The ending of the internet blog, Signalfire received some harsh comments from fellow bloggers. Within the realm of cybermaoism, the attitude was largely dismissive.
The UK-based Democracy ad Class Struggle said “Signalfire was never our ideological friend – they had a very different conception of Maoism from us”.
The response from Akram Guzman of Red Guards Austin in America was more vehemently hostile writing of “deserters and traitors to the ideology, those types were ideologically weak to begin with and had a lack of communist discipline, strong currents of individualism.” A longer commentary – Farewell Signalfire was posted August 16, 2016 because “This vile and opportunist behavior merits such a pointed response.”
One French opinion described its demise as “a pathetic failure from an American blog [that] played a very negative role…. its disappearing is a very good thing and the expression of the advance of class struggle.”
Truthfully, the blog was useful for a while. It covered international armed struggles, signposting the struggle particularly in India that got scant media coverage elsewhere during the last few years. Good Morning Left Side provided a good summary of the main weakness of the blog’s coverage:
“Signalfire used to be a useful source of information; but, on the other hand, it kept this bad habit of posting pieces and documents from various opportunistic/reformist groups as well as revolutionary ones, mixing them without much critical comments. The main source of their information was mainstream medias, which tended to give a cops outlook on revolutionary movements, especially in India. Okay, “x naxalites and x policemen had been killed today” but what really matters is the development of the movement and its struggles.”
Signalfire website was described in the last post as “always been the personal project of a single individual in the United States since it began its current incarnation five years ago.” This is a real dilemma, that internet activism – as the sole focus, means people with time on their hands, with even a moderate flair in IT and who are obsessive enough – can seem to have an online presence and influence way beyond their actual contribution to the lives of any actual ordinary real world people. A web presence, in conjunction with an organisational life, can mobilise and intervene in real life struggles. However blog life, while sometimes making interesting or useful observation, is essentially (at best) educational, and individualistic in nature reflecting all the weaknesses of that contribution. Without the input of collective practice and criticism, the tempering and intellectual challenges of engagement in the raw reality of class struggle, it reverts to a petty-bourgeois vehicle reminiscent of the “star commentator” of mainstream media. Their individual prejudices, obsessions and judgements can be entertaining but they do not make a movement.
Signalfire stated, “I no longer consider the so called “International Communist Movement” with its proliferation of cultish microsects and blind worship of failed past movements to be worth promoting.”
Signalfire never drew the demarcation line between the different sources it drew upon to publicise in the copied and pasted posts about “Maoism” and the People’s War in India. It provided information to highlight struggles that often would argue the universality of Maoism as the third and highest stage of Marxism and have aspirations that included the continuation of protracted people’s war, some would extend this to argue Protracted People’s War is the universal revolutionary strategy for progress to the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the continuation of revolution through socialism to communism. As a website it signposted struggles rather than advocated a specific strategic advance, and nor should one expect such a perspective from its internationalist coverage. Solidarity cannot dictate strategy and tactics for those struggling elsewhere. In the final conclusion, its criticism is not the criticism of comrades.
OK what constitute the International Communist Movement?
In 2016 Maoism does not rely on or look to a leading party or struggle to substitute for own endeavours. Elsewhere Canadian blogger philosopher raised the perspective that Maoism is truly a 21st Century phenomenon, and it is extremely doubtful it will consolidate all those forces that self-identify as Maoist. Numerous internet posted joint statements point to ideological alignments and co-thinkers that have branched out of a Maoist orientation that take on a specific characterisation as “Gonzalist”, “Lin Biaoist”, or an organisational structure or reflective of bi-lateral support for struggles elsewhere e.g. ICOR or former Revolutionary Internationalist Movement groups opposed to the ‘Avakarinist’ developments in the RCP, USA.
When Signalfire describes Marxism-Leninism-Maoism as a theological idealism based upon a mythologization of the Cultural Revolution there are examples that can be cited in evidence. An uncritical approach to that experience is certainly one error in approaching the struggles of today. The Cultural Revolution failed, it does not offer a model but elements within – supervision from below – should be built upon in the struggles today. The importance of that episode was reaffirmed with 40th anniversary statements by various MLM organisations; the evaluation of that experience would be a contested arena for comradely debate.
Contrary to the assertion of Signalfire, the Maoist spirit is far from conservative, it is in practice a critique from the Left that had to make a rupture with “Stalinist” position when challenging modern revisionism in communist practices. It did take on a theological aspect during the Cultural Revolution that were adopted in the immature addictive European movement. However that was challenged and altered in practice if not consolidated in criticism/theory.
There has been different trajectories by organisations then rooted in the anti-revisionist movement and the evolution of some organisations into “cultish microsects” as critics of the RCP,USA are prone to describe the Robert Avakaian fanclub, should not be taken as (a) a component of a self-declared international movement, or (b) representative of the politics and behaviour of that ICM. There is no typical example or template that constitutes what is essentially organisations relating to a shared ideology and political perspectives. The struggle in the Philippines is led by a self-declared MLM party of decades of experiences, in India there are contending approaches by self-identifying Maoist organisations including the CPI Maoist engaged in an armed struggle.
Elsewhere critical summations of lessons of Peru and Nepal are still needed of what are diminished but unfinished struggles. With India, the complexities, even of the CPI(Maoist) struggle will take on a temporary character as analysis and judgements are modified in light of the practice and direction of those struggles. Comrades actively studying those struggles require a collective effort, and an international input rather than assertion.
The accusation of organisations publishing hallucinatory statements is one that can be employed in any sphere of political reporting, subject to the exigencies of the situation, it is not desirable but understandable. The African revolutionary Cabral laid down the line: claim no easy victories. The state of the struggle in India is complex with different strands, and to identify – at this early stage – one organisation ideologically close to one’s own position proves tempting, yet too fetish one aspect is un-Maoist – after all, People’s war is a beginning stragem.
Broad criticism that this supposed homogenous movement has wallow in the metaphysics of the cult, again can be seen as a specific criticism of specific organisations like Peru People’s Movement embroiled in its own specific culturally features – the emphasis on the importance of personalised leadership, and the militarisation of the embryo party etc. Again the example does not make the rule: the isolation of that trend, within what could be generously described as the broad movement, illustrates a singular observation that would not apply to other organisation.
Signalfire’s position that the cultish sectarianism of the “International Communist Movement” is not only irrelevant to the class struggle in most countries in which it exists it is also an obstacle to any serious global united front against fascism and repression in India mashes together two distinct criticisms: that the behaviour of these groups isolate themselves from any domestic audience, and that whatever activity they are engaged in is counter-productive to an international solidarity campaign. Given the embryonic stage that domestic solidarity campaign are at, the grandiose criticism that they are hindering a global united front is indeed a hallucinatory statement.
A specific criticism that Western Maoism is simply irrelevant serves to present the picture, not of movements based on the theoretical foundation of MLM, but geographical specific development somehow separate in nature from a universalist political position. The belief that the conditions in the Global South negate the oppression in the industrialised world has led many individuals away from Maoist positions into adopting various strands of Third Worldism e.g. KAK and LLCO. The organisations of Western Europe shared common perceptions and objectives in their political practice with co-thinkers through the world. [see State of the Movement 1976-97]. Not withstanding the chequered history of the movement in Western Europe, there are still MLM movements emerging in Europe, such as the French Maoist party , PCMF and the Norwegian Tjen Folket. The disparity in strength and experience and resources throughout the bi-lateral relationships that are developing serves to underline the party-building task at hand. But Maoism –let’s not mislead anyone, always a marginal Left force in the west – contains precepts and approaches that can be core to any fightback.
As a project Signalfire is replaceable, already Redspark (http://www.redspark.nu/) fills the information void with what can be described as a more ideologically coherent approach.
Signalfire’s Letter from your Editor provides an explanation that there are other projects I consider politically important to which I am choosing to devote my time. As an individual we all have that ability to choose whatever takes our fancy; the organisational discipline that leads us to work methodically for a greater collective end is absent. We can make individual analysis of what is worth promoting without the critical gaze and input of others. Individually we can produce judgements that There is no easy alternative answer, simply the necessity of systematic and rigorous theoretical work beginning from the basic materialist premises and united with modest and serious intervention in social reality. And then step back from the tasks at hand.