Voice of Revolutionary Students

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Turmoil at French universities could leave students facing missed year by Angelique Chrisafis in Paris

French universities, paralysed by three months of student blockades and staff strikes, were warned by the government to resume teaching yesterday or risk damaging France's image on the world stage.

Since February, various universities have been thrown into chaos by the biggest higher education revolt in modern French history, surpassing the protests of May 1968 in terms of the numbers of academic staff who have gone on strike.

This year students have barricaded colleges with desks and chairs, and briefly held two university rectors hostage, while swaths of researchers and lecturers have walked out on strike in protest at what the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, had promised would be his most bold and daring reform: overhauling the crumbling French higher education system.

The crisis is now so acute that ministers have warned that if lectures do not resume before May, students across France who have had no syllabus teaching for months could be forced to miss exams and forfeit an entire undergraduate year. The prime minister, François Fillon, said yesterday: "The government will never accept exams being sacrificed. That would be a catastrophe for France's image in the world."

After decades of under-funding, French universities are overcrowded, have high dropout rates, fail to make international league tables and have been called a national disgrace by business leaders. The handful of well-funded, tiny, elitist graduate schools continue to thrive while the majority of universities struggle.

University reform in France has always been an explosive issue, often the touch-paper for wider protests. When Sarkozy came to power in 2007, he promised to radically revamp universities, giving their heads more autonomy to run faculties more along the lines of successful commercial businesses.

Yet his government's handling of the reform and his insults of university researchers have resulted in chaos instead. In general, academics agree that wide-reaching reform is needed. But they have now joined protest movements radically opposing Sarkozy's approach, which they see as an attempt to run higher education along "capitalist lines". The president's leadership has been accused of displaying "contempt" for intellectuals.

The government has agreed to temporarily freeze its planned university job cuts and tweak its proposals. Academics, however, are still protesting plans that would change the status of academic researchers and allow university presidents to decide how such staff spend their time.

"I couldn't have foreseen how radical a stance I've ended up taking, but the whole fabric of higher education is at stake," said Valérie Robert, a lecturer in German history at a Paris university, who has been on strike since January. "You can't measure universities like a factory in terms of economic success, we feel our freedom as academics researchers is being totally curbed."

Yesterday the government estimated that 20 to 25 universities out of out of 83 were still affected by the protests. Strikers warned that others could rejoin the movement after the holidays next week.

Source: Guardian

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Friday, April 17, 2009

Ian Tomlinson did not die of natural causes

A new post mortem says Ian Tomlinson died from an abdominal haemorrhage not a heart attack after contact with police during the G20 protests. He was hit and pushed over by a police officer on 1 April, when he was just trying to get home from work. The statement from the City of London Coroners Court overturns the initial assessment that the newspaper seller died of natural causes. Another lie exposed.

EMERGENCY PROTEST: Outside City of London Police HQ, 37 Wood Street EC211am to 2pm, called by G20 Meltdown

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

ACT-UAW Statement Regarding the April 10, 2009 Student Occupation of the New School

April 13, 2009

The part-time faculty union, ACT-UAW Local 7902 of the New School and NYU, is gravely concerned with the Kerrey administration’s harsh response to the New School students who recently occupied 65 Fifth Avenue, including a massive show of police force.

President Kerrey’s statement about the protest focused only on allegations of student misconduct, ignoring the serious issues raised by the protesters. We call on the administration to immediately revoke the suspensions of students pending a full investigation of all allegations. The question should be asked why student dissatisfaction with the administration needs to be expressed in the occupation of a university building. In our view, this protest is symptomatic of the administration’s failure to foster a healthy and democratic educational community at the New School

Monday, April 13, 2009

Alain Badiou and the Idea of Communism in the Context of Maobadi Revolution

By Stephen David Mauldin

I will begin with a few words about half my topic, Alain Badiou and the idea of communism in his philosophy. We may safely begin by saying the idea of communism has an axiomatic notion of human freedom radically opposed to that of any and all forms of class based governance inasmuch as it posits an egalitarian maxim – that individuals in social relations are essentially equals despite differences in abilities and needs. This axiom, this communist hypothesis, apparently has two aspects. One pertains to the subjective conditions of individuals while the other aspect is the objective conditions of the whole of society – a contrast of subjectivity and science so to speak. To the extent that exploiter classes hold dictatorship over oppressed classes, to that extent exists the impetus for communist revolution.

The assertion is that the egalitarian maxim is true and the violation of that truth is grounds for militancy. The unique character of Alain Badiou’s communist philosophy is that what is actually true would be determined both subjectively and scientifically true. First are the subjects who decide that the communist hypothesis is true and engage in militancy against exploiter classes. However, this allegiance or fidelity must be sustained for a period by subjects fighting for the oppressed masses. That the communist hypothesis is objectively true, is scientific truth, would verify the subjective truth only in the future anterior when classless society (communism) actually exists. This is at once a call for a subjective belief in the communist hypothesis and a rejection of dogmatic insistence on the scientific authority of the notion.

Revolution is a process of struggle for state power and is characterized by the objective conditions of the situation in which it occurs. The other half of my topic is Maobadi revolution, the struggle of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) as the vanguard of proletarian revolution in the semi-feudal and semi-colonial conditions in Nepal. This struggle was discussed in more detail in my previous article. At present I only want to point to the relationship of the Maobadi revolution to Badiou’s conception of communism.

The Maobadi are participating in multi-party politics, holding by popular vote a majority leadership in that coalition; but they are not in possession of actual state power inasmuch as the reactionary oppressor classes still have the support of a standing army, the former Royal Army of the now dissolved constitutional monarchy. The reactionaries also have demonstrated, if not control, at least neutralizing influence over the judiciary. The Maobadi are trying to lead a constituent assembly in the writing of a new constitution under such conditions at the moment.

My thesis is that the Maobadi are enacting a subjective fidelity to the communist hypothesis in the manner of their revolution while simultaneously avoiding the dogmatic-revisionism that mitigated the success of prior events of proletarian dictatorship over exploiter classes. The creation of a new constitution with their leadership and embodying their vision of a centralist democratic state will be contingent on neutralizing the standing army while negating the influence of reactionary parties. The seeming contradiction is the constitution envisioned by the Maobadi would indeed function in tandem with a dictatorship of the proletariat over minority exploiter classes while nonetheless being a functioning democratic centralist state. It would be a joint democratic dictatorship under the leadership of the proletariat composed of different oppressed classes, nationalities, regions, gender and communities.

What is more significant, such a state would prevent the Party itself impeding in any way the efficient withering away of the state. By design this interim state would dictatorially repress emergence of any dogmato-revisionist tendencies that have resulted prior proletariat dictatorships over oppressor classes degenerating into capitalist bureaucracies. In this way, the Maobadi would be a living example of Badiou’s communist philosophy in action. Rather than engendering a dogmatic insistence on the scientific authority of their vanguard leadership, they will practice revolution in fidelity to the communist hypothesis while fostering a true dictatorship of Nepal’s proletariat composed of different oppressed classes, nationalities, regions, gender and communities in the interim existence of a democratic centralist state. This state will whither away as any and all exploitation is destroyed in this process. Communism will then actually be existing true communism, providing objective evidence in a future anterior verification that the subjective allegiance had indeed been based in truth.

It’s not hard to understand why the means of revolution being employed by the Maobadi or the exposition of communism by Badiou have aroused controversy about whether they actually follow the line of certain Marxist, Leninist or Maoist theories of communism as understood by certain organizations and individuals. What is important to understand is the novel nature of Badiou thought and Maobadi practice in that they are not engaged in defending an objective conclusion. If truth is produced beginning with a specific event, or as is germane to this discussion, a particular revolution, it is simply upheld against reactions of denial. Being the new 21st century communism, what the Maobadi intend is bound to be disruptive because it is indifferent to specific differences that have structured prior conceptions of revolutionary practice. In bringing back the philosophical language of Badiou: the fidelity spoken of in the process of verifying a truth is in fact a fidelity to something that is inconsistent with prior practice. Would this not in some way exemplify the dialectic of theory and practice?


Maobadi: The State of Things Today

By Stephen Maudlin

The Maobadi struggle for state power is against the dictatorship of minority exploiter classes. The reactionary leadership has deep connections with Indian hegemonic forces and a standing army comprised of the former Royal Army. It also has powerful political sway over the judiciary. This is how it maintains dictatorship of the oppressed proletariat. The Maobadi aim to smash this state entirely and establish a new type of proletarian dictatorship over the minority exploiter classes while constructing an economic base to replace the existing semi-feudal and semi-colonial context.

Furthermore, most importantly, the Maobadi intend ensuring continuous and active participation of the masses in state affairs and thereby avoid degeneration into a totalitarian bureaucratic capitalism, as was the fate of past proletarian states. This application of democracy involving various masses of the proletariat is novel inasmuch as this proletariat simultaneously maintains dictatorship over the minority exploiter classes. The truth of the communist hypothesis will be actualized, will be seen to have been true, the moment this revolution is completed and the state no longer exists, having withered away in the revolutionary process.

The Maobadi are employing a new kind of process, the result of which is to be an actualization of communism that will also be novel inasmuch as its hypothesis has not hitherto reached such a level of development – this is 21st Century Communism. There are historical roots of this development, beginnings to be carried to completion in the withering away of the state. are the proletarian dictatorship in the Paris Commune (only lasting 72 days), Lenin’s developing the dictatorship of the proletariat in the form of Soviet system for seven years following the October Socialist Revolution, and the GPCR carried out from 1966 to 1976 under the leadership of Mao. There are key elements from these three the Maobadi aim to repeat and carry forward in their development. Each was the embodiment of a transitional state following the smashing of a bourgeois dictatorship and an uncompleted process based on a key axiomatic.

The Maobadi are taking forward the axiomatic: a period needed for continuous social revolution and the whole mode of production, at the end of which the proletarian dictatorship, enforced in maintaining a transitional state lead by a vanguard Party, will no longer be needed. Of course this is in direct contradiction of anarchism at the outset, and in the withering away of the transitional state is also the direct contradiction of the dogmato-revisionism leading to the totalitarian bureaucratic capitalism that occurred in Russia and China. It is in its unique application of “democratic centralism” in the latter contradiction that the Maobadi envision 21st Century Communism. At the present time, the Maobadi have not smashed the state and the transitional dictatorship over exploiter classes is far from installed. What can be seen of the democratic centralism to work in tandem with dictatorship of the proletariat to prevent dogmato-revisionism is evident in their current actions and plan.

The Maobadi are operating in a new age and in the concrete conditions of Nepal. Their plan is to have a first phase of bourgeois democratic revolution, joint democratic dictatorship of different oppressed classes, nationalities, regions, gender and communities under the leadership of the proletariat. An early manifestation has been the ‘United Revolutionary People’s Council’ (URPC), an embryonic form central state power to coordinate and guide the local people’s power, which is a broad revolutionary united front of different classes, nationalities, regions, women and others under the leadership of the CPN (Maoist). Every day in the news we hear nothing but the cries of the reactionaries that the Maobadi are about to establish a dictatorship, by which they mean to create fear of this as being dogmato-revisionist communism of the past. As if they were not capitalist parliamentarian dictators themselves. The democratic centralism of the Maobadi is a direct contradiction of this propaganda. This is what they want to install in the formation of the new constitution.

The reactionary cry of “dictatorship!” may be silly, but equally stupid is to think that the Maobadi are revisionists of some type who are communists playing the role of one of a number of competing parties in what is to be an ongoing pluralistic democracy inclusive of the current classes that have been in power for past generations. Their goal is for all this to end, including any state power of which they may be the vanguard party. Democratic centralism is a means to this end and by no means involves the participation of what they identify as exploiter classes. The transitional state envisioned is in fact a dictatorship over exploiting classes that will at the same time involve a process of control, supervision and intervention of the masses over the state according to the principle of continuous revolution. The Maobadi Communist Party is to have dialectical relations of democratic political competition in the service of the people. Anybody this process who transgresses the limits legally set by the democratic state would be subjected to democratic dictatorship including Mr. Prachanda or Dr. Bhattarai.

Before any of this can come to pass however is the smashing of the reactionary state with the neutralizing of its leaders, its standing army and its judiciary. How has the reactionary state maintained its dictatorship over the proletariat, and how again will the proletariat enforce it dictatorship over the exploiter classes? Dictatorship in any event is the means of eliminating the enemy classes through use of force and suppression, which is carried out primarily through armed force, incarceration and other imposed authority. It is axiomatic in revolution that there is the elimination of the reactionary standing army and in its stead establishment of the armed people. The Maobadi are explicit in following the dictum of Mao in planning the formation of a 21st century people’s army by developing conscious armed masses so that they may learn to use their right to rebel. We are right now at the juncture of the Maobadi neutralizing the Nepal National Army. With this would come the end of reactionary power over the people and its influence over the judiciary.

If the Maobadi smash the state, the writing of the new constitution with the leadership of the Maobadi will be about organizing political competition within the constitutional limits of an anti-feudal and anti-imperialist democratic state. It will be the establishment of a dictatorship of the proletariat over the oppressor classes and a dictatorship over any dogmato-revisionist tendency in the Party itself. It will be the constitution of a state that is to wither away. And this too will be the end of the Maobadi. With such a regulating constitution in place and the proletariat in power there can be the taking possession of the means of production in the name of society. The business of land reform, economic development for the people and a thousand other goals of emancipatory politics may hope to continue. We may hope to see actual existing true communism in our time.


“Between capitalist and communist society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.”


“The first act by virtue of which the state really constitutes itself the representative of the whole of society- the taking possession of the means of production in the name of society- this is, at the same time, its last independent act as a state.”


“In Russia … the bureaucratic machine has been completely smashed, razed to the ground; the old judges have all been sent packing, the bourgeois parliament has been dispersed-and far more accessible representation has been given to the workers and peasants; their Soviets have replaced the bureaucrats, and their Soviets have been authorized to elect the judges. This fact alone is enough for all the oppressed classes to recognize that Soviet power, i.e., the present form of the dictatorship of the proletariat, is a million times more democratic than the most democratic bourgeois republic.”


“Dictatorship does not apply within the ranks of the people. The people cannot exercise dictatorship over themselves, nor must one section of the people oppress another. Law-breakers among the people will be punished according to law, but this is different in principle from the exercise of dictatorship to suppress enemies of the people. What applies among the people is democratic centralism.”

Source :

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The RCPUSA on Badiou and Nepal by Nickglais

I feel that the problem of the RCPUSA is that they are dealing with Badiou has if he was an enemy in the movement and he clearly is a Maoist comrade even if some of his views are clearly mistaken. Letters to a Comrade would have been a better style of polemical discussion with Badiou.

It is precisely on the point of how to conduct a two line struggle that Nepalese comrades lead the way and demonstrate that the Party concept just like other Marxist concepts are still developing in the 21st Century and also paradoxically refute Badiou’s anti Party arguements by their dynamic practice.We should be learning from this and not dismissing it as the RCPUSA do.Read Bhattarai article on Party building in Nepal Revolution-Problems and Prospects

The two line struggle has been institutionalised in the Nepalese Party and there can be serious debate amongst comrades. Matrika Yadav by resorting to personal abuse placed himself outside the Party and reflects the old wrong headed style of two line struggle which the communist movement has had enough of.

Prachanda in particular has been criticised by the Party and in particular by Comrade Kiran and dressed down by the central committee on at least one occassion I know of.Just what I expect of a democratic centralist party but rarely see !

The ease of mind in the Party which Mao was so keen on has been taken seriously by the Nepalese Maoists and it gives them enormous strength.Ignoring such questions cost the communist movement deeply in the 20th century.

I welcome this discussion on Badiou and find your comment about Badiou reducing ontology to mathematics problematic but helpful has I have wrestled with Being and Event and still don’t know if this is the right direction or not but welcome the opening up of this philosophical space.

I want Badiou and Prachanda and Bhattarai sympathically criticised and initially welcomed the RCPUSA polemics but now have to conclude they are not up to the task has they are locked into past mindsets.

Critically engaging with these three is vital for 21st Century Communist development and here the RCPUSA by provoking us has done a service.

“Crises in Physics,” Crises in Philosophy and Politics

“Crises in Physics,” Crises in Philosophy and Politics
by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA


The following text is drawn from part of a talk, “Out Into the World—As a Vanguard of the Future,” which I presented to a group of Party members in the first part of 2008. In preparing this for publication, I have reworked some parts of it. In this process, I have benefitted from, and wish to express my appreciation for, criticisms, questions, suggested changes and proposed formulations, etc., that were raised by various people on the basis of reading an earlier version of this text. In particular, I wish to thank Ardea Skybreak, author of the book The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism—Knowing What’s Real and Why It Matters, for her contributions to this process.

* * * * *

It seems that there is today a reappearance of a phenomenon that appeared in an acute way 100 years ago, in Lenin’s time. I am referring to what could be called “crises in physics” and crises in philosophy—and their political ramifications: discoveries or queries or theorizing in physics, the relation of this to questions of philosophy, and in turn the relation of that to the struggle for revolution—and, more specifically, the struggle, within the communist movement, between Marxism and revisionism (revising communism, to eliminate its revolutionary outlook and objectives, while still retaining the name of “communism”).

It is noteworthy that a number of people, based on their reading of “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity,” particularly Part 1,1 have raised objections in regard to the following (from the polemic against Karl Popper, in Part 1 of “Making and Emancipating”):

“There are definitely things in Marxism that are falsifiable. For example, dialectical materialism. If the world were made up of something other than matter in motion—if that could be shown—then clearly Marxism in its fundamentals, in its essence and at its core, would be falsified, proven wrong. Or, if it could be shown that, yes, all reality consists of matter, but that some forms of matter do not change, do not have internal contradiction and motion and development—that too would be a fundamental refutation of dialectical materialism.”

The objections I’m referring to seem to be arising, at least in part, on the basis of some people looking into some recent discoveries and controversies in physics in particular. And, while this is occurring against a backdrop of the defeat of the first stage of the communist revolution (with the revisionist coup and the restoration of capitalism in China, several decades ago) and continuing difficulties for the communist movement in the present period,2 these questions concerning physics—and their relation to philosophy (world outlook and method)—do need to be addressed in their own right, as well as in a larger sense examined in their relation to politics and in particular the struggle between Marxism and revisionism.

If it were the case that all reality did not consist of matter in motion—if it could be shown that there are some parts of reality, some things which actually exist, which do not consist of matter, or if it could be shown that there are at least some things which exist but which do not undergo change, or that the changes in at least some things which exist are not owing to the motion and contradiction within matter itself—then, among other things, this would open the door to the existence of supernatural beings (gods, or one single God) as the controlling force in the universe, or at least as the “creator” and “prime mover” bringing things into existence and providing the initial impulse setting things into motion. The implications of this—not only philosophically but socially and politically as well—would obviously be enormous.

Well, let me say from the outset here: I don’t pretend to be an expert in physics in any sense (either applied or theoretical physics), but there are some basic realities and fundamental questions of outlook and method that I do feel confident in speaking to, and indeed insisting upon.

In at least one response to “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity,” it was actually raised whether it is correct to say that all reality does in fact consist of matter in motion—citing the example of space and time, noting that space and time are part of reality but questioning whether they are matter, and matter in motion specifically.

First, it seems clear, from the work of Einstein and others, that space and time are relative and not absolutes. It could be said that they are, in essence, properties of matter in motion. But, in any case, they are not something outside of—not something different from—matter in motion.

More often, however, what has been raised about the above passage in “Making and Emancipating” relates specifically to—and objects to—the last sentence in what is cited above here, which refers to the fact that all forms of matter change and have internal contradiction and motion and development. To a significant degree at least, these objections stem from (or at least relate to) an incorrect, mechanical understanding of what is meant by motion, change and development, and more specifically what is meant by internal contradiction. Saying that something has internal contradiction is not the same thing as saying that it is “infinitely divisible” in the sense that it can be divided endlessly into smaller and smaller components.

It was once thought that the atom was the smallest possible component of matter and that it would never be possible to break it down into smaller component parts. But it turned out that atoms are actually made up of a mix of sub-atomic particles, which include a dense nucleus (itself made up of a mix of neutrons and positively charged protons), surrounded by a cloud of negatively charged electrons. So the atom is a good example of a part of matter once thought to be indivisible which later turned out to be quite divisible after all. In fact, the discovery that the atom was not the smallest possible component of matter, and indeed consisted itself of smaller components, was one of the main factors giving rise to a “crisis in physics” and in philosophy (marked by a growing chorus of philosophical idealism, claiming that “matter has disappeared,” when in reality what had happened was that the existence of matter in previously unknown forms had been discovered) and a related crisis in the socialist-communist movement—a collapse into revisionism on the part of more than a few former Marxists—which occurred in Lenin’s time. This was particularly acute in Russia, where the movement had suffered a severe setback with the crushing defeat of the 1905 revolution in that country. For these reasons, Lenin recognized and acted on the necessity to vigorously struggle, in both the philosophical and political spheres, against these erroneous trends of thinking and the defeatism and capitulationism bound up with them. Lenin’s work Materialism and Empirio-Criticism was a concentrated and powerful weapon in this struggle. And, as it turned out, this struggle was crucial in laying ideological and political foundations for the successful revolution in Russia, in 1917, which led to the establishment of the new, socialist republic.

The discovery that the atom consists of smaller component particles does not, however, necessarily lead to the conclusion that each and every particular component part of matter will eventually be shown to be divisible into ever smaller component parts, again and again...infinitely. Whether or not that proves to be the case is not the same thing as whether there is internal contradiction within all of these things. This kind of dividing (splitting into smaller and smaller components) may, in the future, be found to apply to small particles which are now the smallest particles whose existence has been detected (or has been inferred from other discoveries)—such particles may, in the future, be found to consist of even smaller particles, etc.—but it is not necessary for there to be an endless process of such discovery (of smaller and smaller particles, or components) in order to correctly appreciate how all matter has internal contradiction.

To take one dimension of this: At a scale below a certain point in the division of a particular form of matter—in motion—what may occur is the transformation of the particular form of matter into something else, such as a particular kind of energy (which is itself a form of matter), but that is still an expression of the internal contradiction of the particular form (or forms) of matter—and of the existence of all reality as matter in motion.

Once again, the existence of internal contradiction does not necessarily mean that something can be endlessly “split”—in the sense of being divided into further, smaller component parts. I am repeating this because it is a very important point—and one on which I think some people get hung up, because they look at this mechanically. This splitting into smaller and smaller components does not have to go on infinitely, the way we are used to thinking of dealing with everyday objects (for example, an apple or a cookie square: cutting these into half...and half again...and so on...which after all does finally reach at least its practical limits). And there is a difference—an important difference—between internal contradiction and internal “structure.” Some particles, for example, may not have discernible internal “structure,” at least in the way we are used to thinking of that (again, extrapolating from more everyday objects), but that does not mean that they do not have internal contradiction, or that they do not experience and take part in motion and change. Take subatomic electrons, for example. It is my understanding that they have no known internal substructure and yet are very dynamic constituents of change, capable of generating or deflecting magnetic fields, absorbing or emitting photons of energy, altering their nuclear orbits and entering into excited states, switching places with electrons of other atoms (which is the basis for the formation of chemical bonds), and they can even be annihilated in collisions with the corresponding anti-particles known as positrons. These are certainly very dynamic components of matter in motion!

Even the smallest of known particles have properties of matter in motion. We are told that photons of light, for example, can best be conceived of as being simultaneously both particles and waves. As I understand it, the much debated “string theory” in physics proposes that particles conceived of as waves on strings vibrating in different patterns could account for some of the basic properties of all matter. Regardless of whether this particular theory ends up being ultimately validated or not, the point here is that none of the many new discoveries and theoretical proposals in modern physics have in any way uncovered anything that would refute or undermine dialectical materialism as we understand it, and should correctly understand it—and specifically the understanding that all existence consists of matter in motion, of one kind or another, and, yes, that all matter involves, and is in fact characterized by, internal contradiction.

Linked with this is the principle that Mao spoke to in “On Contradiction”—that, because the range of things is vast and there is the interconnectedness of things, what is universal in one context is particular in another (and vice versa). As you know, in speaking to this before, I’ve illustrated this in different ways—with examples from everyday life or, as a useful conceptual abstraction, the military sphere: When you take a war situation as a whole, that is the universal, and any particular campaign within that overall war situation is the particular; and in turn any such campaign can be the universal, viewed from that context, and in that context a specific battle becomes a particular within that...and so on. You can think of many different examples—in fact, this applies to any phenomenon. In reading a book, the book as a whole is the universal, but if you’re within a particular chapter, that chapter can become the universal. This is not just a game, this is how reality actually exists and different “parts” of reality are inter-connected (and inner-connected, that is, connected internally, on another level).

It is important to understand that what is involved in this—the dialectical relation between the universal and particular, and the different levels on which this can be expressed—is not simply the “interaction” of different particular forms of matter (or levels of matter), which should be conceived of as simply “external” to each other and “separated” in some absolute sense. No—while each particular form, and level, of matter (in motion) does have discrete existence, and identity, as such (some defining characteristics or internal coherence), at the same time this is relative, and not absolute. Accordingly, a particular form of matter may not only “interact with” another distinct form of matter, but may also be integrated, along with that other form of matter, into another entity at a different level of the organization of matter. And, once again, each of these different forms, and levels, of matter has its own discrete existence and identity—relatively. To put this conceptually: “a”—a particular form of matter—“interacts” with “b”—another particular form of matter that is distinct, relatively, from “a”—while both “a” and “b” are also integrated into “C,” embodying a different level of the organization of matter.

To help illustrate this more concretely, let’s take the example of a cell within an overall human body. Such a cell itself has a discrete existence and identity as such—with its own relative identity (as spoken to here), which itself is marked by contradiction (internal contradiction in that context, or at that level), while at the same time that cell exists within, and forms a part of, a certain organ of the body (a lung, heart, liver, etc.), and in turn that organ exists within, and forms a part of, the body as a whole. The discrete existence and relative identity of each of these things (or particular forms, or levels, of matter) once again is real, but is also relative—there is not an absolute separation between them, and they not only “interact” with each other but also are integrated, at different levels, as part of a larger whole (or universal)...which in turn is integrated at another level, as part of a larger universal...and so on. And at every level—which again is only relative, and not absolute—the particular “organization of matter,” corresponding to that level, involves internal contradiction, motion and change.

In order to grasp this more fully and correctly, it is important to emphasize, yet again, that internal contradiction does not necessarily mean (is not identical with) the existence of “component parts.” Rather, as Ardea Skybreak expressed it, in an exchange on this point, internal contradiction is better understood as “the unevenness within things—or within a given level of matter, with its relative identity—that holds the potential, and in fact provides the material basis, for change within those things.”

Skybreak further elaborated on this, along the following lines: Besides whatever other contradiction(s) there might be within a particular form of matter, there is contradiction in the sense that for a thing to have relative identity (some kind of defining and distinguishing characteristics), it seems that it must have a “limit” or “border” or “boundary,” of one kind or another, which sets this thing off—relatively—from other “things.” At the same time, this “border” or “boundary,” while part of that particular “thing,” also itself constitutes a contradiction within that thing, and specifically a contradiction with whatever lies “within” that “limit” (or “border” or “boundary”). And (in Skybreak’s words), “this ‘border’ or ‘boundary’ would, in itself, seem to establish a minimally sufficient unevenness relative to the inside, which we can call ‘internal contradiction.’”

Further, since the “separation” between the levels (and particular forms of) matter is only relative, and not absolute—and different particular forms, and levels, of matter are in turn “integrated into” other levels of matter—then at any level, along with the internal contradiction that characterizes the particular form of matter corresponding to that level, there is also internal contradiction in the sense of the contradiction involved in the relation(s) between different levels (or particular forms) of matter. A cell within a lung, another cell within the same lung, yet another cell within a different organ, those organs themselves: all are “integrated into”—but at the same time exist as, relatively, discrete entities within—the human body. And all these relations are marked by, indeed consist of, contradiction.

To return to the realm of physics, if it is true that, as Brian Greene characterizes it in The Fabric of the Cosmos (p. 491), “space, like electrons, comes in discrete, indivisible chunks,” that does not change the fact that these “chunks” not only interact with each other, even as electrons interact with other forms of matter in motion, but these “chunks” have internal contradiction themselves, as spoken to here, and are also “integrated with each other” at other levels of matter (in motion). Thus, even if space consists of “discrete” and “indivisible” “chunks,” space would still be, at the same time, continuous—even while discrete—and “chunks” of space, like electrons, would still involve internal contradiction and motion, in the ways I have spoken to that here.

Also important here is the fact (referred to earlier) that motion is the mode of existence of all matter, and the point (a point emphasized by Engels) that motion itself involves contradiction—is a form, or an embodiment, of contradiction. And it seems clear that all forms of matter involve motion not only in relation to other “things” (forms of matter), which are (relatively) “external” to them, but also in their very internal coherence (or relative identity).

How does all this relate to the change—transformation—that different kinds of matter (including subatomic particles such as electrons) undergo, under certain conditions? It is true that an object, or “thing” (form of matter) can undergo change, in certain situations, when it is “acted upon” by something external to it (again, in the relative sense spoken of here). Yet I believe Mao was essentially correct in saying that external factors can be the condition of change, but internal factors—or contradiction—is the basis of change. That is, internal factors, or internal contradiction, is decisive in terms of the possibility for a particular thing to change—it provides the very material basis for this change to occur—and it is decisive in determining how it will change, even if that change is “brought about” by the action of an external factor, interacting with that internal material basis.

To take an example from everyday human experience, the transformation of water into steam: It is the effect of something external to water (the application of heat to the water) which causes the water to boil, but the fact that it can be changed, as a result of being boiled—and that it is changed into steam, and not something else—is owing, principally, to the internal nature (and contradiction) of water itself. And again, I believe Mao is essentially correct in arguing that this basic principle (concerning internal factors, or contradictions, as the basis of change, and external factors as the condition of change) applies to matter in general, although this is complex—and, among other things, is complicated not only by the fact that matter exists as particular forms of matter, each with its own relative identity, some of which differ greatly in their particularity, but also by the fact that the distinction between external and internal is itself relative, and not absolute, and what is external in one context can be internal in another context (and vice versa).

Now, if it could be shown that there is something which actually exists which does not consist of matter, that would constitute a fundamental refutation of dialectical materialism. But, in fact, nothing has ever been found which actually exists but which does not consist of matter.

Or, if it could be shown that some kinds of matter do not involve internal contradiction, motion and change, then that would falsify a basic tenet of communist theory—or at least of communist theory as it exists now and as we understand it now—and we, along with everyone else who is determined to be consistently scientific, would have to confront and draw the appropriate lessons from that–-and not instrumentalist ones which suited and served our preconceptions. But it is not, in fact, the case that such a concept (of matter which does not involve internal contradiction, motion and change) has not only been posited but demonstrated, through scientific means, to be valid and true.

Once more, the scientific understanding we have of reality points to the fact that all reality consists of matter, and involves internal contradiction, motion and change, in one form or another.

As physics (and other branches of science) probe deeper into the nature of reality, on the “micro” as well as the “macro” level, and as they attempt to develop a scientific conception which correctly comprehends the integration of matter at those different levels (“macro” and “micro”), what is also said in “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity” is in fact what is taking place:

“And, over the whole period of more than 150 years since the time when Marx and Engels first formulated communism as a scientific theory, there has been the continuing enrichment of the understanding of dialectical materialism itself, on the basis of learning from continuing discoveries, in natural science as well as social science and history. It is not that these developments have shown that, after all, reality does not consist only of matter in motion; it is that they have deepened our understanding of what that means, and at the same time have posed new challenges in understanding particular forms of matter and particular aspects of the laws of motion of matter.”

The problem is not that continuing discoveries and the continuing development and enrichment of scientific theories—or, for that matter, the positing of various hypotheses, in physics and other fields—have proved invalid, or objectively called into question, the basic understanding that all reality consists of matter in motion and that all such matter in motion involves internal contradiction. The problem is rather that some communists (and some erstwhile communists), at least in some cases on the basis of familiarity with some of these “continuing discoveries” and hypotheses—and, once again, in the context of the setbacks and difficulties of the communist movement in this period—have responded to this with what is an inadequate, or not a deep enough and not a fully correct, grasp of materialism and of dialectics—and more specifically have applied a mechanical and/or in other ways incorrect notion of internal contradiction and of motion and change—and for that reason (or at least in part for that reason) have fallen into questioning the basic dialectical materialist understanding of reality, when in fact there has been no scientific discovery and no verified theory that actually calls into question this basic understanding.

At the same time, while I remain firmly convinced that the fundamental principles of dialectical materialism, as I have touched on them here—including that all reality consists of matter in motion, and that all levels and forms of matter involve internal contradiction—are valid and have not been refuted, or called into question, by what has been learned in physics, or other fields, it also remains true that, without lapsing into an agnostic orientation—as if we cannot draw definite conclusions about, and proceed on the basis of, these fundamental principles—we could all benefit, and must continue to learn, from further exploration and grappling with questions concerning the basic character of reality (matter in motion). This, if approached with a consistently scientific outlook and method, will serve to strengthen our ability to grasp, apply and further enrich dialectical materialism.

Empiricism, agnosticism, relativism, and revisionism
In many ways, and in essential aspects, the tendency to call into question the basic understanding that all reality consists of matter in motion, and that all forms of matter in motion involve internal contradiction—and in particular the way this tendency finds expression among people who have considered themselves communists—is indeed very similar to the phenomenon Lenin addressed in Materialism and Empirio-Criticism. As alluded to above: today, as in Lenin’s time, developments in physics have (in certain measure at least) led, or contributed, to—and have been mutually reinforcing with—a crisis in philosophy; and among communists, where this has not found expression simply in terms of a dogmatic clinging to a brittle version of (and essentially a religious substitute for) communism, it has been manifest as rampant empiricism, agnosticism, and relativism.

This, in turn, has been linked to a tendency to embrace revisionism politically. In some cases this has meant adopting an agnostic stand toward the prospect of making revolution and achieving communism—along with a more general philosophical agnosticism—or in fact openly abandoning the goal of revolution and communism altogether.

A number of erstwhile communists—including some who have gone from being in the camp of revolution to sinking into the cesspool of counter-revolution—are characterized, in their philosophical-ideological outlook, by a rather stark pragmatism and empiricism, which goes along with, and reinforces, rampant economism and revisionism, particularly in the form of “the movement is everything, the final aim nothing.” Generally, this is also combined with an embrace of bourgeois democracy—and, where this does not involve an outright abandonment of communism, it is marked by the attempt to identify communism with bourgeois democracy. Among some of these former communists (and some “intellectual fellow travelers of communism”) there is also a full-scale retreat toward relativism, agnosticism, and scholasticism. (By scholasticism I mean not just dealing with theoretical abstractions in their own right—which can be very important, particularly if this is part of an overall correct method and approach—but making a principle of divorcing theory from practice and in particular from the struggle to change the world; examining—or playing around with—ideas not only in abstraction from such practice and struggle but as a substitute for it, and as something held to be more important than understanding reality as it actually exists, let alone actually changing it.)

Some who are representative of these opportunist tendencies have even gone so far as to denounce our Party for “outlawing agnosticism.” They have insisted that at times agnosticism is a good thing, because sometimes you can’t really tell what’s true, and can’t draw firm conclusions about things. Here, as is typical of such types, we see an eclectic combining of things which are in opposition to each other—and specifically the eclectic combining (or identification) of aspects of the correct scientific outlook and method, on the one hand, with actual agnosticism, on the other hand. On the philosophical level—in terms of what characterizes agnosticism, its fundamental antagonism philosophically with dialectical materialism and its opposition to the scientific method generally—the fact is that agnosticism is not the assertion that, at a given time and in a given circumstance, it may not be possible to draw definitive conclusions about something. There are in fact times when not drawing definitive conclusions can be part of a correct, scientific approach. It depends on the circumstances, and what in the particular circumstances it is, and is not, possible to know (to determine with—yes, relative but nonetheless real—certainty). But agnosticism as an “ism,” if you will—as a philosophical outlook and method—is the declaration that it is not possible to have any certitude about reality, or the assertion that you cannot know something when in fact there is a very solid basis to know and to draw definitive conclusions about it.

So, here once more, we see the eclectic combining (the conflating or “merging together”) of agnosticism, as a philosophical outlook and approach, with the assertion that we cannot, at a given point, say with certainty what is true, or not true, about a particular thing (or process), which may or may not be the case—and which assertion may be part of a correct scientific approach or in fact may be part of an agnostic outlook and approach. But this “two-into-one”—this “merging together” of these two very different phenomena (situations where it may not be possible to draw definitive conclusions about something, and on the other hand the general assertion that it is not possible to really know anything, with any certainty, about reality, or the assertion that it is not possible to come to definitive conclusions about a particular part of reality, when in fact there is a very sound basis for doing so)—is a classic example of eclecticism, as a method and approach.

Here it is important to emphasize that the essence of eclecticism (and the way in which it serves revisionism, when it is communists, or those professing to be communists, who adopt and apply such eclecticism) is not simply to pose things in terms of “on the one hand ‘this,’ and on the other hand ‘that’”—but to do so in a way that obscures the essence of the matter, and specifically undermines what is in fact the principal and defining aspect of the contradiction.

For example, take the statement: “True, imperialism involves the intense and vicious exploitation and oppression of people in many parts of the world; but it has also led to the development of many beneficial forms of technology and to a high standard of living for significant numbers of people.” Both aspects here—what precedes the semicolon (before the word “but”) and what follows after that—are true. But which aspect is principal, defining, and essential? Clearly, it is the former: the highly exploitative and oppressive nature of imperialism, and the very negative consequences of this for the great majority of humanity. But the way this sentence is formulated, it blunts that essential truth by, in form, putting the secondary aspect (as embodied in the second part of the above sentence) on an equal footing with the principal aspect. This serves, at least objectively, as an apology for imperialism.

All eclectic approaches have the same basic character and effect: They serve to muddle things and to deny or undermine the principal aspect and essence of things.

This, for example, is the way certain people, even certain self-proclaimed “communists,” deal with religion and its effects on people, in particular basic masses, caught up in religion. True—such people would probably admit, at least when pressed—religion presents a false view of reality, causing people to believe in, and even to try to rely on, things which do not exist; but, they would hasten to add, it is more complicated than that—there is a way in which religion “explores the mysteries of existence” and/or provides solace and consolation for suffering, to people who are in desperate need of that, and certain kinds of religious belief may even impel people to take some actions which have a positive political, or social, effect.

Here, once again, both aspects of that statement have truth to them, but—as is characteristic of eclecticism as a method and approach—this statement, and the second part in particular, serves to obscure things, and specifically to obscure, blunt and undermine what is in fact the essence (the principal aspect) of the matter: the essential role of religion precisely in keeping people shackled to a false understanding of reality—including in the way religion presents a distorted picture of what may, at any given time, be “mysteries of existence”—obstructing and interfering with people’s ability to confront reality as it actually is, and to transform it, through struggle (including by solving what were previously “mysteries”), in accordance with the pathways for change which lie within—the contradictory nature of—reality.

And, once again, such eclecticism frequently goes along with—is frequently bound together as a “package” with—agnosticism, relativism, empiricism and pragmatism and, in the political realm, revisionism and reformism (often in the form of “the movement is everything, the final aim nothing”), even if this is, at times at least, put forward in the name of—and as a gross perversion of—communism.

From all this, we can see that questions of science and philosophy—of outlook, and method and approach—are not only very important ideologically but also will be bound up with decisive questions of political line and orientation: with what kind of society and world one sees as possible, and desirable, and accordingly for what one is, or is not, prepared to struggle and sacrifice.


1. “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity,” Parts 1 and 2, is available online (at revcom.us/avakian/makingrevolution and revcom.us/avakian/makingrevolution2) and in Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation, a Revolution pamphlet, May 1, 2008. The section referred to here appears in part 1 under the heading “Marxism as a Science—Refuting Karl Popper,” pp. 18-30. [back]

2. The historical experience of the first stage of the communist movement, the basis for its defeats and setbacks, and what lessons should, and should not, be drawn from this experience, are spoken to in Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, a Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (September 2008), available online at revcom.us or as a pamphlet by RCP Publications, 2009.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


(http://www.maoists. org)

For the past four years I have been a supporter of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). However, in common with many other Maoists I have serious reservations about the line that the leadership of the UCPN(M) has put forward since 2003, in relation to multi-party competition. I believe that the endorsement of a system of multi-party competition by a communist party, whether or not this is meant to occur under the dictatorship of the proletariat, will lead to that party adopting a revisionist line. This is because this line does not identify the appropriate means for the proletariat to exercise power. The only way the proletariat can exercise power is by taking control of the state and society at all levels. Proletarians must progressively take over all the tasks involved in the management, government and administration of the state, the economy and the rest of society including those areas of the superstructure in which ideology and culture are developed. The ordinary worker must learn to become an administrator or an enterprise manager or an ideological theorist. Distinctions between experts and non-experts must be broken down. In this way, the class distinctions that still exist in socialism will be overcome as society advances to communism.

The initial stage in this process is the establishment of revolutionary organs of power. In the Soviet Union such tasks were carried out through the Soviet. In China the form that eventually was settled on, during the Cultural Revolution, was the Revolutionary Committee. There is no good reason at all why any Communist party should encourage different classes or factions in society to set up political parties to compete for power. While multi-party competition fulfils some purpose for factions of the bourgeoisie who wish to have some forum to settle their differences, it can only ever be a charade for the proletariat. As I was finishing this article some fairly serious criticism of the of the UCPN(M) was published by the Revolutionary Communist Party (USA). My article should not be seen as a complete endorsement of everything said there. However, I do believe that all Maoists, especially those of us who have supported the line of the UCPN(M), would benefit from serious study of the line of the RCP-USA and Bob Avakian on issues related to what constitutes true revolutionary change, the nature and limitations of democracy and the class nature of the state. I believe it is wrong for Maoists to simply dismiss this line as dogmatism and refuse to enter into proper discussion on these issues.

Many have criticised the policies pursued by the UCPN(M) in the current ‘transitional’ stage. These are policies such as the confinement of the People’s Liberation Army in cantonments, participation in elections to the Constituent Assembly and so forth. I am certainly not in a position to comment on such matters, as I do not have sufficient information about the day to day struggle in Nepal. However, the party has advocated a more long-term line that states that multi-party competition should exist even under socialism. It seems that they do not intend this to be a line designed only for the specific conditions of Nepal but one for the whole of the world communist movement.

Often the line taken by those who do not want the UCPN(M) criticised is that the party’s tactics arise from the specific conditions of Nepal which outsiders cannot fully appreciate. However, the line on multi-party competition under socialism is clearly something intended to be far wider than a simple tactical response to present day conditions in one country. This is shown by the UCPN(M)’s description of this line as ‘21st Century Democracy’ and the way in which the UCPN(M) draws general conclusions from the perceived failures of the revolutions in the USSR and China in order to try and justify this line. I therefore feel it is legitimate and important for all Maoists to debate this line, irrespective of some of the moralistic criticisms that might be made of us for doing so from some quarters.

As far as I am aware the line of multi-party competition first emerged in the document ‘Present Situation And Our Historical Task’ which was adopted by the Central Committee of the then Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) in May 2003 and was published in the 9th issue of the party’s official organ, ‘The Worker’, in February 2004.

In this document there is a section entitled ‘On the Experiences Of History And Development Of Democracy In The 21st Century’. This section tries to explain how the Russian and Chinese revolutions ended up with the restoration of capitalism. It suggests that in the past communists have talked

‘….as if a particular Communist Party remains proletarian for ever once a New Democratic or Socialist state is established under the leadership of the Party, there is either no opportunity, or it is not prepared, or it is prohibited, for the masses to have a free democratic or socialist competition against it. As a result, since the ruling Party is not required to have a political competition with others amidst the masses, it gradually turns into a mechanistic, bureaucratic Party with special privileges and the state under its leadership too, turns into mechanistic and bureaucratic machinery.’

In order to solve the problem of bureaucracy, this document prescribes that

‘[It is] only by institutionalizing the rights of the masses to install an alternative revolutionary Party of leadership on the state if the Party fails to continuously revolutionize itself that counter-revolution can effectively be checked.’

As Prachanda, leader of the UCPN(M), stated in his interview in ‘The Worker’ No 10

‘…the Party believes that within the anti-feudal and anti-imperialist constitutional framework, only through multi-party competition even in a socialist society can counter-revolution be prevented’.

Here in two quotations, in two separate documents, we see the word ‘only’ repeated. It is ‘only’ through multi-party competition, albeit within certain limits, that capitalist restoration can be prevented, the leadership of the UCPN(M) is saying. I believe this is an error, an error that causes me grave anxiety.

This is a fundamental break from Maoism. According to Maoism, even after the proletariat takes power, the capitalist class continues to exist in society and within the Communist Party this leads to the development of a capitalist political line. This means that movements such as the Cultural Revolution are needed in order to struggle against these ‘capitalist roaders’. Class struggle and Cultural Revolution are the means by which the socialist line wins victory, not multi-party elections.

However, the leadership of the UCPN(M) seem to have a marked lack of enthusiasm about the idea of actually implementing the methods of the Cultural Revolution. They do not see the methods of the Cultural Revolution as the way to prevent capitalist restoration in future socialist societies. In fact, they tend to regard the Chinese Cultural Revolution as a noble failure. It is this view that leads them to their promotion of multi-party competition as the only way to prevent capitalist restoration.

We can see evidence of this approach in other statements by the leaders of the UCPN(M). For example Prachanda, in an interview with Anand Swoop Verma, states when speaking about Stalin’s influence over the communist movement: ‘For this reason [the influence of Stalin’s line] a metaphysical tendency dominated over the entire communist movement which Mao Tsetung tried to overcome through Cultural Revolution but the influence of Russian socialism and Stalin was such that even Mao could not succeed in his efforts. …After the Chinese Revolution there existed eight political parties in China which did not support feudalism and imperialism. Mao allowed them to continue to work because he wanted them to support the Communist Party. We have turned this ‘support’ to competition.’

So in Prachanda’s eyes the Cultural Revolution was a well-intentioned failure. It’s legacy now superseded by the UCPN(M)’s new model of multi-party competition.

Bhattarai, a senior leader of the UCPN(M) and now Finance Minister, expresses a similar lack of enthusiasm about Mao’s concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat and Cultural Revolution. In ‘The Question Of Building A New Type Of State’ in ‘The Worker’ No 9 he states that:

‘Also, drawing correct lessons from the bitter experiences of failure of the masses to stage organized rebellion against counter-revolution in the past, we should ensure a system in the new context whereby political parties may be allowed to get organised keeping within definite progressive and revolutionary constitutional limits and they may be encouraged to function not only in a ‘cooperative’ manner but in a ‘competitive’ spirit vis a vis the formal Communist Party.’

The reasons why Bhattarai favours such an approach are alluded to again later on in the article where he says that:

‘It was only during the period of Mao that both the revisionist and dogmato-revisionist tendencies were attacked and a balanced stress was placed on both the questions of dictatorship of the proletariat and of ‘continuous revolution’ and withering away of the state. As Mao’s efforts during the short period were grossly inadequate and incomplete, the revolutionaries of the present age should dare to go beyond all the past experiences and build a new type of state power…’

Surely, it is futile of the leadership of the UCPN(M) to say that they uphold the Cultural Revolution, as they do in other statements, if it was ‘grossly inadequate’ and ‘only’ multi-party competition can prevent capitalist restoration. What was the point of the Cultural Revolution in China if this was the case? What was the point of the establishment of the Red Guards, the establishment of the Revolutionary Committees, the massive efforts to involve the people in inner-party struggle and to involve the people in the running of their agricultural communes and factories? If the line of the leadership of the UCPN(M) is followed to its logical conclusion, the whole thing could have been avoided by simply calling a multi-party competitive election!

Mao surely knew that such a process would be at best futile. He knew that competitive elections were in reality not an appropriate way for the people to exercise power and we will examine below what would have been likely to happen if the Chinese Communist Party had called multi-party competitive elections rather than, or in addition to, leading the Cultural Revolution. In this context, we will also look at the reasons for the relative quiet of the Chinese people in the face of the revisionist coup, something Bhattarai is referring to in his argument for multi-party competition. Like Lenin, Mao understood that the liberation of the proletariat comes through their involvement in the administration and running of the state apparatus and the superstructure as a whole, under the leadership of the most advanced section of the proletariat, which is in the Communist Party.

In a socialist society, you cannot simply get around the need for Cultural Revolution and class struggle against the capitalist class in the Party by calling an election. Rather than preventing capitalist restoration, multi-party competition just undermines the Party’s leading role in liberating the proletariat. An election is not class struggle and a multi-party election is not a means by which the proletariat can exercise genuine power. Multi-party competition is the specific form of governance that arises under the capitalist system. It is no more appropriate for a socialist society, than the absolute monarchy and the feudal political system was for capitalism. Just as capitalism cannot develop under an outmoded political system, neither can socialism develop under the political system appropriate to the previous stage of social development.

Multi-party elections serve a dual purpose in a capitalist system. On the one hand, they act as an institutional mechanism for the capitalist ruling class to resolve their differences. On the other hand, they exist to dupe the people into believing they exercise some power and control over the political system.

The capitalist class needs a state institution to regulate and control the market economy, to enforce contract, to regulate competition, to coordinate the construction of infrastructure, to apportion the burden of taxation between different groups etc. Obviously, there is much contention among capitalists about how these functions will be carried out, as their own individual financial interests are very much affected by the decisions made on these issues.

The most logical system for the capitalist class, would be a system in which democracy would exist among the capitalists and dictatorship among the working class. This, in other words, would be an open ‘dictatorship of the bourgeoisie’. There would be a parliament with a property qualification so that only members of the ruling class could vote. Different capitalist interests would then contend to win each other’s votes, through argument, persuasion and outright bribery. This was the type of system that existed in the UK up until the second half of the nineteenth century.

However, every system of exploitation must have some means of legitimating itself. The feudal system had legitimated itself for centuries by the propagation of religious superstition and notions to do with the ‘divine right of Kings’. The spread of rationalism and social development made these notions unsustainable. This left the ruling class without anything to justify its own existence. However, they soon found something, in the form of ‘democracy’. The corrupt political system of Britain in the early nineteenth century would have been overthrown if the franchise had not been extended and universal suffrage created. Universal suffrage convinced the workers that their liberty could be gained by the election of ‘labour’ MPs, firstly through the backing some ‘pro-labour’ Liberal candidates and then through the Labour Party. The labour movement in Britain was diverted into a thoroughly reformist direction, from which it never emerged.

The system of ‘universal suffrage’ has now spread from Western countries like Britain to the majority of countries in the world. However, the working class and peasantry of these countries do not exercise any power or control over the political apparatus of the state, despite their formal ‘democratic’ rights. In capitalism, an election is simply a means by which people choose between options that have been drawn up for them by the machinery of the ruling class- by the big corporations, the wealthy individuals that fund the parties and the various state and capitalist institutions that control the media etc. We can see this in the recent election in America. In 2008, the corporate funders of political parties and the capitalist owned media sensed the American people were fed up of the Republicans and wanted change. So a substantial portion of those interests who had backed Bush started funding and supporting Obama. He was elected and duly endorsed the mass robbery of the US tax payer to pay off the bad loans that were incurred by the big banks.

In Britain, in the 1990s, the people were sick of the Conservatives who had presided over the bungling of economic policy and many job losses. So the right-wing media and the City Financiers gave their backing to Tony Blair and New Labour, who won the election in 1997. The same old Conservative policies were implemented but the people had been given their ‘democratic choice’.

As Bob Avakian said in his 1986 book ‘Democracy Can’t We Do Better Than That’

‘On the most obvious level, to be a serious candidate for any major office in a country like the U.S. requires millions of dollars-a personal fortune or, more often, the backing of people with that kind of money. Beyond that, to become known and be taken seriously depends on favourable exposure in the mass media… They [the mass media] are themselves key pillars of the power structure: they are owned by major financial interests (where they are not owned by the state) and are in any case closely regulated by the state.’

In essence, Avakian is re-stating what Lenin said on the matter of bourgeois elections on many occasions.

As Lenin said in his ‘Theses On Bourgeois Democracy And Proletarian Dictatorship’ in 1919

‘…the workers know perfectly well that even in the most democratic bourgeois republic, “freedom of assembly” is a hollow phrase, for the rich are in possession of the best public and private buildings, have enough free time for assembly and are protected by the bourgeois machine of power.’

And also that ‘freedom of the press’ is

‘a deception so long as the best printing-plants and the biggest supplies of paper have been appropriated by the capitalists, and so long as capital rules over the press.’

And we are speaking mainly here about the developed West, not even the Third World! In Third World nations, the imperialist powers, led by the USA, have encouraged multi-party competition as a way that local elites, put in place and sustained by the imperialist powers, can legitimate their power. If any of these governments steps out of line, the imperialist powers, will first withdraw investment and aid in order to strangle the country economically and if that fails resort to coups and even direct political intervention to pressurise the people into supporting the political opposition.

For example, before the late 1990s the West had no problem with Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe and granted it aid and investment. With Western encouragement, Mugabe implemented a multi—party system. As in many countries around the world, there were allegations of ballot-rigging but Western donors took no significant action. Mugabe was doing the West’s bidding and making no challenge to imperialism, so he was allowed to do what he wanted in terms of how he conducted elections. However in 2000, under mounting pressure from his people, Mugabe endorsed the re-taking of land stolen from the black people of his country by white colonialists. In 2001, the US passed the ‘Zimbabwe Economic Recovery and Democracy Act’ which empowers the US to use its voting rights and influence (as the main donor) in multilateral lending agencies, such as the IMF, World Bank, and the African Development Bank to veto any applications by Zimbabwe for finance, credit facilities, loan rescheduling, and international debt cancellation. The result has been to cripple Zimbabwe’s economy. The West has made it quite plain to the people of Zimbabwe that all this would change if they were prepared to put the opposition MDC in government.

Other examples are what happened to the Palestinian people after they elected Hamas to run the Palestinian Authority. The Western governments froze all funds to the Palestinian Authority. A coup overthrew Hamas rule in the West Bank but the people of Gaza continue to be murdered by Israel and denied adequate food and medical treatment by both Israel and the other imperialist powers, for the crime of electing Hamas. There are many other examples of how the imperialists subvert ‘democracy’ across the Third World in this manner. These are only two of the most recent and glaring examples.

Given the imbalance in financial, economic and military power between the imperialist powers and Third World countries, it is clear that no real democracy of any kind can exist in the Third World, if we are talking about a bourgeois multi-party system. The existence of a multi-party system just gives the imperialists additional leverage as they can use sanctions and other measures to pressurise the people to elect one party rather than another, when the need arises-for example, if one of their local lackeys suddenly goes through a nationalist phase in response to popular unrest.

Some might argue that the UCPN(M) is not going down the road of reformism on the grounds that the UCPN(M) states that the elections they are proposing will be carried out under ‘the dictatorship of the proletariat’. This statement was made by the UCPN(M) in 2007 in its contribution to the seminar it organised on ‘Imperialism And Proletarian Revolution In the 21st Century’ (see The Worker 11).

But this statement that multi-party elections should be carried out under the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ is quite bewildering. Proletarian democracy was never conceived as some occasional exercise in putting crosses on ballot papers by those who led the revolutions in Russia and China. Why revert to a bourgeois institution designed to deceive the masses once socialism is achieved? The only honest role multi-party competition has in capitalism is as a means of resolving differences and conflicts between factions of capital. Given that in socialism, the Communist Party seeks neither to deceive the people or provide a forum for capitalists to divide up the fruits of the exploitation of labour, what need is there for a multi-party system? With a heavy heart, I must say that, the UCPN(M)’s insistence that multi-party competition will be necessary under socialism is a sign that it does not truly intend to create a genuine dictatorship of the proletariat and proletarian democracy. It seems that they are seeking some sort of ‘Third Way’ between proletarian democracy and bourgeois democracy. Like all such ‘Third Ways’ this line will lead inevitably the Party down the capitalist road, not the socialist road.

To understand the UCPN(M)’s error in this regard, we must investigate the true nature of the dictatorship of the proletariat and proletarian democracy. Lenin in ‘The Proletarian Revolution and The Renegade Kautsky’ describes the work of the Soviets in proletarian democracy in the following terms.

‘The Soviets are the direct organization of the toiling and exploited masses themselves, which helps them to organise and administer their own state in every possible way.’


‘the bourgeois parliament [in revolutionary Russia] has been dispersed-and far more accessible representation has been given to the workers and peasants; their Soviets have replaced the bureaucrats, or their Soviets have been placed in control of the bureaucrats, and their Soviets have been authorised to elect the judges.’

Lenin’s vision for the future was not just of making things ‘more democratic’ or merely increasing proletarian representation in the organs of power as some sort of sop to his core constituency. Lenin had a profoundly exciting and far-reaching vision of human liberation in which all would share in the administration of the state and in which ultimately class divisions and the division between leader and led would dissolve.

In ‘The Immediate Tasks Of The Soviet Government’ Lenin states

‘for the first time a start is made by the entire population in learning the art of administration and in beginning to administer. These are the principal distinguishing features of the democracy now applied in Russia, which is a higher type of democracy, a break with the bourgeois distortion of democracy, a transition to socialist democracy and to conditions in which the state can begin to wither away.’


‘There is a petty-bourgeois tendency to transform the members of the Soviets into “parliamentarians” , or else into bureaucrats. We must combat this by drawing all members of the Soviets into the practical work of administration… .Our aim is to draw the whole of the poor into the practical work of administration, and every step that is taken in this direction-the more varied they are, the better-should be carefully recorded, studied, systematised, tested by wider experience and embodied in law.’

Of course this vision could not be realised all at once but the whole history of socialism in Russia and China involves repeated attempts to put this vision into practice, reaching their culmination in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. In the Soviet Union the establishment of the Soviets was followed by the establishment of the Workers and Peasants Inspectorate of the state apparatus and Stalin’s ‘Lenin Enrolment’ which sought to bring large numbers of ordinary people into the Communist Party, to expand the numbers of those participating, as part of the vanguard, in the Soviet Union’s administration and political life at the highest level. In China Mao tried to realise proletarian democracy, first through the Hundred Flowers campaign and then through the Cultural Revolution. Bourgeois critics, of course, talk only of the failures and shortcomings of these efforts. But communists should not capitulate to such criticisms. Many, many attempts to establish bourgeois democracy failed. Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth was followed by eventual restoration of the monarchy. Efforts to establish the bourgeois system only revived a hundred years later with the French Revolution. The 1848 Revolutions were followed by reaction. There were many failures and reversals before the bourgeoisie finally took power. The same will be true of the establishment of proletarian political power.

In fact the whole history of attempts to establish proletarian power in the socialist countries has been a history of struggle between antagonistic classes, just as such struggles took place between bourgeois and feudal forces, long after the initial victories of the bourgeoisie. In Lenin’s time, there was a struggle against the petty-bourgeois elements that were entering the Party and severe bureaucratic tendencies. As we have touched on, Mao theorised that the problem was that a new bourgeoisie would arise within the Communist Party. This new bourgeoisie arose because in socialism there is still a division between mental and manual labour. In the factories, for example there is still a division between the worker and the manager. In the arena of state administration there remain divisions between a petty-bourgeois class of administrators and the working class who are administered by them and ultimately between the leaders and the led. However, some of those that lead take the socialist line of wanting to break down these divisions. Others take the capitalist road of wanting to sustain and extend the power of the capitalist class. These two lines within the Party are a reflection of the material reality of the continued existence of different classes in society. The role of those with the socialist line is to ceaselessly try to break down these divisions by leading the proletariat in a class struggle against the new capitalist class in the Party.

So the aim is to put the proletariat in command of the state by continuously extending its involvement in administration, with the help and guidance of its most advanced elements that form its vanguard in the Party. The principal means the proletariat must use to exercise this role is class struggle against the capitalist roaders.

How could the concept of multi-party elections under the dictatorship of the proletariat assist in this class struggle? What kind of question would this election decide? In a class society, like socialism, the most important question would be the struggle between the capitalist roaders and those taking the socialist road. It is perfectly clear that in a class society, the most fundamental conflicts in society do boil down to a conflict between the two main opposing classes with intermediate classes allying with one of the two poles or vacillating between them. Divisions between factions of the ruling class are also significant but clearly the antagonism between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat is the principal contradiction. The outcome of this antagonism will determine on the one hand whether, as a member of the proletariat, you will become liberated from poverty and oppression and on the other hand, if you are a bourgeois, it is a question of whether your whole status and social identity will be liquidated. This is bound to be the main question in any political contest in socialism, with all other issues being subordinated to it.

Can anyone believe that such a contest would simply be allowed to take place on a level playing field, with equal rights given to both contestants? As we saw, in our description of elections in capitalism, it is impossible to believe that an election conducted on such an ideal basis could take place in any class society. The outcome of this election would be determined by which class was in the ascendancy within the state structures, the media, the army, the electoral commission and all the rest of it. And of course, the imperialists would play a very decisive role in determining the outcome.

Let us say that Mao had called an election in the 1970s and two parties had stood. No doubt both would have called themselves communist but one would have been led by those with a Deng Xiaoping line and one by those with the line of Mao and the so-called ‘Gang of Four’. Who would have won this Chinese election? We can imagine that the rightists would have stood promising to ‘uphold every word of Mao’, while ending the Cultural Revolution. The leftists could only offer continual class struggle, at a time when the country had already gone through years of Cultural Revolution. There would therefore be a strong possibility that the rightists would have won such an election. They would have had the backing of the new capitalist class in China that controlled parts of the Party and the state apparatus. They would also have the backing of the foreign imperialist powers with their promises of huge aid payments and loans, jf the people made the ‘correct’ choice.

Once the capitalist roaders had state power, it would be a simple matter for them to isolate and crush those taking the socialist road. Without any leadership from the left, it would be easy to neutralise any popular discontent over the overthrow of socialism with promises and bribes. They might have ensured the relative passivity of the people in the face of capitalist restoration, by promising an increase in agricultural procurement prices, the right of peasant households to lease their own land and foreign investment to create urban employment opportunities. In essence the imagined rightist promises described here were the actual promises with which Hua Guofeng and Deng Xiaoping did deceive the people and win their passive acquiescence for the restoration of capitalism, once the so-called ‘Gang of Four’ were defeated. Here lies the immediate explanation, at any rate, of why socialism in China was overthrown without mass uprisings by the people. By the time Hua Guofeng’s phony socialist line was replaced with Deng’s openly capitalist line, there was no-one left to lead socialist revolts among the people, who were in the process of being duped by new promises from Deng.

Would the people have been right to make this choice? Should the Party have allowed this choice, if that is what they wanted? Was it a denial of freedom to refuse to allow such a choice? Not at all.

The point is that it is very easy to for the imperialists to fire ‘sugar-coated bullets’ at the people of poor Third World countries that are struggling for independence from imperialism. The overwhelming wealth and power of the imperialist nations allows them to influence the thinking of people in Third World countries that are tempted to emulate the affluence of First World workers and may listen to the argument that they can achieve this if they follow western ways in politics and economics.

However, going down this path is not in the interests of the people and it is correct for a communist party to refuse to give into demands among the imperialists and pro-imperialist elements within the country and the party to organise bourgeois elections that will determine such an issue. Such an election cannot be a fair an equal one. The greater wealth and power of the imperialists creates a powerful ideological force that may easily tilt the election in favour of the rightist forces.

However, it must be stressed again, this risk is because of the greater ideological power of the imperialists. It is not because voting for capitalism is in the best interests of the people of Third World countries. This fact can be illustrated by looking at the results of China taking the capitalist road for its people. When the rightists did finally come to power by coup rather than ballot they set about enslaving the people of China for the benefit of the Western export market.

Deng Xiaoping might have said ‘To Get Rich Is Glorious’ but not many workers or peasants in China have actually got rich. In 2004, the economist Erin Lett and the demographer Judith Banister calculated that hourly manufacturing wages in China were 0.67 cents per hour (1). The income made by agricultural workers, of course, tends to be lower. Whatever, the propaganda spread by Deng, China was developing economically and socially under Mao. Industry was developing and life expectancy was increasing rapidly due to equal food distribution and the socialist health care system. The people were the controllers of their destiny and their labour was for the benefit of the society they lived in, rather than to meet the frivolous desires of western consumers.

It might be argued by the defender of the UCPN(M)”s proposals that they are not proposing an election between the supporters of a capitalist line and a socialist line. Rather, under the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ that they propose, only parties supporting the socialist line would be allowed to stand.

Let us imagine that such a scenario could take place. What would be the point of an election between two parties taking the socialist road? In capitalism, you have elections fought between different parties that uphold the capitalist system. But as we have seen, there is a material reason for this. Capitalists have different interests and they need an institutional means of resolving them. The proletariat, when it takes the socialist road is not like this. It does not divide itself into two or three or four, with each faction having different interests, contrary to the interests of the other factions. If such a division happened, it would be a sign that these factions were adopting a bourgeois line, as opposed to a socialist line based on the extension of solidarity, the line of serving the people not one’s own narrow interests and the struggle for communism.

Let us go back to the initial scenario, where no ‘capitalist roaders’ are allowed to stand. The fact is that if all these ‘competing’ parties supported the socialist line, then this would mean that there would be no actual competition! The ‘competition’ would be a sham to convince the people there was a choice of parties, when in fact no choice was necessary. But if our aim is to put the people in control of society and break down divisions between leaders and led, what sense does it make to say that they should be deceived in this way?

The whole point of proletarian power is that the proletariat is the ‘universal class’. Although, it must struggle as a class against the bourgeoisie, its ultimate role is in the creation of a classless society. The capitalist class presents its own interests as universal to try and prevent the proletariat understanding that they are exploited and rebelling. The proletariat however, has no material reason to try and deceive others about the nature of its rule, as it is not an exploiting class. Neither should the proletariat be deceived itself, if the goal is for the proletariat to understand and appreciate its role in taking conscious control of the state and society. Avakian makes a fundamental analysis of why the proletariat is the only class that can lead humanity to progress and liberation. Avakian expresses this very well in ‘An End To Horror Or A Horrible End’. Here Avakian is comparing the bourgeois and the proletarian methodologies for advancing human knowledge. He states that:

‘But fortunately, one of the methodologies does provide a comprehensive basis for arriving at, and making a powerful material force of, the truth: the outlook and interests of the proletariat do correspond to the further emancipation and enlightenment of humanity, in a qualitatively greater way than ever before.’

Avakian goes onto say that this is not because the truth has a class character. The real reason why the proletariat is the only class that can advance human development, progress and freedom is best summed up in ‘Democracy: Can’t We Do Better Than That?’, where Avakian writes that in communism:

‘There will still be-there will always be ignorance, in dialectical relation with knowledge-but there will not be suppression and distortion of knowledge and ideas, and there will not be the bias and limitation imposed by the domination of exploiting classes and the very division of society into classes.’

The point we can glean from here is that it is precisely because the proletariat is not an exploiting class that it can advance human progress. It does not make distorted truth claims in order to disguise the nature of an exploitative and oppressive system. According to the ‘truth’ propagated by the bourgeoisie, the market system is the best of all possible economic systems. They are still relentlessly pushing this line in the media, despite the fact that, as I write, the ‘free market’ is leading to economic collapse, a massive increase in world poverty and environmental disaster. The ruling class propagates a ‘truth’ that is so clearly incorrect because of the way the view of the world it promotes is twisted by its own personal interests. Some factions in the ruling class may talk of some reform and regulation of the system but they can never-as a class-arrive at the truth that the system itself is the problem and must be replaced. Only the proletariat- as a class-can do this. (I use the phrase ‘as a class’ because I am, of course, not talking about every individual in these classes. Some individual bourgeois do realise the system must be changed but they do not have the collective weight of their class-the media, academic institutions, policy making bodies and so on behind them. These latter institutions do reflect the collective class interest of the bourgeoisie and form and sustain its collective class position that capitalism must continue in existence.)

However, it is the purest idealism to assume that there can be a simple ‘competition’ of ideas, in which the proletariat can hope that its perspective can win out. Ideas are produced and propagated in the superstructure. The class that controls this superstructure will have the dominant role in this production and propagation. And there is no free ‘competition’ between contending classes when it comes to the issue of who controls the superstructure. There is antagonistic conflict which leads to the dictatorship of one class or the other.

Of course the proletariat cannot exercise this dictatorship as a collection of atomised individuals. They must have a disciplined party to lead this struggle. This is not principally a matter of practical organisation, though clearly organisational discipline is necessary for success in the struggle. Primarily, it is a question of ideology. Although, the proletariat is the bearer of truth and progress, it does not come to the truth or lead humanity to progress spontaneously. Due to its previous subordinate position it must learn how to administer and govern, once it takes power. It must learn the necessary practical skills and it must develop its ideological ability. Also, there is much it must unlearn. It must unlearn all the ideas that the bourgeoisie have indoctrinated it with to keep it in backwardness and subordination. It must unlearn chauvinism, racism, religious sectarianism, superstitious ideas and sexist ideas and practices.

The other problem is that many proletarians, especially many of those in the imperialist countries, do have some material stake in the system and this does distort their world outlook. Many proletarians in these countries benefit from the exploitation of the Third World proletariat and this means that we have to look for our world revolutionary vanguard elsewhere-among the lower strata of the proletariat in the imperialist countries perhaps and certainly among the Third World proletariat.

It should also be understood that the historic role of the proletariat can be subverted by the blandishments of imperialism, even among the Third World proletariat. We saw how the promise that the Chinese people would ‘get rich’ if they capitulated to world imperialism was used by Deng Xiaoping to win the Chinese people’s relative acquiescence to the capitalist restoration that had taken place. The material difference is that in the First World countries, imperialism has led to a permanent affluence among the majority of the populations. In the great majority of Third World nations, this is not the case. Although the proletariats of some of the more economically successful Third World countries may achieve increases in living standards in boom years, the subordination of these ‘middle-income’ countries to the imperialist world order makes their economies more vulnerable to world economic shocks and their peoples far more susceptible to mass pauperisation in the down-turns. As I write, most of the ‘tigers’ of South-East Asia are facing drops in national output far worse even than those being suffered in the First World nations, and this only a few years after these countries finally recovered from the effects of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis. However, the promise of First World affluence is used extensively in the Third World to deceive the people and defuse anti-imperialist struggle.

Although, the dictatorship of the proletariat is a majority dictatorship, not a minority one, it is not a matter of the rule of spontaneous majority opinion. There is a need for a vanguard to educate the masses and to prevent the proletariat’s universal outlook being subverted by the influence of false consciousness and bribery. As Mao said leadership is ‘From the masses, to the masses’. The correct line originates from the masses, not the party leadership. However, the vanguard’s role is to synthesise the disparate expressions of opinion by the masses and separate their correct ideas from their reactionary ideas in order to create a coherent, progressive, proletarian line.

It is Avakian’s achievement that he has courageously and clearly stated the line of the dictatorship of the proletariat in a world where the victories of the bourgeoisie against the people seem to have discredited the notion of the liberation of humanity forever. Avakian’s work helps to clearly demarcate the line between those communists who believe in the necessity of the proletariat taking over the superstructure and running it themselves through their own revolutionary institutions and those who seek to substitute empty bourgeois ‘democratic’ rituals for the vanguard role of the proletariat.

Those who have debated with me will know that until relatively recently I have been an enthusiastic supporter of the UCPN(M). It is reasonable to ask why my line has changed. Simply put this is due to my recognition that my previous way of thinking about such issues was bound up with some reformist ideas. I did not appreciate what I have identified here as the crucial demarcation between revolutionary and revisionist lines on state power. This demarcation is one between those who follow the line that the proletariat must take over and administer the state and society through revolutionary organs of power, under the leadership of the Party and those with the opposing line that the proletariat can exercise power through multi-party competition. Although I have always opposed parliamentary politics, except as a short-term tactic, I tended towards an anarchist notion that proletarian power involved the ‘extension’ of democracy. I believed the most crucial aspect of proletarian power was the proletariat having some passive choice between different candidates for election or different policy options. I did not fully appreciate that the proletariat’s principal aim must be to exercise control over the state and the rest of the superstructure, otherwise the lists of candidates and policy options will be drawn up by the bourgeoisie within the party and all the ‘democracy’ in the world will simply reinforce the oppression and exploitation of the proletariat.

I also tended to go along with the line that the talk of ‘multi-party competition’ by the UCPN(M) was ‘all a tactic’. But as others have pointed out, during the various debates on this issue, it is unconvincing, to say the least, that a communist party should adopt a non-Marxist theory of the class nature of the state and announce this as a theory of ‘Proletarian Revolution In The 21st Century’ (see The Worker No11), all as part of a ‘tactic’.

My own mistakes in this regard are entirely my own responsibility and no other person or group is to blame for them. However, I am aware that many others still have a way of thinking similar to the one I had when I supported the line of the UCPN(M). I would urge them to seriously consider the criticisms of this line that are being made and to return to the revolutionary path.

(1) See ‘Labor Costs Of Manufacturing Employees In China: An Update To 2003-4’ in Monthly Labor Review November 2006. Very roughly speaking it is wise to double this figure to take into account the fact that prices are lower in China than in the West-this gives some approximation of Purchasing Power Parities. For example the CIA’s estimate of China’s economy for 2008 is that it is about twice as large in PPP terms as it is in terms of its value at international exchange rate values. This matter is complicated by the over-estimation of the PPP value of national income before December 2007-by a factor of about 40%.