On Constructing Urban Bases: Part III
I’ve written about the work being done by Cooperation Jackson before. Comrades in Mobile, Alabama are dedicated to constructing a similar model but have been pretty downhearted lately because of what they perceive as the lackadaisical nature of the local left in the city and the inertia of the masses. People that committed themselves to the project also moved away. Here’s the thing, when building an embryo for an urban base, in many cases it’s going to be you and a few local contacts with advanced political consciousness doing the initial work. Cooperation Jackson is part of a decades long process of work beginning in the 1970s with the arrival of Republic of New Afrika cadre in the city of Jackson. Imagine if people had decided that “Jackson sucks” and broke camp for greener pastures. There’d be no Cooperation Jackson. To build something of that sort requires the realization that you have to throw yourself fully into something. If you’re going to dedicate yourself to building something, you’re in it for the long haul. This trend of wanting to move to places like Portland, Chicago, New York, LA, and other large places where you think there’s a large activist community or do riot tourism is the epitome of petit-bougeois pleasure seeking. Mao described it thus: Pleasure-seeking. In the Red Army there are also quite a few people whose individualism finds expression in pleasure seeking. They always hope that their unit will march into big cities. They want to go there not to work but to enjoy themselves. The last thing they want is to work in the Red areas where life is hard.
Communists are by no means monks or puritans lying on beds of nails, sleeping on mattresses on the floor, or engaging in poverty tourism. Some people think that’s what Communism is all about, these people are usually white and from bourgeois backgrounds and have an internalized guilt complex that they believe can only be exorcised by enduring as much self-flagellation as possible, changing their lifestyle, and wearing a hair shirt. That’s their business. If you dedicate your life to constructing socialism before humanity goes extinct, if there’s an enemy of the people in front of you and you will happily pull the trigger, if you are a member of a revolutionary Communist Party and carry out the orders of your superiors to the very letter unless they are rooted in objectively revisionist methods of thinking, you are a Communist. Communists do not disappear from their designated bases of operations for months at a time without having either been released by the Party for work in another area, nor do they cry about the inertia of the masses or the inactivity of a pathetic and sterile left. Communists are builders. If there is no mass movement and organization in an area, we build it. How do we build it? What are people most concerned about? What are people prepared to do about it? What is the class character of the area in which I live? Who are the political movers and shakers and what’s the dirt on them? Who does the community respect and hold in high regard? How can we win these people over to our side? These are the questions we ask ourselves. We build mass organizations to struggle around issues of great importance to the masses, building their political consciousness through practice. We build intermediate organizations for those who are at a higher political level. We develop various institutions of embryonic dual power and struggle against all aspects of bourgeois power, eventually driving them out and constructing new power. To do this requires the very firmest discipline and subordination to a greater goal.
Cooperation Jackson has been able to develop and thrive because the people that founded it were able to correctly ascertain the contradictions facing their city and take concrete actions to solve them. People needed food, urban gardening programs developed. There are vacant lots in every gutted industrial city like my own, my comrades and myself have one that we grow food on. In many cases, the soil is full of lead, so you have to build raised beds (we use cinder blocks and deconstructed pallets), fill them with soil, and grow food. We’ve done tomatoes, watermelon, cucumbers, squash, corn, peppers, and herbs. This year we’ll add greens to the mix, and okra. Of course, growing an urban garden is not by any means inherently revolutionary — the fact is that this is being done politically and with the active participation of the community as a demonstration of the potential of the masses without the involvement of the state is what makes it revolutionary. Trump is probably going to let food stamps run out of funding in his latest temper tantrum over his wall, what is going to be done? Collect and stockpile food for distribution and prepare propaganda explaining the correct way to respond to food desert crises. HUD funding is in danger and people face eviction — canvass Section 8 apartment buildings, read up on tenant law, and build a tenants’ union. These things have to include political education and develop people into communists, otherwise they’ll be indistinguishable from church groups or things led by revisionists and reformists that have no revolutionary content whatsoever. The key to turning someone into a Communist is finding the grains of revolutionary consciousness in an individual and stretching them out through discussion and practice, with the primacy being placed on practice. Without successful social practice, you can talk until you’re blue in the face, but nobody will become a Communist, particularly people who have been accustomed to dealing with all sorts of con artists, political hustlers, preachers, and other elements who just want money and prestige and care nothing about their struggles. In America, home of the scam and the huckster, revolutionary demonstration and practice combined with explanation for our successes and failures through the lens of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist theory interpreted for American terrain is the order of the day. We must heed the advice of Amilcar Cabral and acknowledge that nobody in the US who is oppressed and who works inordinate hours for thankless pay, or who has been in or is currently in prison, or who is struggling on TANF, is going to fight for an amorphous idea. There have been enough would be fourth, fifth, and sixth swords, false prophets, misleaders, liars, and bullshitters. We have to concretely show, through practice, what Communism is and is not.
Through establishment of correctly guided mass and intermediate organizations of prisoners, welfare recipients, unemployed people, inner city students, inner city teachers, and other segments of the basic masses in an embryonic urban base, and leadership from the advanced among these elements, and inclusion of these elements in the Party/United Front/People’s Army building process, we can develop the foundations for urban/semi-urban bases and begin to develop MLM theory in imperialist contexts. Revisionists claim that PPW is irrelevant to modern imperialist countries, choosing instead some October Road insurrection strategy or a series of endless reforms. Maoists often retort by discussing and pointing out the waging of PPW in urban contexts in semi-colonial, semi-feudal countries. Acceptance of the thesis that PPW is universal is, of course, integral to Maoism, meaning that if you reject the universality of PPW, you are not a Maoist. However, the method that many Maoists use when arguing for its universality, either dogmatic proclamations and semi-religious statements of near-blind faith in the eternal, unchangeable correctness of Maoism, or discussing historical moments and countries far removed from the material reality of the United States in the year 2019, does an injustice to the fact that our ideology and science is extremely flexible. It is not a dogmatic, dead, or incorrigible one. What must be changed while maintaining the theoretical framework, will be changed. Furthermore, we must realize that correctness is proven through social practice. You can declare as many parties, collectives, and lines as you want, but as long as none of these things are taken by the masses as their own, do not acquire a really mass character reflective of the positions, lines, and culture of the most advanced elements of the New Afrikan proletariat and semi-proletariat, they will not change reality. Look at the history of the NCM for examples. As long as Communists are rooted primarily in foreign examples, failed experiments, and long collapsed movements and not in the own revolutionary tradition of the New Afrikan people and other revolutionary traditions in the United States, Communism in the US will not be a material force that will change reality, by changing reality, I mean make revolution. Constructing a bastion of iron and demonstrating, in practice, the universality of MLM requires a sober and thorough concrete analysis of where we are in the United States. We must do deep and thorough theoretical work and study seriously every movement in the US, the oppressed nationalities especially the New Afrikan people, and also the history of the NCM. On the field of practice, we must dedicate ourselves to organizing and training, along with being organized and trained by, the masses. A comrade suggested the idea of establishing communes/seizing control of small towns in the abstract — do it. To deal with the coming crisis in the next decade, it is necessary to give full play to our creativity, experiment, and develop red political power in every capacity possible. To fail to do so would be an unforgivable failure on our part.