Almost three months ago Red Guards Austin embarked on a program called Cadre School. This program was intended to offer a material approach to advance building the Maoist party. Failed attempts at party building by the Liaison Committee for a New Communist Party and to a lesser degree by the Maoist Communist Group helped to inform us of the necessity of such an ambitious project. Both national organizing efforts have collapsed due to different internal contradictions, and while this article is not focused on these now defunct groupings of US Maoists, it was the errors we identified in their approach to party building that have set us on this course and left us as the only MLM collective in the country that is prioritizing party building at this time, while comrades in other cities who we support are rightly focusing on consolidating their new collectives or rectification of past errors. Some comrades have abandoned MLM altogether, and it is our hope that we will win them back through practice and persuasion. *** we must offer clarification, the NYC branch (which appears to be the majority) of the MCG still retain the name, goals and purpose. Statements from this group are infrequent at best.
The two major errors we identify can be understood as cliquishness or paternalistic orientations toward smaller or newer collectives, as well as a hands off approach – waiting for a collective to form, make waves, and then be absorbed into the larger body. These two organizations became defunct (at least as a multi-branch org) without much ceremony, and neither former project has (as of now) issued a summation of why and how they split apart, so by no means do we present our limited perceptual knowledge as fully formed rational knowledge. We hope that everyone involved in those party building efforts in any capacity will present their analysis on why these projects failed, which would be of service to us and everyone else seeking to build a Maoist Communist Party.
As detailed in our positions paper Condemned To Win, we hold that while party building is the principal task for all revolutionary communists, it must be done through the masses themselves and large numbers of people must be transformed into communists; there must be an advance in the revolutionary consciousness of the masses, paying close attention to the concrete conditions and the class struggle. We hold that the purpose and measure of being a communist is serving the people and that the party must be forged in this activity. While we cannot place party building in a time frame right now or speculate what every step will look like, we would also be wrong to pass the important questions facing our movement off to a later date and, by doing so, content ourselves to tailing the initiatives of the masses.
These are some of our most basic reasons for developing RGA Cadre School. To better understand our approach to creating cadre, we must first mention a bit about the Maoist approach to eduction, which is largely informed by the universal lessons earned through the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China led by Mao Zedong. Mao’s approach to education can be read about in several documents, including Remarks at the Spring Festival, Reform Our Study, and Oppose Stereotyped Party Writing, just to name a few. The communist movement in China more than anywhere else brought revolutionary theory to the broadest masses of people, and the publication of Quotations from Chairman Mao has sold more copies than any other work of non-fiction in the history of the world [the only book to sell more copies is the Christian Bible.] Maoist education focuses on two important things: the class struggle and transformation. Credentials are not of the academic bourgeois variety and this turns the approach to learning upside down. The relationship between theory and practice is fully recognized by the combination of study with production. It would be impossible to approach teaching new cadre if we did not allow these things to inform our methods of work.
The first round of Cadre School attendees have arrived and began classes, mass work, and political work almost 3 months ago and we feel it is now time to offer up some of these experiences to others in the movement. The first thing we must assert is that teachers learn just as students teach, so Cadre School is formulated and led by a committee of both attendees elected by their peers as well as RGA cadre tasked with the project. This prevents the rise of experts and keeps the attendees active in their own education. Attendees were not chosen at random but based on what we determined would be most useful for the building of the party, so representatives from both the east and west coasts were chosen to participate. As part of our ongoing efforts to combat patriarchy on the left we chose to prioritize women and non-men who compose the whole of our first class. This first class has been our prototype, our best opportunity to learn through doing. The basic method we chose was to combine intensive theoretical study, debate and two line struggle, mass work among the people, physical labor, a structured disciplined life, arduous struggle and plain living, and specific tasks for each person with overall projects and objectives to complete.
The first hurtle came in the form of uneven theoretical development, as not all people have the same background and we feel that we would have made real mistakes to choose only those with extensive book knowledge on MLM. Furthermore, not everyone learns the same way or at the same pace. We have no intention of reproducing bourgeois education so some of our teachers as well as students have different learning abilities. All of this is, and must be, an ongoing struggle to restrict the emergence of elitism and self interest in the realm of theoretical study – which in a communist collective can create divisions and social status. We have witnessed some revisionist organizations hold back the theoretical development of rank and file members and safeguard access to theory to the most “trusted” within the formation – usually white men. To confront and resolve this contradiction we made efforts to diversify our study material to include films, documentaries etc. We took care to never let our study groups turn into long boring lectures, instead they are participatory and lecturing, when necessary, is a shared task. Line struggle and debate are encouraged throughout theoretical study. This contradiction has been mitigated but not resolved and it will remain a work in progress, while what we have accomplished is a lively method of study that utilizes the principles of consolidating the advanced to win over the intermediate and bring up anyone falling behind. Ideological consolidation is a reiterative and ongoing process of line struggle.
The second hurtle is developing a structured and disciplined lifestyle. This is done through always trying to be better organized and paying close attention to morale and enthusiasm, which includes being there for those struggling and uniting around bringing them up. Capitalist society is selfish and self-indulgent and it does not foster good collective responsibilities – it discourages such support. Discipline is essential to the communist organization but it must never be arbitrarily enforced at the expense of comrades’ mental health. Discipline itself has to be constructed through the destruction of our individualism and this has to be done with great care for the well-being of comrades. Discipline when maintained the correct way should be understood as something that makes us stronger, healthier, and more united. It should have an overall positive effect on all who have attained acceptable levels of organizational as well as personal discipline.
One of the ways in which this is accomplished is through cutting out the excess, getting rid of the cloudy bullshit that fucks us up or makes us complacent. This is what we mean by plain living and arduous struggle. In order to provide all the basic necessities for one another we must often cut out what is not as important, and reject things that discourage struggling with the people and encourage laying about. It includes physical activity, exercise, healthy diets, and most importantly, comradely support. To be the most effective at our task we all feel that higher levels of discipline and struggle are needed than we experienced in our former lives. All of these principles should be accomplished through working together and being patient with one another, and never through commandments or mandates. This too will be uneven and people will always go back and forth, this must be understood as a struggle with many setbacks, but a struggle that is worth it. We have seen the discipline and commitment rise sharply in ourselves as well as those in attendance through such a project. As communists we do not believe in perfection, we believe in motion – in transformation.
RGA Cadre School seeks to provide revolutionary theory and practice to committed comrades outside of our locale, who can return home and use their experience and knowledge to get organized there. It is essential that all experienced MLM organizers take an active role in the formation of new revolutionary collectives that will root themselves among the masses and continue to grow. It is through these comrades that strong revolutionary collectives will be formed, offering the pre-party formation a far reach and containing a higher level of unity established through close ties derived from practice. Comrade Mao lays out some of our principles when he stated:
“Our Party organizations must be extended all over the country and we must purposefully train tens of thousands of cadres and hundreds of first-rate mass leaders. They must be cadres and leaders versed in Marxism-Leninism [today Maoism], politically far-sighted, competent in work, full of the spirit of self-sacrifice, capable of tackling problems on their own, steadfast in the midst of difficulties and loyal and devoted in serving the nation, the class and the Party. It is on these cadres and leaders that the Party relies for its links with the membership and the masses, and it is by relying on their firm leadership of the masses that the Party can succeed in defeating the enemy. Such cadres and leaders must be free from selfishness, from individualistic heroism, ostentation, sloth, passivity, and arrogant sectarianism, and they must be selfless national and class heroes; such are the qualities and the style of work demanded of the members, cadres and leaders of our Party.”
As we are now coming to the end of this first attempt we are still in the process of summarizing and synthesizing this initial, modest effort. We will further advance our efforts and elaborate this program in other documents as we gain more insight. This is a program we intend to continue and improve upon. The only real test for our efforts will be shown in the work of those in attendance as they move forward with their own collectives. It will be the success of new revolutionary collectives which will prove our approach in practice, and it is this that we look forward to the most. We will close with a few words from some of the comrade attendees.
“Cadre School has been, as of yet, the most intellectually intensive experience of my life. I came here a communist in name but with little practice. Six hours of studying most days, mass work, and participating in meetings – this has all led to what I feel is an accelerated ideological development, and I have gained the ability to take on a leadership role when I go back to the city I came here from.”
“What I’ve learned in Cadre School is, in a word, how to be a good communist (not the Liu Shaoqi type) in the 21st century imperialist metropolis. What this takes is 1) serious revolutionary study – not taken in the abstract and pursued for an academic hobby but being read with the current conjuncture in mind at all times; 2) active and ongoing mass work – the Maoist job is to orient ourselves toward the masses and not small petty-bourgeois activist cliques; these will be won over or isolated in the course of revolutionary practice, but that practice starts from communists integrating ourselves with the masses (this is an especially important point to grasp for people who were previously solely engaged in student organizing, such as myself); 3) a high level of discipline and willingness (if not an eagerness) to both submit one’s thoughts to the collective in order to boost two-line struggle and criticism/self-criticism, as well as to fully submit to the decisions of the collective when it comes to one’s actions – without this level of discipline, it would not be possible to build the revolutionary party capable of all the triumphs that we seek. These may seem like simple points, but before Cadre School I studied revolutionary works with an academic mindset, oriented myself toward petty bourgeois student organizing, and had no serious conception of a revolutionary discipline. All these developments will surely better prepare me for advancing the Maoist party building effort.”
“Years of organizing in a revisionist party left me somewhat demoralized, but also in desperate need of guidance and calibration as a communist if I were to continue on the path that history is demanding of us. While I was capable of leading people, practical organizing, and taking bold actions, at the same time my mind was rife with egotism, subjectivism, careerism, and overall individualism. This is because I was severely lacking experience in the two key areas that are stressed by RGA: mass work that actually involves utilizing the mass line in serving the people, and serious collective criticism/self-criticism. In struggling to acclimate to the reality of carrying out these tasks, I eventually reached a crisis point where my inner bourgeois self and my communist self came to the fore as an open antagonistic contradiction that demanded resolution. Through the help of my comrades here, I have since engaged in a process of thought reform to enable my communist self to overcome my bourgeois self. This means that I have started to learn how to turn Maoism inwards, instead of it being something that I only projected outward into the world. Thus I have begun to really understand the essence of the dialectical unity of my thought and my practice, and have begun to more thoroughly unite my own self-interest with that of the interest of the proletarian class. To continue on this road means to truly fear no difficulty, no hardship, to shun even death itself in order to serve the people, unite with the people, and fight alongside the people to destroy all exploitation & oppression and reach the total harmony of communism.”