A response to Mass Proletariat
Criticism is a gift. It is a gift in two ways: The first way is that it offers revolutionary communists a way to confront our work, to challenge and correct ourselves if we are in error—that is, if the criticism is correct. The second way, which concerns us here, is when the criticism is overall incorrect. Offering the opportunity to respond to misconceptions, lies, or absurdity is also a gift. Politics is an act of demarcation. The criticism contained in the recent polemic issued against us by Mass Proletariat (MP) is really nothing new. We have heard so much of this before from a few individuals in revisionist organizations placed indirectly, and we are glad to have a chance to respond organizationally, since an organization (we presume they are an organization) has regurgitated these claims.
For starters, we have little understanding of what MP actually does—what their day-to-day work consists of or what kind of base-building they’ve accomplished over the past year. The shortage of statements and the lack of evidence that Maoism is even a force in Boston makes it hard for us to respond in kind to their attempts to prove we are not Maoists. Maybe they can prove to the world that they are Maoists, as the only evidence at our disposal proves only that they are bloggers who vaguely reference “mass work.” Lack of credentials aside, what they have produced is worth responding to even though our response is intended solely to prove them wrong and ourselves right.
Some of their criticisms go back to a few individuals in Portland. Others are rehashed from Austin Social(fasc)ist Collective or their network, Menshevik Center. The former deserves no official recognition, and the latter have already been addressed. It is good to receive polemics. The more we are politically attacked, the stronger our collective has become, and we are grateful for the experience offered by would-be opposition.
The first glaring bit of misinformation is that “RGA promotes antifa work under its command as the primary task.” We do not actually promote “antifa work”—we promote communist-led antifascist organizing and self-defense. We also do not consider this to be the “primary task.” Our documents since our founding have insisted that building the party is the principal task of revolutionaries. To defeat fascism long-term, the US needs the communist party, founded on and guided by Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.
MP seeks low-hanging fruit by invoking the “red anarchist” line presented by others who are also bad at investigation. We have consistently criticized the anarchist conception of “antifa” and have stressed the need for keeping class struggle as the key link and the necessity of the party as central to all antifascist activity. We have organized a more centralized response to fascism locally with a degree of military discipline. And yet they dedicate a whole section to this baseless charge of “tailing antifa.” In order to do so they must knowingly ignore all the other mass work and mass organizations developed or initiated by our organization. Had they taken the time to read our most recent statements, they would have seen how we stress that it is not enough to just confront reactionaries physically, and that we must serve the people and struggle to lead in their day-to-day struggles against slumlords, bosses, and the police.
MP’s limited and dim view has them reaching the conclusion that genuine communists can be active in a thing—in this case antifascism—without changing it. As Marxists we understand first that “antifa” is not a homogenous group; it is a movement with internal contradictions and varied ideas—advanced, intermediate, and backward—contained within it. We can see no justification for communists to oppose using the mass line method of leadership within the antifascist movement to consolidate the advanced and win over the intermediate to correct the backward. The antifascist movement looks strikingly different in Austin than it does in other places as a result of this approach. Much as with the Black Lives Matter movement, there are those with good ideas who are committed to rebelling and then there are those looking for grants, book deals, or positions in bourgeois office. But like “antifa,” BLM is not homogenous. There are contradictions and struggles which took place in that movement, and it is always up to communists to fight for our political lines in the mass movement. MP, by their own admittedly limited scope, chooses (at least according to their blog anyway) to focus only on organizing one job site. This is syndicalism, which avoids intervention in the mass movement for the sake of economism.
We see no principled reason not to carry out political and mass work among antifascists, always on the basis of struggling for unity, doing away with bad models, and improving antifascist work. To suggest that seeking principled unity with antifascists is “tailing antifa” without explaining how we are “tailing” is not a criticism—it’s nothing more than throwing shade without analysis. Since there is nothing of substance in their explicit argument, their objection to RGA’s participation in militant antifascism seems to boil down to nothing more than a position that communists should not be active in antifascist struggles. But coming out with this position directly would alienate any support they hope for, so they have to add dressing.
MP suggests that we ignore other class enemies, when in fact even the most brief examination of our work would show that RGA was born in anti-police struggles, and at no point in time have we ever stopped struggling against the police—and what is more, the police themselves struggle against us physically, and seek us by name specifically. Not only does MP systematically ignore our mass work outside of antifascism, but they ignore the state repression our mass work has earned.
We have no interest in exposing our links to open mass organizations publicly, and it would be irresponsible to do so. Their paper opportunistically relies on the contradiction between open and secret work. They are aware that we will not detail our networks publicly but know full well that we have and remain active in a diversity of mass struggles, be they to provide basic necessities, or fighting for housing, or organizing in the workplace or against the police. And none of this has taken a backseat to antifascism.
Let’s unpack their claims then.
MP writes, “To instead seek to unify people around opposition to the ‘coming fascist threat’—as RGA does—reflects the bourgeois premise that people will not be able to struggle together until they are confronted with an imminent violent threat to their existence. This is often portrayed in Hollywood productions in the form of alien invasions bringing at long last the unification of humanity.”
This notion flies in the face of the basic Maoist conception of the united front, which is formed when, due to their mutually being confronted by a greater enemy, the proletariat, peasantry, petite bourgeoisie, and national bourgeoisie enter into a temporary alliance led by the proletariat. Of course there are conditions which can unite or ally class forces who under normal conditions would not seek unity. In this process, as described by Mao, the principal contradiction between the proletariat and bourgeoisie becomes the secondary contradiction, replaced by the contradiction between the people and imperialism. Apparently MP believes that this Maoist principle is a bourgeois one and no unity can be found on the basis of a rising fascist populism. We suppose they think that Mao too must be considered a bourgeois thinker influenced by Hollywood.
The threat of fascism is something that is not in the mail: it is on our doorsteps—not in the form of the state being fascist (and we have never claimed it is) but in the form of a popular movement for fascism which must not be allowed to grow simply because the state itself has not gone fascist. We cannot speculate on conditions in Boston; however, Texas and other parts of the South are hotbeds for far-right and fascist movements. They have been known to attack book fairs, May Day celebrations, and even anarchist bookstores. Essentially MP suggests that we do nothing in the face of this material threat. Perhaps they have the disposition to allow fascists to march in the streets of Boston; however, we are not ashamed that we lack this disposition. In essence they have issued a polemic which criticizesus for attacking neo-Nazis. We stand by our politics, which are for unifying as many as we can against fascists, be they in or out of power. MP presents zero analysis of fascism, the conditions that serve it, or how it comes to power. This reveals first their ignorance and second their lack of experience with confronting fascism.
For arguing that fascism is a growing threat, they accuse us of being “fortune tellers,” yet it is they who refuse to actually engage with fascism’s global increase. They reject the very basic political economy of Marxism to go instead for what they think is low-hanging fruit. The fact is, the rate of profit has steadily been falling since the 1950s, and the intensifying global crisis of profitability explains the deepening crisis of imperialism, which corresponds to rising fascism all over the world. You do not need a crystal ball to see this—you need only to be paying attention and using Marxist political economy to analyze conditions. As historical materialists we know that things do not just appear in history; they are developed by class struggle. The rise of fascism in the 1930s did not come from nowhere; it occurred in conditions of imperialist crisis akin to our own.
Our position is not that the ruling class has already adopted a fascist form of government, but that a concrete analysis of concrete conditions proves to us that the conditions for fascism are ripe and still ripening. Imperialism is in crisis, and fascist organizations have grown and become more bold. Fascism does not arrive readymade from the sky and so we should not wait for it to come to power before we oppose it and organize against it. We must do that now, and any sober revolutionary would agree with this. Fascists use their power in the streets as a means to unify the most backward masses. The ability to accomplish this must be stripped from them, and to neglect this work is to betray the people.
Antifascism and the mass line
To better situate our position on antifascism in the context of our overall political orientation and mass work, we would like to go back a bit in recent history. In Austin, there has for at least a decade consistently been a small group of antifascists who have done good work with the numbers they had. With no disrespect to the value of this work, we must say that this group never numbered more than a few, and focused mostly on intelligence-gathering and other necessary tasks. What they lacked however was the mass line method of communist leadership.
In order to achieve numbers and consistent street victories against fascists, many more must be mobilized. Our first antifascist action was detailed in our one-year summation. At that action our collective and the other comrades mentioned did not number even a dozen, but nonetheless we disrupted a fascist and reactionary action against an abortion clinic which was attended by five times as many enemies. It is no shame to admit that we were learning by doing, and that we made mistakes. Today we commonly mobilize over a hundred antifascists whose discipline is measurably higher than what we were able to achieve back then. We did not accomplish this by writing scathing polemics, but through deliberate and patient mass work and thorough experience in the streets, correcting mistakes, and applying new tactics—rupturing with the old, conventional, anarchist/antifa model of organic and leaderless resistance. To sum it up, we accomplished this quantitative and qualitative shift through the mass line.
MP brags about “taking proletarian jobs.” Most of us have no agency in this. We do not get to consider finding a job to be anything but a necessity—because we are actually proletarians. We are of the people and we remain among the people. Our people are working-class in multinational neighborhoods. We speak to our people daily about conditions in the country and in the world, and we gather their ideas. These discussions bear fruit. We understand how our people felt at the news of Charlottesville and we know how proud they feel every time we organize a successful action which runs the fascists out of town. We have organized smaller actions as well as larger ones with 800 to 1,200 in attendance with a large core of antifascists under communist leadership. At these actions over the past year it is the masses themselves who show gratitude. Parents are overheard telling their children that the “people in red masks are the good guys.” We do not seek recognition for this work from a handful of bloggers or activists in Boston who fancy their voluntary acceptance of finding real jobs a glowing success. We do not carry out this work for recognition at all; we do it mainly out of love for our people and their need for communities that are safe from marauding racists calling for their extermination, slavery, or deportation.
Trump’s presidency has not only passed fascist policies, but mainly it has whipped fascists up into a fervor, which has more than once resulted in murder or attempted murder. There is a dual aspect to this reality, because while they are clearly spreading fascist populism, the very same policies and rhetoric have catalyzed many into action against the very same policies and rhetoric. Many have a new interest in communism, and Trump has in some ways been great for recruitment. Simply put, if any organization ignores the ideas of the masses or their interests, this organization will fail to grow, and it will not be able to survive direct fascist attack or overcome them physically. It will not be able to survive the legal repercussions or attempted murder inflicted on antifascists and Maoists in our city. We have a saying here in Austin: when you attack one of us, three more rise up. Fighting against both state and non-state reactionaries is in service to the people, and we have no interest in relenting in this fight. It is after all the police whom we have fought the most.
When we fight racists in the streets, contrary to what MP argues, it is not detached from the overall struggles of our class. We have seen in Austin how fascism coincides with and relates to gentrification with the struggles against Blue Cat Café. We have demonstrated that it is about politics: when we fought fascists earlier this month, it was not because we just don’t like them; it is because we defend the undocumented and because we want the city of Austin to remain a sanctuary city. As we mentioned in another article, on November 4 of this year, we and our comrades were elsewhere from the action because those most at risk in our communities requested we defend their public spaces. In fact the majority of our work is like this—we work patiently, building relationships in our community and among our class. This also means that when the enemy poses a threat, we hit back. Perhaps MP feels it has to make an mutually exclusive decision between patient struggles among the masses or confronting the enemy; we however can and do undertake both at the same time, because the two overlap and interrelate with one another. Only a dysfunctional or underdeveloped organization is incapable of doing two things at once.
For our part, when we are not initiating food, housing, and other service programs through our mass work, we are organizing those we serve, as well as those we serve with, to push dangerous fascists out of our city. MP misses the point in all of this. They attack us for suggesting that antifascism is first and foremost internationalism, but the truth of this statement is particularly clear when a simple look around reveals that every contemporary brand of fascism in the US embraces aggressive nationalism. While obviously not everything in history that has ever called itself antifascism has understood the necessity of internationalism being a core value, the fact that MP suggests that genuine antifascism is not also anti-imperialist, pro-people, and internationalist shows a remarkably dull perception of what we are actually about when we oppose fascism. Imperialism, hyper-nationalism, and white supremacy all go into the mix of most US fascist organizations. We attack the problem at its root instead of just looking at the branches.
In all of these things there is the important aspect of political education, recruitment, and training new Maoists. Is it really acceptable for MP to simply state without evidence that we ignore the day-to-day struggles of the masses? Are we wrong to ask them to prove it? A united front exists in Austin in embryo among an array of organizations who follow the political leadership of the Maoists. This is a modest accomplishment and we do not consider it enough. What unifies these groups around Maoist leadership is the mass line and its application in the day-to-day struggles of the masses. We will continue to build our party in all struggles we are engaged in, be they antifascist struggles or anything else.
On the conception of the masses
On the primacy of armed struggle
Without any obfuscation, we must be direct: the primary contradiction for the proletariat in an imperialist country is not the contradictions among the people, but the contradiction with the bourgeoisie. This is an antagonistic contradiction, and the primary way of solving it can only be through revolutionary violence. The section of our paper which they attack is in defense of this very basic Maoist position: political power grows from the barrel of a gun. At the very center of Maoism is the question of taking political power. The PCP stated it clearly: “What is fundamental in Maoism? Political Power is fundamental in Maoism. Political power for the proletariat, power for the dictatorship of the proletariat, powerbased on an armed force led by the Communist Party.”
MP distracts by attempting to make the central task not taking power through means of war but instead “resolving contradictions among the people,” an important task no doubt but not what must be held at the center of the political line. MP arrive at this position out of typical legal-left squeamishness when it comes to revolutionary violence. This is really nothing new.
They write that making revolution “necessarily involves holding meetings, facilitating mass debates, and producing and distributing media.” These are in fact all things we do on a day-to-day basis. Our writings as anyone can see are not only available online but are also in print—this is because they are distributed among the people locally in our communities. This fact does not negate that revolutionary violence is the highest form of expressing class struggle. While Mao states clearly that all of Marxism boils down to one slogan, “it is right to rebel,” MP would no doubt respond by shouting to the ceiling, “Not all of the time!”
In spite of their own rejection of the universality of protracted people’s war, they suggest that we are focoists, simply because we aim to learn to fight by fighting, another basic Maoist principle. We do not aim to build the party as an afterthought to small guerrilla battles, but we do intend to train our people in street combat and low-level insurgency, since the party we aim to create must itself be a fighting party. We stand for the construction of a militarized party of professional revolutionaries, who must necessarily be battle-tested. We stand for the army of a new type, which is engaged in serving the people. We stand for the establishment of base areas won through struggle and war. In all of this the party leads. Through their rejection of protracted people’s war and their condemnation of the Communist Party of Peru, they see anything which aims to learn to fight by fighting as “foco.” All they achieve in airing their analysis here is displaying a total ignorance of military theory, of the difference between tactics and strategy, between self-defense and movement defense on the one hand and focoism on the other.
In an even more astounding display of ineptitude, MP attacks our use of the term “strategic offensive of the world revolution.” They quote Chairman Gonzalo, who was paraphrasing Mao, while just assuming the greatest living Maoist philosopher was wrong but not having the ability to engage with his position philosophically.
The strategic offensive of world revolution speaks to the conditions present, which Mao was referring to when he stated, “The next 50 to 100 years or so, beginningfrom now, will be a great era of radical change in the social systemthroughout the world, an earth-shaking era without equal in any previoushistorical period. Living in such an era, we must be prepared to engage ingreat struggles which will have many features different in form from those ofthe past.” Mao was not saying this for no reason—he was not grandstanding. He was basing this statement on the development and crisis of imperialism and the science developed by proletarian revolution. Imperialism cannot go on objectively or infinitely, and this objective fact is not dependent on the current state of any individual people’s war. MP is showing its subjectivism by claiming that it does.
When Chairman Gonzalo of the Communist Party of Peru was paraphrasing Mao in 1980, he was declaring that the world revolution is in strategic offensive not based on his own party’s success in war either, since this remark was made before the initiation of the war. Furthermore, the conditions of the other existing people’s wars were at an all-time low. The conditions that existed then also exist now: there were no actually existing socialist states and the people’s wars were all in the low stages of strategic defensive. This is not “macho sophistry”; it’s just history, and an attempt to correct a theoretical misreading on the part of MP. We simply reiterate Mao and state that we live in an earth-shaking era. The view that the world revolution proceeds only quantitatively, through the gradual accumulation of socialist states, is a classic revisionist outlook. Objectively, even if every people’s war were defeated tomorrow MLM would still be the third and highest stage of Marxism and the world revolution would still be in the stage of strategic offensive, as objective developments are not contingent exclusively on subjective factors.
We stand by our assertion that we (the proletariat) are at war, simply in the fact that a war has been waged on us since our emergence as a class. Our aim is turn a thing into its opposite, to turn the tables of class struggle so that it is our class which suppresses the bourgeoisie. As far as our line that the proletariat is not a stranger to violence, we insist that the reality of our class is violent. This material conditions of our torment and exploitation have provided our class with creative potential for revolutionary violence. Class struggle is violent, and the proletariat is the final class in human history—which needs violence to carry out its purpose of ending all classes. It is MP that reflexively conceives of violence as a purely negative phenomenon and not a potentially positive one.
MP again presents a poor reading of our text when they claim that we argue that a violent approach is necessary for resolving contradictions among the people:
“RGA justifies this approach to resolving contradictions among the people by claiming that ‘most appealing to the working class is physical violence. In popular neighborhoods, most serious disputes are solved by violent means.’ This claim is absurd to anyone who has spent significant time among the working class. The vast majority of disputes among working people are resolved by non-antagonistic and non-violent means.”
In order to make their job at reading a bit easier, let us add emphasis on the section they quote: “Most appealing to the working class is physical violence. In popular neighborhoods, most serious disputes are solved by violent means.”
This is not an inconsequential use of the words “most serious.” The choice of the word “serious” means we are discussing the severest of offenses resulting in disputes. Somehow MP reads this as being a claim about the “vast majority” of disputes. Obviously we agree that the vast majority of disputes are solved nonviolently. While the masses themselves have many non-antagonistic contradictions among them, in plenty of cases a contradiction can become antagonistic, as in the case of serial rapists and others who commit predatory anti-people crimes. The masses and particularly the working-class masses of a given area can and do enact their own forms of justice.
MP even lapses into the same funny tropes as InfoWars by stating, “In contrast, RGA prefers to live-action-role-play and posture online.” “Role-play” implies a lack of consequence as well as a lack of force. Perhaps if they are so influenced by the enemy press as to rehash its positions, they would be interested in reading the police reports that claim RGA or our supporters regularly put up stiff resistance, with numbers in the streets. A recent police report read, “The Red Guard Austin group continuously escalated their violent actions causing the State Trooper bike unit to form a ‘buble’ [sic] around the Highway men to prevent imminent assault. … The Red Guard Austin became extremely violent striking the bicycle Unit Troopers and shoving them.”
Live-action role-playing as we understand it means to pretend to do something, not to actually do it. We are not engaged in organizing pretend struggles with no effect. We are committed to winning. Any communist worth his or her salt would be glad that anti-immigrant bigots were outnumbered and defeated by communists, and we simply cannot fathom why anyone claiming to be a Maoist of all things would simply choose to rehash an InfoWars narrative.
They simply cannot imagine a physical fight, let alone one they could win, and only manage to reveal their cynicism and lack of vision. They see anything so alien to them as “live-action-role-playing.” We assure them that we use real sticks, real guns, real bullets, and real fascists in our “role-playing.” We are actual antifascists in real life, and we are seeing success in this.
MP takes another sad group at its word without ever even trying to investigate the situation on the ground by unpacking a choice quote from the publicly inactive group which was called Portland Maoist Group, who criticized us some time back. We chose not to publicly address them or recognize them for private reasons, but since it’s being brought up, a few things deserve clarification.
For starters we were never deceptive about our interests and objective in running a cadre school: we were clear with all those who could potentially attend that we expect to follow up with them and have them continue making reportbacks on their progress, in part so we could gauge our own success or failures in training them to be leaders but also because we are communists and wish to train good leaders who can improve new or stagnating collectives. As communists we are not ashamed to seek influence over other groups. We do not believe in horizontal organizing and seek to let different schools of thought contend. We do this without shame. If a group is on a bad track, we hope to influence them to improve. We want to build the party and let leadership emerge in struggle.
MP quotes the following from the defunct Portland group:
“When they felt the need to finalize the severing of their relationship with the rest of the group [RGA] advised this comrade to leave the group, gather new Maoists and form their own collective, with the intent that the new collective would be more loyal to them and the assumption that the existing group would collapse. This can be understood as wreckerism. Trying to get multiple people at different times to leave the group, for unprincipled reasons, one time with the hope of it collapsing, is uncomradely meddling.”
The person in question who had attended our cadre school had expressed numerous times her struggle with drug addiction, which we had worked with her on during her brief stay in Austin, during which, without discussing the details, we can state that there were some important breakthroughs. Upon her return to Portland in one of our follow-up conversations (conversations she consented to and requested), she expressed to us that the group in Portland lacked any consideration for her in this regard and told us that not only would they offer her drugs but also that, according to her report, they would use drugs at meetings in her presence.
She expressed that this made her struggles with sobriety very difficult and expressed concern that she would not be able to stay off of drugs in that environment. We stand by the advice we provided her: that if the environment created by this group in Portland was detrimental to her physical and mental health to the point of promoting a relapse, and if those she was attempting to work with proved unable or unwilling to change, then she should find others to work with who would respect her commitment to staying clean. Comrades should care for and support each another; they should not encourage addicts to relapse. This is such a shameful and horrible way to treat comrades and is absolutely not communist conduct.
Our advice was simple enough: if those you are working with do not support positive transformation, then that’s okay—do not give up on organizing, just find better comrades. However, eventually the temptation to use substances won out, and her addiction became active. We offered the comrade treatment, housing, and to find her a job. We set a healthy boundary that we would do anything in our power to help her reassert control over her addiction but would not be able to support her using. We could only do so much remotely, and once more the drug addiction won out, our offers to help were declined, and she decided then (as those gripped with addiction often tend to decide) that using is more important than politics. She was found to have been lying to both sides to win favor and hedge her bets. We informed her that our line was for her to get better and contact us when she wanted to do that.
What she failed to inform anyone in Portland and bears mention here is that all of our correspondence with them politically was on the basis of information sheprovided us. Our letter to them—which contained a direct criticism of patriarchal male chauvinism on the part of two “cadres” as well as a criticism of Third-Worldism on the part of one “cadre”—was read and approved by her before we sent it. She supported its content as a way to help improve the group she would be rejoining. The “collective” in Portland had not fully established itself or developed a political identity, so charges of “wreckerism” miss the mark. In spite of MP’s declaration that we do not believe in transformation or criticizing cadres, our whole approach here was based on those two considerations.
We have remained silent on this issue up until now because we do not want to encourage the spectacle of call-out culture and we do not enjoy having to report the details of someone’s personal struggle with addiction. Nonetheless, the double-talk and lies told by the Portland drug club have forced us to speak on the record. We will say that it was their own lack of discipline and commitment which “wrecked” their work and isolated them, and no action on our part externally could hope to accomplish this.
MP has shown repeatedly and at great length that they do not investigate. They take anything anti-RGA at face value. Their faulty analysis here also shows a failure in understanding dialectical materialism. By ignoring the internal contradictions in the Portland group, MP is able to deflect their issues which prevent them from ever accomplishing real and protracted mass work onto the specter of “RGA wreckerism.” We prefer a sober and sound analysis and to learn not only from our own mistakes in party-building but also from the many mistakes of other attempted collectives. MP pretends RGA just crushes small, vulnerable collectives. This is opportunist: they have not bothered to contact any of the Maoist collectives which are newer than our own, in Charlotte, Pittsburgh, Houston, Kansas City, or Tampa, whom we have not only not “wrecked” but instead have helped or supported, even when we have had sharp political struggles with them. What is more, these collectives have helped us greatly as well and have never had to fear giving us direct criticism. Portland never adhered to communist discipline or communist principles. Any unity with them would not have served the interests of the party-building effort in the US, a fact we learned the hard way. We are glad that they have no audience, platform, or potential. Good riddance.
One thing which really sticks out in the MP attack is their use of the term “machismo,” which is employed systematically against militancy with no concrete examples given of actual macho behavior. What MP is getting at here is that any show of force, any act of physical fighting, any promotion of violence is inherently masculine and hence patriarchal. This is an old bourgeois feminist line which should be exposed as sexism. To keep combat and military strategy and tactics as the property of men and to alienate women from their right to self-defense and revolutionary violence is patriarchal. Women like men have the duty to participate in class struggle. The women in our organization and our movement are without a doubt some of our most committed fighters.
It would appear from MP’s thorough documentation of their citations and style of writing that they do actually have adequate reading comprehension skills, so we are left to think that they have deliberately misread our positions and our documents in an attempt to convince our detractors to support them. They have undertaken so many bad-faith readings and outright misquotations that it is tedious to keep repeating, but this proved a major part of their method in arriving at the analysis in their polemic.
MP’s arguments are only coherent if they think that by the term “call-out culture” we mean criticism in general, criticism in any form. But we explained plainly the differences between the two in our document “On Identity Opportunism,” and we will not be repeating them here. We hold that all organizations (if they are living) experience two-line struggle. This is a Maoist viewpoint which is challenged by MP.
According to MP, “RGA claims that a supposed Marxist expertise is needed to offer communist criticism and to ‘overcome subjectivism.’ This negates the reality that the masses do often possess correct ideas and can and should voice these ideas, including criticisms of revolutionary collectives and of individuals.” Well if it is communist criticism, then yes, to be a communist you need a basic grasp of Marxism. We do not expect the masses who are not yet communists to be able to make communist criticisms any more that we expect them to be able to make a communist analysis. The organic mass communist consciousness presupposed by MP’s argument does not exist, and if it did then revolution would happen tomorrow with no need for a party or professional revolutionaries.
One doesn’t need to be an expert to place a criticism, but for a criticism to be based in Marxism and not metaphysics one should at least comprehend basic Marxist principles. Mao stressed time and time again the need to oppose subjectivist mindsets in our work. This does not mean that subjectivist criticism cannot contain anything useful; it simply means that so-called communists who cannot make an overall assessment are limited in their ability to criticize and are often prone to insufficiently investigating and not moving past the perceptual level of knowledge.
While non-communists can place valid criticisms, Marxists are likewise capable of placing invalid criticisms. Often the masses do have correct criticism. This does not change the fact that we are under no compulsion to unite with what is false. Analyzing a criticism and dissecting it is the communist method of engagement with criticism. It is correct to point out subjectivism and encourage dialectical materialist analysis when making or receiving criticism. We will not self-criticize for approaching criticism as Marxists must, and we will not self-criticize for refusing to unite with lies or criticism that is just incorrect. We maintain that we look for correct aspects even in bad-faith criticism, extract them, and apply them.
Mao states, “Subjectivism is an improper style of study; it is opposed to Marxism-Leninism and is incompatible with the Communist Party. What we want is the Marxist-Leninist style of study.” MP is asserting above that by calling for a Maoist style of studying contradictions and the need for this style to influence the way in which comrades place criticism, that we are rejecting criticism outright. We are not demanding that critics be experts or even that they be red; we are simply encouraging other communists, or those who profess to be communists, to aspire to be both expert and red, to be communists when placing criticism and analyzing errors.
Mao also said that “certain muddled ideas find currency among many people.” This is without a doubt true, and it is the communist’s duty to seek to clarify these muddled ideas which are in contradiction with Maoist ideas. We only seek to correct mistaken ideas, whether they come from “communists,” comrades, or the masses.
MP refers to “needed call-outs.” This is amusing, because it is organizing activists and supporters to take material actions which can lead to abusive people being held accountable; it is not simply “calling it out” that can get this job done. We are not against speaking of injustice; we are mainly for speaking responsibly, from a position of having investigated the matter. And most importantly, we are for action in dealing with those found guilty of abuse. This is something we have consistently done; it is reflected in our struggles against the LC and in the local mass work in Austin.
They quote us again divorced of context: “Society is transformed by violent revolution against the economic base and is continuously transformed afterward by continued revolution in the superstructure in the form of cultural revolution.” They take this somehow to mean that we do not think individuals can change without attacking the economic base! We defend this position, as society is different from individuals.
We hold that many individuals with patriarchal thinking can be transformed as individuals, which is precisely why reckless call-out culture comes into contradiction with mass work, as it aims to shame people into compliance rather than change their thinking by uniting them according to their common interests with the masses. For massive, wide-scale social change, revolution is the way; for correcting mistaken ideas and changing individuals, we encourage transformation, criticism, accountability, and so on. For all their talk about resolving contradictions among the people, they intentionally distract from this principle by defending call-out culture by conflating it with criticism. When a criticism or even a call-out is made, communists have a responsibility to determine what is true and what is false within it.
We stand unequivocally for the struggle against bad ideas among cadres and the masses. If we did not, we would allow the bad ideas coming out of Boston to go totally unchecked. We respond to them now as we did in our document “Correcting Mistaken Ideas in Boston” in the interest of changing views or at the very least preventing others from uniting with MP or their bad ideas.
MP writes, “The implications of RGA’s approach are deeply concerning. It effectively serves as a justification for protecting anti-people practices among its cadres because there are oppressive tendencies among the masses.”
If MP has evidence of anti-people practices among our cadres, they have a responsibility to state what these are. Instead they prefer insinuation that such practices materially exist without any evidence or investigation. They also incorrectly suggest that RGA does not impose a different standard of conduct for communists than it does for the masses, which negates the use of the term “cadres.” Members of communist organizations are explicitly held to a different standard: the standard of professional revolutionaries who place the masses and the political organization first, before their personal interests. This is detailed at length in Condemned to Win, but they are content with cherry-picking sections and not engaging with it honestly.
Any anti-people practices, some of which will inevitably occur in our organization, are challenged collectively in organized line struggle or organized struggle sessions. We focus on advancing the masses in class struggle and winning over the most advanced to MLM. Once they have come to accept the ideology, it is through continued struggle that any backward practices or views are brought to light, challenged, and corrected. Contrary to the ill-informed notions of MP, we consider the basis for unity being MLM and not “violence.” By depoliticizing violence in the liberal sense MP, creates a mirage that, in Quixotic delusion, only they can see.
MLM is not reduced to “violence,” but it is concerned mainly with the conquest of power, which specifically relies on the universal principle of revolutionary violence. Pacifism ideologically levels out all contradictions to a vague “violence,” which lacks an understanding of class character. In spite of their insistence to the contrary MP, uses pacifism in place of Marxism when leveling these charges against us. In other documents, we have even addressed the need to reclaim violence and not to recruit on the basis of violence alone.
MP clearly hopes that people have a short memory when they say,
“RGA’s conclusions shows they have not substantially broken from the negative tendencies of the New Communist Party-Liaison Committee (NCP-LC), which collapsed under a heap of bad theory and practice. The ‘leadership’ of this organization defended patriarchal abusers and rejected democratic criticism—both from their cadre and from outside the organization—that could have prevented this and other egregious errors. The group’s leadership justified this practice because of their belief, analogous to that of RGA, that such mistakes were ‘proletarian’ or ‘where the masses were at’ and hence tolerable.”
- The NCP-LC did not simply “collapse under a heap of bad theory and practice,” isolated from the activity and participation of communists and masses. In reality, we ourselves struggled with this bad organization for over a year, placing criticism and suggesting corrections to no avail. Ultimately we issued a polemic which set in motion a series of complicated rebellions against them.
- Our position was always that they were rightist-revisionists who were tailing backward elements among the people and engaging in economism.
- Again we should stress that here, as we always have, we pressed the contentious principle that communists must be held to a much higher standard than should be used for the average worker—that backwardness among the people is no excuse for communists to forget principles.
- Others had identified these errors with the LC but failed to carry out struggle to actually rid the movement of their influence. Our line was that the project was lost and should not remain operational, and that those with errors albeit less severe still needed to rectify. What followed was branch after branch of the LC outside of NYC defecting to our side, and a prolonged and successful gender rectification campaign in LA. Had we used “meeting the masses where they are at” as an excuse to pardon patriarchy, none of this rectification would have happened. These charges are so false that it is insulting to everyone’s intelligence that MP thinks they are slick enough to pass this off. If their line is correct, it should not rely on ahistorical distortions and the hope that people in our movement just have incredibly short memories.
We are self-critical on much of the way we handled the crisis of patriarchy in the movement then. We did not know well what we were doing and have learned a great deal in the process. These contradictions are never easy to resolve for anyone involved, but they are serious contradictions which require long-term commitment. We do not regret the overall result of our struggles and have seen a dramatic increase in women’s involvement in the Maoist movement since then.
By MP’s own confused standard, subjectivist and sectarian criticism are also “bad ideas,” yet we are wrong for criticizing these bad ideas? Even criticism should not be beyond criticism. MP stumbled into this paradoxical impasse—it is not a thing of our making. We see it simply: right or wrong, air your views; if you are right, we will unite with them, and if you are wrong, we will criticize your views; and if you are both right and wrong, we will struggle with your views in order to come up with the most correct line.
The Kurdish question
In regard to the role of Daesh, we encourage readers to study the document “On Jihadism” by our comrades in the PCM. While MP tries to argue for nuance in understanding the dual nature of Daesh, something we agree is necessary, this logic does not end up getting applied by them in any attempt to understand the YPG/J, who are also plagued by a dual nature. The situation has far more gray areas than appear in the black-and-white outlook promoted by MP. They are the best existing representatives of the oppressed Kurdish nation in the region, locked in struggle not only against Daesh but also against US imperialist ally Turkey. On one hand, the YPG/J has accepted US imperialist aid, something many legitimate revolutions have done when facing a massive threat posed by groups like Daesh. On the other hand, their relationship to the PKK and against the Turkish state puts them in contradiction with US imperialism. The PKK cannot play nice with the Turkish state, as Turkey occupies 40% of Kurdish land. This contradiction means that whatever support they receive via the YPG/J is temporary and shaky at very best. The PKK-aligned Kurds simply cannot become compradors in the region long-term unless they concede their claim on Turkish-occupied Kurdistan.
MP falsely states that we show “unabashed” and “uncritical” support for YPG/J. Of course they do not bother to engage with anything but a solidarity video made for US martyrs of the YPG. It is correct that we did not criticize YPG during a memorial for martyrs. To suggest that such a place is appropriate to criticize is farcically unprincipled; we honored their courage and their sacrifice. This does not mean that think there are no contradictions within the Kurdish struggle, nor does it mean that we find nothing to criticize.
We do not deny the class character of the YPG/J any more than we deny the revisionism of PKK. We support them critically as progressive bourgeois nationalists and as idealists who lack the ideology of the proletariat, MLM.
What’s worse is, it’s not only our articles that MP likes to cherry-pick—they’ve also done the same thing to TKP/ML. That party has been undergoing complicated and drawn-out line struggle for over a year on these questions, and much of this struggle has not been translated into English. Yet by cudgeling their brains on their own, MP has determined correctness and chosen a side without even mentioning this monumental struggle taking place within TKP/ML. They do not do this out of reverence or respect for the foremost MLM organization in Turkey; instead they opportunistically attempt to use them as a stick to attack RGA. We have no comment on this line struggle and eagerly await more information in order to make an informed position. We do not take the quotes from them out of context to fake legitimacy for narrow views, as MP has opportunistically done.
Not unlike TKP/ML, we too limit our support for YPG/J to its democratic content. We too do not agree with the ideas of “democratic confederalism.” We believe in oppressed nations’ right to self-determination, the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the leadership of the party. On the contrary, MP’s cheap view is to ignore the democratic content of the YPG/J and instead (!) to play up the “anti-imperialist” content of Daesh! This puts them sadly close to the hard-Trot defense of Daesh by groups like the Sparticists. US imperialism, like its ally Turkey, is more likely to find common ground with Daesh long term as it has done in the region by waging war against a group to turn around and support it later, or inversely by supporting a group to make war on it later. US imperialism is no one’s friend, and it changes up regularly whom it works with and whom it fights; it can and does at times even support both sides. There is no sense in ignoring the evidence that US imperialism has provided aid to Daesh while claiming to fight it or actually fighting it.
Regarding not being concerned with the school of thought of the martyrs, we mean that on that day, the principal thing was to honor their sacrifice. In no way do we ever promote concessions on questions of ideology. People with many different ideologies make sacrifices. If MP were to have martyrs in the struggle against reaction, then we would honor them too. This prospect seems unrealistic only because in essence they promote legalism and a fool’s hesitation to militantly oppose the spread of fascism. We are firmly Maoist and have made plenty of enemies by unapologetically attacking revisionists. This does not mean we embrace unprincipled sectarianism.
MP incorrectly states, “RGA could not be bothered to condemn U.S. intervention in the region at all.” This is false, because although we did not center the memorial for the martyrs around criticizing the complex situation in the region, we have organized against US imperialist intervention in Syria; this was one of the rallying calls for this past May Day in Austin, and it would have remained one of its main focuses had the march not had to take a defensive position against immediate fascist attack. Nonetheless, our chants and propaganda still opposed US imperialist intervention in Syria. Their criticism is not formulated from anything other than casually observing the criticisms of opportunists who deliberately promote distortions. Our supporters and cadres have consistently attended events and actions against US imperialism, in the Philippines, Turkey, Palestine, and Syria alike.
We take no issue at all with the content of the Ganapathy quote which MP uses to imply that we oppose Muslims generally. This false conflation of Daesh with Muslims is akin to the right suggesting that all Muslims are like Daesh. MP’s suggestion that our opposing Daesh means we oppose Muslims generally is disgusting and should be swept away. Meanwhile, where they insist that we are “tailing antifa,” we are actually building links with our local Muslim community, and our supporters are volunteering to physically defend Mosques and cultural centers from reactionary attacks. We have organized or helped organize large-scale actions against Islamophobia locally. We helped to gather over 300 people to shut down the “March against Sharia Law” in Austin on June 10 of this year. Reports of these actions are found on our blog, but these are of no interest to MP, which seeks to make cheap attacks by looking at isolated aspects of things.
Class stand and urgency
A concrete analysis of climate change, which has already begun to show devastating effects globally, does in fact merit a sense of urgency. Although it is far from correct to say that no other communists recognize this, nonetheless, in past socialist projects the difficult-to-understate gravity of climate change was not yet fully grasped. Of course there are great examples of environmentalism under the leadership of Mao, and we do not wish to diminish these by stressing the importance for Maoists today to grapple with climate change. Again, we encourage our readers to study the articles of our comrades the PCM on the question of climate change.
Grasping revolutionary necessity and urgency does not in and of itself negate “the need to work methodically to resolve contradictions among the people.” Nowhere do we suggest that it does. On the contrary, MP is arguing against urgency and militancy under the guise of prioritizing resolving contradictions among the people.
It is mainly repression and consent which the bourgeoisie rule through; it is not mainly the contradictions among the people which prevent them for making revolution, but the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie which we live under in a capitalist country. By overemphasizing the contradictions among the people, MP seeks to distract from the contradictions between the people and the enemy. They would rather ignore the very nature of the bourgeois state than ever confront it. Instead, they want to behave as NGOs do: as a mitigation unit which focuses attention away from the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Yes, there are contradictions among the people, but they are secondary contradictions, not the principal contradiction, which in imperialist countries can only be between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. This principal contradiction explains climate change too—it is not the proletariat which destroys the planet but capitalism-imperialism itself, which the bourgeoisie are the only class with an interest in maintaining.
MP promotes faulty notions of developing “proletarian power within individuals.” Proletarian power, for Maoists, means the establishment of base areas and the dictatorship of the proletariat—it is developed and conquered through war, not in individuals by resolving contradictions among the people. This diffused concept of power is a hallmark of postmodernism and does not at all capture the Maoist understanding and use of the word “power.” In the very document in which MLM was synthesized for the first time, the PCP explains power:
1) Political power under the leadership of the proletariat in the democratic revolution;
2) Political power for the dictatorship of the proletariat in the socialist and cultural revolutions;
3) Political power based on an armed force led by the communist party, conquered and defended through people’s war.
We do not deny that through the resolving of contradictions among the people (which can only occur meaningfully in class struggle) individuals within the masses and collectives can gain a sense of agency and empowerment—but this is not to be conflated with proletarian power, and claiming that it does is a gimmick used by MP to pass off their revisionism as love for the people. What they really mean concretely is that it is premature to fight the class enemy in any way at all, and they think we should instead focus on the secondary contradictions among the people. All revisionists serve the capitalist class; MP does so in a funny way by trying to divert the revolutionary activity of communists and the masses to focus principally on interpersonal and secondary contradictions.
Communist leadership is developed inevitably and in class struggle. It is because of class struggle that many comrades have looked to Austin for leadership, regardless of the fact that we never sought to become any sort of movement leaders. We do not impose organizational leadership on any outside of Austin. Nonetheless, many comrades, organized into collectives or not, have looked to us for political leadership, guidance, or both. We seek to live up the task at hand not out of some demented personal interest but in the interest of serving revolution.
Revisionists and conservative forces are panicked by the very thought of leadership emerging in class struggle. They are tormented by the ghost of leadership. They in their anti-communist hysteria are gripped with the impulse to attack and lash out at what they correctly or incorrectly identify as emerging leaders. The revisionist always acts in service of its bourgeois master by trying to rob a movement of its leaders, trying to prevent leaders from emerging, and trying to discredit all revolutionary leadership. They demand absolute egalitarianism among collectives and refuse any attempts at principled unity for the sake of arriving at false unity. They seek to separate the militant from the masses.
This is the form and essence of the MP polemic against us. Lenin explains leadership concisely as something that is earned through experience and theoretical mastery; Mao explained leadership as uniting the masses around cadres. MP’s attempt to label us everything from focoists to fascists and US imperialists (all charges they have adopted from unorganized online trolls or outright fascists) does not engage at all with reality and almost no one is fooled by this ruse.
In essence, the goal of MP is not to develop proletarian politics by resolving contradictions among the people—it is to negate the role of theory in doing this, to claim that proletarian politics do not exist and that the content of MLM itself is yet to be determined. Their whole attack against us is an attack against both militancy and leadership.
This all boils down to the business-as-usual model of right-opportunism, of avoiding sharp struggles and confrontations. Their position as well as their practice cannot be discerned from that of reformists. They call us focoists due to their total lack of military theory, understanding neither our politics nor focoism and conflating tactics with strategy. They do not understand that focoism is a failed military strategy that aims to negate the role of the party among the masses. Focoism is not comparable to implementing proletarian politics and using physical confrontations and self-defense tactically—something no Maoist should oppose. Their line in practice is nothing but the conventional NGO and revisionist line which is explained well in the PCR-RCP document on the tactic of what they call red fists:
“The greatest danger that stems from these passive and predictable demos is that revolutionaries become complacent and reproduce within their own organizational structures those of these types of protests. Instead of putting to use the knowledge already gained by the revolutionary movement, they give into the disorganization proposed by the reformists. This will have as a result that any denunciation will become senseless, because the form of protest will be unworthy of properly conveying the message. … It must be said that faked-communists (revisionists) have completely estranged themselves from these firm and solid advancements. They have adopted in fact the discipline and the legal practices imposed by the bourgeoisie. This results in demos where the demonstrators are passively kept in toe with the reformist leaders.”
To refuse to be at the very forefront of mass struggle is to refuse being a communist. We have consistently and militantly held our posts in Austin in spite of hardship. While we do spend the majority of our time focusing on the political preparation of the people, prior to the initiation of armed struggle, we do not see this condition as an excuse to not resist. We again reassert our position that communist militants must be developed in class struggle, that self-defense and antifascism are correct and must be conducted under communist leadership. Every struggle that is in the interest of the proletariat is one where you should find communists organizing and recruiting.
We have no doubt that the MP polemic will find a sympathetic ear among those who already hate us or consider us political enemies, among the Menshevik Center and other revisionist groups. This does not concern us. If they liked us and their politics remained as they are now, this would be unacceptable to us. It should also be stated clearly that their polemic is nothing more than a poorly investigated and incorrect attempt at gaining relevancy in the US Maoist movement, a movement which enjoys greater unity than it has in years—and it is no coincidence that fake-communists, bloggers, and meme-creators are not part of that unity, including but not limited to MP.
We are communists, and this means that we are not simply a mitigation unit to solve problems among the people but revolutionaries organizing for political power. We exist to defeat the class enemy. Maoists have encountered these MP types before who balk at the first sign of danger and waste no time at all trying to discredit the militant, people who will lie to cover up their cowardice.
“Since May ’68 there are people who go all over the place saying; nothing can be done without a party. The conclusions they draw from this are: let’s do nothing. Let’s build a party, and afterwards we’ll see what happens. . . . Some wanted to capitulate. They said: ‘We can’t do anything more now. If we continue to fight we’re going to be massacred. Let’s stop now and build a party. Once we’re organized we’ll pick up the struggle.’”—Gauche Prolétarienne
“Organize the masses so that they can go beyond what is permitted by the existing legal order, so that they struggle to destroy the old order and not to maintain it. This is accomplished by use of the three instruments of the revolution: The Party where the few converge, the Army with more participants, and new state/united front which is the base which progressively accumulates the masses through leaps.”—Communist Party of Peru
“The struggle for power as the principal aspect does not mean that from the beginning we are going to incorporate the masses all at once. Chairman Mao teaches us that developing Support Bases and armed forces is what generates the high tide of the revolution. This has to do with the law of incorporation of the masses into the revolution, . . . an incorporation that shall be through progressive leaps; with more people’s war shall come a greater incorporation of the masses.” —Communist Party of Peru
“The masses are avid for politics and it is incumbent upon Communists to organize and lead them. The masses have concrete problems everywhere and we must worry about them and attend to them. Mass work is done within the class struggle and not on its margins. If we do not do mass work, the reactionaries and revisionists shall utilize it for their own ends, whether it is to develop fascism and to corporativize them or hand over their struggles to another imperialist master. These are two wills that are distinct and opposed.” —Communist Party of Peru
Our will and those of ineffective grouplettes like MP are indeed distinct and opposed.
—Red Guards Austin, December 2017