Why Haven’t You Learned? More On Elections and Reformism and the development of mass movements.
On November 7th, voters in Saint Louis City approved Proposition P, which allowed a sales tax hike to go through and subsequently give the city police force which has been notorious this year for several acts of criminal violence and human rights violations (AKA war crimes) against protesters a large raise. It passed because the voting population was overwhelmingly white and “middle class”, aka reactionary as all hell. Many of those who had expended vast amounts of time and energy campaigning for a “No” vote on Proposition P blamed the masses for this failure, saying “if turnout had been higher” among working class black people, there would have been a tip of the scales. These people fail to understand the dynamics as to why turnout was low. Turnout was low because black people don’t give a shit about elections. Whoever is elected and whatever is passed, we will still catch hell. We make our uprisings in the streets, we conduct our politics in the streets. Not at the polls. While the reformists were bawling, drinking, and engaging in acts of self-flagellation, the masses were going about their daily lives. The failure of the “No” forces to develop a mass movement against Proposition P and generate turnout will, if they are not completely detached from the day-to-day life of the real proletariat of this city and country, teach them valuable lessons.
The first lesson should be this. Without revolutionary theory, there can be no revolutionary movement. It is essential to study revolutionary history and theory, both foreign and domestic. All of this shit has been done before. This does not mean sequester yourself in a little hole with a book, that’s just as useless as campaigning for bourgeois elections. We study theory to apply it, to prevent the repetition of errors and deviations in practice, to avoid revisionism, and to develop ourselves and our organizations. If a Communist is not consistently studying and applying what they study, they will make mistakes and their work will not develop. When we make mistakes, we learn from them and self-criticize. This is the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist style of work. Mistakes, to us, are inevitable, but we learn from them. The liberal and social democratic style of work is to keep repeating the same mistakes over and over and over again and blame others instead of introspecting, self-criticizing, and reorienting. This is why they are never successful, or write off trifling victories as massive successes.
The notion that socialism can be brought about peacefully should have died with Allende on September 11, 1973 when the US government and reactionary Chilean officials staged a reactionary coup d’etat. If you enter the system, engage with it, and sink yourself into it, you will find yourself, eventually, policing protests, condemning revolutionary elements, and engaging in bourgeois political back and forth. Communists should not preoccupy themselves with running for alderman, mayor, or other local offices. Nor should they allow themselves to tail reformists in campaigning against this or that ballot measure, trying to get people to the polls. Every action that we take must be with the intention of preparing for the development of a revolutionary party and revolutionary war to destroy the United States, and raise the political consciousness of the masses. Channeling massive amounts of energy into bourgeois elections only to lose is the exact opposite of this. Many people would counter that this is “building power at the local level” and condemn anti-election Communists as being “dogmatic”, “ultra-left” and “too theory obsessed”. This is a hollow defense of revisionism, ripped straight from the pages of Bernstein and Kautsky. If tailing reformists and left of center Democrats to get petty personal ties and favors is “building power”, it’s for yourself, not for the masses. There are good things to do, and stupid things to do.
Anything that does not turn more and more of the masses into Communists and strengthen Communist political organizations is not building Communist political power, which is the only political power that will bring the radical transformation that we seek. To turn the masses into Communists, we must have a firm grasp and command of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, and most importantly, apply it in our daily agitation and propaganda work. Every time we are among the people we should be integrating deeper and deeper with them, joking with them, asking them questions, answering their questions, and guiding/being guided by them. Without a Maoist orientation, a Maoist style of work, and Maoist theory in command, there can be no revolutionary movement worthy of the name.
Anarchism, Trotskyism, and radical liberalism/postmodern identity politics in command lead to consistent and constant failures of the same type and are harmful to the development of the revolutionary movement. The first promotes and dedicates itself mostly to super-secretive ultra-left adventurist and small group activities that are, of course, inspiring, but the lack of discipline, inability to use the mass line, and lack of a Communist work style lead to disintegration, instead of growth of the mass movement. This being said, the Anarchist dedication to direct action, rejection of bourgeois and praxis is an extremely useful presence but is in need of a theoretical foundation, development of criticism/self-criticism practice, and a coming to grips with the necessity of firm organization, discipline, and structure to contend with the tasks before the revolutionary movement. Without this, the most radical of direct actions by a scattered band is the equivalent of a water balloon hitting a brick wall.
Trotskyist influence in mass movements lends itself to either tailing reformist and liberal elements, overfocus on the class interests of the petit-bourgeois and the subsequent limitations (fear of revolutionary practice and “going too far”, distrust and dislike of the masses), opportunism, wrecking, class reductionism, white chauvinism, and entryism. None of these things are conducive to the development of a revolutionary movement that can win. This has been the modus operandi of the Trotskyist movement in the US since it began. A revolutionary organization that considers getting a person elected to a city council seat a revolutionary thing or a victory is making a serious mistake and is not a revolutionary organization. Trotskyists confuse people by claiming to uphold revolutionary principles and Communism in theory and then going on to display practice indistinguishable from the garden variety liberal, promoting “get out the vote” lines and also opposing so-called “Stalinists” both openly and in private. They have their “revolution”, and then they love their liberalism. This being said, I have met many principled and decent people who are in both soft and orthodox Trotskyist organizations and who have distinguished themselves as individuals, but as a political line with influence, Trotskyism must be rejected and destroyed for the interests of the mass movement.
Postmodernism is a cancer. It is anti-proletarian, counterrevolutionary, and foreign to the Communist movement. Instead of revolutionary practice and work, we have endless fragmented talk about “validation” and “narratives”, endless splitting, the passing off of the ridiculous and banal as “valid”, relativism, and a dearth of both revolutionary practice and theory. It’s no wonder that the work of French postmodern philosophers was promoted by the CIA to undermine revolutionary movements. It is useless and should be mercilessly purged from our movements because when it is in control and allowed to dominate, isolation from the masses and stagnation of the movement follows close behind. The best thing a pomo can do is stop being pomo.
The second lesson for those who have been demoralized by the failure of the “No” forces on Proposition P is that the masses are not to be taken lightly or dismissed. If you talk to an average black worker, you will know that they don’t vote. Instead of shaming them for not voting, you should learn why and pick up on their analysis. Communists learn from the masses, synthesize their ideas through Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, and develop a line to be carried back to them. If the line is judged incorrect by the masses, then we start over. Eventually, the consistent spreading of our correct line is rewarded by subsequent growth and development of the mass movement, the political growth of the masses, the development of new Communists, and isolating of bad elements and bad cliques. To develop this, we need to cast away illusions, cast away useless things, and embrace Maoism and nothing else.