The liberal narrative is that education is the most powerful tool with which to change the world. They speak of education as if it is this objective thing that floats outside of classes, outside of this system. They speak of education as one objective truth. But we know this is not the case. Education from whom? The ruling class has been educating us for centuries. But that education has not liberated us. The way in which we are educated is specifically used to reproduce this system, capitalism. Even the most bourgeois educated black man (Ben Carson, Barack Obama) cannot see past his own bourgeois interest. They do not represent the struggle or goals of black people as a whole. We have fought tooth and nail for our education. We fought for this system to educate us just enough to be workers. So when we say we want education, we don’t mean we want more Obamas or Carsons. We want people’s education. We want an education that can provide us historical examples and scientific formulas for revolution. But we can’t rely on this system to teach this to us. Even the most “Marxist” professor will not give this to you. They’ll always leave out key components of this formula. They will dangle liberation on a stick in front of the working class and their petty bourgeois allies while benefiting from and participating directly in reproducing the system they condemn. Educating the people is up to us. This means our method of education will look radically different from bourgeois education—from what we teach, to the way we teach. Our only tests are in the form of practice and application of the things we learn. This education can be as informal as a conversation on the bus or as formal as a study group. But no matter how it is done, it should always proceed with the mass line as its vehicle.
When understanding addiction and addictive behaviors, we have to understand the psychological reproduction of addictive thinking in an individual.
Addiction can span beyond the use of substances. There is food addiction, adrenaline addiction, co-dependency AKA addiction to an unhealthy relationship with another person, etc., etc. Some people may assume that the root of addiction lies within one’s dependency on a substance or feeling. While this plays a major part in keeping one addicted, this is not the primary root or cause of addiction; in fact, addiction is a way of thinking that informs one’s actions and thereby actually reproduces itself in one’s thinking.
Why is this important to communists?
Of course there are the obvious reasons for communists to want to understand addiction in order to be able to fight it in ourselves, our comrades, and in the masses who have been affected by or are under the spell of addiction.
However the bigger benefit to communists in understanding addiction lies within grasping the truth of its primary cause: the effect it has on one’s thinking and how this pattern of thinking informs one’s action (practice). This is important to us because this is something that we hope to address when we utilize criticism and self-criticism. The goal is to, much like addicts fighting an addiction, break the patterns of thinking that keep us sick or hold us back from becoming better communists. Through the application of dialectical materialism we can understand addictive thinking and behavioral patterns better in order to break and fight them.
Addiction and incontinence
Aristotle distinguishes between 4 types of human actions: virtuous action, continent action, incontinent action, and vicious action.
Virtuous action is when a person both rationally approves of what is good and desires what is good, and therefore does what is good. Continent action is when a person rationally approves of what is good, desires what is bad, yet following reason does what is good. Incontinent action is when a person rationally approves of what is good, desires what is bad, but follows desire and appetites and does what is bad. Vicious action is when a person rationally approves of what is bad (i.e., perceives it as good) desires bad, and therefore does what is bad.
Although that analysis relies on a vague and individualized morality, there is a lot of truth within it, especially as it pertains to addicts. We all have a set of principles, personal morals, or ethics that inform our decision-making every day. Taking Aristotle’s examples of those types of actions helps us understand what type of thinking an addict has at any given point in their addiction. The main difference between vicious action and the other three types of actions is the lack of the internal contradiction between virtue and indulgence. The vicious action has been rationalized so thoroughly that there is no objection in one’s mind between actions and thinking. This does not make a vicious pattern of behavior incapable of being corrected, but the likeliness of the individual becoming conscious of their errors by themselves is slim. Vicious actions have a better chance of being rectified through continued criticism from another individual or the collective. While many addictive behaviors can fall in any one of those action patterns, the addict is most conscious of their addiction when they are in the stage of incontinent action. Here the contradiction is the sharpest. There is the contradictory battle of virtue versus indulgence. With incontinent action, indulgence wins the struggle between the two and actions are made to indulge one’s desire. This is evident in addicts who vow over and over again they will quit, or even actually quit only to fall back into their old behavior.
So how does this relate to criticism and self-criticism?
We all must strive to be better communists in order to serve revolution, the party, and the people. Understanding that we all have been born under bourgeois hegemony that outfits the superstructure and produces and reproduces itself in our own thinking, we must seek to consciously change our thinking to that of a Marxist. Self-criticism serves as our weapon against this pattern of thinking, first by making us aware of it, and second, by forcing us to combat it. As with addiction, this initial stage of self-criticism where we are made aware of our errors in thinking is the incontinent stage. At this point we are aware of our error and the nature of our contradiction. Of course, if we are to understand dialectical materialism in its in entirety—as you cannot understand it any other way seeing as how that is the very essence of it—we understand that there are many different internal contradictions that arise when we are made aware of errors in our thinking. But suffice it to say that the primary contradiction lies between our theory and our practice—that is, our revolutionary theory versus our bourgeois thinking that has informed our actions. This is what Aristotle defined as the tension between virtue and indulgence. In this case, virtue is our revolutionary objective and indulgence is our bourgeois thinking. At this incontinent stage, our goal is to move forward in our rectification campaign to continent action. Continent action is when we are made aware of our indulgent desires and actually make decisions that deprive that desire. To feed our indulgent desire is to give it more power and a greater influence in our thinking and actions. When we deprive it, we watch it slowly dwindle away into nothingness, leading us to our next stage in correcting that error, which is virtuous actions. Now of course we know that nothing is permanent and we are subject to slip back into our old ways of thinking if we aren’t ever vigilant and don’t combat every small instance of the reemergence of our old thinking in order to avoid all of the small quantitative changes that evolve into a massive break with our progress or a complete return to old thinking. In the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, this was understood as “combating your inner bourgeois self.”
AA, NA, dialectical materialism in action, and group therapy
As previously mentioned, we communists understand that a relapse into old thinking is the result of small, quantitative reemergence of old thinking that has gone unchecked. AA and NA also take this understanding and apply it to their program. In the “How lt Works” literature of NA, it is stated in reference to correcting addictive behaviors, “This sounds like a big order, and we can’t do it all at once. We didn’t become addicted in one day, so remember—easy does it.” This is an example of the dialectical process of accumulative change being practically understood and applied to changing one’s addictive behavior and thinking. This is the reasoning given by NA and AA to encourage members to “keep coming back” in order to make sure that addicts are constantly making an effort to fight addictive thoughts and behaviors as they arrive.
These 12-step programs also heavily rely on their own model of group therapy. In these programs it is customary for addicts/alcoholics to “share” with the group about things they have been going through and instances of them finding themselves slipping into old patterns or even instances of having noticed small progress in breaking with addictive thinking. The group therapy of these 12-step programs allows members to identify where they have noticed a slip in their progress in recovering from addiction and then refer to the 12 steps to find a practical method of correction. They also offer a support group of folks who are working toward a common goal through similar means—to fight addiction using the program. In these “shares” they are able to vocalize their deepest, innermost struggles with the understanding that they are not alone in this struggle and that others have or have had similar problems and have familiarity with using the 12 steps to combat these arising issues. This is an example of the success of group therapy and how it unknowingly utilizes dialectical materialism to offer real solutions to breaking thinking patterns of folks who are at the incontinent action stage in their lives. The goal of these addicts is to make it to a point where they no longer indulge these undesired behaviors and get to a point of continent action and eventually virtuous action. This brings us to the next point, contradictory/continent action.
In recovery programs such as AA, NA, CA, and FA, there is a lot of talk about contradictory action and how it can change one’s way of thinking. Continent and contradictory actions are interchangeable as it pertains to this subject. Contradictory action means that the addict is consciously taking actions to contradict their indulgent desires, for example by choosing to go to sober spaces where they haven’t tended to go instead of going to spaces where substance abuse or alcohol consumption are going on. By choosing to take a radically different course of action, the addict is consciously taking actions to deprive the once-dominant patterns of thinking that were psychologically set in motion by repetitive indulgent actions. Though the facts of a material situation may stay the same, our consciousness is subject to change as we approach situations from different angles. With repetitive contradictory action, the addict has physically outmaneuvered their previous pattern of thinking. Decisions that had once been second nature become more and more alien to them, and as they continue on this new pattern the thinking that had been the impetus for these behaviors starts to wane. At this point in their struggle, the nature of their desires starts to change, as they familiarize themselves with a new set of actions that do not come into contradiction with their virtuous desires. Eventually, they find themselves taking actions that are in accordance with their desire without much internal conflict. This explains how a radical change in thought can occur through changing one’s physical actions. On the surface this can seem to be metaphysical, but with a serious understanding of the material aspect of dialectical materialism, we understand how this is an actual material solution for a seemingly metaphysical problem. Often, once the addict comes to the realization that they are an addict, there arises the contradiction of wanting to break with their current thought process while not having developed a new thought process to replace it. Our consciousness is determined by our material conditions. Using this understanding, we can see how changing your material conditions—that is, by breaking with old behaviors and trading unhealthy environments for healthy ones—can lead to a change in one’s thought. This is how contradictory action can work as a vessel for thought reconstruction or thought reform.
Understanding how our thinking informs our practice and vice versa, we can come to the conclusion that criticism and self-criticism are absolutely essential for our growth as communists when combating our inner bourgeois selves. Applying dialectical materialism to Aristotle’s analysis of the 4 types of actions, we can see how and why self-criticism is such a powerful tool. We can look at it as somewhat of a formula:
First, we become aware of our errors. This is the initial self-criticism stage. This can also come in the form of a criticism from another individual or by writing repeated confessions.
Second, we identify the contradiction in our error. We understand which thoughts are virtuous and which are indulgent—that is, our communist principles versus our habitual bourgeois behavior, thinking, and practice.
Third, we identify the pattern of our error in thinking and where it manifests in our actions.
Fourth, we take contradictory action to fight the stagnation and indulgence, thus raising our consciousness even further and bringing us closer to our virtue, in our case our ideology and communist principles.
Fifth, we remain ever vigilant of moments when these thoughts and behavior start to reemerge and repeat step 4.
Capitalism and capitalist ideology promote self-indulgence at the disservice of us and the people, while revolutionary China was able to offer steps to true liberation through the eradication of these inner bourgeois thoughts. Thought reform including criticism and self-criticism was the preferred method for turning around both addicts and reactionaries. This process, we would argue, is necessary for the vast majority of communists who operate in the centers of imperialism, cleaning our brains of the bourgeois inner self and other destructive forces that come into contradiction with our revolutionary project.
For the past year and a half we have been in contact with and struggling with the Liaison Committee for a New Communist Party. We have been trying to build strong, comradely relationships with them, as we understand the necessity of uniting with all who can be united with and of building the Maoist party. We have reached the unanimous decision that we do not wish to continue this process. We can no longer stand as supporters of the project and have no desire to unite with them in any foreseeable future. We do not seek integration or the continuation of communication or relationships of any sort. This document outlines the reasons why and how we came to those conclusions.
Red Guards Austin has since its inception remained an autonomous formation accountable to no one but the masses. We have no outside leadership and are not subject to the so-called “democratic centralism” of the NCP-LC. It was our hope that through good faith and mutual support/struggle we could unite together as comrades in the interests of building the party. This vision was not shared among the leaders of the LC in New York City, who viewed the process as our “integration” into their preexisting outfit. For the reasons laid out in this statement, all efforts of uniting together have been futile. We feel that it has become useless saying the right things to the wrong people. Simply put, we are sick of banging our heads against their stubbornness in an effort to help the organization in NYC rectify. Let us also be clear that this is not leveled against every rank-and-file member. We have hopes for them as comrades—that they will get out of the mire that is the LC in due time, by breaking with bad leadership and refusing to follow bad directives. This polemic is directed primarily at the LC’s leadership and their clique that rules as an ‘independent kingdom,’ passing orders down from on high. It is through close and direct work with the NCP-LC that we have reached the following conclusions.
We had reached the decision to be abandon attempts to unify with their party-building effort months ago but continued to give the issue some time to let it clarify and allow whatever struggles might occur to take place in hopes that the LC in NYC could make at least some minor rectifications or a show of some effort that would allow us to continue some relationship between our organizations. This never materialized. We did not come to this decision easily, as we feel the need and desire for Maoist unity within the United States. As desirable as Maoist unity might be, we can no longer be idealists about it, nor will we ignore what we consider serious errors. While this is not a split, due to the fact that we were never part of the LC, we take the matter seriously nonetheless and we feel a loss. There are good comrades within the LC who hold correct lines and we do not wish to give up on those comrades or abandon them on a sinking ship. However this ship was one we could not and will not board. As outsiders whose support was often taken for granted, we are aware that it is not within our scope to join the LC just to back up those comrades who hold correct lines within it. We instead offer them support as non-members. We hope that their line wins but are realistic that it is highly unlikely due to the undemocratic control coming from the NYC branch.
We wish to self-criticize for our hesitation. While we wanted to give them as many chances as possible, we clearly should much sooner have issued polemics and public criticism of what we identify as major errors and an outright dishonest presentation. For too long we sought to handle matters privately between RGA and the LC, in branch meetings, which we were at the time attending in an effort to “build unity.” We were hopeful that we could exert some positive influence on them, which it seems we have failed to do. Any changes in the NYC branch are minor to nonexistent and at this time insufficient to justify continued support from RGA. We apologize to all for the tardiness of this statement and hope that the matter will be put to light in plain view of the masses as well as of supporters.
Independent kingdoms, cliquishness, and building the party wrong
The party-building efforts of the LC have major defects, each error compounding and reproducing the other. This problem is universal within the organization and is allowed to persist due to wrong methods and poor structure. They recruit individuals instead of collectives, while allowing collectives to continue existing in NYC and LA, giving them a material advantage over individual LC members elsewhere, who have no collectives to hold them accountable or to back up their line struggles. The LC does no service to party-building with this method of recruiting only individuals who have no power to change the existing collective branches. This has—in our analysis—diminished any chance of party-building the LC once offered. We hold that all efforts should be centered on mass organizations guided by revolutionary collectives (cadre organizations held to higher standards of conduct and guided by communist principles). These collectives should be part of the greater party-building organization. It is our position that the LC’s structure serves to insulate NYC, and only by extension LA, as independent kingdoms. These independent kingdoms can muster far more influence and pass policies that were never struggled out within the LC as a whole, let alone voted into being. To negate two-line struggle, rather than to promote it, is to turn one’s back on Maoism entirely and sink into revisionist thinking and practice.
Because of the poor construction of the LC, we focus our criticisms primarily on the NYC branch and secondarily on the LA branch, as the other “branches” from our understanding have only one official member each, and we largely support the work of these individuals. These individuals located in both Philadelphia and Kansas City have not had their mass work tainted with the bad gender practice that grows like weeds among the NYC branch.
Gender practice and the mishandling of offenders
Over a year and half ago when we first began communicating with the LC in a small and infrequent capacity, we were approached with rumors about bad gender practice on the part of the LC’s NYC branch. These rumors, however, were seldom substantiated and most often came in the form of “I heard this from someone who heard from someone in NY.” In cases where warnings could be corroborated, we naively thought those who warned us were just engaging in sectarianism.
These allegations were usually centered on the handling of a patriarchal abuser who used to be in the LC. We know well how rumors and gossip can serve only the enemy, while truth alone can serve the people. So we proceeded in good faith and did our best to investigate the situation by making sure to ask LC comrades directly to clarify some rumors or allegations. At a few points in time we were slandered due to our support for the LC, though we were never in the organization. The questioning on our part received only partial or conflicting answers. Nothing added up, and it became difficult to tell what was the truth and what was half-truth twisted and used opportunistically. Due to the conflicting positions and recollections of those within the LC as well as from other comrades, all we could do was be patient.
Our first struggle once we became in communication with the LC was to push them to issue a public statement so the alleged opportunism could be put to rest and at the very least would not make us seem unprincipled for seeking to work with them. The statement was issued eventually after a lot of foot-dragging. When it was released, it was insufficient and glossed over the matter, because it refused to name the offender and failed to explain how they were going to isolate him—reproducing the liberalism that they sought to self-criticize for. According to Mao, one type of liberalism is “to touch on the matter lightly instead of going into it thoroughly, so as to keep on good terms.” We felt that in spite of this contradiction, it at least showed an ability to move on and start owning some errors, on this matter especially; we were painfully wrong. The process of unity is often painful. Unity must be earned, and we determined to continue trying in spite of growing reservation. The LC seemed rife with errors but we did not see them as insurmountable and had hopes that through criticism and proving ourselves we could help them improve in some areas. We were overconfident and carried this on for too long, thinking in terms of ‘a few bad apples.’ It is from our attempts at struggle with the NYC branch that we have learned better.
Since before there was an LC, there were issues with one member of their precursor organization, the New Communist Party Organizing Committee (NCP-OC), who went on to be a founding member of the Liaison Committee—Freddy Bastone. We knew of several smaller allegations against Freddy but were not aware of the depth of his predatory actions and transgressions. We were largely kept in the dark on the matter, which was hesitantly discussed at most. When we began to suspect that some of the rumors were in fact closer to the truth than the official explanations we received, we stalled on integration but continued supporting the mass work that LC members and affiliates were engaged in, uniting where we could on the issues we could support. Upon one of our confrontations we were finally informed that Freddy was no longer a member of the LC and that he had been kicked out due to refusal to rectify for “patriarchal behavior,” a description we understand now to be a downplaying of the transgressions, attempting to portray them as nothing more than machismo and oppressive language. We see this as a rightist error. Presenting an antagonist contradiction as a non-antagonistic contradiction allowed these NYC LC members to treat enemies as friends.
We were disturbed that we had to wait so long to get any explanation on the matter and that no public statement had been issued, even though Freddy was commonly associated with the LC and was (and still is) active in online spaces in which LC members have control, even supporting arguments and being supported by LC cadres in NYC. Freddy would post from fake accounts (London Faust), which LC cadres in NYC were aware of. When one of our women members called this account out for dismissive gaslighting, cadres in the NYC LC sided with Freddy. He would commonly post on their walls, and photos would emerge of him hanging out or having drinks with LC members. They had failed on all accounts to hold him accountable or rectify his errors but continued what appeared to us to be friendly relations and allowed him to remain in their social circles.
When we pressed the issue of dishonesty and called it liberalism, we were told by two different NYC LC members that they did not work with him politically but that they had been friends a long time, that they were not ready to completely give up on him, and that rectification could not happen “overnight” (we now see this as both harboring and liberalism). Our concerns were ultimately framed as ultra-leftism, and we considered this to be possibly true and trusted the comrades on the ground who could survey the situation better than we could. It seemed neither we nor they were willing to give up on folks easily.
Matters with Freddy escalated and got worse, as we predicted they would. We have been fed drastically different and conflicting stories on the matter and so we cannot claim to lay out a full picture here. We will do our best to present the facts as we have come to understand them. Long after we had been told that some of them had personal friendships with him (they even invited him into online conversations, which prompted our members to leave those conversations), they reversed the “friendship” position in an act of opportunism, saying that they were not friends but were “keeping an eye on him.” This farce was developing into what we consider complacency in rape culture.
Only recently has the severity of Freddy’s abuse come to light. The fact is, Freddy has assaulted more than one person and in fact there are multiple survivors of his attacks that we know of, though in the interest of respecting their wishes we will not mention them nor describe the incidents. The worst part is that some of these sexual and non-sexual assaults occurred after Freddy had been kicked out of the LC!
The last time the NCP-LC had to defend their unwillingness to improve their gender practice, they had this to say about their precursor organization the NCP-OC’s expulsion of offenders:
These expulsions show an unwillingness to adopt a perspective of collective responsibility around patriarchal behavior and the line struggle for the supremacy of proletarian feminist line over more traditional approaches to patriarchy. They were also accompanied with the spreading of rumors, rather than direct political denunciations of those involved that would subject them to a process of accountability by the political spaces they occupy. The fake clandestinity pursued by the NCP(OC), one that is central to the reasons for the NCP(LC) to split, leads paradoxically for them to depend on innuendo and rumor-mongering when dealing with these matters. While certainly one should always have a respect for confidential processes, these more often than not result in a lack of accountability that is utilized in patriarchal ways.
Here they take the position that offenders and potential security risks should be reformed, and we agree in theory. The problem is that the LC lacks both the willingness and the ability to reform said offenders (contrary to their idealism and overestimation of themselves), proven by the fact that Freddy Bastone has accrued more survivors since they attempted to “rectify” him. We have seen absolutely no self-criticism for their failure to provide “collective responsibility.” In fact they have not even discussed this festering wound and instead just masked its stench. We do not fully unite with the self-criticism or the polemics issued by the former NCP-OC against the LC, but we can say that the allegations made on drunkenness and bad gender practice have in time proven true and even worse than the original allegations.
Let us be very clear: at the current stage of struggle the Maoist movement in the United States lacks the ability to reform sexual predators and patriarchal abusers. It is our responsibility to do what we can, exposing and isolating them. Any posturing that we could exceed our own realistic ability puts women comrades in extreme danger, as indicated by the mishandling of Freddy. Ideology must be utilized to transform, and before the LC tries to reform these serious offenders they need to clean house and be transformed themselves by principle and stop calling abusers “comrade.”
Failure to isolate predators leaves them free to target comrades. It leaves them access to social venues where they still hold social status, which gives them an opportunity to continue their abuse. Though it has been pointed out that members of the LC have taken steps to protect the survivors of Freddy’s abuse, our primary criticism of the matter falls on their inability to isolate him and thereby prevent the accumulation of survivors of one individual’s abuse after others had come forward to shed light on his abusive attacks. He was not held thoroughly accountable, and there was no community awareness that was raised to protect other comrades from him or even to give them fair warning. We hold the leaders and decision-makers in the LC accountable for this. Freddy is in fact a serial abuser of women, whom he preys on through political activism. The internal “disciplining” or silent “expulsion” of serial offenders puts the community at large at risk, a reality that the NYC LC branch has to face every day.
Comrades who were “childhood friends” with Freddy should have been able to see his macho and arrogant behavior, abusive language, threats he may have made, and so on as warning signs. However, hypermasculinity is endemic in the LC-NYC founding branch, and they have yet to deal with this fact. Inability to look more deeply into the lives of individuals with alarming behavior creates serious security risks and opens a door to infiltration, as proven by the case of Brandon Darby and his general misogynist conduct before he turned into a state informant and provocateur. Studying the case of Darby has influenced us to handle predators and abusers who emerge in our circles more seriously. Steven Walters no longer shows his face, and we encourage the left to use a similar method of mass struggle to isolate offenders: make them known to the public and seek mass participation in the campaign against them. This includes holding folks accountable who still continue to have friendly relations with these people.
One of the most recent tales we have been told when our struggle became most exacerbated is evidence not only of rape culture but also of a revisionist tendency among LC leadership. We were informed that publicly going against Freddy would not only put women survivors at risk of Freddy retaliating but could also result in the loss of their chairman’s job: “it’s the men too who are at risk.”
This line of reasoning suggests two big errors. The first is believing that if a perpetrator has significant social status and clout it is not wise to hold him accountable to the people, that it is too dangerous for them personally to go against him in the interests of women in general, whom this serial predator targets. The second is specific to those claiming to be Maoists: they are placing material incentives and union status for one member above their politics. This is revisionism of the Deng Xiaoping variety and a despicable, indefensible move to put job security ahead of politics. Maoists must have the courage to destroy all monsters and hold these predators accountable. They must at all times put the interests of the people before their own financial self-interests. We must never be controlled by fear of prison or death, and we cannot put our own jobs before our political principles. We have serious issues with this line of reasoning and with the excuse that we were offered up. Even with those issues we do not feel that this is the truth or at least not the whole truth on the matter. We believe that the truth has been withheld or, more likely, that we have been lied to.
Speculation as to why LC men remain friends with Freddy on Facebook and will make no decisive moves against him will do us no good. The fact remains that we cannot unite with liars, opportunists, and those who sweep sexual assault under the rug by quietly kicking out offenders, refusing to name them and/or continuing association with them. This appears to us to be a break in name only at this point.
The mishandling of the Freddy Bastone fiasco is their most serious error in gender practice, but it is also just the end result of various bad gender practices quantitatively accumulating into crisis. Bad gender practice, though manifested in crisis in NYC, is not exclusive to that branch but was seen in RGLA as well (the only other “branch” with more than one member at the last meeting we sat in on in an effort to build unity).
Three of our members went out to LA, two of whom spent more than three months living with and working alongside Red Guards Los Angeles (NCP-LC). We built strong bonds with the members of this collective and are grateful for their hospitality and the opportunity to have worked with them. We have a much deeper understanding of this branch and much more hope for their ability to rectify. We began noticing male chauvinist attitudes among several members, which we call patriarchal thinking. We found this gender disparity unacceptable and saw that it was connected to bad gender practice among certain members, who persist in what we can only refer to as ‘brocialism,’ ‘mactivism,’ and a sort of hazing of a new member who was still being vetted. RGLA behaved at times like a boys’ club, and this behavior is reproduced due to the lack of women leadership and it in turn creates obstacles to women joining the group. We gave our criticisms more than 6 months ago and repeated them throughout our time there. Only recently, policy has been made and members have started trying to hold each another accountable for their patriarchal behavior, an effort that is too recent to see the results.
One example of bad gender practice is RGLA cadres engaging in talk casually about how attractive women activists and comrades they meet are as well casual discussion on who they want to sleep with. This has reached a point where we have witnessed some of RGLA joking about ‘claiming’ women they have met through activism: “She’s mine, I saw her first!” Members of RGA witnessed firsthand and criticized this type of activity among almost half of their membership. This behavior even in jest alienates women activists, who are not struggling in this movement in order to find dates. The issue with this specifically is rooted in patriarchy via an engrained view held by society regarding women as property.
Women comrades and activists experience the abuse of mactivism all the time. By ‘mactivism,’ we mean the act of utilizing one’s activist credentials to meet romantic and/or sexual partners, usually at protests, demos, or activist spaces. These individuals, almost always men, mobilize their social status to seek personal gratification as well as to ice their targets out when things go badly (which they will, due to the ulterior motives of the men in question). These types of men are not there to serve the people—they are there to use social status and “revolutionary” bravado to advance their own sexual agendas. The prevalence of mactivism means that women comrades cannot escape the harassment of men even while struggling for their own liberation.
The lack of women membership in RGLA is caused in part by the fact that these same cadres tended to seek romantic relations with women comrades as a priority over involving them in the work of RGLA. These cadres are doing harm to the movement by using their political work and mass work for personal gratification, even if they are not fully aware of it. As struggles on gender practice have mounted they have informed us that measures are being taken to correct this. Serious effort has been made on their part to rectify these and other issues and we have confidence that they are both identifying and addressing their errors.
RGLA has existed for well over a year. The fact that they could not maintain women cadre, let alone develop women leadership, has set them back greatly. All communists must seek to learn from women, who constitute half of the masses.
RGA members pressed RGLA on this, and our initial criticism was on their gender disparity. We pushed for a rectification campaign and a cessation of all brocialism and mactivism. The lack of women causes a certain level of ‘boys will be boys’ thinking and manifests in what we called a locker-room mentality. Our criticisms were taken and a rectification campaign is underway. We believe that time and effort must result in notable improvement and that this rectification must be made their highest priority.
Bad gender practice affects women, non-men, and agender people in a way that can easily become antagonistic. Men like Freddy Bastone can go unchecked and emerge from such poor practice, one error feeding another while communist proletarian feminist principles are rejected in practice but broadcast loudly in words. This is dangerously misleading to the people who enter such organizations, who hear one thing but experience another. Education on the matter and on proletarian feminism in general was unacceptably low among RGLA, who have since taken up the task of correcting this theoretical deficiency.
Bad gender practice can negatively affect male comrades as well, in the form of promoting disunity, competition, and resentment but also in the form of hazing, bullying, and abuse, all of which we saw within RGLA. Communist organizations should not conduct themselves like fraternities, and vetting should look nothing like hazing. Comrades who engaged in this activity should self-criticize, with the understanding that this is the reason they have not seen a better rate of growth and that this behavior is not fitting of anyone, let alone revolutionary communists.
Negation of line struggle
In our experience dealing with the LC, line struggle has been carried out only as a hollow gesture. Two-line struggle is the core of Maoist organizational development, and to neglect this or substitute it is to cease to be Maoist. Without having a complete picture, let alone honesty in communication, line struggle becomes impossible. Democratic centralism means that decisions should be struggled out, that ample time must be given to discussion, and that line struggle should take place between left and right as many times as possible. We hold that through poor communication and dishonesty, line struggle was negated, forcing the domination of a right-opportunist line in discussions of gender practice, emanating from the situation in NYC.
The LC has failed to prioritize line struggle between our organizations or internally. This has doomed the project to being the stunted small org that it is. Without line struggle there can be no unity! Line struggle is the precondition for any collaboration. We feel that it is precisely the LC’s refusal to line struggle that has resulted in their cliquishness and right-opportunism and the hostile relationship between our orgs.
Refusal to line struggle internally has resulted in RGA being forced to struggle externally in front of the masses and all comrades who are unaffiliated in the form of polemical exchange. We demand that the LC respond in kind to this document. We are prepared to engage in fierce ideological struggle with these errors and all those who support them, for as long as it takes—forever, in fact. We will not give lip service to Cultural Revolution without ever seeking to enact those principles.
We have experienced nothing but poor to nonexistent communication from the LC’s liaison officers for the better part of our involvement with the LC. In spite of the replacement of the old officer with a new one (a decision we were not informed of at the time it was reached, which kept us reaching out to the wrong person). The damage from bad communication had already taken a toll on our ability to work with the organization.
The LC has shown a lack of unity and displayed little desire for its branches to reliably operate with each another, let alone with RGA. While the work of the LC’s new liaison officer showed a marked improvement over the previous officer’s work, we feel that new appointments in a bad structure will be unable to transform the overall project.
Important matters and decisions that affect our relationship have been hidden from us, and we came to know of them only through third-party sources.
In spite of this neglect and roguish behavior, they still present our groups as being mutually supportive, both to the public and to their supporters. The only thing we have been offered is discussions in which they hold all control, outnumber us, or can impede our ability to struggle. At best this is due to them being poorly organized, due to a lack of discipline. At worst, it is conscious maneuvering to avoid us, coerce our support, or opportunistically attach themselves to our work. Ultimately they are using our work to make themselves look good by positive association, dishonestly concealing the contradictions from supporters looking on from the outside. It was an error on our part and our liberalism toward certain supporters of the LC that led us to concede to the requests that we wait to issue a statement. The request came from outside supporters who were in better communication with the organization than we were. As a result we have withheld issuing anything to this point. We have given them notice of everything we are saying in this document and have not received any official response.
On more than one occasion the LC has treated friends like enemies. In our capacity as supporters we were often treated as inferior to their own small project. When we would err, we were socially isolated or privately denounced instead of being criticized as comrades. Both we and others have been treated as disposable parts of an all-important “party,” which is a delusional perspective on the part of the LC. This is of particular concern because we have seen women suffer this treatment for making allegations against cadre online for their bad gender practice in NYC, where critics were bombarded and slandered by friends of these men.
Refusal of criticism and inability to self-criticize
Self-criticism from NYC has been nonexistent in our dealings with them. When criticized by us they have “only accepted part of the criticism,” as if criticism were anything but a gift from one comrade to another to improve our collective work. RGA has been met with arrogance and vulgar pride from a couple of college activists who have yet to prove themselves as leaders we would ever follow, as if their student work within mass orgs could erase our own experience in proletarian class struggle. Students’ role in the revolution is not to look down on workers.
Chairman Mao encourages revolutionaries to disobey and resist directives from the top that go against the revolutionary project. We uphold this idea put forward by Mao against the Liu Shiao-chi gang of revisionists, and in that spirit we have stopped listening to the LC and refuse any directives or rules they would like to place on us. After all, we are Red Guards.
We have always had issues with LC NYC’s online conduct but recently have been criticizing them more heavily (as part of our own reformation/rectification campaign), specifically for the internet conduct of the person we believed was still the liaison officer. His online posts had recently taken a turn for the worse, becoming jaded and admittedly nihilistic, marred by consistent sexual posts that women cadres of RGA criticized as being gratuitously sexual and alienating. These posts amounted to propagating patriarchal thinking and ideas. According to Mao, “whenever [one] speaks to others, [one] is doing propaganda work.” The posts gave us concern that much deeper issues were going on with this LC member. When we reached out to leadership in NYC we were dismissively told that “that’s his personal business.” If we are to be quite blunt, such attitudes among cis-hetero men—the oversexualized posts and so on—are not only alienating to women comrades but outright indicative of more serious patriarchal thinking and behavior that go well beyond the realm of “personal business.”
As mentioned before, Freddy was allowed in online spaces where LC members had control, namely on specific LC members’ Facebook walls and posts. One instance of him entering a conversation was especially disturbing, as we were criticizing an NYC member on what we saw as a subjective patriarchal outlook. When Freddy entered the thread only to offer support to the person we were criticizing, we took serious issue with it. When we pushed for Freddy to not be allowed a platform to speak on matters of patriarchy via NYC members, one of our members was opportunistically bad-jacketed by an NYC member who has shown a continuous tendency to antagonize others on the internet. (Specifically, this person stated that if Freddy were to lash out, it would be the fault of the member of RGA for talking about the issue, in essence removing all responsibility from the abuser and deflecting it onto our cadre.)
When we criticized the LC for allowing one of their members in NYC to bad-jacket a comrade in Austin, we were again dismissed. No word was given that they would discipline this member, and they suggested that we proceed forward not with a disciplinary hearing but instead with a general discussion that that member “didn’t have to be there for.” We have no faith in an organization that allows their members to alienate a whole collective, that allows this same member to go unchecked, making antagonistic comments and leaving a bad taste in the mouths of many they come into contact with.
To make matters worse, the contradiction between these two cadre was treated as nothing but interpersonal disagreement and was framed as the primary reason for RGA’s grievances, which is not the case. We have made clear the danger of this person’s actions in a thorough document, supported with evidence, which we submitted to the LC, and this document has not received a response. The primary disagreement we have with the LC is not the online bad-jacketing conduct of this member. Our primary issue is with the overall bad gender practice and the disgraceful handling of serious offender(s) by the LC in NYC.
When criticized, members of the LC tend to reverse and deflect the criticism, claiming they are just misunderstood or that we “have no sense of humor.” We can only address this by saying that whatever their intentions, intentions are secondary to the consequences of actions. It is not up to those being criticized to pick and choose which criticisms they will accept! Theirs is not the MLM method of criticism and self-criticism; it is not the prerogative of those being criticized to cherry-pick from their errors which ones they will address and which they will evade. Even now we do not make any criticism a witch hunt, nor have we ever (which is why we have left individuals’ names out of this document entirely). We still wish to see them cured of their bad practice, in service to the people and the revolutionary cause. Since we have passed the point of internal discussion, we present it to all so that they will be encouraged to make public their errors and grievances alike.
On the refusal to criticize RGA
We have continuously requested detailed criticisms of our work, a request that to this day goes unanswered. Are we to believe that RGA has made no errors? That is impossible due to the truth of Marxist philosophy, dialectical materialism. We like all comrades and collectives make errors, and a failure to provide us with criticisms, when requested, is further neglect of their duties as a liaison committee. That failure shows a lack of comradely relations on their part. We are still waiting! In our entire year-plus of seeking to build unity we have not received any formal criticism of our work from them, be it internally or externally—more liberalism that is enshrined in the practice of the LC.
The inability to take and make thoroughgoing criticism/self-criticism is rooted in liberalism and a petty-bourgeois aversion to discipline; it undermines all sound communist practice and allows things to fester out of control, forces splits, and turns all relationships into quarrels and disputes—into what can only appear to the people as sectarian infighting and bickering instead of a conscious effort to improve. One must divide into two when opposites contend in the form of left and right two-line struggles. We hold that they are the ones representing a rightist line.
Perhaps they are only waiting to directly or publicly criticize us after the fact, when they can no longer hide behind our support? From the start RGA has regularly and publicly invited criticism from the people as well as from the left, and we have self-criticized publicly for our numerous errors.
We believe that the lessons of the Cultural Revolution are universal—that unless we are actively strengthening revolutionary ideology within ourselves and our organizations, then we are actively succumbing to the liberal, bourgeois mindset that confronts us from every direction, a mindset referred to as bourgeois inner self. There is only one way to strengthen proletarian communist principles in this way and defeat internal revisionism and liberalism: all-around, frequent, deep-going criticism/self-criticism combined with collective struggle.
If we want to stand a chance of overturning capitalism-imperialism in the belly of the beast, we must become revolutionaries who live and breathe a revolutionary culture. We must be, as Mao urged us to be, modest and prudent, and guarded against arrogance and rashness.
When the masses look at us, it is absolutely essential that we set striking examples as committed, principled people whose very way of existing in the world shows the bankruptcy of bourgeois society—by living in stark contrast to the narrow self-interest derived from capitalism. We must be people whose very way of existing in the world shows that another world is possible, because it is right in front of them, living and breathing and walking on this earth today. Only then will the masses trust us to be, as Lenin described, the tribune of the people. Only then will the masses believe we are sincere and dedicated enough to be worth teaching and trusting with their ideas and demands, and only when we take this attitude will we truly be able to learn from them.
We must actively rely on the example set by the people’s liberation army guided by Comrade Mao, which was a shining example of what it means to be realized servants of the people.
At times when we have criticized the conduct of members of the LC, we have heard from them that these criticisms were not worth considering because they concerned a personal matter, not a political one. When we have made this type of criticism, we have been called cultists, and obsessed with ideological purity. We insist that it is a virtue, not an error, to strive to make ourselves and our movement a just and thoroughgoingly communist one. We must seek the eradication of our own egotistical, selfish bourgeois thoughts as much as possible. We believe that a committed communist cannot see themselves as divided between a private persona and a political persona—to the contrary, everything within a committed communist’s life and mind must be subordinated to the goal of achieving communism. We do not demand and can never expect constantly flawless behavior from anyone at all, but nor can we accept any excuses for failing to pursue self-rectification of any and all errors as vigorously as possible. Nothing at all should stand in the way of our attempts to constantly remake ourselves as better servants of the people through criticism/self-criticism. This task cannot be understated or neglected. We do not clock out from being communists, and our principles must always be evident. We must also assist all genuine comrades in the task of becoming communists in the true sense. This is politics in command of all things, including our “personal lives.” While this would be an unrealistic order to expect the masses in a capitalist society to fill, we expect nothing less from those cadres who consider themselves revolutionary communists.
As Chairman Mao has expressed in his moving tribute to Comrade Norman Bethune, “We must learn the spirit of absolute selflessness. . . . With this spirit everyone can be very useful to the people. A [person’s] ability may be great or small, but if [they have] this spirit, [they are] already noble-minded and pure, a [person] of moral integrity and above vulgar interests, a [person] who is of value to the people.” Communists without exception must seek to embody such character, for we have the most ambitious project at our feet, the full transformation of all people and the achievement of an equal society. We seek the creation of new human beings.
Political education and bad leadership
Ideological consolidation is an ongoing process; due to the lack of internal line struggle within the LC, they remain sadly stunted on this front. Ideological development is uneven, and wide disparities exist. Maoism is so powerful because of its ability to be grasped by the masses. It places political development above productive forces. The spread of philosophy among the people is the crown jewel in the history of our ideology. There is little excuse for the disparity and uneven development among the LC. While some have a deep grasp and high level of theoretical development, other comrades are neglected. Political education is not taken seriously enough between the branches or within each collective branch. It is left to the work of individuals to advance their theory on their own, which is the bourgeois method of learning, the opposite of the Maoist method.
The branch leader in NYC is the worst of the lot, and from our experience in the past year he seems to be unaware of the internal issues within the LC and of how quickly relations between the LC and RGA had deteriorated. He is on the capitalist road, by holding the position that it is acceptable to fail to hold offenders like Freddy Bastone accountable if their positions of power mean potentially compromising material concerns and positions at a cadre member’s place of employment (according to the excuse we were given). Ultimately it is the dishonesty, lack of principle, distrust, and outright lies that have destroyed the ability to unite and cemented our decision to discontinue relations.
In all things, Maoists must consider the masses as central. While we are saddened by the loss or potential loss, and though the process of struggle is painful, we take great comfort in the truth—that it is through the masses that we will build the revolutionary party and that the preexisting leftist formations are inconsequential comparatively. The small group of leftists that constitute the LC is less important than seeking the support and participation of the masses. We will continue in that effort and break all the relations with those who would hold us back or corrupt our efforts. In the case of revisionism from the top down in such a small organization, that type of corruption spreads quickly and is not worth our continued participation. We know that we have supporters within the spheres of influence of the LC, who in all likelihood have also had important facts concealed from them. This reality means one thing: line struggle will continue to erupt until either the revolutionary line or its opposite wins out.
Trajectory of the party-building effort
All of the criticisms made in this document have been presented to the LC. How different branches have chosen to act upon them is wildly uneven. While we hold that the errors presented in this document are concerning and we stand by the criticism put forward against LA, we must also state that these criticisms have been taken by LA and they have self-criticized on some points and have taken the first steps toward rectification of these errors. It is still our position that the roots of the errors within the LC stem primarily from the NYC branch and that NYC’s errors reproduce bad practice and harmful thinking among all branches. We regard RGLA as comrades even though we are not—nor will we ever be—part of the LC’s party-building effort. We see improvement and would like to state that they are taking this matter very seriously. We do not expect an instant fix, but we have enough faith in them to say that they can rectify all major errors as they go forward. We hold the position that poor leadership from the NYC clique has had a negative effect on RGLA. We feel that if they continue accepting the bad leadership from the NYC clique, no good will come of their efforts. We hold affection and respect for the efforts they have put forward to genuinely change, and this document is intended to encourage the furthering of their efforts.
We cannot speculate as to whether or not our criticisms of the NYC branch are shared among other LC organizations outside of NYC. We have faith in comrades to investigate and reach their own conclusions on the matter, and through the publication of this document we hope to see line struggles erupt. In our analysis it would be criminal to remain silent and revisionist in order to adhere to some metaphysical loyalty to a small pre-party formation such as the LC. We hold that these errors are deep-rooted in the project started by LC founders in NYC. The LC must dissolve (as we know it now) in order for the Maoist movement in the United States to avoid the snares and pitfalls of the LC and to struggle for principled unification in the future.
It must also be addressed that the NYC “leaders” kept RGLA in the dark on much of the Freddy situation for a long time after RGLA had integrated into the LC. We therefore do not blame RGLA for what they did not know—we will hold them accountable for what they do with the knowledge they now possess. While certain excuses have been revealed in time to be lies, we still have not gotten an acceptable explanation. Suffice it to say that an organization that cannot stand up to and isolate Freddy Bastone is not one we would ever sit with again. They would crumble under the least amount of repression from the state. The LC clique in NYC has no teeth and it is in all respects a paper tiger, falsely presenting itself as leadership for the movement.
We invite criticism of our work from our friends, our supporters, and even those who ideologically oppose us. We encourage participation from all in the realm of ideological struggle and engagement with this document. We discourage centrist positions or placing friendship before politics. Communists should earn the title and all that comes with it—through the practice of their principles and purification of themselves via intense struggle. This document does not contend with differences in theory but with matters of practice. Correct practice guided by a correct theory is how the revolutionary party will be built, never through a peaceful series of events or continued unprincipled unity. We intend to be open and honest with answering questions or addressing concerns. We will not repeat the mistakes of the LC. This is part of a continued effort on our part to help build the party through struggle.
We encourage all who are seriously committed to the formation of revolutionary collectives who will engage the masses to reach out to us in their party-building efforts. We cannot do it alone. We know well that it will take many collectives like Red Guards to build the party, and we claim no authority but would be glad to share our experience or offer advice to those wanting to organize something similar. We hope that through collective struggle with revolutionary organizations we can all put forward a party-building organization that can fulfill the tasks that the LC has failed in. We hope that this future organization can unite all genuine Maoists in principled unity through struggle.
Whatever party-building efforts take place must be put forward only by those who possess true and developing communist principles, first of all a willingness to learn from mistakes and apply those lessons to bettering themselves and their work. In the process of seeking unity with the LC, we have faced lies from “leadership” in NYC but have seen genuine efforts from other branches. We feel that the contradictions inherent in the NYC branch, and especially their mishandling of the Freddy Bastone fiasco, indicate that their party-building project was doomed from the start, and we unite with many of the diverse criticisms that have emerged and are emerging regarding their bad gender practice. It is this birth defect, their refusal to rectify, and their deflections of criticisms aimed at them indicate the LC should be dissolved. We self-criticize for being complacent in propping up such a band of rogues that constitute an undemocratic, independent kingdom—a patriarchal boys’ club.
We encourage our comrades who have kept us moving in a revolutionary direction, both within the LC and the mass organizations where they have influence, to join in a rectification process of their own. We all must seek to save the new U.S. Maoist movement from decay. We feel that our work has generated mutual support, and we are confident in the revolutionary commitment among those affected and sometimes infected by LC backwardness. We are done with the NCP-LC in order to break with old ideas and combat bad gender practice. We invite all who will to struggle alongside us and build the party.
We must make party-building through mass work our principal task and never lose sight of that goal. To do that we must not view any party-building effort as a monolithic organization that is beyond fail. We must seek constant correction and only unite through struggle, attaining principled unity with revolutionary, proletarian feminist Maoists and fully end the boys’ club that stifles and limits the roles of our great women leaders. If we felt that the NYC branch was at all capable of accepting such criticism we would continue to struggle, as we have for over a year, to unite with them. We have become like many others before us fully convinced that this effort has failed and that we all must emerge to build the party. We can no longer be haunted by the skeletons in the closet of the LC—skeletons that they will only discuss after a collective or individual has joined, withholding information that could influence collectives and individuals not to join.
There are two roads, one that will build the party and another that will reproduce bad gender practice and give cover to abusers, manipulators, and predators. We have seen allegations arise online publicly against members of the LC’s NYC branch only to see those seeking support iced out of mass organizations and movements by these very same men the LC has surrounded with “credibility,” constructing an image that these men use to manipulate and disrespect more women. The LC in NYC will officially take only “partial” criticism and hide their errors from outside supporters. This is rape culture. This is male chauvinism and misogyny. Proletarian feminist in name only! MLM in name only! We repudiate them and ask all who have suspicions and facts to come forward and unite with this polemic. In such cases where individuals would prefer to reach out to us directly in private, we encourage them to do so.
The way forward
In order to build the party we must take seriously the need to form revolutionary collectives that can initiate and guide revolutionary mass organizations, seeking to build up revolutionary sentiment among the people. We will offer any experience or guidance we can to comrades seeking to form revolutionary collectives similar to Red Guards Austin. One way we propose to do this is through the formation of cadre schools, which we will be organizing this summer. These schools will be laid out in further statements in detail, but in short they will serve as both a means for us to learn from cadre students and a method of sharing what we have learned in our efforts and struggles to help form and become better communists. We will send instructors to help with efforts countrywide, in the formation of both RGs and STPs, which will be treated as equals in the monumental task of building the party and marching forward to a communist society.
In our proposed strategy for party-building, revolutionary collectives, each with a minimum of three members, will serve as the base units for what will replace the disorganized and backward efforts from the LC in NYC. These collectives should hope to implement democratic centralism once we have grown in many locals. Before then, we encourage autonomy with support and guidance to each other. These collectives can seek to build a genuine united front with non-Maoist revolutionary orgs and progressive mass organizations, especially in regard to national liberation struggles in New Africa and Atzlan. These collectives must seek a high level of discipline and a commitment to communist principles. We should all seek to improve daily and fear no criticism.
In our analysis of the movements and organizations that are part of the current LC structure either as members or supporters, the only way forward is to cease the project, dissolve the organization, and seek rectification independently of NYC—whose misleadership is a disservice to the people and the revolutionary project.
We desire no division among Red Guards and have faith in the comrades in LA to challenge their thinking and rectify, setting an example of how Maoist ideology can transform people and organizations. All of us have been warned of things that go on in NYC when we first began comradely relations with them, and we made the error of thinking that these warnings were only opportunism. Time has proven that they were more than that, and we sincerely self-criticize for our inability to detect the truth of the matter far sooner. In regard to the other branches, they must not let their honest and principled revolutionary work conceal a clique of men who will hide behind them in order to deflect criticism and fuel their own agenda that essentially postpones dealing with predators and uses the excuse of protecting leadership’s economic positions. We call upon revolutionaries to bombard the headquarters and throw out the capitalist roaders in key positions. Do not let our colors change, lest we become our opposite.
We proceed modestly in hopes that our example is taken up and in good faith that genuine Maoists will engage in fierce line struggles that allow us to set improved standards of gender practice among the left. Together we will build the party; we will combat the chauvinism in the movement and seek better standards for communist organizations. This struggle is not over. It is just the beginning, and missteps now will topple us before our long march to victory. Marxism holds that true change develops from ruptures and crisis. This holds true for all things. Our commitment is to the people, to our friends, and to our comrades who struggle on. Long live Marxism-Leninism-Maoism!
Become revolutionary communists!
Build the party, build up the Red Guards!