An Open Letter to Jason Unruhe

Hello Jason,

We are a group of Marxists who adhere to the thought of Mao Tse-Tung who have viewed your channel for some time now. We want to clarify a few things:

1. We are not writing this letter to you, to chastise you for careerist self-benefit. This letter is entirely anonymous, this blog is created for the sole purpose of bringing to you this letter. Many who have criticized you in the past, have done so to advance themselves, and to attain prestige. This is reactionary. This is not the basis of criticism and self-criticism, which is one of the cornerstones of Maoism.

2. We too feel that the question of North Korea is a question seldom dealt with by the Left, and by Maoists in particular. We also share the stance of standing with North Korea against Imperialism. This is a question of elementary proportions.

3. We are not here to act in a manner that is “politically correct” so to speak, concerning language you indulge. It should be noted that the criticisms and suggestions we make here derive from the thought of Mao Tse-Tung and his methodology.

Clarifying these things, we want to share with you our suggestions, and concerns concerning your channel and it’s content.

Criticism and Self-Criticism

“Our comrades’ minds and our Party’s work may also collect dust, and also need sweeping and washing. The proverb “Running water is never stale and a door-hinge is never worm-eaten” means that constant motion prevents the inroads of germs and other organisms. To check up regularly on our work and in the process develop a democratic style of work, to fear neither criticism nor self-criticism, and to apply such good popular Chinese maxims as “Say all you know and say it without reserve”, “Blame not the speaker but be warned by his words” and “Correct mistakes if you have committed them and guard against them if you have not” – this is the only effective way to prevent all kinds of political dust and germs from contaminating the minds of our comrades and the body of our Party.”

– Mao Tse-Tung, On Coalition Government

Over the past few years, the majority of criticism you’ve received has been shallow and antagonistic. Criticisms of the way you dress, criticisms that are pro-capitalist, pro-war, anti-communist, and at many times chauvinistic, have polluted your inbox. That being said, this is the mentality of youtube.

However, this mentality has developed in a way that stifles room for criticism and self-criticism. For example:

If someone were to call you a rude name in a youtube comment, you would respond with something of a comeback. It might be funny, it might be more serious, and antagonistic, which is natural, if this comment is attacking you. However, this mentality is one dominated by the dialogue of the internet (if you can call it dialogue).

The question is then that of antagonistic attack vs. legitimate criticism. If you associate any and all criticism of you to be an attack on your persona and your ego, there leaves very little room for growth. As Mao Tse-Tung said in Serve the People:

“If we have shortcomings, we are not afraid to have them pointed out and criticized..”

We feel that the back-and-forth dialogue and mentality of the internet has affected the way you interpret and handle criticism, and that this constant defense of yourself and your channel (which in many cases is a legitimate defense against slander and character assassination) has caused you to care more about your internet persona and ego as an e-journalist rather than the communist movement as a whole. Like it or not, you are influential to many internet users who are interested in Maoism and communism. Mao Tse-Tung continued in Serve the People, saying:

Anyone, no matter who, may point out our shortcomings. If he is right, we will correct them. If what he proposes will benefit the people, we will act upon it.”

Naturally your response will be “What about when they’re not right?” which is legitimate. During the crisis over your use of the word “Faggot” in the phrase “Do it Faggot” which was not directed at anyone, but rather, at a film as a joke, and the miniature e-controversy that erupted subsequently, the people that unfriended you, who made antagonistic posts about you, who alienated you, were acting in a reactionary manner. In fact, we think they were incorrect.

However, what criticism and self-criticism comes down to is not the substance of the criticism, and that alone, but also how you deal with criticism, how you let it affect you as a communist, and most importantly, how you respond to it.

It is perfectly fine to question a criticism being made of you. It is another thing entirely to completely disregard the criticism being made of you, and worse, to respond to the criticism with insults. If the criticism is wrong, you must confront the factual and theoretical inconsistencies of the criticism itself, not the person who is criticizing you. As Mao Tse-Tung said, “..anyone can criticize our shortcomings…” but it is up to us to decide whether or not the substance of the criticism is correct, or incorrect; revolutionary, or reactionary; constructive, or destructive.

We think fellow communists unfriending you for a word you said in private, is destructive, reactionary, and incorrect. But what was your response to their criticism? You criticized the very fact that someone would “tell you what to do” or “what to say” rather than the substance of the criticism itself. The criticisms made of you were politically correct. Politically, they were not in line with Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. You are not homophobic. You’ve made this very clear, in fact, you’ve come out publicly as bisexual. When you used the word “faggot” it was directed, not at individuals, nor used on it’s own. It was used in a popular e-phrase.

We think the primary reason you were bashed for using this term, was because you are a figure of relative importance on the internet, and that these people have an incentive, and indeed, reward in the form of politically correct, pats on the back and high-fives for writing careerist criticisms of you. This is not the basis of a criticism.

However, the way you went about dealing with these criticisms, of which some were legitimate, was individualist. Rather than recognizing the need, and the incentive to change, to grow, to really analyze one’s actions, words, to pause and to reflect on these things of such great importance, to not fear growth and self-criticism, as Mao Tse-Tung says repeatedly and repeatedly to his students, you were angry that people criticized you in the first place. Our suggestion? That you rationally, and without anger or emotion, analyze incorrect ideas you may have had or even presently have, incorrect methods you may have had or presently have, and that you try to analyze the substance of criticisms people, and especially comrades may make of you, rather than who is criticizing you. We were all at one point, the opposite of what we are now, and what we were in the past. This is the nature of change, and of growth.

Combat Liberalism or Nihilism?

“Liberalism stems from petty-bourgeois selfishness, it places personal interests first and the interests of the revolution second, and this gives rise to ideological, political and organizational liberalism.”

– Mao Tse-Tung, Combat Liberalism

We can tell you are clearly frustrated. Frustrated with the lack of movement in the movement, lack of radicalism in radicalism, lack of Marxism in Marxism. We can tell that the shallow, and many times spiteful dialogue of the internet has frustrated you to your very ends. In your own words, “I don’t give a fuck anymore”.

In your most recent video, published on June 3rd, 2013, you title it, “Combat Liberalism Because You’re All Paper Tigers”.

Isn’t this a bit broad? We would agree that a great deal of the left is pacified, and in many ways, homogenized. However, out of your frustration, out of your “..not giving a fuck…” you point the finger not at class hegemony, which makes the left shallow, and non-revolutionary; rather, you make an enemy out of your own viewers.

Mao in Combat Liberalism says:

“We must use Marxism, which is positive in spirit, to overcome liberalism, which is negative. A Communist should have largeness of mind and he should be staunch and active, looking upon the interests of the revolution as his very life and subordinating his personal interests to those of the revolution; always and everywhere he should adhere to principle and wage a tireless struggle against all incorrect ideas and actions, so as to consolidate the collective life of the Party and strengthen the ties between the Party and the masses; he should be more concerned about the Party and the masses than about any private person, and more concerned about others than about himself. Only thus can he be considered a Communist.”

Essentially, Mao is saying that we must criticize our friends, family and comrades, and the people themselves, for the benefit of the collective as a revolutionary mass. That we must subordinate our personal interests to the benefit of the struggle, to the benefit of the people. Mao Tse-Tung says in On The Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People:

“Those with a Right deviation in their thinking make no distinction between ourselves and the enemy and take the enemy for our own people. They regard as friends the very persons whom the masses regard as enemies. Those with a “Left” deviation in their thinking magnify contradictions between ourselves and the enemy to such an extent that they take certain contradictions among the people for contradictions with the enemy and regard as counter-revolutionaries persons who are actually not. Both these views are wrong..”

Are you combating liberalism by calling your viewers, en masse, paper tigers? We don’t mean to insult you, but we believe in combating liberalism, so we will, without lenience, say no, you aren’t. Your frustration with the left, your anger at stagnation, your impatience with the youtube community, manifests itself not in a combatting of liberal ideologues, but through a reactionary nihilism. You said yourself, on multiple occasions in your videos that you honestly don’t care about the movement, nor those in it anymore. You are allowed to be angry, to be frustrated, however, Mao would look down upon such misuse of combat liberalism as “petty-bourgeois selfishnessthat placespersonal interests first and the interests of the revolution second“.

Anti-Imperialism, North Korea and the Dialectic

Unlike most Maoists, who have entirely avoided the question of North Korea for fear of “alienating people”, you have attempted to build a position on the topic, on the territory. This is good. You develop this position on the basis of Anti-Imperialism. This is also good.

However, the methodology you use in building this position is not dialectical. In fact, it is analytical.

The dialectic adheres to a number of principles, one of which, is motion. Dialectically, things function in harmony or in distress with the environment around it. The social-scientists of Marx’s day would separate phenomena from the environment around it. The dialectic understands that phenomena is but the result, the sum of interrelations, of which the product is subject to these interrelations, not determinant of them.

Lets say that North Korea is a gear in a machine. North Korea turns forwards or backwards depending on the greater scheme of the machine. For example, lets say that the biggest gear in the machine is Imperialism. Lets say that North Korea is an important gear, but that it is small. How this gear affects the machine, and how the machine affects the gear, becomes the question. Perhaps this gear is purposely designed to hinder the movement of the machine itself. Perhaps the gear is missing parts that make it possible to move within the machine itself.

Dialectically, we would look at the gear as it relates to it’s environment, and how the environment affects the gear.

Analytically, we would analyze the “inherent” properties of the gear, how shiny it is, how many holes is in it, how big it is, how durable it is, etc. Without analyzing these properties within the greater scheme of the machine itself, such an analysis becomes dubious, it has no meaning.

We have no problem with you saying North Korea is a worker’s state, that it is socialist, etc. However, our aim is not to have a socialist island chain in a sea, in a globe of market-capitalism. We want socialism for the goal of communism. We want the liberation of the third world from poverty, destitution, and economic Imperialism. How North Korea’s economic policies affect Imperialism, how North Korea’s military policies affect Imperialism, becomes the question.

During the “Arab spring” the Libyan rebels had become a popular force. Knowing little about the situation, you immediately took the side of the rebels. You went so far as to denounce Muammar al-Gaddafi’s government. You later changed your position drastically, especially in regards to public opinion, to take the “side of Gaddafi”.

You hesitated to take a side in the Syrian conflict. Over time, you gradually took the side of the Syrian state, the “side of Assad”.

While apparently Anti-Imperialist, such a methodology in practice does a disservice to Anti-Imperialism. You are separating the gear from the machine, Libya, Syria, Korea, etc. from the chain of Imperialist world economy. Stalin commented on the anti-British, anti-Imperialist character of the Emir of Afghanistan, saying:

“The struggle that the Emir of Afghanistan is waging for the independence of Afghanistan is objectively a revolutionary struggle, despite the monarchist views of the Emir and his associates, for it weakens, disintegrates and undermines imperialism; whereas the struggle waged by such “desperate” democrats and “Socialists,” “revolutionaries” and republicans as, for example, Kerensky and Tsereteli, Renaudel and Scheidemann, Chernov and Dan, Henderson and Clynes, during the imperialist war was a reactionary struggle, for its results was the embellishment, the strengthening, the victory, of imperialism”

Syria is not Assad, it is not the Ba’ath party. Libya was not Gaddafi, it was not the Green ideology. Afghanistan was not the Emir, it was not his monarchist, reactionary views. Syria is a gear in a machine called Imperialism, and it’s economic policies of nationalization, it’s military policies of confrontation of CIA backed contras, makes the machine slow down. The same can be said about Libya, the same can be said about North Korea.

From what you have said on the issue, it appears as if you are more interested in defending the image of North Korea from misrepresentations given off by media outlets in the imperialist countries. You have made plenty of videos showing a different image of North Korea which challenges the narratives fed to the public by the media. However, this leaves out the greater issue at stake: namely, the fact that North Korea is under threat of invasion and sanctions by the imperialist countries. Understand that North Korea isn’t being threatened with imperialist invasion due to its inherent qualities as a socialist state. It is being threatened due to the role it plays in the greater global capitalist system. This would still be the case regardless of how North Korea treats its own citizens. It’s more important to focus on what the US, Canada, NATO, etc. are doing to North Korea than it is to focus on what North Korea is doing within its own borders.

Furthermore, much of the PR you have given North Korea has reflected poorly on you as a youtube journalist, especially one who claims to present the news from a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist perspective. Maoists are rather ambivalent about North Korea. They do not prop it up the way you have done. You, on the other hand, have given yourself a new reputation as “the communist who defends North Korea”. This is causing you to lose a lot of credibility.

So essentially, our analysis should be one of class-state structures, one of economic policies, one of recognition of natural-resources, one of opposition to false-propagation in the service of war, one of military policies, not simply an analysis of the territory itself, and not a reduction of Syria to Assad, Libya to Gaddafi, North Korea to Kim Jong Un.

The analysis must be scientific. Reducing analysis of North Korea to Kim Jong Un, or defending North Korea just for the sake of defending it, is idealism. It would necessitate that North Korea’s orientation be unchanging, that it’s nature be stagnant, it would ignore the fact that North Korea is a base in a people’s war against Imperialism, and not some perfect country all it’s own.

In conclusion, we think you are a comrade, and that you, like all of us, have unmeasurable room for growth, for learning, and for refined political analysis. But to grow, to learn, and to refine, demands that one be willing to question oneself, criticize oneself, and most importantly, understand oneself.


2 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Jason Unruhe

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