Mao’s “Combat Liberalism” Turned Against Stalinism/Maoism

I took some heat for an earlier piece, Exterminate Stalinism and Maoism.

I have a condensed version of what I was really getting at: the whole joke was to use repressive tankie logic against the tankies themselves.  How can they criticize you for doing the things they historically, and presently, do themselves?

I was actually riffing off of Mao’s piece, COMBAT LIBERALISM, where he recommends that any time someone expresses an incorrect view, you must vigorously debate them and thoroughly attempt to persuade them otherwise.

Quoted here:

Liberalism manifests itself in various ways.

To let things slide for the sake of peace and friendship when a person has clearly gone wrong, and refrain from principled argument because he is an old acquaintance, a fellow townsman, a schoolmate, a close friend, a loved one, an old colleague or old subordinate.

Or to touch on the matter lightly instead of going into it thoroughly, so as to keep on good terms…

To hear incorrect views without rebutting them…

To see someone harming the interests of the masses and yet not feel indignant, or dissuade or stop him or reason with him, but to allow him to continue…

If someone is a Stalinist or Maoist, they have clearly “gone wrong” and require your intervention.  It requires you “go into the matter thoroughly” with them, not “touch on it lightly.”  The first time you do this with a friend may be difficult.  It gets easier with practice.  You should treat them as you would treat a friend with an addiction: compassionately, but firmly telling them the truth they need to hear.

If you hear someone making Stalinist or Maoist statements, or views influenced by Stalinism or Maoism, then these are “incorrect views,” and instead of letting them go unchallenged, you should start “rebutting them.”  This, too, is difficult at first, but becomes easier with time.

Stalinist and Maoist politics are “harmful to the interests of the masses.”  They send our movements in wrong directions tactically in the present.  They send our overall movement in the direction of dictatorships, reformism, sellouts, betrayals, and privileged bureaucratic ruling elites in the long run.  This should make you “feel indignant.”  You should “dissuade them or stop them or reason with them, or not allow them to continue.”

friends dont let friends be tankies

There is a question: does opposing tankie tendencies undermine socialist unity?  It shouldn’t.  Political coherence requires both quality and critical debate on one hand, and the over-arching unity of conflicting tendencies on the other.

But as argued earlier, opposing tankie tendencies can be elevated as a separate task from socialist unity anyway, because tankie tendencies are not actually socialist anyway, since they produce bureaucratic ruling classes.  Since socialism is supposed to be a state in which the working class has been made into the dominant class of society, instead of repressed and exploited by a new ruling class, that means Stalinism and Maoism do not, in fact, fall under the umbrella of socialist unity.

Again, though, the real impetus of opposing tankies is to oppose the people who act like iron-fisted Stalinists who sit at the helm of Trotskyist, anarchist, progressive and social-democratic organizations.  These self-appointed dictators, authorities, and movement gatekeepers are everywhere, and by attacking tankies we set an ideological precedent that we won’t tolerate other types of petty dictators in out movements, either.  While we must ensure that libertarian socialism generally wins out over Stalinistic tendencies in the Left, it’s an equal priority to challenge the dominance of the gatekeepers.  This spells the difference between whether our organizations become genuine workers’ parties or just more political capital for the next generation of machine bureaucrat political capitalists who inevitably become reformist sellouts (if not corrupt oligarchs or dictators).

Failing to challenge it when people express Stalinism or Maoism around you is a form of liberalism.

Combat liberalism.


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