There is no shortage of counterfeit “communist parties” in the United States. There is one for every season and for every flavor of revisionism, and now there is one more for the garbage heap, one more that must be swept away in the revolutionary process. This process has twists, turns, advances, and retreats, and this statement is not intended to definitively put the matter to rest but instead to continue the struggle against misconceptions, lies, and outright charlatans.
Sometime around 3am on the morning of Sunday, August 6, a group (presumably a group) declared themselves a pre-party formation. This is not uncommon in the age of internet role-playing and substanceless declarations. But the reason it concerns us is that this one claims to be Maoist.
The document itself is short and arrogant. The “organizing committee” issuing the document makes lofty-sounding calls and even attempts to describe itself with what might seem to be basic Maoist principles and language. But what about its substance?
It begins almost immediately with a vulgar and false attack on the actual US MLM movement, which it positions itself against from the start. It deliberately misrepresents the composition of our movement, stating that we are
“Scattered and feuding bands of overwhelmingly white and petit-bourgeois leftists who decided to pick up some books one day, substituting meaningless posturing, practical anarchism and a red cloak to draw the attention of others of their class background and psychology are not revolutionary.”
Let’s go into these claims, starting with the allegation that all we are is scattered, feuding bands. All established collectives with provable mass work in the US enjoy more unity now than at any point in recent years. What these revisionists call feuding we can only call a united effort against their brand of false Maoism. We make no apology for class struggle, and that includes the struggle against revisionism, whether or not it wears a Maoist mask.
The second lie is that the US MLM movement is “overwhelmingly white.” There is no attempt at all to prove the claim—it is tossed out in a pathetic effort to discredit our diverse multinational collectives on the basis of hollowed-out identity divorced from political content. The fact is that the most advanced MLM collectives in the US do mass work within oppressed-nations communities, and these oppressed nations have produced skilled organizers who hold positions of leadership in every collective that has been excluded by this false “pre-party formation.”
Next, we should clarify that we did not just “decide to pick up books one day.” While there is nothing wrong with picking up books, if they had bothered to study the history of the collectives they attack, they would quickly learn that we all developed in material struggles of our class and then, in that process, reached out for the theory that would most effectively serve our class: Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.
On that note, the document makes a claim about the class background of those in our movement, but once again presents no evidence. What’s more, class background only counts for so much, and it is telling that this statement makes no mention of class stand. For instance, what about the petit-bourgeois class stand indicated by choosing to form a “pre-party” overnight without the participation or support of the most established and advanced Maoists in the country, who are patiently and painstakingly working toward real unity? For the record, plenty of us are working-class, from working-class backgrounds. Here the paper again puts identity above political line. For more on this error, please read our piece “On Identity Opportunism.”
They go on to say,
“Those who willfully and purposefully isolate those patient and deep rooted community organizers who do mass work specifically tailored to and designed for the American proletariat and other exploited classes today will not build a party. They are not revolutionary. They build cliques and cults and contribute only to pointless bickering and macho posturing which generates burnout, disillusionment and attention of a negative type. We know this, because we’ve been through it, witnessed it and rejected it.”
Let’s also take this claim by claim.
We fully agree with the first sentence, which makes the declaration of this “organizing committee” even more incomprehensible, because it exists on the basis of excluding organizers who have done years of patient mass work and have developed useful programs and mass organizations. These include the premier anti-gentrification work in Boyle Heights, home of RGLA, and the trans housing program, free food programs, and other mass work in the home cities of the other Maoist collectives.
We find the charge that the US MLM movement contains cults to be particularly revealing, because “cult” is so commonly the go-to pejorative used by revisionists who wish to denounce a thing without calling it revisionist. Lenin explained that revisionists always deny the existence of revisionism lest they reveal themselves. Instead, they tend to throw out scary terms like “cult” without attempting to explain exactly what cults are. For most revisionists, to scientifically analyze something would be to try to handle tools that could easily reveal them as the frauds they are. To be clear, an organization is a cult if it seeks to cultivate the suspension of critical thinking in an abusive effort to coerce or trap membership. Calling an organization a cult in a casual way makes light of the serious abuse carried out by actual cults. This is reckless labeling unfitting for a communist to engage in.
While the enemy tries to paint the actual Maoist movement in the most despicable light possible, we can only refer to the democratic traditions within our movement; to our many, sometimes drawn-out struggles for unity; and to our patience in establishing a pre-party formation, all evidence that our organizations have not been robbed of their critical thinking.
Next they charge us with posturing. This is another claim that so much more aptly describes themselves. Say what you will, at least we did not declare an organizing committee overnight, we are not merely pretending to be communists, and we do the necessary patient work to link with the masses.
Finally, they claim that the genuine MLM movement promotes burnout. Is it true? Well, a movement suffering from burnout would be shrinking and not growing—it would be dividing and not uniting. Maybe the burnouts they’re thinking of have floated to the bottom, where they formed this “organizing committee.”
In truth, their posturing and prioritization of identity over political line suggest something about their deeper error: a type of petit-bourgeois idealism designed to be most attractive to others taking a petit-bourgeois class stand, who are disinclined to investigate the substance of any particular claim and are most interested in what sounds most thrilling.
But beyond just showing how this “organizing committee” is projecting its many errors onto the existing US MLM movement, it is also important to go into exactly how badly mistaken they are about what they claim to be doing.
For starters, this project that aims to build the MLM party proposes what amounts to a call for a united front with revisionism. It should go without saying, but Marxism-Leninism-Maoism emerged from the need to clearly and decisively break withrevisionism. But this “MLM” organization announces that they will “build and link … non-Maoist comrades and formations” and then repeat later that they will “link up with comrades who may not be Maoist.”
To be sure, while non-Maoists will certainly compose a large number within even Maoist-led mass organizations, in this case exactly what type of relationship they propose isn’t clear. But even their lack of comment on this question reveals their wholly un-MLM attitude toward revisionism: “Why clarify what our line is toward revisionists?” Exactly how anti-revisionist they plan on being at any given moment seems to depend on how convenient it is for them.
These revisionists also state that the Maoist party “is seen as the vanguard of the masses by the masses, in particular the masses of the proletariat.”
We wish to emphasize the wording “seen as” here, because it illustrates so well their complete disregard of actual revolutionary science. Contrary to their claim that the party is the vanguard of the masses and of the proletariat “in particular,” the party is in fact the organized expression of the proletariat. And it is the party of the proletariat, and only of the proletariat.By suggesting it should be seen as the vanguard of the masses by the masses, they stumble near the Khrushchevite idea of a “party of the whole people,” an idea Mao mercilessly exposed in his struggle against phony communists. As with so many things in this document, it is difficult to tell how committed the “organizing committee” is to this mistaken formulation. But whether it is so under-developed that it cannot identify when it espouses “party of the whole people”-type Khrushchevite revisionism or if, in fact, it would double down on this line if directly questioned about it, it is anti-Maoist all the same: it demonstrates a stark liberalism that suggests that the party doesn’t need to draw firm lines or make clear and comprehensible formulations. And it barely needs to be said, but anyone capable of wandering into this theoretical mistake is not remotely fit to spearhead the foundation of the party of the proletariat.
The document also calls for summations but does not offer any from its many signatories, some of which contain only one person in their so-called “branch.” Single-person branches are an error already exposed in the recent history of the US MLM movement with the collapse of the NCP-LC, a verdict that would be known to them if they were genuinely interested in summations. But what’s more, when you ask the local Maoists who have actually and demonstrably been undertaking mass work in the cities listed at the end of the document, they say that their projects are not involved in this “organizing committee.”
On the subject of summations, the document also has some nice-sounding things to say about self-criticism, but this “organizing committee” is not even self-aware, let alone self-critical. Where is the self-criticism from the leading “collective” of this project, the very collective that has alienated itself thoroughly from the established Maoist movement? No communist goes without making any errors, least of all the “collective” spearheading this process, but nothing of their errors has been synthesized. And so like fools they stumble into their next mistake—forming a pre-party formation without a firm basis for unity and without any semblance of mass support.
And that gets to the heart of the question—exactly how does the organizing committee propose to organize the party?
They describe their intentions as follows:
“The purpose of the Maoist Communist Party Organizing Committee is to link up and unite all Marxist-Leninist-Maoists who can be united within the interests of revolution, to build working relationships with people, and to build and develop mass work practice and interpersonal and organizational unity, as well as to engage in principled and thorough struggle in the interests of advancing the utmost task of building a genuine party.”
This actually says nothing at all about organizing the party. It doesn’t even understand what an organizing committee actually does. This self-description is better suited to describe the activities already regularly being carried out by every collective that the “organizing committee” has abandoned and chastised. Linking up Maoists is the function of a liaison committee, not an organizing committee, which develops once the Maoists are linked up and have struggled for unity. An organizing committee has the responsibility of taking the existing groups and forming them into one—of organizing democratic centralism and electing countrywide and local leadership. This is work that immediately precedes the founding of the party. While confusion about the meaning of the terms is forgivable, launching a countrywide “organizing committee” without even establishing or developing cadres countrywide is not.
Let us be as clear as we can be: The basis of the knowledge necessary to organize the Maoist communist party will come about through practice, a practice sadly lacking in this project. Correct lines come about not from lofty abstract ideas and wishful thinking but through two-line struggle based on organizing among the masses. This effort takes the organizing of the party less seriously than one would take baking a cake. The fact is, conditions objectively do not merit its founding, and its own subjective forces also do not constitute a reasonable foundation for such an effort by any stretch of the imagination. They lack credibility and experience, both of which Lenin describes as necessary to form a revolutionary party. We see party-building as the principal task of all true communists in the US. Our position on this has not changed, and we continue to struggle forward, toward this goal. But we will not pretend that we can accomplish this task simply by declaring that we’ve accomplished it!
For a Maoist pre-party formation to have any validity, it would necessarily include organized and proven Maoists. It cannot be formed casually, with branches that have no history of proven practice. The idea that this is actually possible throws even the most basic Marxist theory of knowledge into the garbage. How could these “branches” meaningfully participate in the process of founding a communist party when only through mass work can a person have any valid ideas about how to build the communist party?
On that note, the lead “collective” is no more than a year old and has very little experience and even less proven success. It has tailed social democrats, run depoliticized, low-quality service programs, and even formed alliances with some of the most reactionary Trotskyite organizations. This is what those forming the “organizing committee” see as the “vanguard” of their movement.
We do not fault the genuine desire of comrades who feel the dire need for a Maoist party even if they have been roped into such a fool’s errand. Nonetheless, party-building means going all in for class struggle. It means proving our theory in practice and struggling around summations of our work for greater unity, a process that is ongoing and in fact has gone on for several years, steadily advancing us toward our goal.
We will not sell the snake oil of a false organizing committee to the people. The people deserve better than these charlatans. Communists must be the tribune of the people—this is necessary for the title of communist to have any meaning at all.
Serious-minded revolutionary communists in the US prisonhouse of nations must also take up security precautions and vetting processes and guard our internal information from the state, reactionaries, and revisionists. An “organizing committee” formed without a congress ever having been held, without a single face-to-face countrywide meeting, cannot begin to be trusted with the security of its members or the masses whom it aims to represent. The leading collective, based out of St. Louis, holds its cadre meetings over Google Hangouts and other online chat groups. This is beyond a doubt the way this “OC” was slapped together—hastily and without serious thought or honest hard work.
The absence of any real founding congress also indicates another alarming aspect: the lack of any actual coordinated political line struggle. Without such struggle, objectively there is no way it could have achieved genuine and deep unity with itself. No real space has been given to actually developing founding principles that are upheld by its signatories, and it truly has earned the nickname “the Communist Party of Facebook.”
When the real Maoist party is organized it will not be one or two new and undisciplined collectives and a scattered group of our online friends. It will be all of the most established, experienced, and steeled collectives in the US, holding an actual congress where we can struggle out ideological and political differences in a democratic process that will allow us to have true and honest unity. It will be on the basis of years of provable mass work and connections to the masses and each other. A “party formation” that allows random people from the internet to open branches is nothing but fool’s gold that cannot be expected to produce a single Bolshevik. We simply do not recognize this abomination. It is illegitimate and an affront to revolutionary communism. We will not recognize its branches or its leadership as a legitimate organization and we will not communicate with such a liability.
To be clear, we consider this a counter-revolutionary project that is concretely opposed to the whole of the MLM movement in the US (not just against those we are friends with). We do not seek pride of place and understand fully that the party-building effort rests with other Maoists, including those we are still struggling with. To anyone who may want help building a collective, we have always been more than willing to offer advice based on our limited experiences. We discourage anyone from falling into the bog of the new revisionist “OC” and encourage anyone duped into thinking this is legitimate to reach out and link up with actual Maoists.
Be humbled by the masses
Investigate the mass work of communists among the people.
—Red Guards Austin, August 2017