By Alex Hing. Posted September 10, 2022. This article was originally published in Unity News 2022, which is a sister/brother publication with East Wind ezine.
A lot of discussion nowadays concern how dire a situation the planet, domestic and international politics, economics, the pandemic, and individual physical and psychological states are. It seems we recently crossed a line into a space filled with dread as it becomes more and more clear how much human existence is fragile. Many of us understand that capitalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy are at the root of our existential crises, and we can recite endless lists of harm caused by the greed of white male multi-billionaires, their corporations and governments. However, most of the organized resistance I see occurs within the bounds of the existing capitalist patriarchal system. While many progressives view themselves as socialists their programs do not address destroying capitalism but to weaken it so that some of the obscene wealth of the elite is distributed through the capitalist state to mitigate poverty and other ills.
Artwork by Junaina Muhammed (India) from the book Paris Commune 150,(International Union of Left Publishers). Image via Tricontinental.org
Some progressives in America are even defensive about the term “socialism” due to its association with authoritarianism abroad and view it as a collective democratic project to reinterpret or amend the Constitution and make it more democratic, replace the police with social welfare projects, or elect officials who have the interests of the disenfranchised as their guide. I believe we need to expand the realm of possibilities. Chairman Mao famously said, “A single spark can start a prairie fire.” Hard, selfless work is being done by revolutionaries, especially indigenous people and oppressed nationalities to organize and empower communities,tribes, and nations and celebrate victories whenever they occur. Growing international movements of youth and labor are tackling climate change and neoliberalism.
The question is, are we going to continue contributing to what seems to be the approaching apocalypse where survival is all we do, or can we build communism? There, I said it. As a Marxist, socialism is about destroying capitalism and a transition to communism, a classless society where all people are truly equal and society is based on the principle, “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need.” War, arduous labor, private property and money will no longer exist. People will use their creative energies voluntarily for the benefit of humanity, not profits. “You might say I’m a dreamer…”, but if we do not work on an enlightened vision for humanity based on science and not religion, I fear capitalism and patriarchy will be the last stage in the evolution of human society.
Pol Rius Filgueiras, Mobilization Fridays For Future, February 22nd 2019, Plaça Sant Jaume, Barcelona, Spain. Image from internationaleonline.org
I am not a theoretician, academic or intellectual. I am a retired cook and a tai chi chuan instructor who is trying to understand through science as best I can an ancient Chinese martial art that has its roots in Taoism. I am also a lifelong Marxist revolutionary, a communist. I have admired Marxist Leninist revolutionaries and their parties who brilliantly and skillfully seized power from the capitalists and imperialists, vastly improving the lives of many millions of people, but I became disillusioned as they became capitalists and authoritarians themselves. Socialism should mean the withering away of the state, but under Marxist Leninist leadership, the socialist state has been undemocratically strengthened by the major Communist Parties and rudely intrudes into almost every aspect of a citizen’s life.
The basic ideology of Marxism is dialectical and historical materialism, the philosophy of science developed by Karl Marx based on understanding that the natural world is composed solely of material substances which develop due to the internal struggle of opposing elements, with the new replacing the old and more complex structures developing from lesser ones. There is no God, only matter. Reality can be understood rationally through the scientific method. This is how human society also develops based on the need to secure and produce the material necessary for existence, with technological breakthroughs making production of goods ever more efficient.
In the historical process, private property, classes and exploitation developed. Economic and political systems were created and subsequently overthrown as economic production rose to a higher and higher level and the concentration of wealth came into the possession of a smaller and smaller ruling class. When new economic and political systems came into being, the ever-expanding laboring classes were allowed only enough freedom to continue production for their rulers who privately owned everything required for production. The ruling class used its control of the state to suppress the laboring masses, i.e., the creators of wealth who could not enjoy the fruits of their labor or achieve freedom from ruthless exploitation be they slaves, peasant serfs or wage laborers. Throughout history, there has been class struggle where the laboring masses fight to end their exploitation and the ruling class uses any and all means to suppress them. Today, we are at the highest stage of capitalism–imperialism and neoliberalism–while socialism, in existence for over a century, is having an identity crisis.
Quantum physicist and philosopher, Carlo Rovelli writes in Helgoland that Lenin’s ideas were metaphysical. According to Rovelli, Lenin in Materialism and Empio-Criticism, saw reality solely based on “matter in motion in space and in time” so there can be a definitive understanding of reality based on natural and social phenomena, whereas quantum physics explain the elementary laws of nature–of matter and energy–are relational, especially to the observer and the method and instruments used to measure them. Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle means we can never exactly measure nature, but scientists aim to narrow their predictions of the natural world based on many observations and have done so with great precision and accuracy. To me this way of looking at the world means while we have already determined the basic laws of class struggle, we cannot create a revolutionary society with an absolute understanding of social phenomena. This leads to authoritarianism of which communism has been characterized based on Leninism. The mechanistic view of dialectical materialism as a two-line struggle where one position is objectively correct and the other reactionary and must be suppressed is antidemocratic. Mao says in his Quotations, “One-sidedness means thinking in terms of absolutes, that is, a metaphysical approach to problems.” A more scientific approach would be to arrive at the truth as a result of many people engaged in class struggle and continually refine our practice with the goal of achieving greater and greater freedom.
Image from Occupy Wall Street, NYC 2011. Photo from Adbusters.
Different views may have equal validity depending on their frame of reference. Climate change is being addressed worldwide by indigenous people, youth, labor and the scientific community each with their own perspective. The bottom line is to keep fossil fuels in the ground. Putin’s war in Ukraine is being resisted by the Ukrainian people and a vast range of forces from Code Pink to the UN General Assembly. Joe Biden wants to end Putin’s war, but all views in opposition to the war are not equally correct. Harmful acts need to be resolutely opposed and the tens of billions of dollars given to the US war industry in the name of supporting the Ukrainians does not make the world safer. We need to engage in the struggle to change the world in order to understand it, bringing us closer to the truth. Observing class struggle scientifically means being an inseparable part of creating democratic production, distribution of wealth and power. Again, quoting Mao, “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. Such is the Marxist theory of knowledge, the dialectical materialist theory of knowledge”.
The extractive Industrial Revolution created the capitalist system over 300 years ago and it should have been replaced by socialism due to the Information Technology (IT) Revolution. What happened? Control of IT along with the vast amount of the world’s wealth has been concentrated to a few multi-billionaires whereas information freely available to all has the potential to revolutionize society. The capitalist class has always relied on its control of the state—the schools, media, police, military, courts and prisons to maintain their rule and suppress dissent ultimately through the use of violence. However, IT has increasingly brought class struggle directly into the realm of ideas. People think they actually own their smart phones which give them access to vast global networks where information, communication, and material goods are readily available at the swipe of a finger, 24/7. Enticing images of commodities suddenly appear on screens unrelated to any ongoing activity in order to create an urge to buy. I won’t dwell on the time my damaged cell phone, laying by my bedside, started automatically taking videos moving around by vibrations and texted lines of computer code that were transmitted somewhere. Frequent social media use has been shown to trigger the release of dopamine in the brain which can cause addiction leading to the loss of self-esteem, depression, insomnia, stress and aggression. It also influences how people vote. This is why in elections progressives need to physically get-out-the vote, knock on doors, mobilize for rallies, phone and text bank. Many small donations through social networks have challenged the big money of corporations in many grassroots campaigns. But even if we do all this, and do it we must, we are still operating at a handicap.
Ukrainians in NY Times Square protest Russian attack. Photo by JANIFEST courtesy of Depositphotos.
Which brings me to the importance of ideas. As a Marxist, I am opposed to idealism, the belief that reality exists independently of the material world and originates or is perceived solely in the mind. Marxists believe ideas have their origins in the material world based on human activity. The mind is usually equated with the brain as the organ of thought and rational thought is based on sensations (information) received by the body which the brain organizes. Because the brain is so powerful, controlling and regulating every process of the human body, it has been considered paramount to human existence. We actually have three “brains”. The heart, especially, and the gut have neurons that respond to and process sensory information from our external and internal environments; millions of these neurons are not connected to the central nervous system. Due to the magnitude of its oscillation, the heart generates an electric field 60 times greater in amplitude than the brain and a magnetic field over 100 times greater. Energy contains information, so the energy fields of our body convey chemical and electrical information to the heart and the gut as well as to the brain and all three organs respond accordingly. In other words, the heart and the gut “think.” Unlike the brain, the heart and the gut think, not by a linear analytical process, but by feeling.
The Tai Chi Classics state, “Qi is directed by the mind and the body follows.” To me this means humans need to be in harmony with nature and recognize the rational brain often prevents our intrinsic energy from flowing naturally by putting too much emphasis on the mechanical body. This causes stress, which is initiated by fear and creates illness. Ideas arise with action initiated by feelings. The brain analyzes what happened with an action and prepares for a subsequent action. It must then stop thinking so the heart can direct a new action in accordance with the sensory information it feels, such as intuition. Because the brain is so powerful, its linear thinking inhibits the ability of the heart to act naturally. When an action is completed, the energies of the heart, brain and gut are entrained and the brain takes control again.
Alex Hing (in blue shirt) leads tai chi chuan class. Photo by Sully Bonnelly.
There are many views of what the mind is. I consider the energy fields of the brain, heart and gut combined create the structure of the mind. In fact, the mind is the conscious energy of the whole body in harmony with the energy of the external environment. Our minds can extend outside our bodies, and we can exercise it through practices such as tai chi chuan. Practice, theory, practice, with practice being primary is what Mao consistently emphasized. We all know the problem of nothing getting done because of thinking too much. This is a manifestation of fear when our creative energy is blocked by doubt. When it is time for action, just do it!
Not thinking puts us into a meditative state where we are sensitive to the energies of nature which the brain alone often cannot sense. This is when creativity occurs with the stimulation of our imagination from the feeling heart. For imagination to be useful, it must be based in the real world and the real world includes energies not normally recognized by the rational brain. To give an example, I don’t believe in past lives. I do believe in evolution in which our bodies contain ancient information, or memories, that can be accessed by the mind. We evolved from the same ancestors as birds and with imagination our arms can serve to improve our balance if we use our them to feel air pressure as if they were wings. When we were fetuses, at around 4 weeks, we had a tail which was incorporated into our coccyx, so we are born without a tail. I believe the memories of that tail still exist just like a “phantom limb “of an amputee. Since a tail is used by other species for balance, we can improve our balance by imagining we have a tail.
Imagination sets the stage for what we do in the future, and it orients our present activity. What we are doing now, we imagined doing sometime in the past and we make constant adjustments based on the current situation to move forward. We do not have to wait to imagine we are living in a society free from capitalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy. We can begin by lessening our tendency to commodify things and imagine how to do things without money. We can do political work as revolutionaries motivated by feelings of love and imagine we are living in communes based on “from each according to their ability, to each according to their need”, and imagine programs beyond the confines of capitalism in order to establish socialism as transition to communism. At least we should not be afraid to articulate our vision.
The heart produces powerful energies that can change the world for better. Love opposes fear and hate, and our vision of the future should be based on making changes inside ourselves right now to clear our energy channels for the continuation of humanity. We are approaching a dangerous threshold and, “We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
Alex Hing is a retired cook and, for over 30 years, has been an instructor of the Yang style tai chi. He lives in New York City with his wife, fashion designer Heike Jarick. Alex was born in 1946 in San Francisco’s Chinatown where he became a revolutionary and was one of the founders of the Red Guard Party which merged into the I Wor Kuen to become a national revolutionary organization. In 1968, he traveled across the country to participate in the original Poor Peoples Campaign that occupied the National Mall in Washington, DC for six weeks. In 1970, he participated in a two-month delegation led by the Black Panther Party to North Korea, North Vietnam and China. Starting as a dishwasher, he became a member of what is now Unite Here, Local 2 and was elected to the Rank and File Negotiating Committee which led the four week citywide hotel strike in 1980 that made historic gains for the membership. In 1983, he moved to New York City where he worked with the League of Revolutionary Struggle in Chinatown and as a hotel cook. He was a founding member of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO and is currently working on his memoirs.