Following the protests and rebellions ignited by the police murder of George Floyd, calls to “defund” and “abolish” the police have grown in popularity, mostly among the activist/Leftist crowd and the progressive petty-bourgeoisie. Some elected officials have given their endorsement to these calls, and the Minneapolis city council intends to make a considerable overhaul of its local repressive state apparatus. The exact meaning of “defund” and “abolish” the police varies considerably, but usually means shifting money away from the police and into social service and community programs.
A series of outrages and the protests and rebellions that followed them have laid bare to a new generation, to white people willing to listen, and to the whole world a cold but potentially liberating truth: White supremacy and the oppression of Black people are fundamental to the foundations and functioning of the United States, and the rulers of the US, no matter what they as individuals think or feel, cannot go a day without inflicting brutality on Black people. These brutalities will only end when the system that needs and perpetuates them, together with the class that rules that system and those who enforce it, are forcibly overthrown and destroyed.
Things done changed is the second part in the four-part series The Specter that Still Haunts. Parts three and four will appear in kites three and four respectively. Originally written in 2015 and published in Uprising (a previous theoretical organ of Revolutionary Initiative’s), the whole series can be found at revolutionary-initiative.com.
Finance as Fantasy and Reality
The bourgeoisie is not a monolithic class of industrial capitalists all directly profiting from the exploitation of the laborers they employ. Instead, the bourgeoisie is divided into various factions, including financiers, renters, merchants, industrialists, and landlords. Among these factions, the surplus-value created by human labor is split and appropriated. But while the capital that different factions of the bourgeoisie accumulates has its origins in the production of surplus-value, the various forms of capital and the processes these forms undergo are different.1 With the transition from capitalism to imperialism came the ascendance of finance capital to a position of primacy within the overall accumulation process. Lenin wrote that the “concentration of production; the monopolies arising therefrom; the merging or coalescence of the banks with industry—such is the history of the rise of finance capital and such is the content of the concept.”2 David Harvey clarifies that rather than a power bloc in opposition to other capitals, finance capital is “a circulation process of capital that centers on the credit system.”3
Publication of the print version of kites #2 is delayed due to the pandemic. However, we will be posting new content here on our website.
Thefollowing Manifesto of the Organization of Communist Revolutionaries (OCR) is our indictment of US imperialism and the entire capitalist-imperialist system it is part of; our conception of the goal of communism and the socialist transition to get there; and our strategic thinking on making revolution in the US. It is not intended as a replacement or update of previous great works of communist theory and strategy, such as Marx’s and Engels’ Communist Manifesto; it is our attempt to apply such theory and strategy to the contemporary US. We welcome debate and discussion of this Manifesto and hope to learn from others who are attempting to figure out how to make revolution. We hope this Manifesto can provide inspiration and guidance to all those who hate the injustices of the present order and dream and struggle for a better world. And to those who agree with this Manifesto in whole or in part, we call on you to put these principles into practice, and to consider joining the Organization of Communist Revolutionaries.
For nearly three decades, people calling themselves Maoists in Europe and North America have been arguing that Mao’s military doctrine of protracted people’s war (PPW), which guided the Chinese revolution to victory and has been adopted and adapted in Vietnam, the Philippines, Peru, India, and Nepal, has universal applicability.
Briefly, the strategy of PPW relies on the fact that in semi-feudal countries, state power is concentrated in the cities and is weak in the countryside, and the main force of the revolution, the peasantry, resides in the countryside and is bitterly oppressed by landlords and local authorities. Thus revolutionaries can initiate guerrilla warfare and peasant struggles in the countryside without confronting the full force of the central state’s military, and build local red political power leading to the establishment of bases areas. After substantial territory has been acquired so that red base areas encircle the cities and a powerful revolutionary army capable of positional warfare has been built, the revolutionary force descends on the cities and thus seizes nationwide power.
Although Mao theorized PPW as revolutionary military strategy for semi-feudal countries oppressed by imperialism, the PPW universalists argue that this military strategy also applies to revolution in the imperialist countries. Rather than develop theoretical grounding for their viewpoint, propose concrete strategic doctrine, and dare to put their claim into practice, the PPW universalists have vociferously argued on the internet for the correctness of their position, often resorting to unprincipled attacks on real communist leaders to draw attention to their tantrums.
Dedicated in remembrance of Nicholas Heyward, Sr., a fierce fighter in the struggle against police violence.
Eric Garner, 43, in Staten Island, NY, 2014. Michael Brown, 18, in Ferguson, MO, 2014. Laquan McDonald, 17, in Chicago, IL, 2014. Tamir Rice, 12, in Cleveland, OH, 2014. Walter Scott. Freddie Gray. Alton Sterling. Philando Castile….
Over the past five years, the number of high-profile murders at the hands of police has drawn national attention to the epidemic of police violence and the treatment of Black people in the United States (US). While the particular role played by police in the oppression of Black people has been ongoing—a story told and retold with painstaking articulation in urban uprisings from Watts in 1965 to Baltimore in 2015—only recently have a significant number of petty-bourgeois and white people become familiar with it, newly “woke” to the sheer volume of incidents of brutality and murder perpetrated by police. Furthermore, only a select few cases were given coverage by mainstream media throughout the years, while today the epidemic nature of police violence is being more widely reported.
In response to these outrages and to their revelation of a systemic issue, hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets demanding justice, giving rise to a movement against unchecked police terror and violence. While noteworthy, this is hardly the first incident of organized resistance to oppressive policing; the central, founding tenet of the Black Panther Party (BPP) at the time of its inception in 1966, for example, was to protect the Black community of Oakland, California from the continuous abuse visited upon it by law enforcement (as is evident in the BPP’s original name: the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense). To that end, Panthers would conduct armed patrols in order to monitor police and intervene were they to witness officers engaging in brutality and other misconduct. In a word, the long and storied history of police violence is punctuated by instances of organized resistance to it, which brings us nearer the subject of our piece.
In the American and Canadian prison systems, kites are “contraband” correspondence shared among inmates, and between inmates and those on the outside. Tiny, folded-up pieces of paper, kites are slipped past the watchful eyes of our tormentors, passed through commissary or along with items moving in and out of prison. Their contents range from everyday survival shit to the fragments of plans to strike an enemy. In all cases, the kite is a clandestine form of exchange and dialogue invented by our class in the most brutal conditions known to the North American proletariat.
As a symbol of proletarian resilience and a cultural form from which we have much to learn, we can find no better name for a journal whose mandate is the exchange of a very different kind of contraband created by our class and even more necessary to survive present and future conditions: revolutionary theory.
The Proletariat: What it is, what it ain’t is the opening essay in a four-part series The Specter that Still Haunts. Parts two, three, and four will appear in kites two, three, and four respectively. Originally written in 2015 and published in Uprising (a previous theoretical organ of Revolutionary Initiative’s), the whole series can be found at revolutionary-initiative.com.
Looked at through the prism of the postmodernist philosophy that is so popular among the petty bourgeoisie at present, the elevation of the proletariat to a leadership role in the path towards human liberation presents itself as privileging one particular struggle and one specific social formation over others. Objections abound to what is seen as putting the question of class and the oppression faced by a particular class over the questions of “gender,” “race,” etc.1 But from the communist perspective, locating a revolutionary class has never been about prioritizing one social group, form of oppression, or particular struggle over others. The question communists ask is what social force can pave the way in radically changing all existing oppressive production and social relations. Therein lies the significance of the proletariat. While the postmodernist objection will remain, let it do so as opposition to any and all universalist projects that would dare to transform today’s decrepit society from top to bottom, for communists have no team to root for in a moral contest over what form of oppression is the most important.2 That contest never gets beyond, in politics, what the independent producer never gets beyond in their daily life—exchanging commodities on the market in order to advance their own position in opposition to others.3