Towards a New Revolutionary Organization
Which Actually Uses the Mass Line!
As those familiar with this site will likely be aware, with the exception of some very small groups such as the Single Spark Collective (2006-2008) which have recently sprung up, we view all the existing revolutionary organizations in the U.S.A. as severely wanting when it comes to any real appreciation of, let alone actual use of, the mass line. The largest and most active Maoist organization in the U.S. (though it is still quite small), the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, occasionally refers to the mass line in passing, but has never really understood what it is all about nor actually employed it. Since they believe it is some kind of “economism” or “revisionism” to join up with the masses in their day-to-day struggles regardless of your purpose in doing so (!), they rarely make the attempt even for the purpose of bringing revolutionary ideas to the masses.
The opposite error has been made by the two groups both calling themselves the Freedom Road Socialist Organization. They do try to join up with the masses in their day-to-day struggles, and where they can, attempt to lead those struggles to a successful conclusion. However, their focus seems to be almost entirely on participating in such reformist struggles, and they seem to forget that the primary reason we should seek to join up with the struggles of the masses is so that we will be in a good position to raise their revolutionary consciousness. Of course we revolutionaries should genuinely try to help the masses win their reformist struggles, but that is not the main reason for our existence as revolutionaries! Our work toward satisfying the long-term and most basic needs and interests of the masses (which requires social revolution) is even more important than our work in support of their immediate and temporary interests.
Both the RCP and the FRSOs have other major problems as well. The RCP, for example, is not organized (and does not operate) in a democratic way. Instead, they have built up a tremendous cult of personality around their top leader, Bob Avakian, who is presented as an indispensable individual, and a man who apparently has “all the answers” about how to lead a successful revolution in this country. (One wonders, in that case, why they have made no noticeable progress in that direction over the past quarter century!) Partly because they now view Avakian as the fount of all wisdom, they don’t attempt to work in a scientific manner, and don’t attempt to use the mass line to learn anything from the masses.
The FRSOs, for their part, seem to be prone to ideological instability and flakiness. One of the FRSO groups, for example, once explored the possibility of unity with a Trotskyist organization as part of its “left refoundation” scheme. The other FRSO has supported Soviet-style revisionist parties around the world.
It seems to us to be quite obvious that a new and quite different revolutionary party is needed in this country, and that serious work should be going on right now to create the pre-party organizations and groupings that will eventually lead to such a party. And in fact such efforts are getting underway. (Information about some of these efforts, and links to their web pages, will be provided below.)
There have, however, also already been some fairly limited efforts in this direction which did not pan out. Groups such as Storm, which existed in the Bay Area from 1994 until 2002, might be considered as one sort of example. But for a couple years (1998-1999) I was part of a different sort of attempt by some ex-RCP members around the country to try to get a new organization started. The reasons for the failure of this particular attempt probably include the simple fact that too many of us were still infected with RCP ways of thinking and acting! Anyway, for what they are worth, I am posting a number of my own little essays that I wrote while that effort was in progress. I am not at liberty to post here the writings of others involved, but I think their various views can be inferred from my essays.
I am not putting forward this particular feeble effort to create a new revolutionary organization as a model! Quite the opposite, it is more the story of how not to go about attempting such a thing.
Attempts to Create New Revolutionary Groups in the U.S. Which Will Use the Mass Line
One Failed Attempt by Ex-RCPers in 1998-99: These are some of Scott H.’s essays he wrote while part of this effort, which sort of brings out the general story of what happened.
“Towards a New Revolutionary Communist Organization” (8/22/98) — In retrospect, this was an overly enthusiastic prologue.
Excerpt from an unfinished document focusing on people’s interests and the scientific method applied to Marxism. (8/23/98) — An early dispute in our informal group was over the question of whether or not MLM can properly be considered to be a science. A different, finished, and already posted essay of mine, which was written around the same time, also deals with this topic: “Why Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is a Science”.
“Two Concepts of Democratic Centralism” (9/3/98) — The fear among some ex-RCPers about forming a new revolutionary communist organization seemed to arise in part because of their conception of what democratic centralism entails, a conception they developed because of their experiences in the RCP.
“Comments on A.M.’s ‘Letter to Some Friends’” (12/17/98) — My response on some topics raised by another member of the group, including which areas of Marxist theory to focus the discussion on, what the RCP’s main errors are, the weakness of the RCP’s work on political economy, the “globalization” issue and super-imperialism, and the philosophical question of universals and particulars.
“A Disconcerting Thought” (3/20/99) — Tries to gently raise the suggestion that we in the group also might have many shortcomings ourselves which were left over from our RCP experiences and indoctrination. It specifically discusses a certain incorrect method of work that characterizes the RCP—and perhaps many of its ex-members as well!
“My Summation of Our (Unnamed) MLM Discussion Group, Upon Its Demise” (4/27/99) — My views about what went wrong with the group.
“Response to A.M. & Gina” (7/11/99) — After the group collapsed, A.M. and Gina eventually responded to repeated queries from Carl to explain why they had left the group. This is my response in turn to their letters. One central focus here is the mass line and having a mass perspective (and Gina’s and A.M.’s misinterpretations of the mass line). Other topics discussed include ‘centrism’, ‘workerism’ or posturing because of a person’s class background, the demand—on the part of some people—for near total unity of ideas in an MLM group, the issue of whether MLM is a science, and Paul Sweezy’s political economy.
Other Past Efforts to Create New Revolutionary Communist Organizations:
Single Spark Collective — A small but briefly promising MLM group which existed from 2006 to 2008. It published a number of useful items about the international revolutionary movement on its web site.
Ongoing Current Efforts to Create New Revolutionary Communist Organizations:
Websites of other folks working toward the creation of a new MLM formation:
[Additional links to be added. If anyone is part of, or knows about, other current efforts along similar lines, please let us know!]
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