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Kasama

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March 20, 2006

Comments

Repeater

Leftclick said:

"So far I have not seen anyone argue that general analysis should replace particular analysis"

No I don't think either "a comment" or leftspotter are suggesting that we replace one form of analysis with another. What both of them are arguing, from opposite directions, is a line that incorrectly synthesizes the two realms of particular and general.

leftclick said:

"What they ARE saying is that prior extensive participation and analysis should not be the main criteria by which to analyze RCP's role in mass struggle."

You should clarify who "they" are, because as far as I can see this is, to varying degrees, exactly the opposite of what Chris, leftspotter and submarino are saying.

This links up to their larger analysis and line.

Now I'm not sure about Chris, he seems to display some ambivalence, but it's quite clear where leftspotter and submarino sit on the issue. And the implications of their line are clear as well. When I said that leftspotter's critique revealed a narrow empiricist epistemology, and that it glorifies the individual and identity politics, I could just as well have added that it also completely rejects the concept and necessity of leadership. This is how all this ties together with the trenchant and emotional opposition to the RCP's "cult of personality".

It is not about the "cult of personality" it is about the question of leadership.

The masses need leaders not just more soldiers. Lines which explicitly block the development and deployment of leadership by arguing that all should be soldiers and get in the trenches are not communist or revolutionary.

That somehow these soldiers will gain objective knowledge of the larger theatre of war by digging in a trench is completely wrong. That someone would have to go into the trench to explain the larger picture is obvious. The opposite argument, that you know from direct experience, is wrong and empiricist. On the other hand as Mao said all true knowledge originates in direct experience. Key word, "originates". He does not say, and it would be incorrect to say, that all knowledge is direct experience.

This doesn't make the struggle in the trenches any less important. It doesn't suggest that those in the trenches can't come to any knowledge or even spontaneously move in rebellious directions, to say nothing of how much leaders need to and can learn from the soldiers. And of much importance with regard to communists is whether they truly take a stand with the masses in the daily struggle. A stand in the sense that they're absolutely partisan on the side of the masses in these struggles, not that they're literally standing right next to someone on a factory floor.

I will say this as to submarino's discussion of salting and in general the line of living in the trenches which he shares with others in this discussion: The masses don't need communists to build unions. The masses don't need communists to hold their hands in the day to day struggle. The masses don't need us to make their banners and do the grunt work. The masses can and do all of this on their own, and currently they don't do enough of it on their own. What the masses need communists for, especially in this society, is to prepare the subjective conditions by raising the level of theory, linking their struggles together, raising their sites, and teaching them who their enemies are, who are their allies and the correct lines in relation to all of this. This is not a new position. It is clearly a Leninist position.

All of the things the masses need communists for boils down to one thing, political leadership. If you argue for a line which explicitly devalues theory, line, propaganda, and the reality that our struggle right now is primarily subjective, and in favor of this substitute methods of getting into the trenches and BECOMING the masses you're arguing for a line which leads to devolution of the advanced. Instead of transforming the masses into class conscious revolutionaries you transform the vanguard, and it will cease to be a vanguard. It is the other orientation of pulling the advanced out of the trenches so that they can develop the skills necessary to be leaders of the masses and then go back into the trenches which is the correct application of the mass line.

Now I have argued in opposition to some aspects of how this plays out in practice and specifically against the line which "a comment" has put forth, but it remains the case that on this question the RCP has it fundamentally right. This is not to suggest no relation to the trenches the issue is how you relate, and more importantly what you're trying to achieve. If you're trying to build unions and organize protests and those are the limits of your aspirirations, then by all means do it. They're important things that need to be done and do contribute to the organization of the masses. I'm not against these things being done, but simply engaging in activism does not make you a communist or a revolutionary. If you want to be a part of making a revolution, then you need to look at what it is the masses really need to make a revolution, and in this society where the masses are bombarded by the ideological detritus of capitalism the masses are in dire need of political leadership.

Certainly this necessitates a deep connection to the masses, even being deeply rooted, to use "a comments" least favorite phrase, but a deep connection to the masses in which the vanguard remains distinct. The reality is that there is a contradiction between the masses and the vanguard. It is not antagonistic, but it does exist and attempts to reconcile it at this stage are reformist and revisionist. In many ways it is a very good thing that this contradiction exists. It is, in the big picture, an even better thing that we have a Party which has relearned these important lessons, even if they've had a spotty record in practice.


submarino

Repeater alleges that the argument put forth by Chris, leftspotter, and myself "completely rejects the concept and necessity of leadership." Apparently he's lumping us together with the infantile (to use Lenin's word) crowd of ultraleftists (who like to call themselves Trotskyists or anarchists) who are so turned off by any exercise of leadership that they try to sabotage, intentionally or not, any movement organization they come into contact with.

With all due respect, nothing could be further from the truth. I believe very deeply in the concept of leadership, and in my understanding leadership involves agency and initiative. Quite the opposite of the attitude that "the masses can and do [build unions, make banners, do grunt work] on their own." That's not leadership, that's complacency. In fact, Repeater unintentionally argues my point for me by adding the off-hand comment that "currently they don't do enough of it on their own." I can't believe any self-respecting revolutionary would want to just sit around and wait for that situation to change.

To clarify my point, I don't argue that salting is the only valid way to excercise leadership. I think there are many other ways to exercise legitimate leadership, which may be further from "the trenches." Salts, and other rank-and-file union leaders, often leave the shop floor to be full-time organizers, so as to teach other workers what they've already learned: how to fight the boss, how to recruit and train other workers into the movement, etc. It's important that conscious socialists be active at all levels of the labor movement and other social movements, from the shop floor to the elected national and international leadership. And some people are probably best cut out out to be propagandists or theorists. Which brings me to my main point: what's most important is not the "validity" or "legitimacy" of communist leadership, but its effectiveness.

And that, in turn, brings me back to one of Chris's points, about what it means to be "advanced." Repeater doesn't want all the advanced to be stuck in the trenches when they could be doing more effective work somewhere else. Well, there are different ways to be advanced. One of them is believing in socialism, or having the correct "line." In my (Ivy League) exprience, lots of student activists are pretty advanced in this way. But many of these student activists couldn't organize their way out of a paper bag. Which is to say, not that they couldn't make a banner, not merely that they couldn't conduct some kind of reformist campaign, but that they couldn't perform the most fundamental act of revolutionary organizing: recruit and train new anti-capitalist, working-class leaders in the face of the fear and confusion that charactize our world. The only EFFECTIVE (not to say "legitimate") way to find and recruit such leaders is through engagement in day-to-day struggles in the trenches. The whole point of salting is to take those of us who are relatively "advanced" in the theoretical sense, and put them into the trenches so as to learn from experience how to be an effective organizer (to become "advanced" in the practical sense). And the more effective an organizer is, the more leadership he or she is called upon to take.

My problem with ivory-tower theorizing is not that it's "illegitimate," but that it's ineffective and therefore an abdication of revolutionary responsibility. That's the point I was trying to illustrate with my anecdote about the RCP supporter who just walked away from trenches in the heat of the battle.

leftclick

Sorry repeater I'll clarify. THEY are those who have been defending RCP's line. They've been accused of wanting to ignore the particular in favor of the general. This is untrue and based on careless and opportunist reading of their posts. What they are saying is that one should not have had the most detailed local investigation, nor done a huge amount of work before being allowed to say anything at all.

When I brought up 'cult of personality' I was not referring to RCP or some kind of 'leader worship' in general. I was referring to a very bad kind of leadership in which line is evaluated on the basis of time put into a struggle, not truth value. It's almost like a job promotion only instead of money as a reward, you get taken more seriously because you've put in more sweat.

real john

the advantage of the submariners post is that it is concrete -- here is an elaborated counterargument to the line and approach of the RCP. Explicit, with details taken from concrete application.

So i'd like to dig into this some.

submariner writes: "I believe very deeply in the concept of leadership, and in my understanding leadership involves agency and initiative. Quite the opposite of the attitude that 'the masses can and do [build unions, make banners, do grunt work] on their own.' That's not leadership, that's complacency."

This is a very important statement.

Let me contrast that with the communist concept of leadership: For communists, leadership (meaning communist leadership) focuses specifically on linking the current situation (including both the consciousness and struggle of the people) with the goal of communism. It is creating a living link. And, as should be obvious, this is fundamentally a matter of leading the struggle for change in the real world -- revolutioanry struggle. And this (of necessity) requires leadership i nthe realm of ideas because ideas grasped by the masses become a material force.

By contrast, for the submariner, leadership is fundamentally giving timely direction to the struggles that people are already waging.

And in particular, he makes explicit that he is talking about both the economic struggle in particular (building unions) and the smallest tactical issues of those struggles (down to making banners etc.)

Now: by contrast, for communists much that the masses do (and much that they think) are part of the objective situation. The masses themselves spontaneously (meaning, inthis case, without communist leadership and politics) do all kinds of things including waging all kinds of struggles on many levels.

But the leadership that communists provide is NOT limited to what the masses themselves initiate. Some of those struggles (including economic struggles) are important to join. Some are not. Often other struggles (that are not spontaneous but are on the cutting edge of what is needed) need to be initiated, and the masses won to them.

Sometimes the masses who are deep into specific struggles actually need to be won to something else!

(To take a historic example, in the 1905 revolution, Lenin talks about how the economic struggle often brought the more backward, unawakened masses into the strike movement and the struggle -- but they had to be won away from their own narrow economic demands, and struggled with to take up the political struggle for power and revolutionary change. Similarly, another example is Shanghai during the Cultural Revolution ,where sections of the masses chose to focus on economic demands, when state power itself hung in the balance, and they had to be won to actually setting that focus aside, and looking at what was really at stake.)

Let me give a contemporary example:

Clearly, whole sections of immigrant workers are taking up struggle. (Someone said that no left group had anticipated that, and I'm surprised that no one answered: 'Uh, the RCP shifted many forces to LA after 1992, puts out its paper in english AND SPANISH, and has focused much of its efforts among this immigrant community, EXACTLY from an appreciation of this potential!")

Now as they break into struggle, there is a sharp question posed: what will that struggle be? Where will it go?

Spontaneously a great deal of attention is for demands for reforms to end real outrageous injustices (demands for amnesty, demands for legalization, demands for living wages and benefits, demands for an end to INS harassment). And spontaineously, there will be a trend among these workers to see unionization as a solution to their problem. (And here spontaineously does not mean "on their own" -- since that spontaneity will be organized and even financed by rather powerful organized political forces within the system -- including union forces connected to both Mexican and U.S. bourgeois political structures.)

So where will it go? Will this upheaval, this uprising be channeled into the existing bourgeois political framework, bring these forces into the Democratic party, and into the fight for "a slice of the pie" within U.S. capitalism?

Or will it be a major impetus for a revolutionary movement deep in the belly of the beast for destroying imperialism, liberating the people (including the people in their own homecountries)?

And what kinds of politics leads where?

This is where revisionism is different from open reformism -- because revisionism is bourgeois politics that wraps itself in communist and revolutionary justifications. And so there is a revisionist line that says "we need to focus exclusively on building a powerful trade union and reform movement because that is the only basis on which later (and no one says or knows how much infinitely later!) some more radical challenge to the system can be launched."

submariner writes: "I can't believe any self-respecting revolutionary would want to just sit around and wait for that situation to change."

Let me inject some materialism and dialectics into this moralism and guilt tripping. First of all, revolutionaries need to both wait and NOT SIT AROUND. In other words, the objective conditions that make certain leaps possible are exactly that: objective. And at the same time, we can accelerate the maturation of conditions by what we do, and we can prepare forces to take advantage of future changes in the objective situation (like the emergence of an even more severe crisis within the system of various, and especially political, kinds.)

Mao called this "hasten and await."

And in particular, the idea that the job of communists is at all times to focus on creating (from scratch if necessary) the most elemental struggle of the masses (including trade union economic struggle) is a mistake. In many ways, it is the workings of the system, not the work of communists that drags millions into political life. The question is, what do they do once they get there.

The idea that communists should mainly focus on the "unawakened" -- and seek to "drag them out of apathy" -- and that we should mainly mobilize the active to reach the inactive... those views both ignore how much it is the system that will awaken the inactive, and (more important) greatly downplay the importance of winning the masses to their higher interests (not just to the lowest level decision to fight for immediate demands.)

Submariner lists the kinds of thinks his project seeks to "teach other workers" like "how to fight the boss, how to recruit and train other workers into the movement, etc."

And i just ask that you think "what is left out of this list" and what is the definition here of "the movement."

Submariner writes: "It's important that conscious socialists be active at all levels of the labor movement and other social movements, from the shop floor to the elected national and international leadership."

Here too there is a question "what is a "conscious socialist" -- since he/she is obviously talking about a concept that blurs any distinction between Democratic Party "socialists" (i.e. pro-capitalist welfare-state social democrats like the heads of several unions -- and the heads of several imperialist powers!) and people who actually are proletarian revolutionaries.

And, more important, the issue is not mainly who participates, but who leads.

Historical example: The communist party activists "participated" (at all levels!) in the CIO movement of the 1930s, but whose "movement" was it ultimately? John L. Lewis and FDR. The main political accomplishment of this "movement" (beyond the reforms that we are always told about) was the merger of the left wing workers into the Democratic Party and the imperialist war machiner of World War 2.

So who LEADS AND INHERITS this "movement" that submariner wants us to "participate in at all levels"?

In that light, a sdelf-descriptive remark by sumariner in his/her first post stood out to me:

"In short, we are "salts" (or "submarinos" in Spanish, hence my screen name). Most of us "submarinos" are radicals of one stripe or another, and we view our work as an essential element of the class struggle. How can we overcome capitalism if the vast majority of workers are unorganized and cowed before the power of their bosses? Our organization is far from uniform ideologically; we often argue over revolutionary theory even as we work well together in our day-to-day efforts."

No. you are describing the politics and intentions of the lowest level foot-soldier-organizers of this movement. But you never describe the line (and class forces) that lead that "movement." Because, all of us know (or should know) that these unionization campaigns (by the ALF-CIO, or UNITE, etc.) are tightly controled by political forces leading these unions -- that are profoundly and fiercely commited to channeling ALL this into the bourgeois framework.

You know it (even if you don't mention it) and we know it. so let's not pretend that all different lines are represented "at all levels" -- at the bottom, young radicals get used as footsoldiers, and "at the top" this "movement" is headed by dedicated, conscious agents of this system (who occasionally flash "socialist" beliefs for your titillation and befuddlement.)

Who gets the fish? The worm or the fisherman?

Submariner writes: "Well, there are different ways to be advanced. One of them is believing in socialism, or having the correct 'line.'"

I jsut want to point out the habit of a whole list of people on this list to put quote marks around any analytical communist term ("line," "economism," "revisionism," even "reformism"!) It is a polite way of saying "fuck you, all this critical communist analysis of where line leads is just bullshit and gets in the way of our most intimate application of 'whatever works.'" And, in fact, it is given wind by the climate that says "anything communist is over, we need to erase the blackboard and start from scratch."

To submariner: you can put quotes around the word "line" -- but let's not pretend you are not putting forward an elaborate and detailed line, or that it is sharply opposed to a communist one in both theory and practice.

Submariner oozes distain for university leftists who (he/she says) "couldn't perform the most fundamental act of revolutionary organizing: recruit and train new anti-capitalist, working-class leaders in the face of the fear and confusion that charactize our world. The only EFFECTIVE (not to say "legitimate") way to find and recruit such leaders is through engagement in day-to-day struggles in the trenches."

See how we go from the first thought to the second thought.

Let me define one of the words that others have put in quotes: "economism." Economism is a trend among people who claim to be communists that says that the economic struggle is always and everywhere and inherently the most widely applicable form of struggle for bringing the masses of workers into the class struggle with their oppressors.

So let's just be clear that submariner has put forward here the cnetral and defining argument of economistss.

And it is wrong. I could go on for pages about how it is wrong... but lets just look at history:

Since world war 1 the gap between the "labor movement" and the revolutonary struggles of this world have widened. The great upsurges of the U.S. against this system have been profoundly separate from economic struggles (even when they went onto the factory floor or deep into the working class in other ways.) For example there was a deep proletarian component to the struggles of the 1960s -- but they were around Black liberation, police brutality, womens liberation, the war in Vietnam and explicitly revolutionary dreams -- NOT about the economic movement (except at the most johnny-come-lately edges of the upsurge like the teamsters etc.) DRUM was not about economic demands. The Panthers (who reached deep among black working class youth) were obviously not. The urban rebellions (which were rooted in Black and latino proltarians) were not about economic demands, trade unionism, wages, work condition etc. -- they were much more direct assaults on the system, and they were sparked and crystalized (over and over again) by the direct outrages of police murder.

The insistance that it is economic struggle and trade unionism that is the best means of mobilizing the masses is based on a whole house of cards of assumptions that are worth dragging into the light of day... Like the idea that the masses of people can only START to think about world affairs through the prism of their most immediate and personal concerns. (And this is sometimes true of the most backward, but not of the masses generally, who are often mobilized and inspired by the oppression of others, and by the larger questions of society!)

As I have said elsewhere -- the economist insistance of the universal centrality of economic struggle is an expression of not breaking the bourgeois confines of commodity production and thinking. (And it seeks to confine the workers to thinking and struggle that is around THEIR life under capitalism as a commodity with a price and conditions of exchange.)

real john

Submariner writes: "The whole point of salting is to take those of us who are relatively "advanced" in the theoretical sense, and put them into the trenches so as to learn from experience how to be an effective organizer (to become "advanced" in the practical sense)."

Let me say (without this being taken personally) that your line and politics are not "advanced" at all. And that many many among the masses are far more advanced than the centr4al ideas you are fighting for here. Not only are you fighting to draw the truly advanced and revolutionary "to the right" by arguing against revolutionary and communist politics, but the result of your practical political work will be first (if you are lucky) helping organize some economic struggle while doing penning the masses into an organized, tired and brutally controled framework dedicated to the killing confines of this system.

>>> Encouraging and organizing that struggle which is acceptable to this system and at least a section of its ruling representatives. And confining the struggle of the masses to that framework.

Submariner writes: "That's the point I was trying to illustrate with my anecdote about the RCP supporter who just walked away from trenches in the heat of the battle."

First of all, lets not the self serving and self-referential definition of what these "trenches" are. (I.e. organizing workers to bring their hopes and energies into the confines of the textile and garment unions!)

I want to end on the most important point.

Submariner writes: "There's nothing wrong with selling DVD's or newspapers per se, but I don't understand why people don't get such a basic point: propaganda alone won't do it, we have to build POWER."

First, i think it has to be said clearly and forcefully that it is a lie (and an outrage) that some people on this list act like the work of the revolutionary communists is "propaganda only." When every one of you knows the work of the RCP in organizing very broad and successful (if initial sruggle) around all kinds of cutting edge issues: including police brutality, mumia, the war, and now intensely and creatively around defeating the whole juggernaut offensive of this ruling class, headed by the bush regime.

So first, don't give us this self-serving caricature that you are the "practical organizers" and the communists are just a talkshop of newspaper sellers standing on the sidelines of real struggle. It is a lie. You know it and we know it.

But I really want to focus on the sly and demagogic use of the word power in this quote. (And notice that while communist terms are in "quotes," submariner puts the word POWER in caps. How militant!)

But lets break that down: what kind of power?

What submariner is saying that "power within this system" (the power to pressure the ruling class to make reforms) must be the central (sole?) focus of "organizing" for the whole forseeable period. That developing this "power" within the framework of the current system (within the framework of collective bargaining, labor law, lobbying for immigration reform etc.) is the only real and practical "power" that matters.

And that (maybe) in a way that is almost unspoken, if enough "power" of this kind can be accumulated, then maybe, someday we can talk about going beyond reforms and trade unions, maybe we can talk about "socialism" (by which we really mean some capitalist welfare state resting on the neck of the people of the world, but squeezing out some pensions and medical care for those who have developed the "power" to fight their way to the "table" and get their pie of this system's pie.)

No. No. No.

That is wrong on every level.

First, you won't get power that way. You will mobilize the oppressed, angry and awakening masses to be footsoldiers of one wing of the ruling class -- funneling their poltics and struggles to terms (reforms) acceptable to those rulers. And you are not even reading the writing on the wall... do you really think this country's imperialist Democratic party will allow or support a "fighting union movement" or even a return to the social contract of New Deal collective bargaining? Smell the coffee, dude!They are ALL planning multi-tier apartheid, third world productive inner city manufacturing zones, lowered expectations, and competition with the low wage areas f the third world. Not just because of their political and ideological framework, but because of the objective material framework they operate in and serve: the global capitalist system.

No. we need to raise the quote by lenin "Without state power, all is illusion." don't demagogically write about POWER, when you are really advocating NOT focusing on power.

When you are organizing people to say "we want in" and not "we want out."

I want to end on that point, because this issue of POWER is exactly the core issue. And what kind of power do we want, and what kind of power do we intend to bow before (and what institutions of state power are reformist forces organizing the masses to bow before).

Read the opening section of this crucial essay, and then lets get into this discussion for real.

http://rwor.org/bob_avakian/views/


a relevant re-posting

Let me post and refernce the RCP's elaborted position on (a) how to wage struggle and (b) how to relate to economic struggle within that.

( http://rwor.org/margorp/a-create.htm )

Hastening While Awaiting

How would you get to the moment when mass armed revolution is the order of the day? A revolutionary situation emerges through a combination of huge shocks and changes in society overall (brought on by events like economic crises, wars, and revolutionary struggles in other countries) in combination with the work of revolutionaries all through the period leading up to it.

The Party cannot create a revolutionary situation; it must, in one sense, await favorable developments. But it can and must hasten the arrival of the conditions for the armed struggle for power. The Party does not overall determine the political challenges that it faces, but how it meets those challenges can have a huge effect on the political terrain itself. In other words, the Party must play a very dynamic role at all times, and that role will greatly influence when, how, and even if a revolutionary crisis actually does emerge.

The Party’s orientation must be to strain against and strive to transform the limits imposed by the objective situation. The Party must be working at all times to push things closer to, and to prepare for, the conditions where the armed struggle can be launched. “How does what we are doing today prepare us for and get us into position to be able to actually launch and win the revolutionary war, when the time is ripe?”—this is the yardstick with which our Party measures its work for revolution in the U.S.

The Party’s Central Task

The Party does this through carrying out its Central Task: Create Public Opinion, Seize Power! Prepare Minds and Organize Forces for Revolution. The Party Chairman, Bob Avakian, has described this as “an all-around process and all-around struggle through which the consciousness, and also the organization and fighting capacity of the masses is raised in preparation for going over to the armed struggle to seize power when the revolutionary crisis breaks out.”

This process and this struggle has a definite aim—simply put, we are working to bring the masses to the position where they are willing and determined to put everything on the line for revolution, where they grasp both the necessity and the possibility for this. This, in essence, is the “public opinion” we are creating.

This should not be understood as a process of “patient education.” It is an all-around process with different dimensions—it encompasses mass struggles in various forms and building organization, both the Party itself and mass organizations of various kinds, as well as exposing the system, bringing to light its ugly features, its utter worthlessness, and the necessity of overthrowing it. And all this goes into preparing the masses and the Party itself for the all-out struggle to seize power.

The Pivotal Role of the Party’s Press

Within this whole process, the Party’s newspaper plays a pivotal role. Through its exposures, it reveals the different and conflicting class interests and class forces involved in all such events, and gives people a sense of the thoroughly reactionary nature of the system and the need for revolution. It battles the bourgeoisie in the realm of public opinion on the biggest issues and questions of the day....

The paper shows people that such a revolutionary struggle is possible—and it shows that there is a political party that can lead such a struggle, a political party that speaks and acts for those with nothing to lose but their chains: The Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.

In short, the newspaper is pivotal in carrying out our Central Task as an all-around process, an active process of exposing the system and of engaging the enemy in struggle, and building up the revolutionary organization of the proletariat and its allies—all as preparation for waging the revolutionary war, with the prospect of winning, when the time is ripe.

The role of the newspaper will assume even greater importance as the revolutionary situation develops, when events clatter with machine-gun speed and public opinion goes through rapid shifts and turns, when masses in their millions will be looking for guidance on how to live and how to die, and when the changing shape of public opinion will have very direct implications for the timing of a revolutionary uprising.

“Schools of War” and the War Itself

Our Party’s Central Task is also a means for dealing with a major contradiction we face in making revolution in a country like the U.S. The insurrection should not be started, as Chairman Avakian has put it, “until the system has gotten into deep crisis and the ruling ­powers are weakened and fighting among themselves, while growing numbers of the oppressed people are more and more refusing to put up with the system and more and more ready to put everything on the line to bring it down. But before you reach that point, you definitely cannot let the system and its enforcers just keep on beating the people down and robbing them without resistance.”

As Chairman Avakian goes on to say, “You have to lead the people to fight back, you have to move masses of people to battle the system in a way that is guided by revolutionary ideology and serves revolutionary aims. And through all this you have to build up the revolutionary consciousness and organization of the ­masses, with the Maoist vanguard party at the very core, and prepare the revolutionary people to wage people’s war when the conditions for that are ripe.”

The Party must support the masses when they fight back and often must take responsibility for initiating and organizing such struggles when the people face especially sharp attacks. In relation to these struggles, and in regard to all the major questions in society and world events, the Party must expose the real source of the problem, which is not just this or that politician, boss, or cop, but the whole imperialist system. The Party must promote the real solution—proletarian revolution.

These struggles are not the war itself. Armed insurrection and civil war is something qualitatively different than even the hardest fought and most militant mass struggle, way beyond even a massive rebellion. But, viewed from the vantage point of preparing for such a revolutionary war, today’s mass struggles are immensely important.

Especially as the Party influences mass struggles and helps develop them “in a way that is guided by revolutionary ideology and serves revolutionary aims,” they can be schools of war, contributing to the development of the masses’ fighting capacity and sense of organization, stiffening their determination in the face of the enemy’s attempts to crush them, and helping them to see the need to build resistance as part of a revolutionary movement. This resistance can awaken and inspire others, dramatically revealing the injustice of the system to thousands and even millions more, and thereby helping to create public opinion for revolution.

Here once again the Party’s newspaper plays a critical role. Its exposures of the enemy propel the masses into battle. It popularizes those battles and other important struggles throughout society, galvanizing mass support and sparking others to rise up. It shows the real source of the problem and the real solution. It lays out guidance for the broad masses involved in these battles, helping them to firm up their ranks, keep the spearhead pointed at the main enemy, and unite all who can be united—at times waging polemics with other forces involved over whether and how best to do all that.

[here is a section i wanted to post because it gets into the difference between what some mean by "rooted" and what the revolutionary communists mean by "rooted"]

Strongholds and “Stretching a Line”

As a key aspect of revolutionary preparation, the Party must build organized strongholds of revolutionary activity in key proletarian neighborhoods and workplaces. In these strongholds the Party and the advanced masses set revolutionary standards and strive to command political leadership and authority.

The Party develops its “political authority” in such areas through a combination of leading the masses in struggle in a way that is guided by revolutionary aims, widely distributing its press, popularizing and struggling broadly for the communist way of looking at the world, helping the masses forge collective solutions to the problems they face, etc. These strongholds should also be hubs of internationalist activity, where masses know about and support Maoist people’s wars and other revolutionary struggles around the world.

These strongholds serve to create public opinion very broadly and play a key role in preparing the minds and organizing the forces who will lead the millions when a revolutionary opening emerges. Strongholds like this would be crucial, in the future, in forging the revolutionary army of the proletariat to seize that revolutionary opening.

At the same time, the Party must also extend its influence and build organized ties throughout suburban and rural areas. Organized ties in such areas are important as part of all-around preparation for revolution. And organization there would also be essential in preventing the imperialists from isolating and crushing the proletariat in the urban cores when the revolutionary situation arises and the insurrection is launched.

As spoken to earlier, one way the Party builds organized ties is by using its paper to “stretch a line” to the movements that arise among different strata in various places. This means bringing the Party’s analysis to these struggles and, where possible, forging organizational links to the people and organizations involved.

“Stretching a line” serves a dual purpose: in addition to helping forge the key organizational links described above, it can also strengthen the struggles that arise among various sections of the people, helping them to focus their outrage and resistance against the enemy and maximizing their positive impact on public opinion and the political terrain overall....

The Party must carry out political work wherever the masses are found in significant numbers—in neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, and important mass organizations.

In recent years one significant development among the working class is that immigrant workers and lower-paid proletarians have begun to wage major struggles to organize unions. Other kinds of progressive political ferment (for instance, taking up struggles against police brutality) have also gone on among unionized workers. This has created further openings for revolutionary work in relation to the unions.

At the same time, in carrying out such work, as in all the Party’s work, it is necessary to resist the pulls to restrict things to the terms and limits of the immediate struggle and to put to the side the revolutionary line of the Party. This would amount to pitching things to the political level of the intermediate or even the more backward masses, rather than bringing forward the revolutionary mission of the proletariat, drawing the links between the particular struggle and that larger, strategic objective, and drawing forward the advanced to the revolutionary banner.

In general, it does not help the masses, and in fact it actually holds them back, to come to them with anything less than the whole truth of what is fundamentally required for humanity’s liberation. Our highest goal and the greatest way to serve the people is to lead them to make proletarian revolution and move forward towards communism. Communists must be bold in this work and bold in representing this whole vision and historic mission to the masses.

[Note: the draft programme of the RCP clearly indicates long range thinking of preparing for just the upsurge that people have been commenting on, and a specific line of approach to it.]

Conclusion

Having gone into many different elements of the Party’s Central Task, it is important to return to the overall character and objective of this Central Task. Chairman Avakian has summed up the whole process encompassed in our Central Task in a very concentrated way:

“You have to lead the people to fight back, you have to move masses of people to battle the system in a way that is guided by revolutionary ideology and serves revolutionary aims. And through all this you have to build up the revolutionary consciousness and organization of the masses, with the Maoist vanguard party at the very core, and prepare the revolutionary people to wage people’s war when the conditions for that are ripe.

“Build the places where we live and work as strong bases of support for proletarian revolution, with a deep and firm Party organization as the bedrock foundation. Spread our influence throughout society, especially where people are protesting and rebelling. Use the Party’s newspaper as the hub and the guide in all this, in doing everything to help bring about, as quickly as possible, the conditions where we can begin the highest form of struggle—the fight for power over society.

“The thousands who are reached and moved now will be the backbone and the force to lead millions when, ‘all of a sudden,’ millions are starting to bust loose. When there is a great upheaval throughout society; when the victims on the bottom just won’t take it anymore; when those on top are in real trouble and are fighting among themselves; when many of those in the middle support us, or at least don’t feel like fighting to defend this system: Then it is time to strike —and to hold nothing back—time to take power by force and arms. That time is coming, and we must get ourselves and others ready for it.”

CREATE PUBLIC OPINION, SEIZE POWER! Prepare Minds and Organize Forces for Revolution. This is the bridge from the present to the future; fulfilling this whole process is the Central Task of the Party.


submarino

Dear Real John,

I appreciate your long and articulate response. I will interpret the sarcasm and personal attacks that are sprinkled throughout as symptoms of "passionate intensity," which I admire and identify with.

I hope (perhaps in vain) that this discussion can be more than a mere rehashing of the same debate that has been had a thousand times before, in which you call me a reformist and I call you a sectarian and then we hate each other for ever after.

Let's be clear that, while terms such as "reformism," "revisionism," "economism," etc, may be technical terms, they can also be wielded as insults. The same way that for me to call you a "sectarian" or an "ultraleftist" (another Leninist and therefore supposedly "technical" term) would be an insult and would not serve to advance the discussion very far.

For example, you accuse me of "economism" and "revisionism." If by "revisionist" you mean somebody who is faking socialist sympathies for the sake of luring the working class into an insidious capitalist trap, then I emphatically deny the charge. If by "economism" you mean that I think building the labor movement is the ONLY legitimate movement activity, then I'm sorry you misunderstood my position, and I would like to clarify.

I admire and take inspiration from the civil rights and anti-war upsurges of the 60s, including those that had no connection to economic struggle or the labor movement. I also admire those that were simultaneously civil rights struggles and union struggles, such as the farmworkers' movement in California, the New York City hospital strikes led by the then-independent union 1199, and the Memphis sanitation workers' strike, which unfortunately has the distinction of being the occasion of MLK's assassination. (It's worth noting that at the time of his assassination, MLK was planning for a large-scale economic struggle, the Poor People's Campaign, which many believe is what made him threatening enough to assassinate.)

I admire radical community organizations such as ACORN and the Los Angeles Bus Riders' Union.

I also admire the many current variations of the squatters' movement, such as the landless workers' movement in Brazil, the factory occupation movements in Argentina and Venezuela, and (on a smaller scale) the South Central Farmers in Los Angeles. (Wait, am I a reformist or an anarchist? I'm so confused!)

That said, it is my tendency to be most inspired by the old IWW and CIO dream of "organizing the unorganized." As such, I place the most hope for socialist revolution (especially in the heart of imperialism) in the rebirth of a militant labor movement, and specifically in the current labor upsurge led by SEIU and UNITE-HERE.

Part of the reason for this tendency is emotional and psychological: I was affected as a child by my parents' work experiences, and my entry into radical politics was through a militant union that was leading an audacious and inspiring struggle on my campus while I was in college.

But I also have analytical reasons. I believe that most (not all) people have their most direct experiences with the oppression that is capitalism on the job, where they spend the majority of their waking lives, and by means of which they feed and clothe themselves and their children. I believe, therefore, that the labor movement has the potential to appeal to immediate self-interest but also to build class-consciousness, and even, in an era when unions are doomed to fail unless they organize across national borders, to teach internationalism. To appeal to non-activists but also train activists to be stronger leaders. (And I count myself, without a hint of disdain, among the student radicals who at one time couldn't organize themselves out of a wet paper bag.) On an extremely practical level, I believe the labor movement is uniquely structured so as to simultaneously confront the power of capital and build a sustainable organization with resources (capital) of its own, capable of carrying the struggle forward for the long term. In sum, for all these reasons, I believe that labor organizing provides the best opportunity for uniting a broad segment of the working class and creating a powerful, multi-ethnic, and international movement against capitalism.

If that's what you mean by "economism," then I plead guilty, but I would like to point out that I am in good company. Take, for example, the following quotation from a movement leader better known for his attacks on trade-unionism than on his admiration of it:

"The trade unions were a tremendous step forward for the working class in the early days of capitalist development, inasmuch as they marked a transition from the workers' disunity and helplessness to the rudiments of class organisation. When the revolutionary party of the proletariat, the highest form of proletarian class organisation, began to take shape (and the Party will not merit the name until it learns to weld the leaders into one indivisible whole with the class and the masses) the trade unions inevitably began to reveal certain reactionary features, a certain craft narrow-mindedness, a certain tendency to be non-political, a certain inertness, etc. However, the development of the proletariat did not, and could not, proceed anywhere in the world otherwise than through the trade unions, through reciprocal action between them and the party of the working class."

No, that's not Andy Stern, that's Lenin. (It's from a chapter of "Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder" called "Should Revolutionaries Work in Reactionary Trade Unions?") Note that he considers an active and powerful union movement absolutely essential to the preparation of the working class for socialist revolution. Note also that currently, compared to the size of the global economy, the labor movement is miniscule to the point of being virtually non-existant.

Of course, Lenin also warns that unions tend to become parochial and conservative once they have established themselves. Anyone with the slightest familiarity with the history of Gompers' AFL or Meany's AFL-CIO knows about that phenomenon quite well. Don't assume, therefore, that I'm unfamiliar with the sobering history of the post-war CIO: the anti-communist purges, the merger with the AFL, the adoption of the Democratic Party's Cold War foreign policy, and the abandonment of the goal of organizing the unorganized. Without a doubt, that is one of modern history's greatest tragedies.

But the workers' uprising led by the CIO was not the only promising development that faded away or was co-opted instead of leading directly to global communism. All of the "reformist" movements I mentioned above fall into that category, but then again, so does the Russian revolution. Blaming a "revisionist coup" for the failure of the USSR is no more helpful than blaming George Meany for Walter Reuther's mistakes.

So then why did these movements fail? That's a good question, to which none of us, not even Bob Avakian, has a satisfactory answer. One could argue that the Cold War was the burial ground of both the CIO and the USSR, and that the USSR's attempt at "socialism in one country," and its consequent conversion into an imperialist power under the banner of socialism, was the mirror image of the CIO's absorbption into the American side of the Cold War. But I won't argue that for now, lest I aquire the label of "Trotskyist" in addition to the "anarchist" and "social democrat" labels whose burden I already bear. In any case, I'd prefer not to debate yet again whether capitalism was restored in the Soviet Union in 1924 or 1956.

As for the labor movement, I'll admit that I don't have the answer for how to make sure the organization I'm involved with is not co-opted in the future. That has a lot to do with organizational politics that have yet to take shape. But I'm not the first person to lack a clear road map to revolution. In the passage quoted above, Lenin calls for "reciprocal action between [trade unions] and the party of the working class." Sounds like a good idea, but what exactly does it mean? And in a passage I quoted in an earlier post, Rosa Luxemburg posits that a revolutionary party "can best advance by tacking betwixt and between the two dangers by which it is constantly being threatened. One is the loss of its mass character; the other, the abandonment of its goal. One is the danger of sinking back to the condition of a sect; the other, the danger of becoming a movement of bourgeois social reform."

Reciprocal action? Betwixt and between? Those are not exactly detailed marching orders, but they are, intentionally or not, eloquent expressions of the uncertainty faced by all revolutionaries who, to their dismay, still live in a capitalist world. To invoke the unquestionable genius of Bob Avakian or the "science of MLM" does more to obscure the situation than to light the way. I believe we can best navigate these uncertainties by exercising a little humility and by trying to build common ground with as many anti-capitalist and potentially anti-capitalist forces as possible. We may trip up along the way, but that's life. We'll have to learn from our mistakes. In the meantime, I'll be helping build a militant, growing, and internationalist labor movement, so that the working class might at least have a fighting chance.

And if this attitude makes me a Menshvik, a revisionist, or (God forbid) a liberal, then so be it.

Lurigancho

Submarino,

You say "and specifically in the current labor upsurge led by SEIU and UNITE-HERE".

But, how is "led by SEIU and UNITE-HERE" meaningfully different than 'led by the Democratic Party'? We all know that SEIU and UNITE convert themselves every 2 years into election campaign HQs for the Deomcratic Party. We all know people who have left both unions because of that. And we all know people who, socialist/communist/anarchist as they claim to be, have found ways to compromise with that (and find ways to use Lenin to legitimize that).

Perhaps you can try to answer a couple questions for me, as someone who really wants to find a way where revolutionary communists can impact the labor movement.

How does organizing, as an honest-to-goodness-person-with-communist-intentions, in the HERE or UNITE unions prepare the proletariat to make revolution in the US today (without using any Lenin quotes)?

If the masses can't organize their own unions, or even make their own banners, without communist interventions, how can they be the makers of history?

(Perhaps that last one is vague, so let me re-phrase it:) Given the necessarily vast disproportion between small numbers of communists and large numbers of advanced masses (without, of course, negating the continuum between the two categories), how can communists best bring their advanced consciousness to bear upon the struggles being waged by the advanced masses?

friend of a friend

Regarding power:

I think Submarino is using power in the "capacity" sense of collective organization, as distinct from... say... organizing (propaganda) rallies and distributing analysis (propaganda).

Lasting organizations, "class organs," that give revolutionary ideas the ability to contend in a "real" and living way.

This is indeed distinct from the task of "creating public opinion," something I would argue DOES NOT EXIST. There is no such thing as "public opinion." It is a bourgeois idea along the lines of the "public interest," etc.

If trade unions aren't the way... and I'd agree with Real John's basic assessment of what they are... then it really begs the question of what kinds of INTERMEDIATE, MASS organizations should we dedicate ourselves to building.

The Russians had Soviets. The Chinese had base areas. We get rallies, propaganda groups and revolutionary organizations with no grounding among ANY social group in the country.

Maybe the issue isn't finding a "middle ground" between these two positions -- but having the "advanced, revolutionary forces learn how to actually lead those engaged in those "on the ground" struggles to do more than dump their efforts behind the Democrats.

That's a real discussion, with NO easy answers.

srogouski

I'm impressed by the high level this debate is being conducted at.

If you want to see a contrast, go to the Daily Kos.

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2006/3/31/124257/728

Am I wrong or is it that these people have absolutely nothing to say? It's all sarcasm and bragging that they're part of some mythical social democratic left.

real john

i agree, srogouski, that we have a rudiment of debate here -- as opposed to flame-brag-diss. But i also think we have a ways to go.

And what we are trying to do is something difficult (and here I'm not talking about just this list obviously):

We want to have a high level debate over where we are going and how we are going there that is candid, deep, sharp, real, fearless.... and at the same time many of us who are debating need to find practical and firm forms of unity on principled bases to do what needs doing at each point.

And that, if I understand it correctly, is not just something we are trying to do now, but it is integral to what BA is arguing has to be (for the first time) a defining quality of socialist society and the whole political climate of revolutionary society. All the more reason to get good at it now, "at the ground floor" of the revolution.

One of the obstacles we need to overcome is a tendency to look at all of this in personal terms -- where to criticize a line is interpreted as slamming a person (and that person's intentions).

Breaking through on this is more complicated that it seems -- and not just because of the legacy "of the left" and not just because the overall level of theoretical debate is so low (and here I have to share that I personally would not caracterize this debate here YET as "high level" -- we are barely into the threshold of functioning disccusion.)

Two issues that have been raised before are the whole impact of "relativism" (where the very idea of objective reality and scientific understanding is seen as reactionary, dogmatic and even totalitarian). So that if you dare describe someones views and sharply dispute them -- this is seen as inherently hostile and disrespectful (since "who, after all, can claim to know?" and since therefore all we have left is respectful exchange of equal opinions and democractic aggregate of opinions as decisionmaking).

I thought the thoughtful and sincere response of the submarino was in line with that, and so, in a separate followoing post, I'd like to deal with some things submarino wrote in reply to me.

real john

submarino writes, "I hope (perhaps in vain) that this discussion can be more than a mere rehashing of the same debate that has been had a thousand times before, in which you call me a reformist and I call you a sectarian and then we hate each other for ever after."

Speaking for myself: i don't think the debate we are having (and need to have) has been held nearly enough. And i suspect that many people reading this have never really grappled deeply with the issues that are central to this

(Where does revolutionary class consciousness arise from? how do you gather the material forces in non-revolutoinary times that can make a revolution when the opportunity presents itself? How do the people build organization that will not serve, or hand itself over to, our most bitter enemies and oppressors? Where should the most conscious and revolutoinary people put their efforts and their lives so that they can best serve the emancipation of the people?)

You and I sharply and deeply disagree on the answers to these questions. I do, in fact, consider your views objectively reformist (and will explain why). And I don't think the issue of "hate" needs to come up at all. In fact, as I mentioned in my preceding post, I have been working deeply to grasp the very sharp and insistant urgings of Avakian that we learn to both struggle and unite in a principled way -- and help train others to see that we need to struggle over many issues, without necessarily making each a dividing line.

submarino writes, "Let's be clear that, while terms such as "reformism," "revisionism," "economism," etc, may be technical terms, they can also be wielded as insults. The same way that for me to call you a "sectarian" or an "ultraleftist" (another Leninist and therefore supposedly "technical" term) would be an insult and would not serve to advance the discussion very far."

Look, perhaps they CAN be used as insults. But here is the deeper point: if we don't actually ANALYZE the objective impact of different lines, we can't know what to do. We will be traveling hard, but not able to tell what road we are on or where it leads.

So it is important to identify lines, their assumptions, their analysis, their implications.

And communist theory is at its best in providing a method, a framework and even a terminology for discussing these things.

As for insults: I am not talking about the people here. When I criticize your views, I am not insulting you. I think people can change, and (in fact) if people can't change in radical and even sudden ways, revolution would be impossible.

So I am struggling with you, not insulting you. (And it is the logic of relativism and the assumptions of bourgeois democracy, that insist that such sharp struggle is an act of personal hostility.

It would be irresponsible of me not to struggle this way.

Submarino writes: "For example, you accuse me of "economism" and "revisionism.'"

I urge you to go back and read my posts again. I am careful in refering to views not people.

submarino writes: "If by "revisionist" you mean somebody who is faking socialist sympathies for the sake of luring the working class into an insidious capitalist trap, then I emphatically deny the charge."

Again: i actually exlained in some precision what I mean by revisionism. And it has nothing to do with questions of subjective intent (i.e. not "faking")

It is a question of line, not intention. It is a question of what OBJECTIVELY one political direction means.

Indicating that an idea or a proposal has a revisionist line is not an accusation that the person promoting that idea or line is "a revisionist" (or some kind of enemy). In fact, the political life of revolutionaries involves self and mutual struggle over identifying and transforming ideas that lead in the wrong direction.

If you want to have a discussion with communists, it would probably be helpful if we were able to get clear on ABCs like that.

Again: if i criticize an idea you hold, and indicate that its implications are not revolutionary, this is not some statement about your "nature" or about your subjective intentions. OK?

There are (historically) revisionists who are pretty obviously conscious about being promoters of capitalism (DengXiaoping comes to mind in spades!) But that is a different matter -- and it is objectively correct (in their case) to actually describe them as capitalist roaders etc.

Submarino wrote: "If by "economism" you mean that I think building the labor movement is the ONLY legitimate movement activity, then I'm sorry you misunderstood my position, and I would like to clarify."

Again, I think i was very clear and precise about what i thought economism is: it is the idea that the struggle over people's immediate interests is the best and most universally applicable starting point for higher political struggle. (see above).

This is (not surprisingly) more or less Lenin's definition in "What is to be done?" (a work that i recommend to everyone, by the way).

submarino follows with a long (and rather personal) list of what inspires him and what he admires. A list that includes the mass movements that were generally around specific reforms (like the civil rights movement against Jim Crow), and kinda pointedly leaves out the mass movements of those same times that were more sharp in their challenge to the system (like the broad black liberation movement etc.)


And then we get to the point: "I place the most hope for socialist revolution (especially in the heart of imperialism) in the rebirth of a militant labor movement, and specifically in the current labor upsurge led by SEIU and UNITE-HERE."

I think that this is a mistaken hope -- the revolutionary movement will not mainly arrive that way. And if a "militant labor movement" arises, it will mainly be a phenomenon within, a current of and even a by-product of a larger crisis giving rise to revolutionary potential.

In france's May 1968, as the spectre of revolution suddenly arose in the western imperialist countries, the french trade unions (and their Socialist and revisionist-CP leaders) suddenly "discovered" a new militancy -- to demand sweeping economic changes PRECISELY to offer the system a way out of the crisis, to separate the workers from the radical students, and to extract from this potentially revoluonary crisis some "palpable" gains.

I have no doubt that in a future crisis (as in the example of 1905 I gave) there will be an element of economic strikes among the more oppressed sections of the workers -- raising long frustrated demands, denouncing long intolerable conditions. But giving the oppression of the people THIS EXPRESSION (as trade unionism, and as demands for change that accept the existance of the system and the oppressors) are often, precisely as such moments, something to transform and divert from this (essentially conservative) trade unionist course.

And a century of history has shown that the most important radical movements among the people (and here I am including the working people of the U.S.) have not arisen mainly from economic and trade union struggles. And even when they did (as exceptions) arise in a trade union form (as for example the Farmworkers of the 60s) they had a powerful component as essentially social movements against discrimination (inspired by the civil rights movment of Black people).

Your assumptions that (a) a rebirth of the U.S. "labor movement" is the best hope for revolution, and (b) that the existance of such a movement should be viewed as a coherent necessary pre-stage of any future radical activity -- both of these are highly subjective, and not rooted in the actual material conditions we face, or the actual dynamics of politics and struggle in our society and our class.

submarino: "Part of the reason for this tendency is emotional and psychological."

Let me suggest to you: ruthlessly put the subjective shit aside. We draw our motivation and passion from such experiences -- and that is fine. But it is a mistaken approach to defining strategy.

As one early comrade of Avakian put it: You have to want to overthrow this system so bad that you are willing to BE SCIENTIFIC about it.

Then submarino gets to his/her "analytical reasons":

"I believe that most (not all) people have their most direct experiences with the oppression that is capitalism on the job, where they spend the majority of their waking lives, and by means of which they feed and clothe themselves and their children."

This is (if you think about it) completely mistaken. Large sections of our oppressed class doesn't even have a job. Proletarian youth are in school or on the street, they are fucked with by the pigs, and a thousand agencies and arms of this system. There is the army and their fucking wars.

In fact, the job is not such a defining experience -- especially for the youth who will be such a powerful and initiating force for the revolutionary movement.

And even on the job -- the struggle with this particular employer is a very confining and narrowing way to respond to the oppression.

Take the immigrant brothers and sisters in the sweatshops -- they are bitterly oppressed by a SYSTEM (not merely or mainly by this or that cockroach sweatshop owner). They are brutalized by the government, the police, the destruction of semi-feudal agriculture in their home countries, the military and death squads of their homelands, the landlords, the gouging merchants, the lying military recruiters, the governments migras, and the capitalist coyotes and (frankly ) also by the whole official structure of the U.S. labor movement (including the United Farmworkers you upheld, who have taken such shameful and chauvnist anti-immigrant stands at key points!)

So this whole mythology about "on the job" is a narrowing and misunderstanding of how and where the system oppresses the people -- and where the most important dividing lines are that draw people into struggle.

Look now: people are breaking into struggle over this reactionary antiimmigrant law. Ironically they are joined (and supported!) in that struggle (for obvious reasons) by those same cockroach employers (and even allowed off their jobs to protest -- which is one of many reasons these marches were so large!) And yet, in your prism, you see this as a side-issue for some "labor upsurge" -- or you see it as a stirring that needs to be CHANNELED into specifically trade union activity (under the leadership of your favorite unions!) because.... because... because.... of what you so mistakenly "believe" about how all this works.

submarino writes: "I believe, therefore, that the labor movement has the potential to appeal to immediate self-interest but also to build class-consciousness, and even, in an era when unions are doomed to fail unless they organize across national borders, to teach internationalism."

I think this is mistaken.

First class consciousness is not the aggregated self-interest of workers. Class consciousness is the understanding of the historic struggle that the proletariat represents in this epoch -- that our class (as an international and historical thing) brings to all of humanity (for the first time) the possibility to overthrow all oppression and create a radically new form of society. That is what our class needs to be conscious about.

(As opposed to the wrong, narrow view that class consciousness is consciousness that you are in a class. Which is nothing but "identity politics for wage labor" -- and would mean that every british employee shouldbe considered "class conscious" even if they also have the portrait of the queen sitting on a stack of doilies!)

As for internationalism -- the heart of internationalism is not some comoodity-based view that it is in your interest to see workers in "competitor countries" raising their wages. Think about it. There are only two demands emerging from the U.S. "labor movment" about the world situation: either "buy american" (which lost its umph with the rise of Walmart!) or "raise the price of fucking Chinese goods by either tariffs or encouraging trade unions over there."

Internationalism is about revolution -- it is about how we see our struggle and goals. How we look at the world around us "from the mountain" and see that we are at the edge of an epoch that will abolish borders, nation states and the capital-enforced competition among working people.

submarino writes: "I believe the labor movement is uniquely structured so as to simultaneously confront the power of capital and build a sustainable organization with resources (capital) of its own, capable of carrying the struggle forward for the long term."

For give me, but what have you been smoking. The so-called "labor movement" is uniquely unqualified for confronting the power of capital, and hasn't done so (except if very rare exceptoins) for several generations.

They have funding, yes. And they use it to promote a certain form of organization (and to pay, young radicals to carry out this program).

But this movement is totally moribund, unable to defend the 1930-50s imperialist social contract that it itself was born out of. It is not even a "rear guard action."

There is a chance that immigrant workers will create an upsurge of economic struggle (which would be just, and a major POLITICAL development with importance for the cause of revolution.) But to think that giving mouth to mouth to this corpse of a "labor movement" would help in the struggle or hopes of the oppressed is a mistake (in virtually every detail).

submarino writes: "I believe that labor organizing provides the best opportunity for uniting a broad segment of the working class and creating a powerful, multi-ethnic, and international movement against capitalism."

I'm not going to beat to death my main points. Everything about this statement you just made contradicts the facts and speaks of a myth-based nostalgia parading as analysis.

When and where has the U.S. "labor movement" EVER been involved in a movement against capitalism?

We can discuss the history of this "movement" -- but lets just say that it has occassionally demanded improved material conditions of sections of workers (especially when imperialism wanted social stability and could afford to pay for it) -- but this movement has also been key to many reactionary movement (from anti-Asian-exclusion and pogroms, to viciously racist jim crow exclusion, to the modern chauvinist movements of "buy American" to the "tighten the ports" nonsense of the last hysterias.)

Then Submarino plucks a quote from lenin that says:

"The trade unions were a tremendous step forward for the working class in the early days of capitalist development, inasmuch as they marked a transition from the workers' disunity and helplessness to the rudiments of class organisation. When the revolutionary party of the proletariat, the highest form of proletarian class organisation, began to take shape (and the Party will not merit the name until it learns to weld the leaders into one indivisible whole with the class and the masses) the trade unions inevitably began to reveal certain reactionary features, a certain craft narrow-mindedness, a certain tendency to be non-political, a certain inertness, etc. However, the development of the proletariat did not, and could not, proceed anywhere in the world otherwise than through the trade unions, through reciprocal action between them and the party of the working class."

Reread the quote you just gave. This is about how the movement of workers arose and "proceeded" in the early days in which this class was formed (i.e. the nineteenth century).

It is a discussion (by Lenin) of the intertwining that existed between trade unions and early socialist parties IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY IN EUROPE.

But (as I pointed out) this has not been the case in over a hundred years -- and since World War 1 the "labor movement" and the revolutionary movement of our class have been more and more separate and distant (having to do with many things, including fundamentally the growth and dynamics of imperialism both in the "mother countries" and in the Third World.)

We have to avoid looking at "trade unions" through glasses tinted with idealized, quasi-religious, IWW-dogmato-syndicalist nostalgia.

This is not Centralia, or Homestead. It is USA 2006. Deal with it.

submarino writes: "Note that [Lenin] considers an active and powerful union movement absolutely essential to the preparation of the working class for socialist revolution."

Look, I'm not a dogmatist. I don't think that if lenin said it it is true. Communist theory is not some gospel of infallible truths. I oppose that kind of thinking, and find it odd that you (the "anti-sectarian") try to promote that kind of thinking here.

so let me be clear: Lenin's remarks do not apply here and now. And they problably didn't apply in 1920s England and Germany (where his pamphlet and polemics were aimed).

OK?

You call the enlistment of U.S> "labor movement" in the 1950s cold war "Without a doubt, that is one of modern history's greatest tragedies."

Uh, no. First, it greatly overestimates the importance of that movement. And it also greatly overestimates how that movement was ALL ALONG enlisted in U.S. imperialism (including in supporting Jim Crow, and in supporting the push for global U.S. empire in the 1940s world war, and so on.)

Submarino writes, "So then why did these movements fail? That's a good question, to which none of us, not even Bob Avakian, has a satisfactory answer."

Actually (though this is another discussion) i think that Bob Avakian is EXACTLY fighting for a profound answer to this -- one that is indespensible for "doing it better this time." And dismissing it (so casually, so lightly, and I suspect so superficially) is exactly the wrong thing to do.

Let me end on this note:

And the millions of immigrant workers in the U.S. are powerful potential forces for a struggle that will confront the vicious juggernaut launched by this regime -- and for the revolution against U.S. imperialism that would mark a turning point in human history.

They are links to the world. They bring a whole different experience and connectivity to the class struggle here in the U.S. They are not "invested" into U.S. society by a thousand threads, and they bring to the fight a sharp sense that comes from having a proletarian outsiderness imposed on them by the system.

Should we orgainize them to demand "in" or should we organize them about getting "out"?

Let's not degrade them and their potential, by CHANNELING them into the work of building your union, or thinking no further than their own next paycheck.

the burningman

Real John is right about every particular he raises, but I can't see how these assessments will take us "beyond" the confines of economist trade unionism.

Or maybe on a different level, I think it makes the mistake of seeing how "aspectual" work is not "the whole thing."

The only way to do the whole thing, short of doing the dog, is to engage in what was called above "propaganda."

Agit/prop groups -- specifically communist and revolutionary -- are essential, and with small numbers may even be the primary thing to do. I know I've spent my time on it.

But two things:

1) agit/prop groups are NOT the same thing as parties, and

2) having spent over a decade (as an individual) creating popular, radical and accessible newspapers, posters, flyers, shows and so on for radical social movements -- it always made the most difference when these radical ideas were swimming in a larger soup.

That is to say: revolutionary ideas make sense IN STRUGGLE and not nearly as much when its another piece of advertising. Revolution won't make your teeth whiter.

I would say to Real John, by way of his criticisms of Submarino (who's thoughtful posts help us get to the core of this discussion) -- let's say that trade union militants are a fact. And let's further take these hundreds (if not thousands) of people as "subjectively" trying to push the people's struggle forward.

And then let's figure out how that work CAN be conducted to bring out the best, to push forward, to develop working class forces, organizations and leading individuals.

No revolutionary movement has been successful without making "organic" breakthroughs. If the salts aren't seeding the people with revolutionary, class conscious ideas -- and are LIMITED by the SEIU/etc. unionist mindset (despite radical intentions) -- then help comrades figure out how to break THAT method.

Saying that working class organizing AS SUCH is a mistake is just weird. I don't think we should all don hard-hats and chase the Archie Bunker myth. That's not what the proletariat I see looks like. The USA today isn't Belgium. It's a continent of 300 million people, with a full third world within.

There is a proletariat. It needs to be organized. It needs organs of collective consciousness.

I don't think SEIU/etc can or will provide that... for all the real reasons Real John lays out.

But we keep begging the question... If not that, what? If not now, when?

Why now?

Why say to militants in struggle ANYWHERE... as a matter of course... that they are "mistaken" for doing that work itself, and not simply in the WAY that work is being done.

Does this make sense?

The tendency to look at any PARTICULAR struggle for the ways that it doesn't measure up to the "world historic struggle for communism" is a mistaken approach. By refusing a DEEPER engagement with such forces... who we should assume are honest... abandons them, frankly, to real opportunists, revisionists, charlatans and liberals.

Instead of linking struggles that become stronger through a vanguard leadership organization, the logic is that NOTHING should be done save building ideological organizations within mass mobilizations.

I disagree, and I think we have to accept that there is ROOM for that kind of disagreement.

We need MORE of EVERYTHING -- even confused, ecclectic, "mistaken" forms of struggle.

Lu

I think that Burningman's point in the larger picture is very true. But at the same time, i do think that real John actually does, in the bigger picture, what burningman is mainly calling for. i think we do need to unleash submarino to see what the best role he can possibly play in the particular struggle with the particular people he is involved with. I think it would also be a good thing to break her/him out of doing that work, or at least out of focusing on that work. I think the chairman says it very well, in a portion of a talk about the solid core with a lot of elasticity: (i'm paraphrasing but i think i'm getting to the heart of it) 'if we unleash peopl eon the wrong basis and have peopl etaking initiative on that - that will be bad, and can lead to horrors. but if we unleash people on the right basis, it will be good, even if it unleeashes people in strange directions, we can struggle through that and be better off for it.'

Repeater

"But we keep begging the question... If not that, what? If not now, when?"

This goes back to someone's point about the need for mass organizations arranged around a struggle for power, and specifically the use of the examples of the Soviets and the Base Areas.

First of all, the Base Areas were not the particular form of organization that gave material force to the Chinese Revolution. It was the Peasant Movement and specifically the Peasant Committees. My larger point with regards to these examples, is that in neither case did Communists invent or create the forms of mass struggle. The masses did this. It is the same case with Unions, and it will be the same with the next form of organization. It's like John said, you can't underestimate the ability of the system itself to create the instruments of its own demise.

So what should we be doing as communists (there is a difference between communists, and activists and militants)?

Should we be inventing these structures and organizations? Or should we be anticipating them, on the basis of where the struggle is at its height, and trying to give political leadership to the forms which are organically created by the class struggle. There is a question of causation here. Do communists cause class organization? No, the contradiction between classes causes this. Communists cause class consciousness.

Clearly you need both for a revolution. And clearly communists need to be involved in the organizations and struggles brought forward by the masses, but this is exactly one of the questions posed here: Who do the organizations in question serve? Do they serve the status quo and the bourgeoisie, or do they serve revolution and the proletariat? This is not to be taken in a dogmatic or reductionist sense, but as a question of the totality of contradictions.

This is all a question of where communists do their work. If you want to go about building or struggling within these forms or new forms, that is more than fine it is absolutely necessary that someone do it. But from a communist perspective, I think, the party is the main organizational form which we're building, and it's necessary as well because of the need of the masses, and any organizations they produce, to have political leadership if they're going to fundamentally rupture with Capitalism. On the other hand in building the Party we must relate to these other organizations.

Clearly these things exist in a dialectic, so I'm not arguing for one or the other, but for where the emphasis should be set, or what is primary for communists.

So, in this sense, it is correct for communists to approach mass struggles and organizations, which they didn't form, in order to bring the big picture and political leadership through line. On the other hand it is critical for communists to deal with the contradictions inherent in this in the best possible way. This requires investigation of the particularities of a situation and a sense of respect for the masses involved and for what they have created.

In this respect I would like to go back to something "a comment" said:

"chris is arguing that a particular investigation into very local conditions is a prerequisite for any work. While I would say that a significant part of the communist right to speak comes from investigation into the larger world -- i.e. investigation into imperialism, into setting the record straight on socialism, into the dysnamics of war and revolution, into the history and nature of national oppression, into the strategies and approaches and experiences of the revolutionary movement.

See the difference?

If you need to be "rooted" in any place before you get a "right to speak" think of the strategic implications.

How would a revolutionary student movement be built? How exactly will the revolutionary communist forces go from their current size to the kind of critical mass influence and ties needed for a challenge to power?"

The assumption here is that the issue of "rootedness" or an argument for being rooted necessitates that communists WASTE their time with investigation before they act. The other assumption is that we need to RAPIDLY go from our current situation to a qualitatively different situation. The two assumptions are linked. What I would suggest is that the necessity for rapid and qualitative change is used instrumentally to justify a lack of investigation or work with regards to becoming rooted among the masses. The question arises why can't we do both? Why not hasten and await? Or more specifically why not strive for that qualitative transformation to happen as rapidly as possible at the same time as we patiently work to sink roots among the masses and investigate the particularities of any given struggle?

a comment

1) the RCP defines its central task as "create public opinion, seize power -- prepare minds and organize forces for rev."

Those who portray that approach as "propaganda only" need to deal with the explicitness of the "organize forces" point.

2) The question of organizing forces is not mainly a question of mass organization (though there is a question of mass organization) but also a question of building the strength, size and influence of the vanguard. The fact that this hasn't come up, in the front arena of this discussion is itself a reflect on a line. A line that say "the key, or perhaps only, link and question is how do we 'move' currently uninvolved masses."

Old Salt

How long will the RCP spin its wheels in its own cultish ghetto, continually failing to organize any large social force? Probably as long as it can skim young middle class activists off the college circuit who've never known a shop floor. Young activists who are enthralled by the idea of revolution and have yet to discover that the RCP has no IDEOLOGY OF GOVERNANCE. Absolutely none. Sure, dish on us old salts in the unions, but ask yourself why you've got nothing to show for your efforts. Nothing approaching what my comrades in the PT have accomplished:
http://bostonreview.net/BR31.2/baiocchi.html

a comment

so much for a high level of discussion.

Old salt wrote "How long will the RCP spin its wheels in its own cultish ghetto, continually failing to organize any large social force? Probably as long as it can skim young middle class activists off the college circuit who've never known a shop floor. Young activists who are enthralled by the idea of revolution and have yet to discover that the RCP has no IDEOLOGY OF GOVERNANCE. Absolutely none. Sure, dish on us old salts in the unions, but ask yourself why you've got nothing to show for your efforts. Nothing approaching what my comrades in the PT have accomplished."

And since the 60s, social democratic trends have claimed that if ONLY they could dump what they see as "ultraleftism" they could take off -- in influence, numbers and organization.

One of the positive features of the political situation over decades is that various lines have been "free" to pursue their politics.

And we can see what has lead where.

And what do we see in "old salt"s" post:

First he claims that the line of the RCP is to blame for the limited influence that revolution has in society.

All I can ask then is: what is to blame for the even MORE limited influence of social democrats?

In fact, the RCP has kept revolutionary politics alive and vital (here in the very heart of imperialism) through a period of bitter decades that included the restoration of capitalism in China, the defeat or reversal of attempts at revolution in Iran, Nicaragua, and El Salvador, and then the gush of hyperpower triumphalism that accompanied the disintegration of the rival social-imperialist bloc.

Actually if you read this post again, you will notice that "old salt" is frustrated that the RCP actually is attracting a whole new generation of support. (Which he/she deals with by put downs of these "middle class activists." Um-k!)

Yes, the RCP has shown a real ability to attract and train new supporters (and a whole stir and ferment around its revolutionary politics). And yes, this has actually been accompanied by some genuine mass initiatives that have gotten (in a beginning sense anyway) "legs" in society and struggle.

As a last little fling of nonsequitor superficiality, "old salt" raises the PT (!) as proof of his/her trends correctness.

Uh, don't go so far afield, just regale us about about your work "salting" the unions?

Now, in the interest of doing more than "descend to refute" -- let me ask a genuine question:

what exactly is an "ideology of governance"? I haven't heard of that term. It would seem to be a systematized and elaborated view of what the new society would be like -- but surely no one could accuse the RCP of not having THAT (after all the detail work of their programme, followed by literally two years of new theoretical work on precisely that topic by Avakian.)

so does "ideology of governance
mean something else? Something we could learn by hearing about?

Or are you merely and sadly disappointing us -- by just expressing a total ignorance of the RPC's detailed, new, materialist, and pathbreaking work on how to reach and envision the new revolutionary society?

Supornik

Hello! I am interested in Bob Avakian's work and would like to read more of the RCP platform! Could you please provide a link that elaborates on the following?

"It would seem to be a systematized and elaborated view of what the new society would be like -- but surely no one could accuse the RCP of not having THAT (after all the detail work of their programme, followed by literally two years of new theoretical work on precisely that topic by Avakian.)"

Thak you!
T.D. Supornik

leftclick

Supornik, check here:

http://rwor.org/s/programme_e.htm

a comment

I think the most important place to start are the writings of Chairman Avakian on these burning questions. I will list three book-length works -- which i think are breaking the ground for a renaissance in communist thinking and practice:

Views on Socialism and Communism: A RADICALLY NEW KIND OF STATE,
A RADICALLY DIFFERENT AND FAR GREATER VISION OF FREEDOM

http://rwor.org/bob_avakian/views/

Dictatorship and Democracy, and the Socialist Transition to Communism
http://rwor.org/bob_avakian/new_speech/avakian_democracy_dictatorship_speech.htm

Democracy: More Than Ever We can and Must Do Better Than That
http://rwor.org/bob_avakian/democracy/index.htm

For a more programatic and concentrated treatment of things (though written before most of the above works were available) you can check out the RCP's draft programme here:

http://rwor.org/margorp/progtoc-e.htm

And within that... the sections that deal with the nature of socialist transition are the following:

The Party Under Socialism,
and the Transition
to Communism
http://rwor.org/margorp/a-party2.htm

Consolidating the
New Proletarian Power,
Developing Radically
New Institutions

http://rwor.org/margorp/a-consol-e.htm

Proletarian Dictatorship, Democracy and the Rights of the People
http://rwor.org/margorp/a-proldic.htm

Art, Science, Education,
Sports, and the Challenge
of Creating A Whole New Superstructure
in Socialist Society

http://rwor.org/margorp/a-artscien.htm

The New Socialist Economy Part 1: Grasp Revolution, Promote Production

http://rwor.org/margorp/a-socec1-e.htm

The New Socialist Economy Part 2: Agriculture, City and Countryside, Ecology, and Planning


http://rwor.org/margorp/a-socec2-e.htm

There is much more... but I'm sure you can explore from there for yourself.

anon

For those who don't agree with the strategy and politics of "a large, progressive, mainstream labor organization" you can also altsay with the Industrial Workers of the World's (IWW) Starbucks Workers Union. I highly recommend altingsay (with any group), especially for overeducated college grads who haven't had too much "real" work experience.

nick

I agree with the sentiment that there is much to do and learn by "becoming one with the people." And that there are important contributions to make when radical activists step out of career tracks and small ingrown circles and decide to "take it to the people."

But the question remains: take what? organize people for what?

The syndicalist assumptions that economic struggle and SOME form of unionism is what the workers need is something we have been debating (and some have been correctly opposing here.)

So yes, take your stand with the people of the world. Break out of the confines of campus and career. Go deep among the people to learn and change -- and to help them become the powerful force for changing the world.

But the point to grasp is that wherever you go among the masses of people (housing projects, sweatshops, high school campaigns, military families, prisoners etc.) what the people need is communists (not union organizers). What the world needs is a revolutionary movement in the U.S. -- not movement that trains people to aim no higher than a slice of "the pie" (which is inevitably "a pie" that is not worth having, and that is rooted in the bitter domination of the rest of the world.)

The assumption (which for some people is apparently deeply rooted) that going among working people MUST mean (somehow, for some reason) focusing their attention, political activity and hopes on unions -- that assumption is very mistaken, misleading, and largely NOT what the people need.

So if you go deep among the people, make sure you are clear about what cause you are bringing with you, and what the impact of your work will be.

At the risk of repeating the obvious -- being a communist does not mean rejecting or abstaining for all "partial demands" -- but it does mean putting central "for what?" and that WHAT is a revolutionary struggle for a new communist world, with all that this means now, and through all the complex struggle to come.


http://rwor.org/a/038/avakian-need-for-communists.htm

Euston Manifesto

"11) A critical openness.
Drawing the lesson of the disastrous history of left apologetics over the crimes of Stalinism and Maoism, as well as more recent exercises in the same vein (some of the reaction to the crimes of 9/11, the excuse-making for suicide-terrorism, the disgraceful alliances lately set up inside the "anti-war" movement with illiberal theocrats), we reject the notion that there are no opponents on the Left. We reject, similarly, the idea that there can be no opening to ideas and individuals to our right. Leftists who make common cause with, or excuses for, anti-democratic forces should be criticized in clear and forthright terms. Conversely, we pay attention to liberal and conservative voices and ideas if they contribute to strengthening democratic norms and practices and to the battle for human progress.

12) Historical truth.
In connecting to the original humanistic impulses of the movement for human progress, we emphasize the duty which genuine democrats must have to respect for the historical truth. Not only fascists, Holocaust-deniers and the like have tried to obscure the historical record. One of the tragedies of the Left is that its own reputation was massively compromised in this regard by the international Communist movement, and some have still not learned that lesson. Political honesty and straightforwardness are a primary obligation for us."

http://eustonmanifesto.org/joomla/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=12&Itemid=1

Non Serviam

The error you make, Nick, is where you state "what the people need is communists (not union organizers)."

You cannot really pit one against the other. The objective situation in the U.S. is that it needs both union organizers and communists -- and just as importantly, it needs people who can serve both functions.

The situation we have been put in, thanks to errors since the 1970s, is that a justified Marxist-Leninist disgust with the state of "organized labor" - Meanyism and economism - has morphed into an abstentionist and un-ML approach within the RCP and other groups in which.

Abstentionism is an incorrect approach for several reasons:
First, it fails to raise red banners where they count, among the proletariat and among the masses in general. See also Left Communism.

Second, abstentionism from the mainstream unions hasn't done anything other than cede ground to Trotskyites like Solidarity, or syndicalists like Wobblies - who've managed to get their heads out of their asses unlike most Trotskyites and anarchists, but still haven't figured out how to build a mass organization beyond building radical caucuses.

Third, even if torpedoing "organized labor" for its sins - e.g., the whole guns-and-butter/AFL-CIA phenomenon - were warranted, abstentionism has hardly done this; while the unionized sector of the workforce has gone down *as a percentage*, it has maintained its numbers since World War II. In other words: there are still union members who are still paying dues, and those dues are still being given away for totally unworthy projects.

Unions and their struggles are confirmedly NOT the class war themselves. This was known in the time of Lenin, at the early quarter of the 20th century, and I hardly think that it's a lesson most leftists need to re-learn. It's the second part of the quote - that union struggles are schools of the class war - that's really been lost, and that is something for leftists to ponder.

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