Dictators, Tyrants and Butchers...
What About Moses?!
By Bob Avakian
Revolutionary Worker #1080, November 27, 2000, posted at http://rwor.org
These days especially, we hear a continual, blaring refrain of all these slanders against the history of our class's revolutionary struggle and against the dictatorship of the proletariat in particular. "Stalin was a tyrant and a butcher... Mao Tsetung was a mass murderer who killed millions." It's like these bourgeois commentators were playing poker: "How many millions did Mao kill?" "Ten million." "I'll see your ten million and raise you another ten million more." That's the game the bourgeois "experts" and "scholars" are playing. So there's all this shit they're just pumping out about the "horrors" of communism and the dictatorship of the proletariat. In other talks and writings I have summed up various problems and errors in how our class and its leaders have exercised dictatorship over the overthrown exploiters and "wanna be" exploiters. But what I would like to ask is: What about Moses, muthafuckers? All this talk about the Ten Commandments, this "Prince of Egypt" nonsense and all the rest of it--what about Moses?
According to the Bible itself, after the ancient Israelites had been wandering for years in the desert and then Moses went up on the mountain to get the Ten Commandments, the people down below got tired of this shit. Moses took them out in the desert and they didn't have any food--oh, supposedly there were a few "miracles" where they got food and water, but for much of the time they were just plain hungry and thirsty. And they'd been following this crazy man--and a brutal man--Moses for a long time, and finally he leaves them to go off and supposedly go up the mountain and converse with the burning bush, or whatever, and get all these commandments. And he comes back down to bring the commandments, and meanwhile they've built themselves an idol and they're worshipping this idol. So what does Moses do? First of all, he crushes the idol, pounds it up into powder, melts down the gold and mixes it all together... I'm talking about what the Bible says now... he melts down the gold, mixes it in with the crushed down idol, and makes people drink it. I never heard of Stalin or Mao doing shit like that!
And that's not all. Then--and I'm just telling you what the Bible says, I'm not making this shit up--Moses says: "OK, who wants to worship 'false idols'?--get over there." So some people go over there. Then Moses says: "Everybody who wants to worship the 'one true god' come over here." And then he says: "Alright, all the people with me, who want to worship 'the one true god,' get your swords out." And they go, and according to the Bible, they kill 3,000 people in one day--because they wanted to worship a different god than the one that Moses's regime was insisting that they worship. That's 3,000 people in one day--again, I'm just telling you what the Bible itself says. Now think about it...they had probably what--maybe a few tens of thousands of people who were left by this time wandering around in the desert. He killed 3,000--again, according to the Bible--out of these few tens of thousands, he killed 3,000 in one day. Now translating that into the population of China during the time Mao was the leader of China, that would be like Mao killing 50 or 75 million people in one day. Nobody has ever claimed that--not even in their most extravagant slanders against the dictatorship of the proletariat has anybody ever claimed that. So I say: what about Moses, motherfuckers?
And Moses did all this for what--in the service of what--for what kind of social relations and what kind of ideas to reinforce these social relations?
Read the Ten Commandments. The first commandment: you can't have any other god but this god. And what that meant in practice is that they smashed and killed everybody that tried to have any other kind of god. You can read that right in the Bible, in many places--I've mentioned just one incident here. What about the commandment to "honor your father and mother"--what did that really mean and what goes along with that? Any youth who's rebellious, any youth who hits his parents or her parents, even any youth who mouths off to their parents...should be stoned to death. That's what the Bible says. What is the tenth commandment? You're not supposed to covet--covet what? Your neighbor's property. And included in the list of this property of your neighbor's are his slaves and his wife (or wives), as well as cattle and things like that. These are the social relations being upheld by Moses in carrying out all this terror and killing all these people. These are not emancipating relations that he's enforcing with this dictatorship--these are enslaving relations. So I say what about this motherfucker Moses?
Now the basic point that is illustrated by this is that any new regime has to use force not only to overthrow the old order but also to prevent the rise to power of those who represent that old order, to prevent the restoration of that old order. This has been true throughout history, including in overturnings and revolutions led by exploiting classes (which I've just been talking about with the example of Moses), and it is definitely true, as well, of the revolution and the new state led by the proletariat and its vanguard.
But our goals are radically different from all exploiting classes and their representatives--and, in correspondence with that, our means and methods are and must be radically different as well. And, as an important part of our means and methods, serving our revolutionary aims, we have to have a critical attitude toward our own mistakes--the mistakes of our class, and its leadership, including people like Stalin--and even Mao. We have to apply this to the history of our movement and in an ongoing way--we must have a critical attitude and spirit with regard to that as we do toward everything. But here, too, our methods and our outlook and objectives are very different from those of the bourgeoisie and what the bourgeoisie and the revisionists mean and what they have in mind in talking about the mistakes of our class and its leaders.
Now, many people have seen Mao's Red Book--the Red Book of quotations from Chairman Mao. But many do not know that during the Cultural Revolution when they were exposing and mobilizing mass struggle against the revisionists, these revisionists actually put out a little Yellow Book--a book of sayings by Liu Shao-chi. Liu Shao-chi was the head revisionist that they were targeting in the Cultural Revolution: he was the number two leader in the Communist Party behind Mao, and he was the one trying to take the whole society back down the capitalist road. And they actually put out this ridiculous Yellow Book with these sayings by Liu Shao-chi.
One of them I remember, one of these things that always stuck in my mind, was this statement: "Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Chairman Mao have all made many mistakes." When I first read this, I said: "Yeah?--you say that to say what?" Because it would be one thing if somebody were saying: Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Chairman Mao never made any mistakes, and so Liu Shao-chi thought he had to set the record straight. But that wasn't what was happening. What he was saying was this: they've all made many mistakes, so there's no need to pay any special attention to what they've said, to the leadership that they've provided, the insights they've given us, to the way they've developed the struggle and how this is concentrated in their writings--they've all made a lot of mistakes, so don't pay any attention to them. And this is the way the bourgeoisie and the revisionists talk about mistakes--that is, our mistakes. Of course, it is true--nobody's free of making mistakes. But you say that to say what?--what are you trying to get at, what is your point in saying what, after all, seems pretty obvious?
They endlessly slander us, saying that the leaders of the communist movement have been treated as "infallible"--as if we believe these leaders haven't made mistakes and couldn't make mistakes. In fact, there have been some tendencies in the history of the international communist movement toward not maintaining enough of a critical revolutionary attitude, particularly toward our cause and our leaders, and this is something we do have to sum up and learn from. But we have never put forward that our leaders are, or could be, "infallible"--such a notion runs counter to the whole revolutionary scientific essence of our outlook and methodology.
And while we're talking about people supposedly being "infallible," once again I have to ask: what about the Pope? They put forward the fucking Pope as a great man, and the Catholic Church openly declares the Pope is infallible, on matters of faith and morals. Now how come all these bourgeois commentators and pundits and so-called "scholars" and "philosophers" don't criticize that? How come they don't talk about the Pope like the stupid monstrosity that he is? Do you know how much suffering has been caused, particularly for women, but also for masses of people, all over the world because of the Pope and the whole institution of the Catholic Church?!
How come they praise the Pope and put him forward as a great leader of the people? Because this represents the interests of these imperialists, because they need the Pope--ideologically and politically, they need the Pope. So it doesn't bother them, in general or "in principle" (if you can even conceive of them worrying about principle), it doesn't bother them that some people actually are put forward as infallible--once again, the question on their minds and the question that should be on our minds is what class is this serving? What interests is it serving? What direction is this trying to take society? To put forward someone like the Pope as infallible (on matters of faith and morals) points society in a reactionary direction, it serves the bourgeoisie--and, in general, to put forward anyone as infallible corresponds to the outlook of exploiting classes, and not to the outlook and the interests of the proletariat and the struggle to eliminate exploitation and oppression.
They slander us for treating the most revolutionary scientific theory in the world, communism, as religious dogma--and, here again, we must sum up and learn from any tendencies in that direction. But who the hell are they to talk about religious dogma, when every time you turn around they are promoting not only religion in general but the most ridiculous and outrageous religious obscurantism--like what is spouted by fools like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and the rest of the Christian Fascists, who have set about attacking such basic truths as the scientific theory and fact of evolution but who are presented by the bourgeoisie and their media not as reactionary crackpots and worse, dangerous theocratic reactionaries, but as voices of legitimate discourse, legitimate voices of "moral authority," legitimate participants in the bourgeois political process, and legitimate contenders for leadership over society.
Summing up, with the scientific method and viewpoint of MLM, the experience of our class and its leadership--the overwhelmingly positive aspect and our tremendous achievements, but also the negative aspect and even serious errors--summing up this experience is something our Party and others in the international communist movement have taken up and will continue to take up as a very important part of carrying forward our struggle toward its final goal. It is an ongoing part of the process of unity, and struggle, within the RIM and among revolutionary forces more broadly. But, again, our approach to and our summation, including our mistakes, proceed from a very different place and have a very different content than those who have seized on certain mistakes--and beyond that distort and slander the whole history of the proletarian revolutionary struggle and heap abuse especially on what are actually the great achievements of the dictatorship of the proletariat--in the attempt to prevent people from grasping the necessity and the world-historic, liberating nature and role of our revolution.
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