I try to take notes on the things I read that I find important or want to remember. I've decided to put my notes up here as reading guide materials for the various books & essays I read.
My goal is always to include concise points and/or quotes for the reading, so that I can review a series of bullets to get the main important ideas from a text.
These notes are not complete and my ideas don't necessarily align exactly with what I've noted (as I've noted several conflicting viewpoints), I just find these things interesting or valuable in some way.
Pedagogy of the Oppressed
What it is: A detailed class analysis and the relationship between the oppresor and the oppressed.
- Oppression is defined as having "overwhelming control of another human being's thinking of acting". Oppressors prescribe actions and goals and the oppressed follow these.
- Humans are the only species whose "reflection and action (can) truly transform reality". We "exist in a dialectical relationship between the determination of limits and our own freedom".
- The status of being an oppressor is "a distortion of being more fully human".
- Some men's having must not be allowed to obstruct others' having.
- The oppressed must not become oppressors of the oppressors, but restorers of the humanity of both.
- Almost always in initial stages, the oppressed strive to become oppressors in their struggle for liberation. "Their ideal is to be men, but for them, to be men is to be oppressors".
- One basic element of the relationship between the oppressor and oppressed is prescription. "Every prescription represents the imposition of one's individual choice upon another, transforming the consciousness of the person prescribed to into one that conforms with the prescriber's consciousness."
- The oppressed suffer from a duality: without freedom they cannot exist authetically, yet although they desire authentic experience, they fear it. The conflict lies in the choice between being wholly themselves or being dividied - between ejecting the oppressor within or not ejecting them.
- The oppressed must discover themselves to be "hosts" of the oppressor.
- The oppressed must "be able to wage the struggle for liberation" and must "perceive the reality of oppression not as a closed world from which there is no exit, but as a limiting situation" they can transform.
- The oppressor is only solidly with the oppressed when he stops regarding the oppressed as an abstract category, and sees them as persons who have been unjustly dealt with, deprived of their voice, cheated in the sale of labor, etc.
- The pedagogy of the oppressed has two distinct stages:
- The confrontation is through the change in the way the oppressed perceive the world of oppression.
- Through the expulsion of myths created and developed in the "old" order, which haunt the new.
- The oppressed are contradictory, divided beings, shaped by and existing in a concrete situation of oppression and violence.
- Oppressors do not view the oppressed as "human beings". They view them as a completely lesser being. Oppressors' consciousness tends to transform everything surrounding it into an object of its domination.
- The oppressors believe that if others do not have more, it is because they are incompetent and lazy. They view the suffering of the oppressed as the will of God.
- Sometimes, the oppressed feel an irresistable attraction toward the oppressors and their way of life (which becomes an aspiration). This phenomenon is prevalent in the middle-class oppressed, who yearn to become the people of the working class.
- It is necessary for the oppressed to see examples of vulnerability of the oppressor, so a contrary conviction can grow within them (until this occurs, they will continue disheartened, fearful and beaten)
One Is Not Born A Woman
What it is: A materialist feminist approach to women's oppression destroys the idea that women are a natural group.
- A material feminist destroys the idea that women are a "natural group" (set apart from men by biology). Lesbian society destroys this fact, proving it is a social relation. (Not quite sure I understand this fully).
- "One is not born a woman (...) it is civilization that produces this creature."
- By saying 'women and men are different species', we are admitting there is a 'natural' division between women and men, when 'women' and 'men' grew out of social conditions and expectations.
- For example, seeing birth as "natural" instead of as "forced labor" (the only social activity short of war that presents great danger of death).
- To refuse to be a woman does not mean one has to become a man. "But even if she would like to, with all her strength, she cannot become a man. For becoming a man would demand from a woman his consciousness as well, the consciousness of someone who disposes by right of at least two "natural" slaves during his lifespan. (Wife and... who else?)
- One feature of lesbian oppression consists of makiing women out of reach for us, since women belong to men.
- The refusal to become (or remain) heterosexual always meant to refuse to become a man or woman, consciously or not. For a lesbian (...) it is the refusal of the economic, ideological, and political power of a man.
- The term "woman" and "man" are political and economic categories, not eternal ones.
- Our fight aims to suppress men as a class, not through a genocidal but a political struggle. One "men" disappears, "women" will disappear as well, for there are no slaves without masters.
- Marxism traditionally rejects a "subject" because of its emphasis on objectivism (and deemphasization of idealism). This, Marxism has denied the members of oppressed classes the attribute of being a subject.
- This means the "masses" did not fight for themselves, but for the party or its organizations. And when an economic transformation took place, no revolutionary change took place because the people themselves did not change.
- Historically, all of the communist parties up until now have always reacted to any attempt on the part of women to reflect and form groups based on their own class problerm.
- Consciousness of oppression is not only a reaction to (fight against) oppression, it is also the whole conceptual reevaluation of the social world, its reorganization with new concepts, from the point of view of oppression.
- This operation of understanding reality has to be undertaken by every one of us: call it a subjective, cognitive practice. The movement back and forth between the levels of reality (the conceptual reality and the material reality of oppression, which are both social realities) is accomplished through language.
- We must undertake the task of defining the individual subject in materialist terms (despite materialism being opposed to 'subjectivism'). We must recognize the need to reach subjectivity in the abandonment by many of us to the myth "woman".
- The opposite is also true - without class and class consciousness, there are no real subjects, only alienated individuals.
- We must show that all so-called personal problems are in fact class problems.
- What makes a "woman" is a specific social relation to a man, a relation we have previously called servitude, a relation which implies personal and physical obligation as well as economic obligation.
Communism and the Family
What it is: An essay about the breakdown of the family structure under capitalism and how it might look under communism.
- The essay asks "will the family continue to exist under communism?"
- A woman must accustom herself to seek and find support in the collective and in society, and not from the individual man.
- In the "old" family: the man is everything is the woman nothing, the woman has no will, time or money of her own.
- "What kind of 'family life' can there be if the wife and mother is out at work for at least eight hours and, counting the travelling, is away from home for ten hours a day? Her home is neglected; the children grow up without any maternal care, spending most of the time out of the streets, exposed to all the dangers of this environment. The woman who is wife, mother and worker has to expend every ounce of energy to fulfil these roles. She has to work the same hours as her husband... Capitalism has placed a crushing burden on woman's shoulders: it has made her a wage-worker without having reduced her cares as housekeeper or mother. Woman staggers beneath the weight of the triple load."
- "How can one talk of parents when the mother and father are out working all day and cannot find the time to spend even a few minutes with their children?"
- Originally, in the family, the husband was the primary breadwinner, but that is the case no longer. The family now only serves as the primary economic unit of society and the supporter and educator of young children.
- In older generations, domestic work was necessary and beneficial, ensuring the wellbeing of the family. Capitalism has changed all of this - all that was formerly produced by the family is now being manufactured on a mass scale in workshops and factories.
- The family no longer produces and only consumes. Housework that remains is cleaning, cooking, and laundry - difficult and exhausting tasks that absorb spare time and energy of the working woman.
- This work is different under capitalism - this work is of no value to the state and the national economy, for they don't create value or make any contribution to the prosperity of the country. Therefore women's work is becoming "unproductive" in the eyes of society.
- Under a communist society, chores like housekeeping would become a collective responsibility shared by all members of the household, instead of being a "domestic" and feminine-oriented job. Therefore, communism liberates woman from domestic slavery.
- "Even before the revolution, the instruction of the child had ceased to be the duty of the parents". This refers to how many parents seem to neglect their children after becoming school aged, even now. The difference under communism is that the children will be in the safety of fully-funded schools and caretakers, rather than what the current experience is.
- Ultimately, society assumes full responsibility of the children. Through society, the child learns, grows and develops, relieving an unbearable burden on the working family.
- "The capitalists are well aware that the old type of family, where the woman is a slave and where the husband is responsible for the well-being of his wife and children constitutes the best weapon in the struggle to stifle the desire of the working class for freedom and weaken their revolutionary spirit."
- Communist society considers the social education of the rising (younger) generation to be a fundamental aspect of the new life.
- No longer will there be any women who are alone. The workers' state aims to support every mother, married or unmarried (...) in order to give women the opportunity to combine work in society with maternity.
- "Communist society has this to say to the working woman and working man: 'You are young, you love each other. Everyone has the right to happiness. Therefore live your life. Do not flee happiness. Do not fear marriage, even though under capitalism marriage was truly a chain of sorrow. Do not be afraid of having children. Society needs more workers and rejoices at the birth of every child. You do not have to worry about the future of your child; your child will know neither hunger nor cold.'"
- Communist society takes care of every child and guarantees both him and his mother material and moral support. Society will feed, bring up and educate the child. At the same time, those parents who desire to participate in the education of their children will by no means be prevented from doing so.
- The family is withering away because it is ceasing to be a necessity. The domestic economy is no longer profitable, and the family distracts the worker from more useful and productive labor.
- In place of the old relationship between men and women, a new one develops: a union of affection and comradeship, of two equal members of society, both free and independent workers.
- Women must learn there is no more room for the old attitude: “These are my children, I owe them all my maternal solicitude and affection; those are your children, they are no concern of mine and I don't care if they go hungry and cold — I have no time for other children.”
Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism
What it is: A book that describes the function of financial capital in generating profits from imperialist colonialism as the final stage of capitalist development to ensure greater profits.
- Imperialism is a policy of extending a country's power and influence through diplomacy or military force.
- Trusts are the organization of several businesses in the same industry, and by joining forces, controls production and distribution of a product or service (limiting competition). These are the beginnings of a monopoly (exclusive possession or control of the supply of or trade of a commodity or service).
- Banks allow a handful of monopolists to subordinate industrial and commercial operations.
- The "holding system" typical of large companies serves to increase the power of monopolists by allowing them to escape legal culpability through "daughter companies".
- The export of capital (to poorer companies) accelerates the development of capitalism in those countries to which it is exported.
- Worldwide super-monopolies can form because monopolies that dominate their home market go on to establish international ones.
- Colonization of unoccupied territories is closely connected with late-stage capitalism. At this stage no new territories exist to colonize, so the redivision of existing land is necessary. Colonialism in imperialism monopolizes control of the sources of raw material and labor in a specific territory.
- The main identifier of imperialism is the displacement of free competition by monopoly.
- Capitalism becomes a parasite, feeding off of the working class.
- Defense of imperialism is usually done by obscuring its complete domination and profound roots.
- Monopolies and oligarchy strive for domination instead of liberty.
Blackshirts and Reds
What it is: A book which explores fascism, capitalism, communism, revolution, democracy and ecology. Explains the differences between fascism and communism, as well as why there is a need to shift toward communism in current times.
- Part of fascism is "all-out government support for business and severe representation of antibusiness, pro-labor forces". It is also distinguished by patriarchal authority.
- Fascism forces the burdens and losses onto the working public, "the totalistic submergence and exploitation of democratic forces for the benefit and profit of higher financial circles."
- In the absense of reliable evidence (about communism and socialism) we are fed false anecdotes that are re-told by modern authors as truths.
- The credit for the deformation and overthrow of socialism should go to the Western forces that tirelessly dedicate themselves to that task, using every possible means of political, economic, military and diplomatic aggression that will continue to cost the world dearly.
- U.S. aid is used to help private investors buy public properties and extract publicly owned raw materials from other countries under the most favorable investment conditions.
- Big Capital has no commitment to anything but capital accumulation. No loyalty to any nation, culture or people. It moves according to its imperative to accumulate at the highest possible rate without concern for human and environmental costs. The first law of the market is to make the largest possible profit from other people's labor.
- The major news media present reality as a scatter of events and subjects that apparently bear little relation to each other or to a larger set of social relations.
- Conventional social science tends to compartmentalize social experience, so we are asked to ponder whether this or that phenomenon is cultural, economic or psychological when it is usually a blend of these things. We need a greater sense of how analytically distinct phenoma are often interrelated and may gather strength and definition from each other.
- The intended goals of U.S. imperalism are to maximize opportunities to accumulate wealth by depressing the wages of workers and preventing them from organizing on behalf of their own interests, and to protect the overall global system of free-market capital accumulation.
- The gap between the rich and poor have been growing since the late 1970s.
- Capital's class war is waged with court injunctions, antilabor laws, police repression, union busting, contract violations, sweatshops, dishonest clocking of time, safety violations, harassment and firing of resistant workers, cutbacks in wages and benefits, raids of pension funds, layoffs and plant closings.
- Class realities permeate our society, determining much of our capacity to pursue our own interests. Class power is a factor in setting the political agenda, selecting leaders, reporting the news, funding science and education, distributing health care, mistreating the environment, depressing wages, resisting racial and gender equality, marketing entertainment and the arts, propagating religious messages, suppressing dissidence and defining social reality itself.
- Some leftists today have developed an array of identity groups centering around ethnic, gender, cultural and lifestyle issues. These groups treat these grievances as something apart from the class struggle. Identity groups tend to emphasize their distinctiveness and their separateness from each other, fractionalizing the protest movement. They should not downplay their common interests, or overlook the common class enemy they face. The forces that impose class injustice and economic exploitation are the same ones that propagate racism, sexism, transphobia, etc.
- In order that a select few might live in great opulence, millions of people work hard for an entire lifetime, never free from financial insecurity, and at great cost to the quality of their lives. The complaint is not that the very rich have so much more than everyone else but that their superabundance and endless accumulation comes at the expense of everyone and everything else, including our communities and our environment.
- In our system wealth is an addiction, with no end to the amount of money one desires to accumulate. Wealth buys every comfort and privilege in life, the fame of fortune, elevating the possessor to the highest social stratosphere. Wealth is pursued without moral restraint. Like any addiction, money is pursued in that obsessive, amoral, singleminded way, revealing a total disregard for what is right or wrong, just or unjust, an indifference to other considerations and other people’s interests—and even one’s own interests should they go beyond feeding the addiction.
- The upper class experiences a different class reality, residing in places where the air is somewhat better than in low or middle class areas. They have access to food that is organically raised and specially prepared. The nation’s toxic dumps and freeways usually are not situated in or near their swanky neighborhoods. The pesticide sprays are not poured over their trees and gardens. Clearcutting does not desolate their ranches, estates, and vacation spots.
Five Essays on Philosophy
What it is: A collection of essays on various ideas and philosophies.
- On Practice [Read]
- Knowledge is ultimately dependent on practice; practice will demonstrate whether the knowledge is correct or incorrect. Human knowledge cannot be separated from practice. Even if a theory is correct, if it is not practiced, it's of no significance.
- One's social practice is influenced by the class struggle in all spheres. In a class society, every kind of thinking is influenced by class.
- Through the process of practice, separate and external pieces join with the internal relation of things.
- To truly know something you must come into contact with it.
- True leaders must be good at correcting their ideas and plans, but also getting others to adapt and adjust.
- With each cycle of knowledge and practice, understanding becomes higher.
- On Contradiction [Read]
- In order to understand how something has developed, it must be studied in relation to the world around it.
- There is conflict in every thing and the resolution of this conflict leads to development or change.
- External causes are the condition of change (they often force change to happen) and internal causes are the basis of change (the reasoning behind the change).
- By observing opposites, a resolution can be developed.
- All parts must be studied in relation to the world around them.
- No one method exists to solve all contradictions. Each one requires its own specialized method.
- The sequence of knowledge goes from study of the individual and particular to the study of general common essence. Two processes: one from the particular to the general, and the other from the general to the particular (moving in spirals).
- In order to reveal the essence of the process, we must reveal the internal cause between two aspects of a contradiction, otherwise it will be impossible to discover (e.g., the internal cause tends to be "hidden")
- Full comprehension will be impossible but all-sidedness is a necessary safeguard against mistakes.
- On the Correct Handling of Contradictions among the People [Read]
- We mustn't mistake a contradiction between ourselves and the people with one between ourselves and the enemy.
- Contradictions are solved by drawing a line between ourselves and the enemy, but also distinguishing between right and wrong.
- We must use methods of discussion, criticism, persuation and education to compel people to understand the "correct" ideas. Contradictions should be approrached with a desire for unity.
- It is a mistake to make no distinction between ourselves and the enemy, to mistake our enemies for our own people. It is also a mistake to magnify contradictions between ourselves and the enemy and mistake certain contradictions among people for those among the enemy.
- We must proceed with consideration for the whole people.
- Non-Marxist ideology must not be suppressed.
- We must learn to take an all-around view of things, both separately and together.
- Where do correct ideas come from? [Read]
- Correct ideas come from the struggle for production (bringing those ideas into practice), the class struggle, and scientific experiment.
- It is man's social being that determined his thinking.
- The first process of cognition is perceptual (external senses) and then leaps to conceptual (ideas, consciousness). The second stage is social practice. The third stage is a leap forward.
- Often, correct knowledge can be arrived at only after many repetitions of the process leading from matter to consciousness and then back to matter; that is, leading from practice to knowledge and then back to practice.
- On Propaganda Work [Read]
- It is wrong to assume that those who are educated no longer need to study or educate themselves.
- Because conditions are always changing, one must learn to adapt one's thinking to the current conditions.
- To be a good teacher, one must be a good student and learn from the students.
- It is necessary to correct one's style of thinking and one's way of work.
- It's necessary to criticize subjectivism, bureaucracy and sectariamism.
- Criticism must not be given hastily or with hostility. Good criticism is serious and thoughtful, and is given with the intention of correcting a thought or behavior.
- We should try to correct one-sidedness when we see it.
- We must speak warmly and sincerely with a desire to protect the cause of the people and raise their political consciousness and must not indulge in ridicule or attack.
- We must let all people speak, criticize and debate regardless of whether they are right or wrong. One should not worry about whether they are right or wrong - as long as they are open to criticism and argument about these views.
- By choosing to restrict or discourage people with 'wrong' ideas from expressing them, one is also losing the opportunity of engaging with the person to change their mind.
- Changing someone's ideology (or convincing them to change it) is a painstaking and long process that takes time and one cannot expect to change someone's ideology quickly or with little effort.
- If we don't know how to convince others, we must learn by trying and correcting ourselves when we fail.
On the Imperialist Cultural Offensive
What it is: An essay that helps set the framework and understanding for the fight against imperialism
- There is a long-standing cultural war between imperialism and oppressed people. This war is led by United States imperialism.
- The themes of this imperialism is as follows:
- Neoliberalism - the belief that owners of capital should be free to profit where, when and how they like, and should be supported by laws and regulations in this regard.
- Globalization - the belief that national barriers are obsolete and finance capital, goods and services must flow freely throughout the globe for everyone.
- Capitalism as End of History - the belief that capitalism, while not perfect, can reform its own defects (a variant of There Is No Alternative).
- War on Terror - the belief that it is right or correct for the US to launch wars against "terrorists", people who oppose or fight the US push for neoliberalism and globalization, leading to the belief it is right for the US to invade countries, overthrow governments and kill people that breed or coddle the "terrorists".
- American Exceptionalism - the belief that Americans have the right to do all of the above because the USA is the best democratic system in the world.
- The themes of this imperialism is as follows:
- These themes, messages and symbols are constantly reproduced and dissemenated by the most powerful media systems the world has ever known: print, broadcast/cinema, and the internet that encompass practically the whole world, 24/7 in realtime, with the capacity to manufacture "realities" that fit the goals of imperialist domination.
- Sports, movies and other forms of entertainment that take a great deal of time to preoccupy large masses of people are used by the ruling class to prevent and reduce criticism of the system, shut out any pro-people ideas and give free rein to pro-imperialist and reactionary ideas and sentiments.
- Extreme individualism is justified in the name of "freedom" in the context of upholding the system that rewards the few at the expense of the many.
- Related to individualism is the dream of getting rich by riding on capitalist financial/venture schemes, or by selling one's artistic talents.
- Consumerism reinforces individualism because it is focused on satisfying personal wants and whims, devoid of responsibility to the collective and long-term needs of society at large.
- Obsession with fantasy or futuristic worlds in media serves to lull people into dreamland scenarios and distract them from a full and concrete understanding of real-world problems and from exploring viable solutions or alternatives to the current rotten system.
- Glamorization of war, especially high-tech weaponry, and "prettifying" imperialist domination of small and weak peoples.
- To combat this, let's not hide away, honing our individual imaginations and crafts away from the real world and the masses, but let us study current events, history, immerse ourselves with the masses in their struggles, and develop the people's culture with concrete realities.
- Organization should not result in small, exclusivist, self-limiting groups, but find various ways of embedding ourselves individually or as teams, within workers' unions, peasant associations, and other grassroots organizations of women, youth, children, LGBTQ, and other sectors. In the process, find ways of developing anti-imperialist and democratic culture as a mass movement in a real sense.
- Let us help to build counter-media that is able to support the people's struggles and effectively amplify the people's voice, and in turn find resonance in and draw the concrete support from the masses in their millions.
- Long term results are most important, as measured in the sustained growth by leaps and bounds of the anti-imperialist mass organizations and movement. Let us build many channels, going in one general direction.
Basic Principles of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism
What it is: A comprehensive and modern introduction to the study of the three components of Marxism.
- Dialectical materialism acknowledges that change is an endless process.
- Social practice is the source of knowledge.
- The development of society: primitive > slave > feudal > capitalist > socialist > communist
- The superstructure of society consists of the ideas, institutions and fields of activity above the mode of production, such as philosophy, arts and sciences, politics, economic theory, religion, morality, etc. The superstructure reflects the mode of production.
- The level of cultural development and dominant currents of thought in a society are expressive of the basic mode of production. The superstructure can restrict the growth of production and vice versa.
- Contradictions in the mode of production are reflected in the contradictions in the superstructure.
- The state is the most highest form of institution among the superstructure. A state rules with class coercion over another class.
- Capitalist society has internalized its system of oppression and exploitatrion.
- Freedom of thought and belief is respected in socialist countries.
- Authority would exist in a communist country, but would not be an authority with coercive apparatuses for the private gain of any exploitative class or group.
- The ultimate weapon of any ruling class to retain its rule is the State as an instrument of coercion (which, under socialism, would be used to openly repress the ruling class).
- The outbreak of a revolution depends on the objective conditions in the mode of production and how the two sides in the class struggle maneuver in the use of the superstructure.
- For the first time in the history of mankind, an exploited class which does not previousdly own the means of the production is in the position of becoming the ruling class in a new form of society. Also for the first time, an exploited class cannot emancipate itself without emancipating other exploited classes.
- Armed revolution is likely to succeed when objective conditions favor it, and subjective factors are strong enough.
- Objective factors: the situation of the ruling system (for example, a crisis can become so serious as to violently split the ruling class).
- Subjective factors: the conscious and organized forces of the revolution (for example, the revolutionary party, mass organizations, armed contingent, etc.)
- To gauge their strength, one has to consider their ideological, political and organized status and capabilities.
- It is possible for the objective conditions to be favorable while the subjective conditions are weak and vice versa.
- Socialism must start from the productive forces inherited from the old society.
- It is not an impossible dream to anticipate the growth of productivity to the point that all members of society need to work for a far lesser number of hours and have more time for other creative endeavors in private and public.
- Modern industry is capable of wiping out poverty overnight. Capitalism would rather manipulate and restrict the forces of production in order to gain a high rate of profit.