How and When Will The Revolution Come? Thoughts on Party-Building
Many impetuous comrades grow disillusioned and pessimistic when they observe the current state of the US political scene. Everybody’s been screaming “FTP” for decades, uprisings come and go (courtesy of those bought off by nonprofits and Fortune 500 foundations), organizations come to the forefront, split, and fade into memory often within the span of a year and a half. Meanwhile, the crisis of imperialism deepens. More and more people go hungry every year, more and more people are thrown off housing and employment cliffs, yet to many it seems that social democracy and garden variety radical liberalism/identitarianism are the only things moving a substantial amount of, we Maoists seem to remain voices howling in the wilderness, with a few exceptions (we got an organization with a few hundred thousand likes on Twitter to share our article after being hounded!). Why is this? Where is the Party?
The Communist movement remains beset by amateurishness and all kinds of other ills, most often rooted in the class behavior of the petit-bourgeoisie. Half-assed attempts at organizing workplaces and apartment complexes which are often abandoned at the slightest whiff of pushback or repression, protest hopping, endless cancelling and misuse of criticism for personal clout accumulation, and online stupidity. Ideologically, we have either eclecticism, with people trying to synthesize various sorts of mysticism, postmodernism, and religion with dialectical materialism, or stodgy dogmatism that leads to the resurrection of the worst chauvinism of the New Communist Movement (particularly with regards to the questions of gender and nation). All kinds of people, most of which are not in any type of organization that practices democratic centralism, promote “lines” that do not come from the necessary combination of collective study of theory and application of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism but instead from thin air, or the collective agreement of their Twitter or Facebook echo chambers. This would all be somewhat excusable if it were not for the arrogance and self-righteousness that permeates many of these circles. Arrogance and self-righteousness (masquerading as criticism, more often than not) is not becoming in any type of Communist, nevermind one who is not involved in any type of organized class struggle. This being said, on the other side, there are many revisionists who brag about their organizational ties and their activity and use their affiliation in a sanctimonious manner to promote objectively revisionist lines, completely ignorant to the negative political impact of said organization on the masses and the movement of which they claim to be a part.
The primary contradiction, organizationally, is the lack of a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist party in the United States, which could provide guidance and discipline to well meaning comrades who do not happen to live in major cities. This party must be built, not through endless tirades and rants about party-building or how everybody else is building the Party wrong, but through concrete work and actually building Communists from among the masses. What’s my personal party-building line? Currently existing organizations should go among the people, organize them for struggle, develop the most active and disciplined into Communists and then, from there, into dedicated cadres who actually belong in and can develop a Party worthy of the name. The Communist Party comes from the people, not from the heads of petit-bourgeois intellectuals and their snide polemics.
Amateurishness leads many comrades to reject (or view as a tedious chore) the important work of social investigation and class analysis. They rush to the scene of struggle like firefighters to a big blaze, failing to take into account the scene that’s already been prepared. Many see a problem on the news (a strike, a tenant struggle) and show up with propaganda and slogans after the fact, and end up being marginalized by the liberal tenant organizers, lawyers, Democratic Party politicians, radlibs, preachers, and “rent-a-crowd” types that also flock to the scene. They also get disheartened because the masses seem more apt to engage with the lawyers who can take the landlord to court, or the politicians who bring the press and get attention, than the Communists. It’s like a press conference, with reporters jockeying to get a soundbite. The Communists, disheartened, either provoke a stupid, one sided fight and get embarrassed in front of the masses (or arrested), or slink away in shame. The task of the Communist is to develop and prepare struggle, not to simply respond to it. Struggle is developed and prepared through constant, every day contact with the lowest and deepest masses of the people. Without SICA, there is no militancy, there is no struggle, because you don’t know what you’re doing and you’re going to make many unnecessary mistakes that make the masses distrust you.
The Comintern guidelines on the organization of Communist Parties tell us: “Communist propaganda and agitation must above all root itself deep in the midst of the proletariat. It must grow out of the concrete life of the workers, out of their common interests and aspirations and particularly out of their common struggles.” Propaganda is derived from the concrete experiences of the people in an area. For example you would not agitate and propagandize among migrant workers in Arizona without a conversational ability in Spanish. Material for propaganda comes from the shop floor, the schoolroom, the homeless shelter, the jails. That is where the masses are, that is where you will get raw material for agitation and propaganda work. Many comrades lose sight of the fact that revolutions aren’t just a matter of guns, or correct (in your own mind) lines, or militancy. In America, everyone has guns, a correct line with no fruit (meaning people organizing around it) is not a correct line, and militancy without people to back you up is a ticket to pseudo-revolutionary termination of your own existence.
How do we isolate bad elements such as those already mentioned, who suck the people’s blood, traffic in their struggles, and work to isolate us from the masses? Through patient work wherever the masses may be found. One-on-one agitation, striking up friendships (many Communists refuse to make true friends with the masses, seeing them as revolutionary acquaintances or future accomplices!), attendance at their parties and functions, and engagement in political discussion. The Comintern guide continues: “The main forms of communist propaganda and agitation are: individual discussion; participation in the struggles of the trade-union and political workers movement; impact through the party’s press and literature. Every member of a legal or illegal party should in some way participate regularly in all this work.” Furthermore, the masses should be made comfortable within our organizations. The reason that many Communist organizations suffer a lack of proletarian, semi-proletarian and lumpen/proletarian membership is because the students, petit-bourgeois, and bourgeois elements within these organizations have turned what should be thoroughly proletarian organizations into petit-bourgeois and bourgeois organizations, hence the constant squabbling, cancellations, and spurious criticism within and without. That’s how people act at the university, and unsurprisingly the masses that Communists so desperately need avoid these nerve wracking and stressful things, choosing to find community instead at church, in gangs, and on amateur sports teams. If your organization stresses you out instead of healing and inspiring you, it is not a proletarian revolutionary organization, it’s either a cult or a bourgeois scheme. By proletarianization of our organizations (meaning, recruiting actual proletarians instead of college students with rich parents who drive pizzas around for weed money), we will sink our roots deeper into the masses and build up a real hard core that can drive off opportunists. It’s one thing for Communists who can easily be painted as “outside agitators” to tell the opportunists to fuck off, it’s another thing for the masses themselves to tell them to fuck off.
Successful tenant and workplace organizing campaigns can take years, not months. Contrary to wishful thinking and tailism on the internet, strikes don’t come from memes or podcasts, they come from people who work together talking about their conditions. A dedicated team of cadres, such as comrades from a particular shop who joined a Communist organization together, should be able to function as a nucleus, agitate coworkers clandestinely to prevent retaliation before they can handle it, and generally function as a sort of Communist organization within the workplace or school. They should study together, see each other often, and hang out off hours to build comradely ties. This nucleus should be capable of responding to every attack on workers, and establish ties to similar groups nationwide and particularly in their own locality if they exist. If they don’t exist, they should be developed. If you know a Communist at another workplace, encourage them to develop an organization centered around it. Communist cells need to make a comeback and this is where the bread and butter, and rank and file of the Party, and thus the revolution, will come.
“Only through such absolutely necessary day-to-day work, through continual self-sacrificing participation in all struggles of the proletariat, can the “Communist Party” develop into a communist party. Only thus will it distinguish itself from the obsolete socialist parties, which are merely propaganda and recruiting parties, whose activity consists only of collecting members, speechifying about reforms and exploiting parliamentary impossibilities. The purposeful and self-sacrificing participation of the entire party membership in the school of the daily struggles and conflicts of the exploited with the exploiters is the indispensable precondition not only for the conquest of power, but, to an even greater extent, for exercising the dictatorship of the proletariat. Only the leadership of the working masses in constant small-scale battles against the encroachments of capital will enable the communist parties to become vanguards of the working class-vanguards which in fact systematically learn to lead the proletariat and acquire the capacity for the consciously prepared ouster of the bourgeoisie.”
So, to answer the question of how and when the revolution will come? The error is looking at it as a singular event that comes into existence at the drop of a hat, immediately. That’s akin to the Christian saying that heaven awaits those who pray and don’t sin. Furthermore, it’s senseless to engage in speculation, as the revolution that tears apart the United States will look unlike any other in human history. The only given is that it will be bloody and protracted. Every day, the revolution is being prepared. Every time a new Communist is made through conditions, that is a preparation. Every time a Communist meets another few Communists and decides to form a collective for mass work and study, the revolution is being prepared. Every time the police murder another Black child, and his brother picks up Malcolm, the revolution is being prepared. The critical task is for all these future Party cadres to remain at their posts, deepen their work, make new Communists, prepare for ever sharpening class struggle, and network with other Communists. Establish ties to others doing the same thing within driving distance, meet with them regularly, share information/criticisms/pointers, and support each others’ actions. That’s how the Party will be built in practice, on the ground. The Party’s composition, line and practices will depend on what is determined by the summations of work. Political work is what will make or break the Party in regards to seriousness. There have been many failed/atrophied party building attempts that did not orient themselves around work, but around affinity, a newspaper/journal or opposition to another formation, or even around adherence to lines expressed by one person. A real Party earns its vanguard status by hundreds and thousands of people, most of which are proletarian and colonized, engaged in political, organizational work guided by the tenets of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism applied to our concrete conditions. Maoism has to be incarnated and made a living thing, not simply words on paper. People, masses of people, have to be willing to fight and die for these ideals of a world without want and exploitation, going up against the bloodiest empire in human history. Only then will the revolution triumph.