A response to Mass Proletariat
We feel that the public document titled “A Course Correction for Maoism in the US” by Mass Proletariat (Boston) deserves a public response. This is not our preferred method but due to the documents public nature MP has set the method of exchange on this matter. While we have been eagerly following this org since their recent split with the Maoist Communist Group we are still limited in our understanding of what political work they actually do the ground. Only time will tell and this fact limits the scope of our response.
The only qualifier given to their grandiose offer to ‘correct the US Maoist movement’ is near the start of their statement where they refer to their “workplace struggle”. We find this departure point alarming due to the fact that in every single work place workers already struggle – there is zero mention of MP organizing this struggle. As of the time of the publication of their document, official communication has not been secured between us or anyone we are in regular communication with, leaving the bulk of their “course correction” limited to vague speculations which slips right away on its first step into the subjectivism these comrades are trying to criticize. It remains trapped in the perceptive stage of knowledge and can only comment on their incorrect perception of things as an insular group within what they refer to only as “the US Maoist movement” while at no point qualifying what that is or who they are even talking about.
The US Maoist movement is not homogeneous, it is hardly a “movement” yet. The prescriptions put forth here suffer from isolation. MP has not bothered to engage with any official lines or statements put out by actual MLM organizations. They have not given an account of what their practice even looks like, just lofty truisms posturing as “a corrective course”. It would appear that their “correct ideas” have in fact fallen from the sky!
They go on to state that;
“In a political situation correct action to advance the class struggle is not possible without careful investigation.”
This is certainly true and we insist that they apply this standard to themselves before they start prescribing it to others. This document is suggesting that they can advance the class struggle, nay, correct it, without doing a thorough investigation themselves! Does investigation simply mean reading social media posts? From the little they have given us during the span of their existence it would appear so.
To make matters worse this document is full of what might be useful criticism, however they fail totally to ever actually say who it is they are specifically criticizing. Two MLM organizations are mentioned by name; one no longer exists, the other is MCG who they split from and have no interest in uniting with, the rest is thrown into the wind and we MLMs are just supposed to snatch out what may or may not be a criticisms of us? At no point is this document specific, it is not clear weather the target be MLM organizations or one of the numerous MLM led mass organizations. Here they speculate again:
“In the last few years we have seen the emergence of nearly a dozen collectives in the U.S. which aspire to promote Maoist politics” Really? We would love to know who they are talking about here because we count only 5 or 6 at most. Of course it is possible there are Maoist collectives we have never heard of but surely such a guess lacks a scientific communist method of analysis. Had they been in contact with literally any one of these 4 collectives that were never part of MCG they would have learned quickly that none of us think “base areas are right around the corner” this ludicrous speculation not only reveals their insular thinking on the subject, it reproduces the material conditions for it by insulting a movement they have yet to really join in a meaningful way. While we agree to the need to combat subjectivism, dogmatism, empiricism etc. we must warn these comrades that this is impossible to do when corrections are called for from on high with little effort to demonstrate practice. If these corrections were framed as self-criticism on the part of MP then that would actually mean something. It would seem though, that much of the issues they have with MCG and its former Richmond branch, which they have themselves identified, are reproduced here in this document. Without investigation or official communication these comrades are indeed subscribing to the notion that “what you see is what you get”.
This “corrective course” becomes even more muddled and confused by the bizarre use of terms. They often use the term “backwards” which should be understood in communist terms to mean reactionary, yet it’s used to describe everything from the RCP-USA to MCG, none of which can qualify as reactionary. They state that;
“Even at a backwards rally, many workers will grasp key contradictions such as those between them and their bosses.”
We are not sure what a “backwards rally” even means here but would certainly not work within, or participate, in such rallies like Klan rallies, Trump rallies, or InfoWars rallies. In fact, we would confront such reaction and attempt to force it down.
They opportunistically use Stalin to segue into an opportunistic use of Jiang Qing. Let us unpack this. While Stalin did commit the error pointed out by Mao he did not constantly nor perpetually ignore all internal contradictions, we can fault Stalin for not being Mao but in doing so we actually abandon historical materialism, this is better left to the Trots.
While Jiang Qing correctly struggled against the “bloodline theory” MP’s citation of this again fails to keep a thing in its historical context; in the conditions in which it moved. Comrade Jiang stated these things as a party official of a party which was in power, under the conditions of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Offering this distortion they are making of her correction (as their own), is opportunism. No one in the US MLM movement ascribes to bloodline theory that we know of. Trying to correct such an error which does not exist appears to be an effort to cover for the class reality that composes the membership of MP- which is in its majority not proletarian. Lets examine the difference.
The children born under the proletarian dictatorship in China no longer maintained a bourgeois relationship to production; they participated in class struggle, production and scientific experiment, this was their reality so of course they could develop correct ideas. They did not bear the marks which their parents had and their ideology was, in the majority of cases, already transformed. They had been proletarianized, which is what Mao continued to do by sending students down to the country side. This document by MP smuggles in a petty bourgeois aversion to such a process of transformation, perhaps out of their own fear of being identified as petty bourgeois academics who have not developed close links with the masses. Under the dictatorship of the bourgeois such classes maintain their status, both socially and economically, at the expense of the workers. They do not participate in the class struggle (unless its tourism) and they do not engage in production or scientific experiment. They have yet to be transformed and persist in such petty bourgeois ideology which sees revolution as something they can step into out of no where and correct. This is the reality of class struggle, and conflating the conditions of the dictatorship of the proletariat with those of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie in what is self interest, is nothing short of revisionist contortion. We hope that through protracted mass work and documented summation of practice that this can be transformed and such posturing can be eradicated. If their shit stinks then they should not fault those who can smell it.
While structural factors alone do not determine class stand, transforming ones thinking is required to truly stand with the proletariat. This holds true for many workers themselves who are still deeply attached to bourgeois ideology and narrow self interest. Our organizations should not be composed majorly by those who rely only on theory without participating in production or experiencing the conditions of the workers. It is not up to class allies to consider themselves transformed, their material conditions have determined their consciousness not the other way around. By having organizations led by actual class conscious workers who are Maoists, we have seen beneficial results ourselves. The New Communist Movement distinguished itself from the New Left by the very fact that its spearhead, the Revolutionary Union, pursued a policy that integrated themselves into the working class, while others drifted into on-campus obscurity. Turns out since the proletariat is the revolutionary subject, the only course is to join it and take part in its struggles. If one wishes to have the correct class stand, this is not a matter of sympathy or simply a question of agreeing with the working class- it is also material.
“Currently there is mass resistance to black national oppression in the form of the Movement for Black Lives (MBL). Some wrongly dismiss this resistance as completely consolidated to a reformist line. These comrades focus on reformist statements made by various leaders of MBL, but fail to investigate the contradictions within the mass movement.”
Here, again, we have no hope of surmising who is meant by “some”. Do they mean Maoists or non affiliated individuals? Had they actually read the published articles from Maoist organizations they would find that they are a little late to the dance on this topic. Since we cannot say that these comrades specifically are charging RGA with the error of ignoring the contradictions between Black Lives Matter as organization and as a movement as well as contradicting aspects within each of them respectively, we hope to defend not only ourselves but others within what they allude to as the Maoist movement. For starters we (RGA) emerged from this Movement for Black Lives, since our inception, not only have we pointed to these contradictions but were actually born from them. This is evident and explicit in both our year one summation and numerous statements and articles we have produced on the topic. Mass organizations lead by MLM comrades such as Progressive Youth Organization-STL have shared invaluable criticism and analysis of their memberships direct involvement in the Ferguson rebellion as well as “BLM” as a whole. At no point did they ignore the internal contradictions. Even organizations which are not led by black Maoists such as RGLA have done public education on the history of Black Liberation movements in the US – they too do not ignore the internal contradictions. Former organizations such as the NCP-LC and both chapters of RSCC have authored and published articles on this very topic. Not only does MP not say who they are talking about, they do not seem to even know who (or what) they are talking about. No one has sought “purity” in the mass movement, we have been partisans in it and have a firm base of practice when we offer up our “corrections”.
The document in question warns readers of the dangers of social media and this is half true, They fail to understand the use of a thing. Future Menshiviks would oppose Lenins call for a party news paper based on the same grounds. Social media has mass participation. We do not for one second think it should be used to organize anything or build the party, what it should be used for is propaganda and the spread of ideology. They can only take a mechanical approach and not really contend with the dual aspect of the thing when they prescribe such platitudes as: “At this moment there is a need for Maoist forces in the U.S. to engage in serious ideological exchange and line struggle. This cannot happen on social media forums (which are platforms for state surveillance), text messages, or a few conversations among individuals. Instead, Maoist political organizations in the U.S. must utilize secure communication and in-person group meetings to struggle, criticize, and transform.” more on this later.
Section five of their document gets bold in stating that:
“Many in the U.S. who nominally adhere to Maoism actually put into practice a politics of supposed purity, which is opposed to Maoist mass line politics. This typically manifests in reductionist ideas of the distinction between friends and enemies based on adherence to the ‘brand’ of Maoism and/or the social class of members of the masses. We must call this what it is: an idealist politics of purity that negates the need for two-line struggle at all times.”
This sounds like genuine anti-sectarianism and a desire for unity on the surface but go a little deeper….. by saying “nominally” as well as “Maoist mass line politics” and “brand of Maoism” they have smuggled in revisionism. Let us be mercilessly clear on this fact; two line struggle means the struggle between the communist line and the revisionist line, capitalist and communist ideology in struggle- which is not detached from previous line struggles, from where these lines have been concentrated. Line struggle corrects and improves a line. So clearly it is not a question of contending brands of Maoism but a question of Maoism or revisionism. Ideology is reduced to sectarian infighting by MP and ideological content of Maoism is brushed aside as “yet to be determined” according to them, especially when they try to subvert ideology by refusing to understand that LINE STRUGGLE IS CLASS STRUGGLE. There are no contending brands of Maoism – there is only Maoism and revisionism. This distraction is revisionism smuggled in quietly via liberalism. It is not a question of purity or pure theory it is a question of weather or not Maoism exists or if contrarily it is yet to be synthesized. We know Maoism exists so we aim to use it as our guide to action. The mass line is correctly understood as a method of Maoist leadership, the mass line is not the fundamental aspect of MLM, such reduction is to literally liquidate Maoism as the third and highest stage of all Marxism. Ideological struggle is important if we wish to bloom and contend against the domination of revisionism over the US left. We must abandon eclecticism and post-MLM trash which presents itself as “MLM”.
Maoism is of course a living and developing science, however, this does not mean abandoning what has already been proven true and accepting eclecticism similar to left-refoundationalists, Kasama or the RCP-USA. These alterations and improvements which must be applied to MLM must come from the class struggle itself in the applications of the universal to the specific. Reducing ideological struggles to the low level of competitive brands or a desire for “purity” is the least Maoist way one could look at the situation.
We find the next issue to be so ill informed that our readers must be asked to forgive us for quoting this section at length;
“Other organizations defend political work which, in content, is the same as charity, as being beyond critique. They claim that that this sort of engagement with the masses will eventually lead to the creation of base areas. These groups do not understand the need to differentiate between the advanced, intermediate, and backwards members of the masses. In opposition to these idealist deviations, there is a need to expand both the scope and quality of political work among the masses. We must also expand principled discussion and struggle between Maoist forces in different locales. Serious ideological struggle and comradely criticisms between groups are the preconditions of building a MLM party in the U.S. There is limited time in a day, and only so many years in a life. In order to make concrete gains, we must cast aside all illusions of purity, struggle to grasp our strengths and shortcomings, and learn from our past failures. Internally, this takes the form of principled democratic centralism. Only through this process can we build a proletarian political force capable of establishing a DoP. The abandonment of democratic centralism in favor of pure centralism results in the promotion of supposed experts detached from the concrete needs of the proletarian movement. This has and remains an Achilles heel of the Maoist movement in the US. Even in 1971, Bob Avakian was introduced to members of the Revolutionary Union as ‘the man who will lead the revolution in America’, and that was at a time when the group was a far cry from the backwards party it became and remains. In the recent experiences of the NCP(LC) and MCG(NY), a similar phenomenon of self-declared leaders developed, divorced from the actual needs of organizations and of the class struggle. Rather than fantasizing about who will be the people to lead a revolution, the emphasis should fall on the theory and practice needed to advance revolutionary development now.”
While MP refused to be direct, and honest- we do not share their liberal malady and will say it like it is without mincing our words. This section is clearly directed at the Serve The People programs which operate as mass organizations around the country in 5 different cities. The issue is that MP is not honest or direct when leveling this criticism. None the less let us grapple with it and see where it fits. For starters it is apparent that MP has not actually investigated any STP and is operating solely off their best guess. This statement comes out the gate on a massive confusion- STP is not just “political work” it is mass work. STP from its inception here in Austin has been open and honest with the fact that its work alone or isolated from the life of the party will not establish base areas. Base areas are won- in the true sense – by force of arms. While Mass Proletariat carefully avoids ever issuing a statement pertaining to military strategy or armed struggle at all for that matter, the Mass organizations under the banner of STP have been upfront with their stances on the necessity of armed struggle and revolution. STP has also been upfront about the fact that the masses are not a homogeneous group and that revolutionaries must contend with the contradictions that exist among the people- this is identifying clearly the existence of the advanced, intermediate and backward. STP has actively struggled against errors committed by charities and has even written articles against NGO’s. This is, like most things, a work in progress. They then go on to suggest that not only are the masses and cadres in STP too theoretically ignorant to identify the levels of consciousness which we face, but that our scope and quality of political work among the masses must be expanded. This is nothing but an order from up high; a “correct idea” innate in the minds of some intellectuals. In what ways has MP ever suggested, let alone demonstrated, how it is that we can expand the scope and quality of our work among the masses? No shit it must be expanded! Mass organizations are not born adults, like everything else, they start out small. They grow and develop in both scope and quality. In fact STP has blossomed into multiple mass organizations since its birth less than two years ago. What is the mass work MP has been doing all this time? In reality this section as well as the overall document is guilty of its own charges: it reveals the closed off thinking of those experts who are detached from the needs of the proletarian movement. We aim to meet those needs directly and materially while advancing the masses and their specific struggles but let us first explain exactly why STP is not a charity.
Charity is most popularly understood as hand-outs from above which offer peace, salvation, comfort etc. Charity can only ever fill the potholes (temporarily) which are created by capitalism. MP makes a fundamentally revisionist error by understanding the act of giving things away simply as charity. They are only looking at physical production and totally ignoring political line and specifically the politics which command STP. STP does give away items, however, it also does far more than this, it educates and organizes the masses to take part. It identifies the enemies and mobilizes people to target them. STP engages in exposing the contradictions of capitalism, not glossing over them as charities do. By subjectively only looking at one side of things, MP has again lapsed into delusion. STP stands not only to assist in providing the masses with material aid, but in the process of doing so it seeks to ween the people off of dependence on the state and the ruling class for the things that they need; be they material goods, services, cultural needs or political needs. In order for revolutionary ideas to spread among the people, there must be a clean break with this system, there must be a break with its ideology and with dependence on its representatives that infest the hood in the form of NGO’s, churches and charities. STP takes this question seriously and stands to become a true fighting organization of the people. We are not so ignorant as to think that we can gain the trust and support of the masses by simply holding demos or selling them papers. We must aim to share their daily struggle by acknowledging their needs and showing an earnest desire for their health and well being. This kind of mass work is as rooted in Maoism as anything else and cannot be dismissed as “charity” so easily. STP-LA the second mass organization with the name has made international news due to their militant confrontations with gentrification in Boyle Heights. While the other organizations are newer, there is nothing in their practice or content which could justify the dismissal as charity the way MP has done here in a cowardly way, which covers their asses with “plausible deniability”. This reveals not only their class stand but their relationship to ours. Our people go without so we provide for them. This service does not exist in a vacuum– it gives us an ear, a platform among the people. It provides us with innumerable ideas directly from the people. Every single serving and free store concretizes the practice of the mass line method of leadership. These comrades bemoan the self styled leaders of the past without contending with the process in which communist leadership emerges- through the masses in practice, which is something Serve The People is demonstrating. We do not fault them for making any criticism which they feel appropriate we just insist they not be liberals about it, that they actually investigate and struggle with the material practice of other organizations. Especially when their “corrective course” in no way reveals what proper communist mass work should even look like. To know a pear you must first taste it!
The fantasies of MP continue as they insist on “isolating the backward” while calling non-revolutionary but progressive organizations backward. Not only do these comrades have such a high opinion of themselves that they think they can correct the movement, but they also think that they can “isolate the backwards” with no political power! This is an ultra-left delusion fitting of their former partners in Richmond. A correct understanding of the mass line is found however in Mao’s own words in the text titled: ‘Some Questions Concerning Methods of Leadership’ where he states;
“The masses in any given place are generally composed of three parts, the relatively active, the intermediate and the relatively backward. The leaders must therefore be skilled in uniting the small number of active elements around the leadership and must rely on them to raise the level of the intermediate element and to win over the backward elements. A leading group that is genuinely united and linked with the masses can be formed only gradually in the process of mass struggle, and not in isolation from it.”
is Mao correct or is MP correct?
Contrary to Mao himself, MP is bent on isolation even in the absence of power. They go on to revise Mao by adding this;
“All of these backwards tendencies functionally promote the understanding that class ideas are synthesized separately from actual politics by a self-appointed ‘leadership’. This approach is a negation of the mass line. In order to avoid these deviations, Maoists must fuse with the masses, investigate their situation, and work to identify divisions internal to various mass movements.”
So is it uniting around leadership or is it fusing with the masses? Is it winning over the backward elements to the cause of revolution or is it a fools attempt to isolate them in the absence of power to even do so? We agree with Mao and will leave this correction aside so that when it comes into contradiction with reality these comrades can stand to learn a thing or two from their own mistakes.
The whole conception that MP has of the mass line is incorrect in previous documents they have mentioned “concentrating the correct ideas of the masses” the correctness of an idea however, is determined in the concentrating process as well as the propagating stage of the mass line. What MP has here is not the mass line, it is a distortion of it which amounts to cherry picking the ideas of the masses which MP already see as correct! What is worse is not only do they think they have the power to “isolate the backwards” they also think they can “isolate backwards ideas”! We seek to transform and correct mistaken ideas. We oppose cherry picking and posturing.
The document concludes with a call to link up. While it may be news to only MP, we must state that we have been, and remain, in conversation with our comrades in other collectives, We even worked along side members of the new RG-PHL in our summer cadre school program. Maybe they mean official organizational links? Maybe they mean establishing some husk that resembles democratic centralism prematurely as a mere formality? We hope not. Unity is formed through a process of struggle, it faces uneven development and set backs. At least at this stage of struggle we know that we can count on exchange and support between these collectives.
“To advance, we must promote prolonged and ongoing ideological exchange and discussion among emerging Maoist forces about political practice and theory. This process is not organic. It cannot be left to chance. It must be planned, scheduled, and methodically approached in relationship to the needs of the moment. This development cannot take place on a Facebook forum. It needs to be a concerted effort in which time is made amongst comrades in different locales to struggle over foundational issues. Eventually, this practice will need to expand on a mass scale, in which every town and city in America will have a place people can go to learn about Maoist political practice and share experiences, in the spirit of the great link-ups of the Red Guards during the GPCR. The spread of this practice will contribute to the founding of a Maoist communist party in the U.S. The central argument of this essay is that there is a need for Maoist forces to link up.”
The Red Guards of China were not seeking to build a communist party, their gatherings existed long before the internet created the contradiction these comrades are trying to point out. We feel that social media cannot be casually dismissed it must be understood and utilized responsibly, that if debate erupts there then many people can learn from such an exchange and that it is up to those involved to set a better example. Social media exists and people are going to use it. There is no sense in avoidance. Of course organization to organization communications are handled between collectives in agreed upon methods. The proletarian populated MLM collectives are small and new, we simply cannot afford to hop on a plane and “Link up” for regular meetings. In our year one summation we mentioned how our leadership has spent time with RGLA, and in this document, how RG-PHL leadership attended our cadre school, this has forged the basis for principled unity.
We conclude that such a process can be organic or it can be planned. Line struggle is an inevitability that will arise most anywhere and inside of every group. It cannot be limited exclusively to planned meetings. For instance here is line struggle; here we have responded in the way we were forced too, by the fact that MP has issued their statement of corrections intended for the Maoist movement, which of course includes us in RGA and our comrades elsewhere. We cannot simply “link up”. We will struggle for unity with others and not submit to responding in private to liberal allegations which were made in public. We have already spent more time responding to the positions of these comrades than they deserve since in the final analysis their arguments are baseless and divorced from experience. We are saddened by the continuum of pomp and ego spilling from the east coast. We hoped for better and issue this statement not as a denunciation but as a firm correction to the misconceptions casually vomited out from MP. Again we plead with these comrades to take their own advice to investigate before they speak publicly and to actually have the patience to await official exchange especially when we were in the process of establishing such. We welcome direct contact and will not after the publication of this document continue to exhaust energy on the matter in the form of open polemic.
Sincerely and without pride of place,
Red Guards Austin September 2016
Original article can be read here; http://www.massproletariat.info/writings/2016-08-16-Course_Correction.html