[Note: This is an edited version of a presentation that was initially given in January of 2018 at the inaugural Maoist Conference for Line Struggle held in Kansas City, MO. Portions have been edited out for security purposes. This is the same revised edition that appears in the book, “Documents of the US Maoist Conference for Line Struggle,” which you can purchase here, with proceeds going to support the US Maoist party building effort.]
Form the Cadre Organization
“Whenever I find myself in a difficult situation I strive to look for its positive aspect or for what potential for development may still exist within that situation, because nothing is completely black, nor is anything completely red. Even if there were to be a big defeat, even though we have not had one yet, there would always be a positive aspect. The point is to draw out the lessons, and continue to do our work based on the positive aspect. You will always find someone to support you, to lend their ardent enthusiasm and assistance to the struggle, because communism unites people. “
Historically all revolutionary movements started from mass struggles and mass organizations as well as struggles against a Rightist line. We can trace this historically with the Bolsheviks against the Mensheviks in the lead up to the October Socialist Revolution. The formation of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) led by Charu Mazumdar, out of the Naxalbari uprising and from a split with Communist Party of India (Marxist). The reconstitution of the Communist Party of the Philippines brought forth from the struggle against the Lava-Taruc revisionists and from the First Quarter Storm. To the Revolutionary Union/Revolutionary Communist Party from SDS here in the US as well as the reconstitution of the Communist Party of Peru led by Chairman Gonzalo against the revisionist-reformists led by Saturnino Paredes.
At some point the Red Line had to formally consolidate and form a revolution party and from this party generate organizations that could be the vehicles for mass struggle. The explosion of mass activity necessitates a clarification and consolidation to sustain this momentum to a critical mass. At the same time the revolutionary line must contend with a revisionist one as well as a reformist counterrevolutionary line that also emerges from mass uprisings. At all levels the cadrefication of mass members should be the goal, replacing our numbers inside the mass org with mass members and eliminating the contradiction between cadre and the mass organization. Our past work aimed to win hearts and minds with political transformation as secondary. Our conception calls for concentric construction on a miniature scale. That everything flows from cadre and without initiation of this cadre there cannot be a true Maoist pole.
1. Start Your Maoist Collective with 3-5 members
If you already have a consolidated core there is no reason why you cannot have a cadre organization. This necessitates democratic centralism in the formal sense as opposed to the informal sense. The cadre in the mass orgs should capture leadership in the mass organization by seeking to form a maximum and minimum number of 3 cadre who will form a cell within the mass organizations, while still upholding that the Maoist organization must be composed of 3-5 members initially. This cell forces the cadre organization to replace our ranks with mass members with as little overlap as possible. This cell must present written reports at cadre meetings to inform the cadre of political work that is occurring in the mass organizations. The cell should be assigned to the mass organizations and their criteria as the most active members of this organization. They must also be initiators of all mass work within the organization and take a role of leadership.
A cell implies a unit with direct orders from the large cadre organization that operates through formal democratic centralism. The dangers of not replacing mass members with cadre is that cadre work, in turn, becomes secondary at best or at worst, and all work is done through the mass organizations. Thus, frontism becomes the practice of the Maoist organization in relation to its mass organization. When all cadre belong to the mass organizations there are no free hands available to carry about party building and the cadre work. Here overlap has seriously hampered the task of party building, ideological development and consolidation which should be the task of all Maoist collectives.
2. Generated Organism and Structure
“Their [the three instruments of revolution] construction is guided by the principle that a just and correct ideological line decides everything, and it is on this ideological-political basis that the organizational construction is simultaneously developed in the midst of the struggle between the proletarian line and the bourgeois line and within the storm of the class struggle…”
-On Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, Communist Party of Peru.
Once the cadre have been united in a stable organization, and have committed to carrying out mass work, the construction of a mass organization should begin immediately. The mass organization thus becomes a “generated organism” meaning that it is initiated by cadre. This serves the basic twofold task of organizing the masses to bring them into open conflict with the class enemy and training the masses in administration. Through generated organisms we organize the disorganized masses for the struggle against the organized power of the ruling class.
The cadre cell generating the organization ensures that the correct ideological line forms the basis for the organization. Viewing the mass organization as a primarily multi-tendency organization, which had an informal Maoist hegemony is a mistake. This forms a tenuous situation, which rests more so on the numerous Maoists inside the organization exerting pressure on members to transform politically rather than Maoism being the political orientation of the organization in general. The result of this is not only that oppositional political trends can grow and gain a significant foothold in the organization without violating any organizational documents or discipline, but also that it undermines the work of cadre in creating new communists by fostering non-revolutionary and eclectic political orientations that seek to combat Maoism internally. This is an especially dangerous situation in the initial stages of the organization, for if the Maoists do not gain a foothold and conquer ideological hegemony, which is merely informal, then the organization rests on an incorrect ideological line and its political work will necessarily suffer.
The generated organization resolves that issue by establishing the ideological-political basis of the organization as Marxism-Leninism-Maoism in a formal manner, stamping out the eclecticism of the multi-tendency approach and replacing it with a formal Maoist oriented mass organization. This is of the utmost necessity for our work, of which the end goal of conquering power is our primary aim, of which the question of proletarian political power in Maoism is of fundamental importance. If we are serious in our work of building towards that goal then we must develop the masses politically to that goal through Maoism. This cannot be accomplished through wading through the mire of ideological-political eclecticism, and we should be open and honest in our desire to steel and develop the masses through these generated organisms in Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.
It would be a mistake to give one inch to consensus democracy as the basis for the structure of the organization. This is a rightist conception of an organization that is to be a fighting organization of the masses, and a practice that is foreign to Maoism, but right at home in the movementist Left in its various anarchist, social-democratic, and revisionist formations. In promoting this one succumbs to “ultra-democracy” (where individuals are free to subvert organizational discipline, and this in turn actually negates the democracy that it seeks to promote) and horizontalism in that one’s Maoist core is actually negated on several cases because centralism is not present from the beginning. This can hamper one’s ability to carry out tasks and actually increased the amount of time wasted on meetings and deliberation rather than expediting it. In essence, one is not only negating democracy but also centralism as well. Ultra-democracy and horizontalism negate leadership, in theory as being an “authoritarian” imposition, and in practice by bogging the organization down through a lack of fidelity to discipline and collectivism to where even informal leadership becomes ineffective.
In the storm of the class struggle, leaders and leadership, are produced. As communists we understand this not as an evil to be combatted but a necessity that we should not shy away from recognizing, steeling, and developing. To negate the necessity for leadership erases all pretenses of democratic centralism, and negates genuine proletarian leadership, and thus the necessity for the Communist Party itself. A weak leadership, even from the beginning, means an ineffective organization. The corrective is to implement democratic centralism in the mass organization, so the lower bodies (general membership) are subordinate to the higher bodies (secretariat). The formulation of democratic centralism should not be mistaken for democracy being primary (and indeed this was our previous error) but rather, that centralism is primary. Democracy is merely the base, or the road, by which we arrive at centralism.
Numbers do not negate democratic centralism. Even when the organization is under 10 members the organization should operate along democratic centralist lines to both establish a proper Maoist culture and discipline, and to also foster effective leadership and participation from general membership. During this stage the cell should formally assume the role of the secretariat of the organization. The secretariat should never be more or less than 3 positions (Chairperson, General-Secretary, and Education Officer) no matter how large the organization grows. The work of leading and maintaining an organization should be able to be carried out by three individuals as long as the secretariat initiates committees and/or tasks mass members to carry out tasks, which are binding, and the cell is vocal in pushing a revolutionary line of action and ideas openly. In the event that the organization grows but then regresses to 10 or less members, the cell must again assume all leadership.
The cell should work to overcome specialization in organizational work. We should not discourage an individual doing a lot of tasks, but we should not let that person become overburdened or allow other cell members to shirk their responsibilities. Leadership is collective, not individual.
3. Identify a Fixed Site of Struggle to Recruit From
We initially recruited from a local university (a fixed site of struggle) among a club within that university (a fixed community) who were already familiar with radical political ideas. They formed a consistent core within our mass work early on. We also recruited from students studying in the humanities, as they too were also familiar with progressive and radical ideas. We challenged these sections to put their ideas into practice.
By focusing on a fixed site of struggle with a substantial, stable, and consistent concentration of people we were assuring that our presence as a group was established and strenthened. This allowed for a concentrated organizing base area as opposed to a more diffuse area of organizing in the city in general. By focusing on a fixed community within a fixed site of struggle and propagating revolutionary politics to sympathetic people, but also challenging them to put ideas into practice, We were thus able to form ourselves as well as integrate ourselves into struggle on campus, as the club’s members also interact with members from the student body in general.
4. Identify The “Leaders”
It is important to identify and win over the leaders in the particular community you are working in. The revolutionaries must take advantage of recruiting from fixed sites of struggle from fixed communities by winning over their leaders, who will in turn recruit and mobilize from within those same communities. This is a universal truth in many people’s wars in which a village is won over by winning over the village elder or tribal leader. By winning over the leaders we switch from recruitment on an individual basis to recruiting on a more mass basis.
5. Organizational Procedure
All meetings must be purposeful. It is not productive to hold meetings for the sake of holding meetings if no real work is being accomplished. Members should also be expected to be familiar with organizational documents, as new member orientations should cover all relevant documents, and members are expected to remain familiar with these and uphold them as long as they retain membership in the organization. In the beginning points of unity are sufficient as they unite and draw in a broad base of people from the recruiting site/section, but once the organization grows and develops over 10 people the immediate goal is to develop a political line for the organization to replace them.
Points of unity reflect a lower level of political development and only loosely bind members ideologically around broad core principles (e.g. anti-imperialism, anti-racism, socialism etc.). This is unfitting if an organization seeks to reach the masses on a large scale as these will be seen as idealistic fantasies in the absence of a political line. Depending on the organization the political line may differ but it should be borne out of the mass work the organization is conducting, from its own investigation and its own political experiences.
The cells should report, in a written fashion, to the cadre formation their political work inside the mass organization and any relevant updates at each meeting. This keeps all cadre informed to the goings on of the mass organization, and can also help identify mass members politically and ideologically developed enough to be moved up to cadre.
6. Hold Regular Collective Studies and Collect Mandatory Dues
Regular collective studies are a mandatory part of the mass org. Since mass orgs are initiated by the Maoist political line, mass org members must undergo the political transformation of learning the thought behind its existence and applying this line in their political work. Regular studies ensure a measurable standard to grow the organization ideologically.
Monthly dues are mandatory and must be seen as a necessary part of maintaining the printing of flyers as well as other materials necessary for outreach or propaganda. Dues should be a fixed minimum amount and members should be allowed to give more but not less. If a member is unable to contribute the minimum amount, assign them one or two additional tasks per month, but only on a case by case scenario. The treasurer should keep track of who is paying, and discipline should be applied by the Secretariat in the case of members neglecting this duty.
The collection of dues in a democratic organization also ensures a sort of personal investment in the organization. Dues used to be voluntary due to concerns about alienating members that are not able to pay. However, we abolished the voluntary dues line because it was liberal. Mandatory dues encourage a higher level of investment within membership. We also uphold this line because we value quality over quantity and believe that truly dedicated members will contribute to the material needs of their organization.
True believers in revolution have been willing to become martyrs for liberation, a few dollars would be nothing for them if they were truly invested in proletarian revolution.
In revolutionary collective studies we demarcate between liberal ideology and tactics with militant ones, with the latter meant to raise the overall ideological level among mass members and the population they organize with. Education is centralized within the secretariat so that liberal and erroneous ideas do not take a hold in the mass organization, and when they are encountered they must be struggled with through a process of criticism and tying back to the political line of the mass org.
7. Build Up an Authentic Maoist Culture
Authentic Maoist culture fosters a strictly political culture as well as a normalization and regular practice of principled criticism and self-criticism. We must foster a culture of solidarity, serving the people and serving comrades but politics must be in command.
Here we must also utilize a stance that there can be no “long breaks” for cadre and mass members in our organization, so long as they wish to remain inside the organization. We must also follow organizational discipline and always outwardly promote the Maoist political line within the mass org. Every member must feel free to express their criticisms, taking caution never to blunt criticism, but to also engage in a principled manner with the essence of the criticism taking precedence.
Revisionism and liberalism should be openly challenged right then and there, not allowed to fester as non-antagonistic contradictions will be allowed to deepen and will erupt antagonistically. Belonging to a political organization should take precedence over liberal notions of friendship over politics.
8. Stay Organized
It is important to establish a calendar and always take notes in meetings and to review them. Encourage members to do this and enforce it if need be. Every printed agenda should contain events for that month with important dates at the end. Establishing some discipline is good in the organization. After events, summarize them as soon as possible, typically the next regular meeting or if you can immediately after.
Leadership cannot be expected to know everything just off the top of their head. By forming a calendar it allows one to plan events ahead. By keeping in mind important dates (or as the Filipino Revolutionaries call them “Red Letter Dates”) such as May Day, International Working Women’s Day, organization anniversaries etc. a month or a few months ahead of time, the organization is not caught planning things as they come. Similarly, by expecting members to also keep calendars, take notes etc. it prepares them to also take up roles of leadership when the time comes.
9. Do Not Orient Towards “The Left”
Left unity does not build a Maoist movement, but instead dilutes the possibility for more militant organizing. We have observed this in our own work, whether working with anarchist “organizations” like Food Not Bombs, IWW, or the Democratic Socialists of America. For instance, when we contacted other organizations to show up in mass for the protest to the fascist anti-sharia law march, DSA and other liberal organizations split off to occupy another portion of the park to give speeches, testimonials, and talk to the media, whereas our mass organizations stayed put and directed our attention directly at the fascist, rather than “ignoring them”.
The splitting represents an ideological antagonism, as it is an appeasement to the crushing brutality of fascism, for the sake of peace and “being the bigger person.” Such left unity falls into the error of tailing and opportunism, an anti-communist idea. We can see this error in our own work, as left unity incentivizes ideological concessions for the hope that such favors will be returned in the future and we build mass support via uncritical tailing of the “masses”. When it was rumored ICE was going to be doing raids in Kansas City, a call was made by Kansas/Missouri DREAM Alliance to bring out people to do patrols. The call was made at midnight and participants were to report to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce at 6 am. 40 people volunteered that day with over half comprising of our mass organization members. Those who did not always agree with us repeatedly remarked positively to the showing up, consistency and discipline of mass members.
Although we comprised over half of the individuals who had responded to the call, and although we were amongst the few willing to forcibly stop any detainment observed, our tailing of organizations like KSMODA did not result in favors being returned, but in fact limited our own work. When we attempted to organize a sit – in at a local community college in response to raising rates for undocumented students, KSMODA dropped out of attendance a few days prior, citing they were uneasy with our methods, as they were too “militant”.
When criticized for breaking their commitment, they took principled criticism as a personal attack and responded hostilely, severing all communications, although our members had been integral in volunteering for their DACA clinics, even when their own members could or would not. This again exposes a set of inherent contradictions, namely, how does an organization with the intent of creating Maoists organize alongside organizations who actively reject Maoist principles, why take up faulty alliances that dilute our political line when we still serve as the most devoted to the work, and how can a “unified left” agitate the masses, when such approaches are antagonistic to one another. The end point of left unity then falls into the logical conclusion of tailing; opportunism, and revisionism. The highest example of this was our “membership” in the Kansas City Grass Roots Network, an assortment of garden variety leftists led chiefly by the DSA, the KC Green Party, and local anarchists, in preparation of the ACT for America sponsored white supremacist rallies on 9/9. Again, our resolve for membership was rightist in form, as it put concessionary alliances for broad left support over Maoist politics in command for mass support. All preparations for the event, including propaganda, flyering, and even bodies on the ground ready to confront the fascists fell solely on our shoulders, although the KC – GRN sought to take credit for the action.
Our reliance on their goodwill led only to missed opportunities to fully commit ourselves to agitating amongst the working class of Kansas City. Such alliance s as the KC – GRN even harbored known wreckers and abusers, with no means to discipline or rectify their behavior, due to their garden variety ideologies and their inherent horizontalism. To forge such alliances with anti – Maoist elements is to allow liberalism and revisionism to permeate into our work. For these reasons, we denounce left – unity, and will forge no alliances nor work alongside any organization that opposes our political line. We welcome those who support our political line, and forge alliances only with those who actively take up that political line. As Maoist, we must win over the masses. We cannot be won over by the “left”.
10. Do Not Engage in Unprincipled Attacks and Squabbles
Principled criticisms are encouraged over petty and personal disagreements. In our attempts to remain above the bullshit, we sometimes erred on the side of allowing incorrect lines to go unchallenged to avoid arguments. We attempted to ignore and run from contradictions that arose both from within and from our relationships with other organizations, in the hope that they would resolve themselves.
In both our handling of the post-modern clique and of the divide between us and the STL revisionists, we chose unprincipled peace over struggle. But, failure to resolve these contradictions was inevitable due to our approach. We must remain principled in our debates so that we can be understood, but we should not shy away from open struggle. Reactionary ideas will continue to thrive unless we attack them directly. We should not mistake valid criticism for unnecessary squabbling and the essence of an argument takes precedence over its form or “perceived” form. With a political criticism we can make no concession in seeing out two-line struggle until the end.
11. Build the National Organizing Committee*
“As we see in the world, Maoism is marching unstoppably to lead the new wave of world proletarian revolution. Listen well and understand! Those who have ears, use them. Those who have understanding – and we all have it – use it! Enough of this nonsense. Enough of these obscurities! Let us understand that! What is unfolding in the world? What do we need? We need Maoism to be incarnated, and it is being incarnated, and by generating Communist Parties to drive and lead this new great wave of the world proletarian revolution that is coming. Everything they told us, the empty and silly chatter of the famous “new age of peace.” Where is it now?”
All existing and new Maoist political collectives must place the question of the Party as primary and incorporate mass work into the creation of this party through a formal process via the pre-party formation. After the collapse LC, many collectives including our own, advocated for the Autonomous Maoist Collective model, pushing the thought of party building to an undetermined future time. The LC’s bad political lines and the backwards culture it curated understandably left a bad taste in the mouth of US Maoists. Subsequently, many collectives took up the task of “building up” locally instead of a true party-building effort. This position has hindered collectives’ ability to unite wholly, and our unity is only based on our commitment to Maoism, but this approach lacks any way to facilitate true line struggle.
Individuals and collectives have no real accountability to each other and in the past, this has turned attempts at line struggle into personal conflict, and outright ridicule. As the US MLM movement grows, potential new collectives could be forced to choose which of the existing collectives to align with should these current alliances dissolve, and this could fracture the modern MLM movement much like the “communist” movements in the US before it. This position also leaves these collectives susceptible to collapse, as they have no larger system of support to help them weather the ebbs and flows of revolutionary work, regardless of their political line. This pre-party formation would assist in helping new MLM collectives to form, and a pole in which autonomous MLM collectives spring up can gravitate towards. It would seek to consolidate those collectives through ideological struggle, set some standards at what constitutes mass work, coordinate where to concentrate resources to work, generate mass organizations and help existing mass organizations consolidate, the STPs for example, initiate resources and concentration to penetrate the labor movement etc.
To further our unity and advance the revolutionary situation in the US, now more than ever it is necessary to take up the task of building a Maoist party, beginning with furthering the principled unity that we’ve established with collectives of dedicated Maoists across the US. We cannot begin to seriously discuss people’s war or how to take advantage of the impending capitalist wars without the formation of a party, which is why we fully support the beginning of the construction of a Maoist pre-party formation. We’ve continued this process with the MCLS 2018 as we all seek to develop ideologically and further unite the US Maoist movement. A pre-party formation could unite the political lines of the current MLM movement, guide new collectives in their formation, and create a nationally united MLM movement as we build towards revolution in the US.
We are at a point in history where it is very likely that a World War could happen within the next 5-10 years, the international bourgeoisie has expanded rapaciously across the globe with the dissolution of phony Communism and the imperialist powers that have emerged are in competition for global influence and markets. What exists now in the United States is one that can be called Cold Civil War that could very well become hot. What separates us from the other revisionist parties is the question of People’s War, this is how we will resist the Empire. ALL mass work that is conducted and initiated by the Party will be tailored to constructing the capacity to wage People’s War. This can only be possible through the construction of the Party with the current Maoist collectives congealing and forming a pole.
DARE TO STRUGGLE! DARE TO WIN!
*There was a lot of struggle over point 11 and by the end of the conference it was eventually agreed upon by all collectives that it is not yet the appropriate time to form a National Organizing Committee.