I posted this on leddit in response to this article:
and figured it was good enough to repost here.
I think this thread shows how confused anti-revisionists are. They know revisionism is wrong and they know what it looks like but they don't know what it actually is (as in, what its material basis is). That PCP-RCP article in particular is revealing:
Those for whom socialism is essentially defined by legal form of ownership—by the fact that private ownership of means of production has been replaced by collective (state) ownership—can certainly see the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as a “socialist country” (although the economic reforms implemented over the past ten years have seriously undermined the state model). However, this does not render service to the world proletariat, who need the greatest clarity on these issues, nor to the legitimate struggle of the Korean people against US imperialism—which has never abandoned its goal to control the Korean peninsula.
They are wise enough to acknowledge that this definition exists. Rather than explain why collective ownership is not socialism however, they give two absurd qualifications: North Korea doesn't "render service to the world proletariat" and they don't properly struggle against U.S. imperialism (this second is vague and could also be interpreted as saying they do struggle against imperialism but don't properly justify it to western communists). You can imagine the amount of arrogance to think that North Korea has any obligation to justify itself to tiny communist sects in the west and that this task is part of the fundamental definition of socialism itself. And this is the charitable reading because read straight both accusations are simply lies: North Korea in fact has an outstanding record of helping third world liberation movements and even today maintains great respect in Africa and it's hard to find a better example of resistance to US imperialism than North Korea. This is an odd point to hit on as well since Maoist China and the Western Maoist movement had a very mixed record on imperialism, something you can't get around by proclaiming it "pre-maoist" and therefore not relevant.
The next paragraph is even more interesting:
The bureaucratic bourgeoisie around the army and in the state apparatus is the real ruling class in North Korea. It oppresses the proletarian and peasant masses as it maintains a lead weight on them and collectively benefits from the exploitation of their labour, without even giving them any possibility of autonomous organization. Only the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat of the whole peninsula will allow for the establishment of a free Korea stripped from any form of imperialist domination whatsoever—whether US, Russian, or Chinese.
Where did the army come into the analysis suddenly? If you're familiar, this is actually identical to Tony Cliff's theory of the "permanent arms economy." The call for "autonomous organization" is also Trotskyist (at best), either calling for independent factions to openly resist the state ala the Worker's Opposition, a multiparty system ala non-Communist socialists who considered Solidarity in Poland and similar organizations to be "progressive," or a full blown resistance attempting to overthrow the state ala former trots turned neoconservatives, an ideology which has gotten second wind with ideological support of the "revolutionaries" in Libya and Syria by certain communist groups. The reference to Chinese and Russian imperialism is also odd, after a whole article pointing out the literal genocide America committed in Korea, Russia and China are brought up out of nowhere and made equivalent to the United States. No previous evidence was provided that Russia and China have any influence on North Korea at all, the actual analysis has been of the words of Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un as well as the unusual place "intellectuals" serve in Juche ideology (though if you read carefully it's already clear that this comes from the legitimacy of the March 1st movement in Korean history and intellectuals have no real influence on North Korea or even exist as a class of intelligentsia).
In general, the only difference between the Trotskyist definition of state capitalism and the 'Maoist' one, going beyond superficial analysis of words, is that North Korea never had a cultural revolution ala China. This leads to some unfortunate consequences though since by the same definition China was not socialist until the cultural revolution, and giving it a little time to develop into more than big character posters and assuming it ended in 1971, China was only socialist for at most 3 years. This is necessarily so since unlike the USSR, which Mao gave a blessing to as being divided by the death of Stalin into socialist and state capitalist, North Korea had no such moment to divide between 'revisionism' and 'socialism' (unless you want to claim North Korea was socialist until 1994), therefore:
For Maoists, the regime established on the territory known as North Korea has never been socialist.
Even if you believe this, if China was only socialist for 3 years then the USSR was probably never socialist and was surely not socialist when Lenin was alive. Obviously every other country is immediately excluded. Go deep enough and it's even difficult to justify the cultural revolution as socialist since Mao specifically defended the party as mostly good and opposed any claim that China was social-imperialist or state-capitalist. This is what has actually happened and leads to the absurd claim by Gonzalo that maoism only began after Mao was dead and has never actually gained state power or replicated the cultural revolution (Nepal, the one what won, was immediately abandoned as revisionist), leading the utterly generic parts of Mao's thoughts like 'people's war' and the 'mass line' as 'universally significant'.
Also if you're familiar, this is nothing new. Althusser faced the same problem attempting to reread Marx through Maoism, discarding more and more of Marx as 'non-Marxist' until only Critique of the Gotha Programme was the only work left that was Marxist (until Marxism was entirely abandoned by Althusser and his followers for variations of the "undercurrent of the materialism of the encounter" which ironically in the hands of Badiou and others has no relation to materialism at all). In general, I think Badiou's description of maoism in France applies to the United States (or Canada) as well:
I believe there have been three different interpretations of Maoism in France. The first, and the oldest, was that, contrary to the USSR under Khrushchev, China held on to an original hardline Stalinism—and that the abandonment of Stalinism would lead sooner or later to a general dissolution (in which regard they weren’t mistaken). These people started the PCMLF believing they would rebuild a genuine Communist party of class struggle, against the revisionism of the official PCF and the USSR. It was both a dogmatic and a nostalgic interpretation. But it was also the only place where you found old working-class activists—there were young people in all the Maoist groups, but not older ones, nostalgic for the great era of Thorez, the 1950s, when the Party ruled in the factories and housing estates. It was really a conservative interpretation. At the other extreme there was the ultra-left interpretation of the GP, which was almost anarchist: you launched bold attacks, set up stunts, made ‘revolution in the head’, ‘melted into the masses’, always with a very keen eye to the media. The organization was highly centralized—in secret; in public it dissolved itself every five minutes in order to ‘liberate’ the energy of the masses.
As for us, the UCFML, I would say that we were a centre-left organization, in the sense always advocated by Mao, who described himself as a ‘centrist’.
There were three essential points of Maoist provenance that we practised: the first was that you always had to link up with the people, that politics for intellectuals was a journey into society and not a discussion in a closed room. Political work was defined as work in factories, housing estates, hostels. It was always a matter of setting up political organizations in the midst of people’s actual life. The second was that you should not take part in the institutions of the bourgeois state: we were against the traditional trade unions and the electoral mechanism. No infiltration of the so-called workers’ bureaucracies, no participation in elections; that distinguished us radically from the Trotskyists. The third point was that we should be in no hurry to call ourselves a party, to take up old forms of organization; we had to remain very close to actual political processes. As a result of all this, we found ourselves sharply opposed to the two other main currents. Our founding pamphlet attacked both the PCMLF on the right and the GP ‘on the left’. A struggle on two fronts...
Alain Badiou: Yes, and me too, if I hadn’t been put off early on by the element of flagrant posturing—boasting of things that didn’t really exist—and a kind of hystericization of activism, which I sensed very quickly would not stay the course. For my part, I made a permanent commitment, it wasn’t a youthful prank. Theirs was an adventurist and fallacious style of action, but one that was exciting at the same time, a politics that was also a fashion, its personal roots in actual fact not very deep—all this, in the GP, made possible those spectacular reversals that we have now seen.
That last paragraph sounds exactly like the PCP-RCP and the Red Guards Austin. Obviously you need to read that article with the understanding that Badiou is going to portray himself in the best possible light and that I am happy to be called a "conservative" by him for defending Stalin in 2017 (though in 1968 the charge probably did describe a serious flaw).
As for myself, as I just implied, I think that form of Maoist adventurism, whether in China or in the West, was absolutely necessary. Despite Althusser's ultimate degeneration, I sympathize with his ideological project more than any other Marxist current and still see the GPCR as something significant which is not the case in North Korea. However, I think that form of adventurism has not changed since 1968 and has degenerated into a pure disavowal of reality. What is there to be gained by claiming that Cuba and North Korea are revisionist when the 'anti-revisionist' states not only don't exist, but became even more capitalistic than the states they were criticizing? It's possible it's theoretically correct and will appear as such over the long arc of history but I highly doubt it, the actual 'innovations' of the cultural revolution have almost no place in this discourse compared to the symbolic function of a very short period of time. Despite calling for North Korea to have independent political forms, they are careful to not say 'mass organizations' because those particularly had both the army and the party as part of the '3-in-1' combination, the so-called foundation of revisionism in North Korea.
Pinpointing the material cause of North Korean revisionism is difficult (and I consider revisionism to still be socialism), I would imagine it is related to the particular history of Korean communism (remember that while Kim Il-sung's guerrillas were communists, the had basically no connection the the communist party which was purged from power in 1956 after uneasy coexistence with other factions that emerged from the war) and the broader history of anti-Japanese nationalism (hence the unusual multi-party system in North Korea and the particular reverence for individual acts of heroism such as An Jung-gung, Kim Gu, Yu un-hyong and in the South Jeon Tae-il). That's a historical argument but not a materialist one, and ultimately I would imagine the 'revisionism' of North Korea is related to their extreme economic isolationism which set a ceiling on development. Though this has some relation to Trotsky's claim that degeneration came from a scarcity of resources and leads to some odd paths, such as considering Albanian 'self-reliance' and North Korea 'juche' nearly identical despite normally being seen as opposite ends of the revisionism spectrum. Ultimately I'm not so concerned with understanding North Korean revisionism, which seems pretty stable, as I am with the 'flagrant posturing' I see among Maoists and anti-revisionists which will not survive the 'youthful pranks' that the internet only amplifies since Badiou's day.