Revolutionary Link Founding Statement

We are officially announcing the formation of Revolutionary Link, a revolutionary communist (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) collective currently based in Oakland, California. The bulk of this statement serves as a summation of the period from September 2016 – July 2017 which led to our constitution as an organization.

Red Line Oakland: A Failed Project

Our founding members originally met in September 2016 along with several other communists. The result of our first few meetings was the decision to create a Maoist collective we called “Red Line Oakland”. Enthusiasm was high at first, but as time went on it became increasingly clear that internal liberalism had brought the project to a complete standstill; roughly nine months since its inception, almost nothing had been practically accomplished. The liberalism of several members manifested itself in a lack of accountability and openness on multiple fronts.

  1. Study: Efforts at maintaining a regular study group were half-hearted and inconsistent. Several members displayed an inability to follow through on assigned reading, and made excuses to avoid a process of criticism and self-criticism. This inability made any real ideological unification impossible. One comrade, while sympathetic to Maoism, did not strictly consider themselves to be a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist at the time – this issue was never openly addressed. Several other contacts made after the collective’s formation were interested in communism but had no knowledge of foundational Marxist concepts – this again was left unaddressed until most of said contacts drifted away, lacking clarity on the basic purpose and ideology of the collective.

  2. Organizational discipline: Basic practices necessary for a properly functioning cadre organization – setting agendas before meetings, the taking of minutes, adherence to security culture – were neglected. In addition, the collective decision making process was at times not respected. For example, at one meeting it was decided that we would become stricter in our security practices by removing phones and laptops from our meeting space. The very next meeting a member had their laptop out. When challenged on this, they claimed that they “needed it to take notes”. Responsibilities delegated to certain members were not followed through with or fell onto other members. This resulted in an unequal distribution of labor, often with one oppressed nationality comrade (who represented a minority within the group) in particular taking on much of the work.

  3. Mass work: It became obvious that certain Red Line members were more interested in maintaining the collective as a social club then as a proper communist organization. An initial attempt at canvassing was aborted due to a lack of follow-through. From January 20 to February 2, a group of unhoused, formerly unhoused people and their allies occupied a small parcel of public city land, and began building shelters and providing services to the homeless people living in the surrounding tent encampments, before eventually being bulldozed by the city. The comrades who went on to form Revolutionary Link recognized it as our responsibility to participate in this direct action; we will sum this up in more detail later on. The only involvement of other Red Line members was to show up for roughly ten minutes, have a brief conversation with the now Revolutionary Link members, and then to leave.

  4. Interpersonal relationships: Several interpersonal conflicts developed in the course of this process, which is perhaps inevitable when individuals come together as a group to reach a common goal. But the policy of certain “comrades” to these conflicts was handled in a highly corrosive three-step process: (1) fronting as if things were fine when around the person they had a conflict with; (2) gossiping outside of meetings when said person was not around; (3) resorting to gaslighting, call-outs, and lies in order to avoid responsibility when the conflict became too large to avoid.

Mao wrote: “People who are liberals … are not prepared to replace their liberalism by Marxism. These people have their Marxism, but they have their liberalism as well–they talk Marxism but practice liberalism; they apply Marxism to others but liberalism to themselves. They keep both kinds of goods in stock and find a use for each. This is how the minds of certain people work.”1 It has been a long and difficult process to fully appreciate the truth in this statement, to truly understand the ways in which liberalism seeps into an organization and corrodes it from within. Our inability to address these issues in a timely manner is indicative that we ourselves, to varying degrees at different points, enabled such liberalism, and therefore engaged in liberal conduct.

The Land Reclamation

Our participation in the land reclamation was our first serious attempt at engaging in mass work, and so deserves particular consideration as a stage of the period from September – June. While our efforts demonstrated a genuine desire to forge mass links and organize power, our lack of political clarity at this time seriously hampered our efforts.

We observed many political tendencies within the park, and rather then push a particular political line, we chose to observe and be of service to some of the programs being offered such as serving food and providing security at night. This was clearly a missed opportunity. A key role of militants in conditions where organization is loose, opportunist, or nonexistent is to come prepared with concrete proposals for action. There should have been collective discussion among us in the early stages of the land grab on the correct methods for pushing its leadership to the left, developing a communist fraction, and consolidating and expanding the struggle.

We made one suggestion during a later stage of the reclamation: door to door canvassing of the surrounding housed community. We only had the opportunity to engage with the community for a single day in this manner before the police shut down the encampment, but the findings were enlightening. Every household we spoke to described housing as being their number one concern. We spoke to families experiencing eviction and rent increases. In the main, there was much sympathy for the project in the park. This experience emboldened us to pursue our investigation further, but we were too late, and the encampment was destroyed.

Systematic canvassing of the surrounding neighborhood should have been conducted at least as soon as the land grab went aboveground. Failure to do this on the part of the reclamation’s leadership as well as ourselves demonstrated that practically we did not fully understand the importance of relying on the broad masses of people in our work.

This also manifested itself in the manner of outreach that we participated in: requesting signatures for a petition. This was an opportunist practice; it was not declared that we would win concessions from the enemy through struggle, and no opportunity was provided to gather the dispersed ideas of the people so as to formulate a popular program. We did not draft the petition; regardless, our participation in this was a liquidationist error on our part.

It was clear that what was needed was unity between housed and unhoused people. Tactically, the encampment would not survive police repression without community support. Strategically, revolution is only possible if communists take up the task of resolving contradictions among the people as the basis for struggle against the enemy. Unfortunately, we lacked the political clarity needed to begin this process of unification.


“Tiny homes” built on the reclaimed land

A New Beginning

On the one hand, our split with “Red Line Oakland” has reduced our objective work capacity significantly. On the other, distancing ourselves from liberalism through – (1) the split itself, and (2) summing up our experience and affirming our resolve to combat liberalism in all its manifestations – has ultimately strengthened us as a collective, and enabled us to accomplish more in a few months then we were previously able to in nine. “We must follow the rule: Better fewer, but better. We must follow the rule: Better get good human material in two or even three years than work in haste without hope of getting any at all.”2

Since reconstituting ourselves as a collective, we have begun to rectify the practices that plagued our previous organization. We have shored up our collective discipline, and are in the process of forming practical links with the masses, for example through work among homeless encampments. We have also maintained our involvement with many of the activists involved in the land grab, but now on a principled basis that will lay the groundwork for a United Front. This is a new stage in our political development that will require its own summation in due time.

We look forward to making a modest contribution towards the construction of a Communist Party through the development of our mass work, as well as participating in discussion and debate between collectives on the basis of said work.

1 Mao, Combat Liberalism, in Selected Works, Vol. II (Foreign Languages Press).

2 Lenin, Better Fewer, But Better, in Collected Works, Vol. 33 (Progress Publishers, 1965).


C. Kistler

Also editor of Nouvelle Turquie.