous. Far from rousing the proletariat from its 'menshevik lethargy', the March Action demoralized and disillusioned it. The vanguard zone of the Merseburg mines relapsed into a desert of apolitical backwardness.

Perry Anderson – "The Antinomies of Antonio Gramsci"

Helpfully, Anderson provides some contemporary criticisms of Teilaktionen by some people who knew something about successful revolutions.


A purely mechanical conception of the proletarian revolution — which proceeds solely from the fact that the capitalist economy continues to decay — has led certain groups of comrades to construe theories which are false to the core: the false theory of an initiating minority which by its heroism shatters 'the wall of universal passivity' among the proletariat, the false theory of uninterrupted offensives conducted by the proletarian vanguard as a 'new method' of struggle, the false theory of partial battles which are waged by applying the methods of armed insurrection and so on. … It is absolutely self-evident that tactical theories of this sort have nothing in common with Marxism. To apply them in practice is to play directly into the hands of the bourgeoisie's military-political leaders and their strategy.

And Lenin, a bit more tersely:

…for victory and for retaining power, what is essential is not only the majority of the working class — I use the term working class in its West European sense, i.e. in the sense of the industrial proletariat — but also the majority of the working and exploited population. Have you thought about this?

Have you?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cooper Tire Solidarity

Pres. Rodney Nelson, USW 207L on the Cooper Tire Lockout

Sugar Bowl Blues by Kris Kitko

Which Side Are You On?

Still Standing Strong: Locked-Out Crystal Sugar Workers

A status quo-ist [Christopher Hitchens 1949-2011]

Written by Tony McKenna

In a recent television special devoted to the life of Christopher Hitchens, Stephen Fry drew together various friends and admirers of the journalist in a series of short interviews designed to pay homage to his life. To take the spiritual pulse of a dying man (Hitchens died this December from throat cancer) is no easy task and the programme shifted in tone from the sensitive and poignant to more hagiographic outpourings which served only to evoke a certain saccharine morbidity. But the one thing which all the commentators held in common is their belief in the personal courage of Hitchens; his need to confront 'bullies' and 'tyrants', and moreover, his ability to question the status quo, to challenge received and dogmatic 'wisdom' be it left or right orientated, and this, according to them, is what made him both controversial and necessary.

The adjective 'controversial' was reeled out over and over. With regards to this there was one moment in the programme which was perhaps more instructive and more telling than any of the various praises and commendations sounded by the interviewees. The moment came during a Richard Dawkins interview when Fry posed the question 'What kind of reason is it not to do something - because it might cause offence?' The evolutionary biologist replied - 'Let's all stop being so dammed respectful! One of the problems with our world today is the way we are expected to be respectful…to tiptoe around to avoid giving offence.'

This all feeds into a deliberate and delicately cultivated narrative in which Hitchens, Dawkins and their ilk are seen as leading a new wave of enlightened secular atheism against those dark and archaic forces of religion which obtrude into the modes and forms of government, state and social life more generally. In such a narrative Hitchens and Dawkins refuse to be 'respectful' for they are men of principle and conscience who will not and cannot conform, despite the ominous costs which might incur. And who would deny a streak of courageous 'non conformism' in any society is anything but necessary precisely because it combats the process by which ideas, ideologies and perspectives are allowed to harden and congeal, thereby acquiring the status of fixed prejudices.

And yet, while Dawkins and Fry lauded notions of non conformism in order to celebrate Hitchens, and vicariously themselves, there was one detail which might at first glance seem trivial and unremarkable. Both these men had poppies pinned to the lapels of their shirts. The poppy is, of course, the symbol of Remembrance Day but the memories it is designed to induce are not those of millions of young men in opposing armies who are corralled into a futile slaughter - a slaughter visited on them by the territorial demands of several small and competing imperial elites. Instead the 'poppy' provides the mediation which allows us to frame the first world war in terms of a conflict between good and evil, where the soldiers were conscripted to fight and die as a necessary measure in order to protect 'our freedom' from the dark, sinister and external forces of the 'other'. A noble, traditional England vs a rapacious, militaristic Germany.  The poppy is an exercise in abstraction which annuls living history by preserving a paradigm of good and evil.

If ever such a conformist vision needed to be challenged it is this one. And yet from these radical titans of modern day enlightenment we heard not a murmur. They were not alone in this. What is interesting is that on Remembrance Day there was no one on television, no matter what their politics, who declined to wear this symbol which glories in patriotic war. Not a single person chose to 'not conform.' For this the contemporary act of rebellion seems to have a paradoxical character. One can be non-conformist only as long as one conforms to the strictly delineated parameters of an accepted rebellion, a rebellion which has a formal character in as much as it is permitted to rile against ideas (evil, religion) but not structural forms (imperialism, class-oppression)

Hitchens account of religion is underpinned by the same rationale; that is its critique remains at the level of ideas leaving structural and historical forces of oppression entirely undisturbed. Hitchens claimed to be a Marxist but it is worth noting that his critique of religion has little in common with that of the great German philosopher. Marx's attitude to religion was nuanced; for him, the religious impulse was profoundly human but simultaneously cultivated in the most inhumane of conditions. A truly human experience is denied to those whose lives are distorted by class oppression: they do not have the chance to develop their spiritual faculties which are thwarted by the dull, alienating grind of the labour process. For this religion assumes a quasi-tragic character - I experience little joy, dignity or inspiration in my earthly existence, so I inevitably look toward a heaven where such things can be realised; a genuinely human essence is objectified, projected outward onto an alien realm and frozen in eternity, for it has been irrevocably lost to the here and now.

Such criticism has profound revolutionary implications. The destruction of religion as an idea is not confined to mere ideological critique but also depends on the destruction of the (inhumane) material conditions and social relations which engender it. Unfortunately Hitchens did not choose to reproduce such profundity in his own critique of religion. Instead we are simply assured that 'God is not Great' and that 'Religion Poisons Everything.'  What Hitchens offered us was a generic concept of religion purged of all its social-historical content, which in turn permits for an essentially moral critique whereby a rational atheism throws into relief barbaric superstition.

In his brilliant novel A Thousand Splendid Suns Khaled Hosseini presents us with two Afghanistans. The first one is a place where girls go to school, where people dress freely (or at least as freely as in any other place), where they choose who they wish to have sex with, where books on the most diverse themes are readily available and where music forms a natural, if unremarked upon, background to everyday life. Hippies from all over Europe come here to smoke pot. In contrast to this, the second Afghanistan is a place of fear, where the relationships between people are overseen by the guns and knives of soldiers attired in black, where books are burnt and girls are forbidden from attending school - execution by stoning is a common public event. There is, of course, no music in this place.

But what is interesting about these starkly different portrayals of Afghanistan – the first the Afghanistan of the mid-seventies, the second Afghanistan at the turn of the millennium – is that both have a Muslim government which presides over a predominantly Muslim population. In other words the horror which is such a sustained part of the latter Afghanistan is not the result of religion per se. Instead it is the expression of a historical transformation: the arming of Mujahedeen fighters by the United States government in the late 70s in order to repel Soviet influence, the Soviet invasion of 79 and the decade long occupation, the civil war which followed between the remnants of the soviet inspired government of Najibullah and the Taliban.

It was under the pressure of these events that the cohesion and infrastructure of Afghani society seizes and fragments, and the possibility for a military fundamentalist dictatorship, which might restore order, develops. It is, therefore, the historical context which creates a religious fundamentalism, not the religious fundamentalism of the Taliban which creates the context. But in Hitchens' account the reverse is true. 'Religion poisons everything' – i.e. religion is the determinate force in creating the barbarisms we encounter in contemporary Afghanistan. The very superficiality of Hitchens' religious critique allows it to perform a specific ideological function; religion occurs as a generic, unadulterated corruption which renders invisible the historical events which have set the stage for its worst excesses.

If one does view the world from such a perspective - then we can quite easily see why it is morally incumbent on 'us' (the west, or at least western governments) to take action and impose the secular state model particularly on those countries whose religious excesses must be thwarted in order to 'protect' their populations. The same countries, of course, are often those which have been attacked, colonized and disrupted by imperial power in the first place, but such historical content perishes before the static dichotomy of a rational and enlightened western secularism over and against a morose religious, and most often, Islamic medievalism.

Hitchens' great skill always lay in his ability to present his politics as 'non-conformist', as revolutionary in fact. He lashed out against 'the radical left' who, according to him, as a result of their 'political correctness', are desperate to leap to the defence of creations like the Taliban: a radical left who are content to see young women splashed with acid or stoned to death in the streets as long as they are able to sustain their own anti imperialist credentials.
But it is the attempt to move beyond a black and white narrative which Hitchens was really lashing out at.

The atheistic-religious, rational-irrational, dichotomy is merely a sophisticated and contemporary version of the old, biblical standard of Good and Evil, us and them. Hitchens' has given to this a modern and compelling form which dissolves historicity within itself, thereby transubstantiating any political objection to the intervention in Afghanistan into support for the Taliban. Either you are with us or against us. Either you support imperialist intervention or you support the horrific acts of the Taliban. Either you are rational or backward. Good or evil. But what Hitchens' enlightened rationalism really serves to do is present the imperialist wars which have bloodied the early twenty first century as necessary endeavours. In other words - Hitchens' 'radicalism' and 'non conformity', his humanism and his abstract atheism, manage the truly miraculous – that is they justify the unjustifiable, and secure the status quo.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Dead-end of guerilla warfare

It is shocking to me that we are still seriously defending permanent, long-term guerrilla wars as an appropriate use of precious communist cadre and resources.
For those who still do, Joseph Hansen has a few thoughts.

Another correct assessment, written a couple of years ago:

Colombia’s FARC and the debate over revolutionary strategy


Two articles by Cuban leader Fidel Castro criticizing the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have provoked a wide-ranging debate. One of the sharpest polemics against the Cuban leader has come from radical U.S. academic James Petras in a piece titled “Fidel Castro and the FARC: Eight Mistaken Theses of Fidel Castro.”

Following the Colombian government’s successful operation July 2 to free 15 hostages held for years by the FARC, Castro wrote, “We are watching with concern how the imperialists try to capitalize on what happened in Colombia in order to cover up and justify their heinous crimes.”

Washington and the Colombian government use accusations of “human rights abuses” and “drug trafficking” by the guerrillas as the pretext for a massive military buildup in that Latin American country, aimed not only against the Colombian workers and peasants but at toilers throughout the region.

Castro minced no words about the hostage-taking tactic. “The civilians should never have been kidnapped, nor should the soldiers have been kept as prisoners in jungle conditions,” he wrote. “These were objectively cruel actions. No revolutionary aim could justify them.” He urged the FARC to release its remaining hostages through the Red Cross.

Colombian Communist Party
Castro also disagreed with the FARC’s approach of prolonged guerrilla warfare in the countryside. He linked this to FARC leader Manuel Marulanda’s support for the Colombian Communist Party, which like every other Communist Party in Latin America “was under the influence of the Communist Party of the USSR, not Cuba’s,” Castro said. “The Communist Party of Colombia never intended to conquer power through the armed struggle. The guerrilla was a resistance front and not the fundamental instrument for conquering revolutionary power, as had been the case in Cuba.”

Although the FARC attracted many adherents, political conditions in Colombia deteriorated. “The Colombian territory had become the largest source of cocaine production in the world,” Castro said. “Then, extreme violence, kidnappings, and taxes and demands on drug producers became widespread.

“The paramilitary forces, armed by the oligarchy, were fed by the great abundance of men serving in the country’s armed forces who were discharged from duty every year without any guarantee of a job. This created in Colombia such a complex situation that there was only one way out: real peace.” For the last 30 years, Castro said, the Cuban leadership has favored an end to the armed conflict in Colombia.

‘Ammunition’ for imperialists?
Petras charges that “the effect of Castro’s anti-FARC articles has been to provide ammunition for the imperial mass media to discredit the FARC.” He attempts to answer the Cuban leader by presenting a glorified picture of the guerrilla group.

“Marulanda’s prolonged guerrilla war strategy relied on mass grassroots organizing based on close peasant ties with guerrillas, based on community, family and class solidarity, building slowly and methodically a national political-military people’s army,” Petras writes, whereas “Castro’s guerrillas were recruited from the mass of urban mass organizations, methodically organized prior to and during the formation of the guerrilla foco in 1956-1958.”

“Marulanda built, over a period of 40 years, a bigger guerrilla army with a wider mass base than any Castro-inspired guerrilla force from the 1960s to 2000,” he says.

For a revolutionary, the test is not the size of the armed force that is built, but the capacity to lead a revolutionary overthrow of the class in power. The Cuban revolutionaries’ goal was never to build a permanent guerrilla army—it was to lead the workers and peasants to seize political power as quickly as possible and with the fewest losses. Castro and the team of leaders around him were well aware that long-term guerrilla movements, isolated from the working class, can degenerate into banditry.

The Rebel Army forged in the course of the struggle in Cuba developed a cadre that was tested in battle and that became more homogenous, politically educated, and disciplined as the struggle advanced. It took only two years from the very first battle with the army of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista until the revolution triumphed in 1959.

Moreover, this could only be done by recruiting urban workers to the Rebel Army. The Cuban revolutionaries never envisioned a successful struggle for power waged by the peasantry alone, separate from the working class. In a recent series of interviews titled My Life Fidel Castro explains, “For us guerrilla warfare was the detonator of another process whose objective was the revolutionary takeover of power. And with a culminating point: a revolutionary general strike and a general uprising of the populace.”

Petras argues that the FARC’s tactics with prisoners are justified because what the Colombian regime does is worse. “Revolutions are cruel,” he says, “but Fidel forgets that counter-revolutions are even crueler.”

Proletarian morality
The July 26 Movement’s approach to prisoners—treating them with respect and releasing them as quickly as possible, taking the moral high ground-was decisive to the Cuban Revolution’s victory. “No soldier will ever lay down his arms if he thinks he will be killed or subjected to cruel treatment,” Castro wrote.

In his polemic against Castro, Petras never presents a strategy for how working people can successfully wrest political and economic power out of the hands of the capitalist class in Colombia or anywhere else. Instead, he implies that guerrilla war, not just “prolonged” but forever, is the only logical road.

Castro explains that working people need not accept that dead end. Instead, the lessons of the victorious Cuban revolution point the way forward for fighters not only in Colombia but around the world.

The "problem" of Korea

Wilhelm Reich's Marxism

Marxism and Psychoanalysis - Notes on Wilhelm Reich's Life and Works

For a long period in his life Wilhelm Reich considered himself a Marxist. He applied the scientific method of Marxism to his research into Psychoanalysis and this led him to break with many of the theories of Freud. At one stage he came close to Trotsky, but then drifted away. Under intense persecution he eventually broke with Marxism and even revised some of his earlier brilliant insights. Alessandro D'Aloia looks at the rise and fall of Reich.

This article was first published in Italian on the web site of the journal FalceMartello. The original Italian version can be found at Marxismo e psicoanalisi (la figura di Wilhelm Reich).

Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957) was a Marxist, a psychologist and a scientist. His written works are invaluable resources in understanding the relationships existing between Marxism and psychoanalysis without requiring the special approach or knowledge of a student of psychology. His personal tragedies illustrate how a wide range of otherwise abstract issues can manifest and interconnect with one’s life.

His Education

Neither Reich’s historical role nor his works are recognized by most psychoanalysts, be they students, professionals or simple amateurs. This state of affairs enabled renowned intellectuals, such as those from the “Frankfurt School”, to easily pillage from his works (especially those from his most manifestly Marxist period) without ever giving a nod of acknowledgement to Reich and, moreover, without anyone ever realizing that fact.

As a result, today most people who have an interest in psychology learn little more than Freud’s classics. This leads to a lack of any knowledge of a number of major contributions made to psychology, such as Reich’s, which are essential reading in order to fully understand psychoanalysis, its current contradictions, and its current class standpoint. Were these contributions more widely known, the so-called “reformed” Freudian postulates would be completely undermined and their reactionary implications would be exposed.

Reich’s most well-known work is “The Sexual Revolution”, published in Vienna in 1930. His scientific products have a much broader scope than Freud’s, including important works such as: “The Function of Orgasm”, “The Irruption of Coercive Sexual Morale”, “The Individual and the State”, “Dialectical Materialism and Psychoanalysis”, and “Mass Psychology of Fascism”. Reich was an active member of the International Psychoanalytic Society (IPS), which had been founded by Freud. At the time of his first publishing (of “The Function of Orgasm”) he was widely acknowledged as the most gifted of all Freud’s disciples. But even within that very work were, in essence, all of those elements of thought which were to clash with Freud during his “second period”.

Reich agreed with Freud that sexual development was the fundamental origin of mental disorder. Together, they advocated the following positions: that most psychological activity was ruled by subconscious processes; that children quickly develop an active sexuality; that children’s sexual energy is the cause of most psychological developments; that infant sexuality is subsequently repressed and that this has major consequences for mental health; that morality does not derive from any supernatural being or set of rules, but that it is the product of imposed repressions against the sexuality of individuals as they progress in age from a child, to a teenager and finally to an adult.

Reich went on, seeking to develop these ideas and to cohere them with concrete findings. He explored and exposed the relationships between sexual life and bourgeois morality, then proceeded to address in the same fashion the connection between bourgeois morality itself and the social and economic structures that produced and influenced it. Reich wrote that bourgeois sexual repression and its subconscious influences were the main causes of neuroses. He advanced the idea that a sexual life that was free from feelings of guilt would be the best therapy to treat those neuroses. He concluded by stating that such a liberation from shame and repression could only be realized through a non-authoritarian morality, which in turn would only come from an economic system that had been able to overcome and abolish repression.

However, Freud was soon to alter the content of his thoughts, and in the process he would break with those ideas that Reich agreed with Freud upon and had taken as his starting point. In 1926, in the work, “The Inhibition, Symptom and Anxiousness”, Freud claimed that, “...[it is] anxiousness that produces repression and not, as I believed in the past, that repression produces anxiousness...” This was a turn of 180 degrees. Freud’s new theory claimed that anxiousness (sexual anxiety) was something endogenous, from within the individual psyche. Thus, Freud no longer considered it to be the by-product of external, social conditions. All external, objective, environmental factors were simply dropped from Freud’s analyses.

Freud’s new body of ideas became a vehicle for all those theories that maintain that all human “faults” are inherent within the physical being of men and women (for example, the idea that there is a gene that causes criminality). This is in stark contradiction to the materialist conception, which holds that it is mankind’s social conditions of existence that shape general and individual consciousness – not vice versa. From the moment that Freud rejected materialist philosophy, his theories were destined to become nothing more than an acceptance of society as it is, thus ruling out the possibility of creating real solutions to the medical problems he was seeking to address.

These changes in Freud’s position occurred at a very significant time – the final years of the 1920’s. At that time the general mood was that, with the seemingly unstoppable rise of Nazism, the fascists would surely disband the IPS if the body did not revise its theoretical foundations. As it turned out, threats of repression led to Nazism having an influence on the thinking of many bourgeois scientists, even those who were beyond any suspicion of having Nazi sympathies themselves. Freud was just one of many bourgeois scientists affected in this way.

His Work

Whilst Freud was practicing self-censorship, in 1928 Reich dared to join the Austrian Communist Party (ACP). He quickly proved himself to be a very active militant. He was convinced, as a determined Marxist, that the only way to undertake effective action against the capitalist system was through political activity organized by the workers themselves on the shop floor. In the same year Reich, together with other left-wing doctors, had founded the Socialist Association for Sexual Counselling and Research. This new group was supported by the ACP, and it organised “centres for psychological counselling”. The goal was for these to be the first clinical centres to address the psychological issues of workers and to accept them as patients – rather than treat bored bourgeois, who were natural clients for the Freudians.

Wilhelm Reich

One must keep in mind that Reich did not take a utopian stance on the question of how to solve the masses’ psychological ailments. This is proven by his belief that neuroses and emotional disorders were produced by a given social structure that is capitalistic and authoritarian, as well as by his scientifically correct conclusion that by smashing capitalism and building a socialist society, thereby ridding society of these negative features, those psychological disorders would be rendered impossibilities.

Reich’s new research association enjoyed a lengthy patient roster, the size of which allowed for a wealth of thorough, consistent and frequent studies. Naturally, these provided some immediate benefits to the worker-patients. By handling a large number of clinical cases, much greater than what the Freudians encountered in their work, Reich provided exceptional statistical support for his research and his conclusions. His subsequent works were to include a number of observations and cases that was incomparably bigger than that of his “competitors”.

These experiences also provided Wilhelm Reich with an intimate understanding of many social problems. For example, the soaring number of unwanted pregnancies, which was increasing as a result of a period of forced “demographic development”. His experiences with workers also strengthened his opposition to the absurd idea of aseptic clinical work, which was the method that all other “professionals” supported at the time. They felt it unnecessary and worthless to consider the question of relationships between mental illness and its possible social causes.

Reich wrote the following on his experiences of that time:

In most cases, we hardly had any reason to provide people with a proper medical diagnosis. On the contrary, using such a tool, that is hiding behind it, meant closing your eyes in front of the principal problem. That would have been really stupid, other than criminal, for the mother and the child to be...those women, those girls were totally unable to love a child, taking care of him, help him to grow up and not destroying his life. All those women, with no exception, were extremely disordered from an emotional point of view. All of them, with no exception again, had a disturbed relationship (if any) with the man that put them into trouble. They were frigid, shattered by exploitation, sadist deep down in their conscience, or openly masochist ... in most cases they had other three or six children or rather they were bringing up somebody else’s. They just hated their babies even before they were born. Quite often they were beaten up by alcoholic husbands. They hated the children around them. Talking about “holy motherly love” in front of such a criminal suffering would have sounded criminal, indeed.”

Such apalling conditions moved Reich to produce a profound analysis of the affect of bourgeois morality on women’s psychological development. In this way Reich provided an important scientific contribution to the issue of the “liberation of women”. On this issue he openly polemicized against the contemporary “sexual hygiene specialists”, who explicitly preached feminine chastity before marriage. One of these “specialists” wrote, “We must nobilitate and cultivate feminine chastity as the greatest national wealth; in fact it is just thanks to women chastity that we can have a safe guarantee that we really are our children’s fathers, and that we are working and toiling for our own blood. Without such a guarantee there is not any possibility of an intimate and safe family life, which in turn is the indispensable pillar for the nation and people’s prosperity...If women are not devoted to their men it is much more dangerous than if men are not devoted to their women...” (Max Von Guber, “Higiene des Geschlechtslebens dargestellt fur Manne”r, Stuttgart 1930 – in English, “Sexual Life Hygiene for Men”). Though surely not intended by its author, this passage is actually a clear confirmation of a point that Engels argued in his classic, “The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State” – a point which Reich expressed in his own words when he wrote that, “...the most immediate consequence of private property is the interest for chastity before marriage and marital fidelity to the husband”.

This consequence of private property causes the sexual relationship between men and women to cease existing as a matter involving only the sexual life and personal choices of individuals, and to subsequently become a construct in which women are doomed to suffer greater restrictions, pressures, and inequities. This was confirmed by clinical statistics. In fact, at that time, no less than 90% of women were held to have some variety of sexual disorder, compared with “just” 60% of men. These were tremendous and shocking figures, changing the definition of “normality” and causing sexual disorders to be considered a mass problem.

It goes without saying that such horrible conditions did not worry Nazi sexual hygienists, who put forward such theories as, “the female natural instinct for monogamy”. According to rubbish such as this, women were only capable of sexual satisfaction when 20 to 25 years old and only if their sexual intercourse was undertaken for the purpose of conceiving a child – and of course, according to these theories, all of this was due to “natural” reasons.

It is not surprising that there existed an extremely strong relationship between these sorts of theories and the church’s positions on related issues. The church had always been the leading producer of ideological tenets for the ruling classes throughout history. It had always played such a crucial role in the service of the state that at this time the state itself could not help but to march alongside of it in defence of one of the most fundamental institutions of bourgeois society: matrimony. The very existence of matrimony as an institution of bourgeois society prohibits any possibility of solving the consequences of a morality based on repression, whether those consequences are psychological (such as various neuroses and sexual disorders), or physical (for example, abortion). As a matter of fact, the end of bourgeois morality, which would be the only real solution to these problems, would necessarily undermine such “values” as “virginity before marriage” and marital fidelity. Consequently, marriage would be freed from its traditional role of enforcing the unfair respect and control enjoyed exclusively by men. Such a role is evidenced, for example, in the rationale behind the idea that if a woman is faithful she will never need to undergo an abortion – as if the only problem in the case of an abortion is marital fidelity alone.

If we found a way to sterilize women temporarily and with the possibility of repeating it, through internal means, it would be absolutely compelling to find a way to disseminate such techniques and make them affordable, so as to guarantee... a benefit... for hygiene, but also taking care of the horrible threat this would pose on sexual order and the morale, or even more on life and civilization in general” (Max Marcuse, “Matrimony: Its Physiology, Psychology, Hygiene and Eugenetics. A Biological Book on Marriage, Berlin/Koln, 1927).

The prohibition of abortion and contraceptives deprives women of control over their own lives and bodies, with their most personal sphere of life falling under the authority of bourgeois morality’s need to keep them subjugated to men. The ultimate purpose of such prohibitions is to preserve bourgeois institutions so as to defend and maintain capitalist private property. Even though the idea of a family based on “holy matrimony” is in deep crisis nowadays, the preceding lines still hold true today. The whole of bourgeois morality is in crisis. The precarious conditions of all spheres of life have been brought about by capitalism itself. Everything is subjected to sudden changes; the new “word of God” is “flexibility”, and the new god from whence this word issues is the god “Capital”. The issues of abortion and contraception have in turn given rise to a new issue: that both the biblical “word of God” and the bourgeoisie’s “new word of a new god” alike constitute theological contradictions in the ruling ideology.

Theoretical Core and Polemics with the Freudians

Earlier in this article, we explained how Freudian psychoanalysis lost itself in a blind alley after 1926, making an erroneous detour in order to justify the approach to social reality that Freud and the IPS society as a whole took at this time as they sought to disassociate themselves from social criticism. At this point however, we must return to the subject, as it is important to examine this process in greater detail. The Freudians’ refusal to connect social conditions with mental disorders as the “cause” and the “effect” forced them to adapt by producing a great number of incredibly reactionary postulates. Whereas this new outlook could not adequately explain any of the psychological problems that it had set out to solve, Freud was forced to invent the theory of the “death instinct” as a way to explain the origins of these problems. According to his new conception, the death instinct was a primitive and self-destructive impulse, taking the individual back to a primordial condition of inertia – a condition that all things tend to conclude in.

Because Freudian methods of therapy depended upon such mistaken theoretical postulates, when put into practice they did not have any significant positive affects on patients. The Freudians were consequently led to conclude that the “self-destruction principle”, which they maintained was innate in every human being, was an unconscious need for punishment struggling against the natural need for pleasure. Hence, for the Freudians, neuroses became a biological condition of human beings. On the basis of that logic, the lives of individuals were marked forever by a “primary masochism”. This was held to be the reason why patients “resisted” treatment, remaining ill. According to the Freudians, it was because the patients were biologically compelled to oppose recovery from their disorders! Reich continued to advocate the idea that patients were ill and unbalanced due to their fear of receiving punishment for acting on their natural sexual impulses. The believers in the “death instinct” were growing in number and prestige in a way that closely resembles the fame and acceptance enjoyed by modern-day supporters of the “Big Bang” theory. All the while, the Freudians sought to divert psychological thought away from the original ideas of the necessity for social prevention of neuroses through a comprehensive reform of behavioural rules and practices and of the social institutions producing and influencing them.

In 1931, Freud published his work entitled, “Civilisation Disease”. In this work he argued that civilisation as a whole was built upon sexual repression and on the sublimation of sexual impulses. By this he meant that repression is necessary to the creation, maintenence and progress of civilisation; that repression is a prerequisite for social structure that mankind must resign to, and that mankind must learn to sublimate its primitive impulses so as to divert attention and energy to socially acceptable goals. This line is a transparent and complete capitulation to bourgeois idealism and morality. It preaches nothing more than the same sort of meek and subservient life that organized religion had always preached in order to fool the masses and deliver them to subjugation and exploitation across the centuries. Reich commented on this work of Freud’s, criticizing him for having not taken into account the questions of “if” and “to what extent” the reality of social conditions were rational or not; if they were structured on the basis of serving mankind’s needs and advancing its happiness, rather than structured on the basis of maintaining the oppression and exploitation of man by man. As a Marxist, Reich was wholly aware that the “civilization” that Freud was referring to was nothing more than a particular period amongst many other epochs that collectively constituted human development through different stages of social organization. It was clear to Reich that Freud was trying to formulate general conclusions on the absolute nature of the human psyche from just a single, transitory, historically determined stage of serial civilization. And what’s worse, Freud was putting forward a pessimistic attitude, emphasizing the inertia of any given society.

A similar generalisation is at the theoretical basis of Freud’s notorious “Oedipus complex”. The complex depends upon the existence of the family as organized on a particular monogamous basis – a phenomenon that was the result of specific social conditions and historical stages. The Oedipus complex attempts to explain the development of the sexual personality of the individual by referring to the sexual personalities of the parents (in a dialectical process where experience, not biology, is the determining factor) – but it does so with only a reference to the relative (and not to the absolute) nature of this particular family form. Thus, the Freudian theory of the Oedipus complex cannot fully explain the issues involved. In fact, while within the theory there is a role played by childrens’ sexuality, this remains indeterminate throughout the course of the complex. That is to say, in the composition of the countervailing desires for the death of the same-sex parent and of the sexual attraction for the opposite-sex parent lies the entire psychological profile of the adult individual.

The impossibility of the child’s fulfilment of those desires is due to the social and cultural structure that imposes the repression of this behaviour. The act of repression itself influences the development of the individual’s personality through the process Freud called “primitive impulse sublimation”. This repression is necessary in order to develop a civilised, balanced, healthy social life, in the actual conditions of society. But whilst this process of “sublimation” (which by the way is imposed on the child externally by the society that the child has been born into) allows Freud to explain the development of individuals’ psychological characteristics in a “civilised society” (that is, one organized around the monogamist family), it cannot be used to develop therapies to treat the neuroses that authoritarian morality repeatedly inflicts adult individuals with. This is because any therapeutic methods deriving from Freud’s outlook would have to be nothing more than palliatives to the repression of impulses, as they never dare to question the social necessity of repression. Instead, repression is continually accepted, even though it is the ultimate cause of neuroses.

Furthermore, the possibility in practical terms of sublimating one’s impulses through the means of one’s creative activity is a concept that could apply only to a tiny layer of society. Surely, it cannot apply to the vast majority of society, the alienated masses. These individuals have no way in which they can obtain any satisfaction through the activities that their occupations assign to them. The possibility to divert sexual energies towards creative activities, thus allowing one to “take out” sexual tensions, cannot be accomplished within any society that imposes repression. The effective sublimation of these impulses depends upon the freedom to choose one’s outlet for activity. But this is a privilege enjoyed by the tiny minority – the elite: those who have succeeded in accomplishing for themselves precisely the life that they want and those who simply do not have any cause to worry about material subsistence. For everyone else, the overwhelming majority of people, the word “sublimation” is absolutely devoid of any therapeutic value. Dealing with the subject of sublimation without making reference to social and economic issues is simply too abstracted from reality to be productive.

The Expulsion from the IPS

By now it is clear to the reader that the fundamental nature of the differences dividing Reich from the esoteric ideologies that the IPS accepted could result in no other outcome than his inevitable expulsion from the Society, which came to pass in 1934. The “formal” reason for the expulsion given by the IPS was Reich’s political militancy. This was quite an ironic development as the now completely Stalinist ACP had expelled Reich as a “bourgeois psychologist” one year earlier! The ACP charged that in the course of the struggle for a “proletarian culture” there was no room for psychology, which they defined as “bourgeois living room fashion” (in the case of the Freudians they were correct!). The result of this logic was that a psychologist could not be a Marxist. But the actual reasons for Reich’s expulsion were to be found elsewhere, naturally.

The first reason was the publication of Reich’s “Mass Psychology of Fascism” in 1933. This book got Reich into trouble within the IPS as well, as the group was trying not to come into conflict with Nazi diktats. As for the ACP, the Stalinist leadership’s concern was that Reich had outlined and analysed some particularities of the mass character of fascism, for example the cult of personality, and that even though Reich was referring to fascism, his criticisms could have been read as an attack on Stalinism and its comparable methods.

Reich and Trotsky

It was during this period that Reich grew closer to Trotsky’s ideas. Reich was convinced of the “fundamental correctness” of Trotsky’s writings on the rise of Nazism in Germany. The worst catastrophe in the history of German politics occurred in 1933, and it opened the eyes of Reich and many others to the anti-revolutionary nature of Stalinism. Reich soon got in touch with refugee members of the Left Opposition, and then wrote a letter to Trotsky in which he proposed to him a long term collaboration. In that letter, written in October of 1933, Reich explained that, “I am convinced that your point of view has been fundamentally correct and I follow with much attention the work and activities of the Left Opposition” (M. Konitzer, Reich, Erre Emme, page 178 of the Italian edition).

Reich was aware that Trotsky had shown an interest in the achievements and development of psychological science. Trotsky thought that Freud’s early theories were entirely materialist – though Freud himself maintained an idealist philosophical outlook. Trotsky was convinced that the Russian psychologist Pavlov should have integrated and synthesized his theories with Freud’s findings. In a speech delivered in Copenhagen in 1932, Trotsky stated that, “owing to the genius of Sigmund Freud, psychoanalysis has lifted the lid of what is poetically defined as the human soul”. Trotsky’s answer to Reich’s proposal for collaboration was that it should be hoped for indeed, but he also confessed his personal lack of knowledge about psychoanalytic matters.

A discussion started by the beginning of 1936, but unfortunately this was not to be the “hoped for” starting point for collaborative work. By this time, Reich’s ideas were already beginning to degenerate. In 1936, Reich had already undertaken excessive efforts to widen the application of psychoanalytical rules to matters of politics and sociology. Even as Reich’s identification with Marxist ideas grew stronger, he always understated and underestimated the case for the building of the revolutionary party, and explicitly denied the need for an International. As he later wrote in his autobiography, “According to me, Trotsky’s project for a 4th international was a completely useless search for failure.” (W. Reich, “The Individual and the State”).

This kind of ambiguity prevented Trotsky and Reich from achieving any meaningful collaboration. We cannot help but to notice what represents a fundamental contradiction in the Austrian scientist’s thought even in this period, when he was at his best. Though his “technical” arguments are consistent with a materialist perspective, his “political” ideas tend to reject and contradict the duty that every Marxist has: that of openly standing for truly revolutionary ideas inside the party, to defend them from any kind of degeneration at the hands of bureaucrats. Reich did not feel the need for a “political” criticism against Stalinism. This may have been due to his misconceived sense of loyalty to the party. Another possibility is that Reich lacked a real understanding of the party’s utter political degeneration. This latter hypothesis is supported by his own personal history, if we keep in mind that the process of “Stalinisation” was well underway even at the time he had first joined the party.

Consideration of this fact is the best way in which we can try to fully understand Reich’s contradictory attitude. This is confirmed in his autobiography. Even though Reich firmly criticised such simplistic statements as “people are naturally reactionary” and counter-posed to it that “people are naturally revolutionary”, and even though he correctly expressed his analyses in dialectical terms in examining the relationships between human behaviour and social and economic conditions, he failed in that he always limited his analyses to psychological terms and language. In fact, his explanation of fascism as a mass neurosis, presenting the fascist demagogues on one side and the nodding masses on the other, does not lead to any adequate understanding of the political aspects of Nazi-fascism as an extreme instrument of class repression against the proletariat and its political organisations. It seems that Reich felt that dialectical materialism could only apply to psychology and not to politics!

In Reich’s works on the disruption of the monogamous family in the soviet experience (which were the works that contributed most to his expulsions), he referred to Trotsky’s 1923 work “Problems of Everyday Life”, and hinted at ideas found in Engels Origin of the Family.... Reich focused on the more progressive aspects of that social experience, believing it to stand as an incomparable achievement even though it was faced with huge material difficulties:

...the beginning of a sexual revolution with the current dissolution of the family; the substitution of patriarchal family structure with the socialist collective; the growing involvement of either husband or wife into public functions; the access of sons and daughters to collectives and the subsequent competition of social relationships to family ones; the transferral of children’s responsibility from the parents to society and the collectivisation of children cultivation.”

Reich was able to realize that Stalinism meant disruption to those processes. In 1934, in fact, suddenly (as part of the so-called “new course”) the worship of the patriarchal family and the laws against homosexuality were reintroduced. These counter-reforms sharply contrasted with the laws that Lenin had sponsored dating back to December 1917, namely the “annulment of matrimony” and the “civil matrimony, children and civil register office” acts. Those laws stated that the husband was no longer the family’s leader and that women were to be given complete material and sexual self-determination including the right of the individual to choose her name, domicile and citizenship.

Migrations, Paranoia, Prison and Death

Even before his expulsion from the IPS, Reich was forced to move to Denmark due to open hostility against him in his working environment. But very soon afterwards he had to flee to Sweden, then to Norway and finally, in 1939, to the United States where, luckily, he was perfectly unknown. Unfortunately, while his initial years in the United States were relatively calm, his work soon led again to open hostility everywhere. It became impossible to carry on his studies and work The unbearable conditions drove him towards paranoia. It was not long before he was being denounced to the police by his bigoted neighbours who became agitated by his strange behaviour. The police carried out inquiries regarding his past and soon “exposed” the “immoral” content of his writings. In the course of their investigations, the police eventually discovered the Marxist origin of his thought.

This process of intimidation lasted a few years, during which Reich dared to continue writing. Unfortunately, some aspects of his outlook deviated into semi-scientific theories, also known as his “orgonomic period theories”. Sadly these theories are much more known than those he had held previously. His excessive emphasis on sexual energy led him to believe that it could have been physically measured and even visible through some devices (the “orgonoscopes”). An absolute belief in the existence of a “positive energy” (the “orgon”) threw him into a theoretical framework that began to smack of mysticism. He abandoned any materialist standpoint and started believing in such things as origination of the universe from the orgons through a huge primordial orgasm reached between two primitive orgonic entities – a sexual “Big-Bang”! Such a capitulation to idealism, all the more shocking when compared to his previous dialectical-materialist scientific principles, can be explained only as being due to his complete detachment from reality. This had, in turn, developed from his ever-worsening political and scientific isolation, which in the last years of his life reached the point of total personal persecution .

It is essential to clearly distinguish between his two periods. The first one was from 1919 to 1938, and the second was from 1938 to 1957. It is also important to consider the fact that he rewrote his previous works, making severe changes. In fact, in his second period, Reich revised and abridged his previous works. In some cases he altered definitions and secondary considerations, but in other cases he completely changed the content of his ideas.

A striking example is the 1946 foreword to the third edition of “Mass Psychology of Fascism”. In that edition, Reich completely contradicts what he had written years before. He now described fascism as the “politically organised expression of the average personality structure”, which is an organic component of the common man, according to the three layers scheme he had drafted years before. In that theory, Reich had divided the psychological life of men and women into a biological tier consisting of instincts, an unconscious tier where authoritarian morality engenders perversion by its repression of biological instincts, and finally a conscious tier where the by-products of the morality that repressed those instincts produces neuroses and physical disorders. In his last analysis, fascism is no longer a political phenomenon, or even a “mass neurosis” – but something inherent to mankind! This idea was more unscientific and pessimistic than the Freudian “death instinct”, which Reich himself had bitterly fought against in previous years.

Only the editions dating back to his first period are to be considered consistent with a dialectical materialistic view. Reich’s ideas, like those of his mentor Freud, followed a descending path. The main cause seems to be the same in both of their cases – namely, the refusal to maintain political criticism. In Reich’s case it was the refusal to oppose Stalinism that first led him to revise his theories and then to abandon them.

The pronounced sexual content of the orgonomic theory gave him a reputation as a sexual pervert. In later trials, the charge of being part of a “communist plot” was added. Desperate, Reich attempted to defend himself by rejecting his communist past and by trying to appear even more anti-communist than his prosecutors. In the end, he was totally unable to successfully defend himself due to his suicidal plunge into the idealist ideology of the ruling class, which – both then and now – equates communism with Stalinism. He eventually became completely unhinged and paranoid. After years of court trials he was sent to prison. He died soon after, in 1957.