Commentary by Ragnar V. Røed
In a period where “fake news” and conspiracy theories take up a lot of space on the internet, Marxism’s methods become actualized. Mao Zedong has, in his great philosophical articles, made it clear that the question of reality is not a question of gathering up facts. Many of the discussions today, particularly in social media, have to do with real versus fake news, and which factual reports are real or have been falsified. This is a dead end. And we see where the dead end leads when some begin to believe conspiracy theories around September 11, “Flat Earth”, or climate change.
Communists’ great disagreements with capitalism’s defenders has never been on the question of “facts”. For instance, Karl Marx said that his greatest discovery was not that society is divided into classes that fight fiercely, because this was a discovery that the bourgeoisie’s intellectuals had already made long ago. Marx maintained that his greatest discovery was that class division belonged to a specific epoch of human history, that the proletariat was the class that would abolish it, and that it will happen with revolution and the proletariat’s dictatorship.
When Marx and Engels criticized capitalism and made their evaluations, it was typically done with figures provided by the bourgeoisie’s own theorists. It was not the numbers themselves that were most decisive, but rather how one analyzed them and in which context they did so. To gather facts and experiences is only one part of the scientific process. To evaluate them correctly is the next, and therefore – most importantly – it has to do with applying science to practice because practice is a criteria for truth.
The Marxist philosophy of dialectical materialism has two outstanding characteristics. One is its class nature: it openly avows that dialectical materialism is in the service of the proletariat. The other is its practicality: it emphasizes the dependence of theory on practice, emphasizes that theory is based on practice and in turn serves practice.Mao Zedong
It is a dead end to allow great discussions and forces to be washed away by the undertow created by discussing all sorts of pieces of facts, or “facts”. If one is unscrupulous or blind for one’s own blinders, one can manage to dig up all kinds of individual examples that support just about any standpoint. We can see this for instance among Holocaust deniers. But what they cannot deny is the Nazis’ persecution of the Jews, the Nazis’ hate towards the Jews, and the fact that Nazis gathered Jews into concentration camps because they were Jews. They are reduced to finding more or less creative methods for denying this industrial and deliberate genocide. And in their own eyes, they succeed in doing so to a certain degree, all without actually changing anything about the Nazis’ declared and open anti-Semitism. They therefore change very little about the fact that the problem with Nazis is not “only” that they carried out a genocide, but also that their extreme chauvinism lays the basis for new genocides.
The point is that the question does not regard accumulating facts, but rather in considering the facts in their context, and analyzing them in a manner that can give us actual insights. For communists, this means analyzing them with Marxism, which has both a class character and a practical character.
We see that this is also the case in the debate about capitalism in and of itself. The foremost apologists for capitalism, capitalism’s foremost defenders, do not deny the problems of society. They do not deny the existence of wars or hunger, but claim that on the one hand, their incidence is being reduced, and on the other claim that there is no other alternative. Their most important argument for capitalism is actually the argument that Churchill makes for bourgeois democracy: that it is the worst system, save for all the other systems…
In short, for the defenders of capitalism, it also has to do with seeing capitalism in a context. But more importantly, it has to do with the fact that they see it from a certain class perspective: a bourgeois class perspective. They see capitalism the way that the bourgeoisie sees it, as a system that despite errors and flaws nonetheless serves them. In fact, it serves them not in spite of these “errors” and “flaws”, but rather because of them.
And with these methods, one can defend a system where millions die of hunger each year by blaming communism for a handful of isolated hunger catastrophes. The famine in Ukraine in the 1930s is the “gold standard” argument they use against communism and for capitalism, even if we have seen famines each and every year on every single continent in this system. The problem here is not facts, as the necessary facts are systematically gathered in by the bourgeoisie’s own organs, for instance by the UN. The problem is the analysis of these facts. They present famines in capitalism as purely natural catastrophes, while famines in socialism are presented as the results of hidden conspiracies (“Stalin wished to starve Ukraine into submission!”). Starvation in capitalism is not presented as a systematic problem, while hunger is socialism is either blamed on the evilness of its leaders or the ineptitude of planned economy (e.g. “The Great Leap in China”).
Correctly enough, there are some disputes about certain historical facts, but the most important thing is the dispute about how these in turn are to be interpreted. And in which context they must be seen. For instance, communists would point out that the famine in the 1950s in China was the last time that the country experienced a famine, thanks to socialism. While capitalism’s defenders never blame capitalism’s mechanisms for millions constantly being born into extreme poverty and hunger. There is always “something else” that is to blame, anything but “supply and demand”, “buying and selling”, or “the free market”.
Man’s knowledge makes another leap through the test of practice. This leap is more important than the previous one. For it is this leap alone that can prove the correctness or incorrectness of the first leap in cognition, i.e., of the ideas, theories, policies, plans or measures formulated in the course of reflecting the objective external world. There is no other way of testing truth. Furthermore, the one and only purpose of the proletariat in knowing the world is to change it. Often, correct knowledge can be arrived at only after many repetitions of the process leading from matter to consciousness and then back to matter, that is, leading from practice to knowledge and then back to practice. Such is the Marxist theory of knowledge, the dialectical materialist theory of knowledge.Mao Zedong
It is not really the gathering of facts that tears down conspiracy theories, but the analysis of their context and perhaps also the usefulness of the theory. Perhaps the greatest problem with the conspiracy theories about September 11 are not about how two massive planes can set in motion a process that cause buildings to fall – even if it is obviously true if one looks at the facts of the case – but how and why such a massive conspiracy would be fabricated by forces in the US’s state apparatus.
The hypothesis of it being “necessary” in order to put into motion legal surveillance and invasions in other countries falls apart all on its own unreasonableness when one considers the fact that the US has waged wars on other continents for 100 years and that they have never had any problems surveilling or persecuting their own citizens. Just look at Korea, Vietnam, Nicaragua, or the First Gulf War. Just look at the persecution and liquidation of black leaders and the Black Panther Party, along with Jim Crow laws in the South.
In this context, if one looks for the motives, and not least the opportunity, for administering such a “controlled detonation” without having any concrete evidence at all, this conspiracy theory simply falls apart.
But to argue with people who “only” wish to speak about facts is far more difficult. Because they can constantly dig up new questions. When communists discuss with anti-communists, we scarcely manage to answer a question or claim before they have come up with three more. They hardly ever listen to our answers before they fling new questions at us. “What about Stalin’s ape-army?”, “What about Mao’s concubines?”, “What about Lenin’s testament?”, “What about the Crimean Germans?”, and so on.
The point here is by no means that each communist must master each and every detail of history. Of course all questions can be answered, but very few discussions have room to go through all of them. The point is to make a comprehensive analysis based on Marxism, based on Marxism’s standpoint for the proletariat and its practical character as a scientific ideology. With this as our basis, we can wipe away the supposedly overwhelming amount of countering claims. We can analyze them correctly and in line with our class’s interests.
Against this, we see that the political left-wing in capitalism does not represent the Marxist method either. On one side, we see them bowing to liberalism in the form of postmodern identity politics. Instead of analyzing information and practice in a scientific manner, they interpret reality itself in the form of “your truth” and “my truth”. For them, the truth is subjective, and it deals with lived experiences and impressions, and not with analyzing them scientifically. On the other hand, we see that they are open for conspiracy theories and chauvinism.
Examples of this latter tendency in the Norwegian context can be found on steigan.no and derimot.no, websites where conspiracy theories have free roam and are even promoted. Here, the class struggle must once in a while replaced with the struggle against electric cars and 5G. The scientific analysis must, on occasion, be set aside to make way for questionable sources and even more questionable use of sources.
These two tendencies within the “left-wing” are not qualitatively different, but a repeat of how the bourgeois left-wing has always expressed itself as being on the side of the masses, but have always bought into the bourgeoisie’s narrative. The parliamentary and media-focused “left-wing” is a part of the bourgeoisie’s political system. They do not represent a proletarian class standpoint. This always makes itself apparent on the philosophical-ideological plane, on the very central question for revolutionaries: where do correct ideas come from?
Capitalism and the bourgeoisie belong to an epoch in decay. This makes itself apparent in the ideological sphere as well. The contrast between the bourgeoisie’s youthful era of breakthroughs and today’s Trump personalities is as stark as that between Robespierre and Napoleon. There is a stark contrast between the Declaration of Independence and FOX News. Enlightenment ideals have been replaced with mysticism and “fake news”.
Against this, Maoism stands out as today’s Marxism: as a third and higher level of the proletariat’s ideology, as the practical application of this ideology to the world’s largest countries (the Soviet Union and China) and in world history’s greatest revolutions, and with a sharper view of the future and the present than ever before. Therefore, it is not only possible to avoid dead ends, but to stake out a course in the right direction: out of this epoch and into the new times that we have already begun heading towards.