This article aims to provide a Maoist militant perspective on PCMLM, now called PCF (mlm). The PCMLM define themselves as the vanguard party of the proletariat in France. Some people find out about them through their website (called successively contre-informations, voie lactée, les matérialistes …). This article is therefore intended for sincere communists who know these websites. This is a personal and partial analysis, and by no means that of a party or of an organization. Reading the publications of these sites for almost ten years, I will limit myself to general findings on PCMLM. Here, there will be no gossip, no personal facts, individual criticisms or spicy information; sorry, it is not a “pissing contest” but a substantive response to an ideological option claiming to be Maoist.
First, the debate between communists can only be done around a set of principles, a common base on which to work to improve our common theory through the practice of criticism and self-criticism. Marxism being a science, facts are checked empirically, according to the formula practice-theory-practice. We will talk here of Maoism, the generic name of the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist theory synthesized after Mao’s death, mostly by the Revolutionary International Movement, that PCMLM claims to follow. Whenever possible, when it’s done without compromise, the debate between communists should be kind and honest: it must aim on national and international levels to develop and to make triumphant a “red line”. The Communists say what they think and do what they say.
Here is the first comment I would make about the PCMLM: basically, its talk is wildly inconsistent. On one hand, it intends to represent a vanguard who synthesizes science and who is stable, rigorous, and scientific. But on the other hand, everything about what they say revolves around faith: PCMLM never produces self-criticism, implying we should trust them blindly. Any changes that occur (on false or replaced analyses, on the form of their media, or even on fundamental things such as a change in their name) are not explained, not justified. An example: some time ago, the PCMLM announced a series of “ministries” who claimed to be the foundations of the future socialist government in France (nothing less …). They disappeared without explanation—same for its websites and series about astronomy, robotics, veganism, etc. Their work ultimately amounts to trends lasting for a few months rather than serious background work, corresponding to the mentality and needs of our class. Then once these trends are over, they are simply forgotten—without review, criticism or consequences. This is a total intellectual liberalism.
It is interesting to note that the PCMLM rage constantly against other communists–especially those that they call “anarcho-maoists” (a term devoid of meaning: either you are Maoist, or you are not)–blaming their inconsistency, while supporting themselves in everything and its opposite. This leads to such improbable predictions (regarding an “impossible election” of Sarkozy, the arrival in a year of a popular front up going up to the social liberals, the collapse of this or that organization …) soon forgotten when they turn out not be true. This inconsistency has gone through extreme developments: positive outlooks of free parties, later on described as decadent, defense of the proletarian revolt of 2005, then critiques of any similar uprisings, support then rejection of proletarian autonomy, interest in the working-class culture of the north of France, then rejection mixed with class contempt on the theme of “alcoholics”, etc. This method is absolutely not Marxist.
The PCMLM also has the wrong line on other communist organizations. One is never better judged than by his peers: Maoist parties and organizations around the world communicate–especially those leading people’s wars–and press releases and public campaigns are signed, debated, relayed together. The PCMLM claims so-called support for the People’s War in India, for example, yet they never speak nor inform about this central movement; and worse, refuses to relay the campaign supporting their heroic fight. No party or organization of any importance will also agree to maintain links with this structure. This is a scam in the position of PCMLM–which claims to support parties but yet would rather recognize other structures in the French State. The same goes for historical struggles (release of Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, for example) that are simply denied.
In addition, the PCMLM developed an obsession with the far left in France, mixing in their critics groups, currents and labels to appear as the only pure group, ideologically perfect, located above masses and distributing the good and bad points. This is metaphysical, not dialectical. This position shows a real weakness in terms of analysis and practice, and a dishonest strategy of self-promotion cut from any base: the practice of struggle teaches us instead to work with other organizations and other political groups, to talk about our contradictions publicly, in front of the eyes of the masses in the struggle.
This sectarian purism exists only above ground. Lacking strong theoretical arguments, pathetic attacks are done: for example, one such group has been accused of having copied a picture from the website of PCMLM, such Canadian party was considered revisionist for not talked about the seal slaughter on their website (we’re still waiting the article of PCMLM about the culture of oysters here).
Then, their writings support a genuine bourgeois ideology concerning France. France, like any imperialist state today is crossed by deep contradictions between classes, particularly between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in all its forms. These appear with great force in the field of culture.
There is a proletarian culture, and a bourgeois culture. Proletarian culture suffers from the contradictions of capitalism, but it represents future, it brings life and hope. It revolves around a daily life that one would build and improve upon, about common references and shared values. Elements such as popular sports, sociability in street culture, in the family, and at work are extremely important. Negative elements include police violence, the violence of race and gender, exploitation and constant, daily insecurity, routine, artificial paradises, the desire to escape. All of this is reflected for example in rap culture. About all this, the PCMLM never talks, or talks to defend the bourgeoisie (“the police do not torture, do not beat up, do not shoot: violence happens only as the exception, not the rule”). Its culture is absolutely the one of the French bourgeoisie: it is formal, and in fact it respects the institutions, the bourgeois legality, belles lettres, classical music, the history of the national novel and the “cult of books” that Mao targeted. They speak of the proletariat as something backward, that we should educate, transform, without understanding that communists must live within the masses and learn from them and not be paternalistic professors. Who can seriously imagine in 2017 that after a day of work, somebody want to read an article on physiocracy or symbiogenesis?
The masses are interested in science, but of course reject this kind of content that can only interest (at best) people that have the time and cultural capital to find an interest in it. The PCMLM knows it does not address the proletariat, and eventually blames them, by developing a real class contempt. It does not respect its culture, which would have much to teach to them. Their articles are more and more extravagant, more contemptuous of the reality of the lives of the masses in our state (“If the masses eat at McDonald’s, it’s not because it is cheap (which is also not the case), it is by because of their weakness of mind, by acceptance of capitalist ideology”; “it is the sense of denying the difference between men and women, of a systematic relativism tolerating all views, the refusal of any consideration of the concepts of history and progress.””France has entered a widespread decadence, with a race to the bottom which is becoming stronger. The educational and cultural level collapses at high speed”). And, on the opposite, there is a growing admiration for the classical culture of elites.
The PCMLM lives in an ivory tower, cut off from the masses, and that is why they can afford to mix everything without justifying anything. Their method is characterized by relativism and liberalism, and its positions by opportunism. This hypocritical position is intolerable for honest communists.
This question of proletarian culture was the subject of a debate in the USSR. Two lines clashed. The first was the line of Lenin (and Bogdanov, Lunacharsky…), which defended the need to construct a proletarian culture. The second was the one of Trotsky, who denied the specificity of a proletarian culture, and we know the logical consequences of the Trotskyist position on culture, which is to follow the bourgeoisie. Therefore, to build class autonomy, we cannot “appropriate” declaratively bourgeois culture, because it is built on a consistent set of values that are not ours. Capitalism is a giant recycling machine and distorts the culture produced by the masses (look at the example of hip hop). To believe that we can reappropriate it is contrary to the material reality of the proletariat today, which simply does not have access to this classic and formal culture. We do not live in a socialist society where any proletarian could take violin lessons, simply because the material reality of the living conditions often prevents this. Same for the bourgeois education, which is a machine to humiliate the masses, which makes them internalize a lower social position. As said above, it suits the PCMLM, which holds atrocious reactionary talks about refugees:
“If tomorrow a popular democracy would be established in France, the “jungle” of Calais would be immediately dismantled. Mafias would be punished and persecuted with the strongest firmness (prison and punishment for their leaders). Those who want to stay in France would see their situation studied with the greatest rigor, according to very specific and very restrictive conditions. During this review, they would not have freedom of movement. The others would be deported to their country of origin.”
Their articles end up by becoming overtly racist and ethnocentric: “It is generally the case in Africa, South America and Asia, where nationalism, patriarchy and religions are daily values.”
Without proletarian culture as counter-power, we perpetuate this sense of inferiority, of sidelining. Specifically, if a group publishes an article on such and such incomprehensible classical opera rather than talking about popular music or problems of everyday life, the proletariat will not be passionate about classical opera, they will simply feel excluded and despised even by those who claim to defend their interests. There are many things to learn mass from communist movements of the past century and of today in terms of revolutionary culture. We need to take the material reality as it is and not as we would like it to be: as long as the bourgeoisie owns the means of intellectual production, we will develop the combative culture of the masses, proletarian culture, and reject that produced by the bourgeoisie, supporting its values.
Finally, PCMLM is not Maoist. Maoism is a qualitative leap from Marxism-Leninism. Without going into details, it is based on fundamental principles, such as the investigation among masses, the practice of criticism and self-criticism, the construction of three instruments (party, front and fighting forces) and of course, a mass practice characterized by the slogan “serve the people”. It’s impossible to lead a revolution and in the longer term to end capitalist ecocide without it. To be recognized as a vanguard, a communist force indeed built itself by making it hands dirty, in the heat of the class struggle, serving the people and being recognized by them. Even Gonzalo, leader of the PCP, gave interviews explaining the practice of his party and his actions while he was in hiding. An alleged party that does not speak of practice is not illegal: it simply has no practice, and therefore cannot produce correct theory.
A Maoist party cannot have as a single practice the publication of articles, it cannot be built outside of the class struggle, without line struggle, without building organizations, without the presence in the daily life of the masses. Otherwise, it is just an empty shell. And this, cut off from the masses, comes to support positions more and more openly reactionary: we should applaud the events of the French imperialist bourgeoisie, expel refugees, deny the existence of trans people, reject any self-criticism and eventually despise the working class in its reality. That’s what the speech of PCMLM is today, and that is not Maoism, but the opposite of Maoism: according to the law of dialectics, one thing eventually turns into its opposite.
“Policy is the starting-point of all the practical actions of a revolutionary party and manifests itself in the process and the end-result of that party’s actions. A revolutionary party is carrying out a policy whenever it takes any action. If it is not carrying out a correct policy, it is carrying out a wrong policy; if it is not carrying out a given policy consciously, it is doing so blindly. What we call experience is the process and the end-result of carrying out a policy. Only through the practice of the people, that is, through experience, can we verify whether a policy is correct or wrong and determine to what extent it is correct or wrong. However, people’s practice, especially the practice of a revolutionary party and the revolutionary masses, cannot but be bound up with one policy or another. Therefore, before any action is taken, we must explain the policy, which we have formulated in the light of the given circumstances, to Party members and to the masses. Otherwise, Party members and the masses will depart from the guidance of our policy, act blindly and carry out a wrong policy.” – Mao Zedong
This article was initially written by a comrade in french, then completed for an online publication on Redspark in english.