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+4 votes
Besides the obvious things like the RCP, who were the individuals and institutions that were instrumental in the making of this mess? How did so many end up being unconscious of there own Maoism? Who and how has it been popularized of late?    

Since maoism has become "more intense and accepted", are there any source materials that map out the history of how things got so bad? Also, are there any books or pamphlets that go in depth on both maoistic organizing ideas, strategies, and ideologies so anarchists can have a better grasp of what to watch out for, and how to appose this adversity?

This question is related to this previous question
i would guess that it was a factor of two things: one, the changes that were happening in the 70s around the world were nationalist struggles that fit fairly nicely into the maoist model (or at least were reported to). so there seems to be an efficacy argument ("this is what works"). second, the u.s. (i have read, and agree) has a culture based on guilt, or at least middle class white u.s. culture is guilt-based, and that fits well with the idea that people with privilege should sacrifice themselves for some Other (which never ends up going that far, somehow...).

that's my best guess, and doesn't address all your question. i expect someone is doing or has done a thesis paper on this at some point...

For the moment (until I or someone else comes up with a more complete answer), here is something that might be of interest. Not so much a "how Maoism got in my anarchy?" but rather critique, but I find some of the critique helpful context, personally:

Against Identity Politics

the initial attraction of (especially) young people in the so-called first world to the seemingly successful peasant-focused anti-colonial struggles (centering on the most successful -- china in 1949) had a lot to do with the horrors of the soviet experiment (the show trials, the abandonment of world revolution, the events of 1956 -- the party congress denouncing the crimes of stalin and stalinism, plus the armed suppression of the hungarian uprising). the maoist experiment held out some sort of anti-colonial promise, fostered by their rejection of the post-1956 rightward turn in soviet marxist-leninism (maoists still found the policies of stalin to be correct). the peasant focus of maoism also included lip service to raising up oppressed groups, which, significantly, included ethnic minorities and sometimes women. in the united states, many young people were beginning to reject the crude anti-communism of the liberal establishment, and the maoist analysis of (especially) black people as an internal colony began making sense as white kids started confronting jim crow after the montgomery bus boycott and the murder of emmet till. having an analysis of american racism that undercut the usual american exceptionalism of the mainstream made maoism and other forms of stalinism attractive for guilt-infused white folks (as dot mentioned). a similar influence was felt among non-white second wave feminists.

the primary institution/organization responsible for the popularization of maoist ideas and practices was students for a democratic society, which, at their convention in 1969, had a final split between competing maoist factions (revolutionary youth movement one and revolutionary youth movement two). i can't remember which one went to the right into progressive labor but the other one went left into weatherman. a further split occurred not long after in the weather faction, leading to the rightist formation (but not as right as progressive labor) of avakian's revolutionary union, which later became the rcp.

weatherman was the most leftward maoist faction in north america, which is the primary reason for a certain kind of anarchist to be attracted to them. this attraction culminated in the 1980s and early 1990s with the creation of the anarchist black cross that expressed their solidarity with "political prisoners and prisoners of war," which was basically anyone who'd been involved in self-described anti-imperialist armed struggle in the united states. the abc federation became so twisted up in their own ideological contradictions that they refused to support anarchist prisoners because most anarchist prisoners were not sentenced for acts of resistance to the imperialist policies of the united states (this led several anarchist prisoners to refer to themselves as klingons [star trek reference]). the dissatisfaction with this nonsense led some other anarchist prison solidarity folks to split from the federation and call themselves the anarchist black cross network. neither formation lasted very long. but the pro-armed struggle wing of the anarchist scene was boosted in certain publishing and distribution decisions of the original ak press and especially kersplebedeb.

the continual influence of maoism among anarchists plays out in the discourse(s) around identity politics, especially as it relates to anti-racism. the problem isn't being against racism, but in the promotion of a particular way of being anti-racist, which mandates particular organizational forms.

there's so much more to look into, but with any luck, my response gives you a little taste.

Maoism in the United States and another article that may help you out. There are a lot of writings about Maoism appeal to leftists in the US that have similar titles. If you have access to something like jstor, there are a bunch of articles that discusses your question.

you can see for yourself here (they have adopted a few anarchist prisoners by now, but you can see the majority of their projects are national liberationists)

1 Answer

+1 vote

I wouldn't credit or blame academia for the initial spread, I think it's more about the set of situations described by dot and boles in their comments, especially the increasingly bonkers cognitive dissonance that was required to hold on to Soviet-style communism, and the appeal of national liberation style politics to provide an analysis of race politics in the US that other radical varieties lacked or seemed to lack.

But really the question of the initial spread and foothold is probably less important than the question of how it's spread so insidiously, how many people who profess to be anarchists or consider themselves just plain radical or leftist, are riffing so heavily off of Maoism. And this, yes, has a lot to do, in my opinion, with academia, as well as some other factors I'll try to cover.

So yeah, academia. What happened to all those radicals you hear about from the 60s? Some were killed, some were imprisoned, some went into exile. A few are living out their days on a commune somewhere. But they went into the universities in droves. I have no citation for this, but to me it seems just a fact. And a big part of the reason to go into teaching is to have a formative effect on young people. And sure, some will have drifted away from that mission, but you can still spread ideas unintentionally and unconsciously as easily or more easily than spreading them on purpose.

The next thing to consider is that it's a big thing for Maoists not let on that they are Maoists except in "cadre" or insider situations. And I don't mean this like how many anarchists won't let their bosses or coworkers know that they're anarchist, or the kids they teach or those kids' parents. I mean that more often than not, died-in-the-wool Maoists will be totally outright with some Maoist political line but will deliberately conceal where it's coming from. I have seen this with Maoist groups where I live, and every Maoist I've ever interacted with, which is quite a few, unfortunately. And I'm not talking about the RCP here, they are just the tip of the iceberg and a particularly silly one at that.

It gets trickier because most Maoists are into anti-authoritarianism -- though this term has a particular meaning in Maoism that is not particularly anarchist -- so they are able to go around masquerading as anarchist-adjacent even though they have a deep and abiding love for the dictatorship of the proletariat. Really weird situation. Where I live, there was an armed group back in the day that was made up of full-on Maoists working together with anarchists.

And that's just the Maoists who know they are Maoists. Then you start getting into all the people who don't think they are Maoists, but have absorbed a whole ton of their ideas about anti-oppression, identity politics, imperialism, capitalism, colonialism, race, and so on, from Maoism. It's like fish not knowing what water is.

I think developing a good sense of what to look out for is a good survival strategy, at least if you intend to be an anarchist in certain cultural conditions. Unfortunately I don't know of a good historical examination of this question -- though I'm sure some of the stuff linked in the comments is worth checking out, and I know someone who has a draft of a book or long essay on the topic. But do check out Manual for Revolutionary Leaders -- it would be a perfect start for calibrating your bullshit detector. I would recommend reading between the lines of the history books and of what's out there in the world around you, reading with your guard up. It's extremely common in universities and colleges, in leftist publishing, in activist circles / community organizing world, and whatever parts of the internet the tumblr kids are moving toward these days. Make a decoder ring with Maoist code words and their translations. It would be interesting to see some kind of working group form around this question and put out a historical narrative and/or a how-to manual.

by (20.5k points)
dot outlined a lot of it in the linked related question, but to rehash it a bit here, they say a lot of the usual Marxist-Leninist stuff, plus:

Particularly interested in the question of the vanguard.

Often believe that the most oppressed are the revolutionary vanguard. In the US the most oppressed is often defined in terms of race, "internal colonies," etc, but it can also be around the lumpenproletariat, rural vs urban, and sometimes involves other identity politics.

Supporting national liberation struggles and having anti-imperialism as a major part of their analysis. They tend to be apologists for, if not outright cheerleaders for, various countries that have anti-American and/or state-socialist governments.

With some exceptions, they are deeply into call-out culture (which goes back to the "struggle sessions" and the Cultural Revolution in China). A lot of the creepy cultish ally trainings and whatnot are related to this aspect of Maoism.

I could go on, but the details are a bit irrelevant and mumbo-jumbo.

A good example of a Maoist project that passes itself off as anarcho-adjacent is "ULTRA" -- An example of an openly Maoist group is Red Spark.
Yeah the 3 point program "Lift Weights, Read Marx, Tear Shit Up" is especially hilarious.