Stop talking about revolution while not meaning it. Stop talking about revolution without making it. Stop talking about revolution without recognizing that it is not a dinner party, but a violent act, a violent overthrow of one class by another. Heed my advice, or you playin’. The “left” in the United States and the rest of the first world is so doped and duped by what passes for mainstream political discourse and “radical” rhetoric (ballots, elect a socialist to your city council, police permitted demonstrations every month, etc.) that they actually believe that a revolution can be made by a few artisanal coffee shop patronizing, ascot twirling, Trotsky reading gentrifiers with MAs in something useless, if only they can get enough members into their organizations, if only they can get enough people to hold their signs, if only they can get enough people to show up to their “mass meetings” (invariably 99% white and held at a local “radical” bookstore that used to be someone’s affordable housing), then the “political revolution” will be prepared and we will elect the government that we need. Gradual change. Get out the vote for some “activist” to get into City Hall to fight a brick wall and posture and pose and lie until they decide to just say “fuck it” and sell all the way out like Bobby Rush and Bobby Seale did. Inch slowly towards some “horizon”. Join every movement and pull it towards some opportunistic end, build up your own reformist/revisionist organization, to hell with the people, they’re bodies for protests and nothing more. Build coalitions of paid activists and wreck actual mass organizing efforts that actually dare to say “Fuck the Police”. Take over the DNC! Again, you playin’. The revolutionaries are the Black and Brown youth who struggled with that pig in Anaheim the other day and returned to fuck his house up. This is who holds the future. Not you. Those who are willing to use violence are those who will make revolution. Those who police them are…well, the police. In or out of uniform.
What is a revolution? Those that have made them, or who have encouraged us to make them, or who have died in the course of making them, naturally, are who we should listen to. Malcolm X speaks of revolution as something that is “never peaceful, never loving, never nonviolent. Nor are they compromising, but destructive and bloody”. This was a dig at the Ghandian tactics of Martin Luther King, Jr. (while we’re on Ghandi, read this great picking apart of his ridiculousness), who he had much respect for as a fellow leader of the New Afrikan nation and who he was willing to defend with his life, but whose tactics he saw as suicidal, pointless, harmful, and beggarish. X and King’s contention was a class contention and a line contention, one that has been raging as long as there has been an black revolutionary struggle in the United States. It was, essentially, a line struggle between the conservative, Southern, religious petit-bourgeoisie, represented by Dr. King, a minister from a petit-bourgeois background, and the urban black proletariat/lumpen-proletariat in the cities of the North and West, represented by X. Every idea and every line represents the interests and outlook of a certain class, and not all ideas or lines are correct, factual, or equal. King was rooted in idealism and metaphysics, he was anti-Communist, he rejected Communism as being cold and unfeeling and “making no room for Christ”. X, on the other hand, embraced Marxist inspired revolutions and spoke of revolutionary China as a country where the “uncle Tom Chinese” had been booted out. X had a correct understanding of revolution and of violence in them, he was uninhibited by dogma that was only introduced to our people to make us, essentially, easier to maintain in a weak position, and his background as a prisoner and lumpen-proletarian gave him an appreciation for and recognizance of the laws of human society, one of them being that an unarmed and defenseless people is subject to being prey and that there is no justice without bloodshed of the oppressor. The civil rights movement represented by King was not a revolution, it was a mass movement, of course, but one centered around bourgeois democratic demands (voting and desegregation), one that still saw promise in America, one that saw that things just needed to be “fixed” and laws passed. To call it a revolution is to toy with the word, and sap the essence from it, the essence of struggle.
A revolution, as defined and practiced by Mao and others who have actually made them, is a violent act, the overthrow of one class by another. Revolutions kill, revolutions suppress the rights of the enemy, revolutions are protracted. Revolutions sweep the old system, the old order, out the door, and bring in another one. To do this requires violence, because dying classes fight like hell to ensure their power remains “secure”. Even after all the old big bourgeois, comprador elements, lackeys of all sorts, and fascists are dead, there will still be revolution to be made, because old shit dies hard. Of course, there are ups and downs and ebbs and flows in levels of struggle, and not all struggle absolutely must be violent, especially during the socialist period, but the fact remains that new bourgeois or would-be bourgeois elements will pop up, old ideas will reappear, new erroneous lines ideas will appear. Struggle appears in all things, in nature, in societies, in the process of changing from one society to another. We don’t shun this or promote “all getting along”, we welcome it, cast off the old and welcome the new. To cast off the old system of capitalism-imperialism, the most violent and Earth destroying system known in human history, one that is willing to spray grandmothers with freezing water to remove them from their land, one that is willing to spray Palestinian crops with herbicide to starve them, one that bombs and massacres untold thousands every year, one that is willing to lock people in tiny cages for decades, we must recognize that the process of doing so simply will not be peaceful. Demonstrations and protests have their purpose in the revolutionary movement. They are threats, shows of force, shows of rage. In a revolutionary demonstration that has mobilized the revolutionary masses, cops are cursed out and if there are enough people, their windows are smashed and their cars flipped. There is no handshaking, permit asking, or meeting with beforehand or afterwards, the pigs are our enemies. In a revolutionary movement, there is no “critical engagement” with the electoral system. You can run all the candidates you want, even if they win, what happens? They’re swallowed up and get obsessed with remaining in office, ideals go out the window. The Black Panther Party ran people for office, this was a rightist deviation, one we shouldn’t repeat. Again, you playin’. To make revolution, ultimately, the American Left is going to have to come to hard terms with the fact that our strength is in the streets, among the masses of youth and working class people, with primary stress going to those from oppressed nations. If your organization does not practice the mass line method of leadership and you don’t know what a line is, you playin’. If you don’t know how to defend yourself, you playin’. If you do not go among and talk to the broad masses of people and learn how ready they are for this shit, you playin’. If you do not engage with and listen to the broad masses of people, you playin’. If you hear the words “peaceful protest” coming out of your mouth, you playin’. Playing is not what we need right now, we need people’s war and we need to smash this shit for good. Fuck Bernie, fuck Kshama, fuck whatever bullshit hack candidate you cook up and serve to us. We’ve seen them before, they give us indigestion. My people have been waiting for 400 years, and have been the most advanced at this revolutionary shit. You should take some lessons. The only people that are interested in a nonviolent revolution are the enemy, because they know what revolution is and a peaceful one is not it. Pick a line, pick a side, read Mao and Malcolm, and act accordingly.
A key distinguishing feature of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist theory and practice is our commitment to and development of proletarian feminism, which is the ongoing theoretical and practical development of the struggle against patriarchy from the perspective of the proletariat. The seminal work of the CPI (Maoist) cadre, Anuradha Ghandy, cadre name Avanti, Philosophical Trends in the Feminist Movement, lays out a merciless critique of bourgeois/radical trends of feminism and shows how they are theoretically and practically insufficient for the immense liberatory tasks before working class women in the 21st century. Proletarian feminism leaves no room for bourgeois feminism of the Hillary Clinton/Margaret Thatcher/shaking hands with pigs at the Women’s March school, nor does it leave room for bioessentialist ranting and raving about how “pussy grabs back”, etc. Nor does it leave room for hoteps raving about “defending our queens”. Nor does it leave room for white feminists excluding and silencing working black and brown and trans women and carrying the women’s liberation struggle down dead ends. What it does leave room for, however, is the study and practice of the eventual and inevitable overthrow of patriarchy and capitalism at the hands of the most exploited and oppressed people in the US and around the world, working class black and brown non-men. I can assure you that when proletarian feminism becomes the dominant theoretical and practical trend in the black women’s struggle and becomes a material force, white supremacy, capitalism, imperialism, and patriarchy will begin to hear their final death peal. This is because, in the centuries old New Afrikan liberation struggle, working women have always been the vanguard, and when they pick up the gun and make revolution (they usually do before men), shit moves.
It was black women who, in the Americas to which our people were dragged as slaves to lay the foundations for the Industrial “Revolution” and the rise of capitalism-imperialism, sounded the call for and did much of the dirty work for the revolts that, in many cases, ended with the formation of free settlements of formerly enslaved people, called maroon colonies in the British West Indies and quilombos in Brazil. Transported African women were the guardians and transmitters of traditional medicine, culture, warfare methods, religious practices, and were often reviled and feared as “witches” by Europeans, who recognized the power and respect that African women, by virtue of their knowledge and critical role in the societies from which they came and in which they found themselves being forced to create in the Americas, commanded among their people. In North America, African women during the slavery era were oftentimes separated from their children, husbands, and entire families by force and design, as a result the nascent New Afrikan nation developed extended kinship networks, and women played a central role, raising and nurturing children who, although not their biological own, were considered by everybody in the community as such. Black women were the defenders of our communities, the slave revolts, mass escapes, and rebellions that ripped through the country in large and small form were, more often than not, organized by and heavily participated in by women. The communities of runaway slaves in the Great Dismal Swamp were, in most instances, headed by women. Women poisoned the master’s food, broke the master’s tools, broke the master’s head with axes. Women formed communities and struggled in a variety of forms against oppression of all kinds, from men of all kinds, snatching whatever respite they could from the hell which surrounded them. Women healed wounds from whips and dog bites, transmitted secret knowledge of healing, childbirth, and warfare brought from ancestral homelands in Africa, and maintained centuries old religious/cultural traditions. In terms of production and critical role in the economic structure of society, without the labor performed by black women in field and home (their own and that of the pigs that owned them), society would have collapsed. It’s ridiculous for patriarchal, feudal minded black men to claim to want to “step up” and take a vanguard role ahead of women in this revolutionary liberation struggle that we have never had in the first place! The step up that they want is a step backwards, a step into oblivion. To get free, we don’t push back the vanguard. Throughout our history, it has been women propelling our nation forward, from the plantation to the ghetto. During the sharecropping/Jim Crow era, while black men were in prison, unemployed, or in the North, having, in many instances, abandoned their families or been driven off the plantation, Black women, who, in many cases, could read and write, were arguing with employers, taking part in unionization efforts, attending meetings, and doing a myriad of tasks to bring home money with which they supported their entire families. The black woman’s work and wage is what has carried and sustained our nation throughout our history. My own grandmother worked, in many instances, 2 and 3 jobs and raised 7 children with little to no help from men. My great grandmother did the same.
In revolutionary movements that Black people have waged for our liberation, we again see women as vanguard. Men have done much talking of the Eldridge Cleaver type, engaged in much adventuristic posturing with no substance, expressed how much they wanted to blow off a pig’s head, and expelled much piss and vinegar, gotten into many ego duels, but in terms of actual building and sustaining of movements, in terms of actual service to the people, women laid the groundwork from top to bottom. In the Black Panther Party, the programs that acquired them the love of the masses and hatred from the pigs, the clinic programs, sickle cell anemia testing, the Breakfast for Children programs, the schools, were improved, worked on, and led by women. Women in the BPP, as Assata Shakur (and history) have showed us, were also fully capable of and willing to pick up the gun, as they were at all times throughout our history as a nation, but did not, as many men did, focus solely on the gun. The women of the BPP also waged a unapologetic struggle against the male chauvinism and abuse that pervaded the left, and that organization in particular at this time, many male Panthers saw Panther women as sex objects or otherwise unworthy of respect, this was a natural and predictable result of their line and orientation towards the lumpen-proletariat and their bringing of lumpen elements into the Party without placing emphasis on transforming their class outlook and stand to enable them to serve the people in an all around and deep way. This same error is being reproduced in many of the “revolutionary but gangsta” (RBG) organizations, which oftentimes are even worse than the original BPP was on this. Oftentimes, these organizations are led by egotistical men such as Umar Johnson, etc. who discuss “black queens, goddesses, etc.”, push all sorts of metaphysics, get into strange arguments with others on Facebook and Twitter, and engage in various sorts of sexual abuse of women and orient themselves around whatever makes them money. This is a travesty and a shame, a counterrevolutionary one. Any New Afrikan so-called revolutionary organization that does not study, adopt, and put into command proletarian feminist practice in more than name will reproduce these errors and will not be able to make revolution. This problem is not just in New Afrikan revolutionary circles, of course, the disgusting, sick and sad collapse of the NCP-LC and the subsequent mess have shown that the US Left, especially Maoists, since we hold ourselves to higher standards and consider ourselves as the most advanced Communists, those who are armed with the theory and practice that makes us the most able to make revolution in this country, need to do serious work on this and take it seriously, otherwise, we’re just yet another bunch of sorry ass men talking shit and doing fuck-all. Let’s not be that, let’s make revolution instead, and acknowledge that nonmen belong in front, and we follow their guide.
For over twenty years our Party has carried on mass work every day, and for the past dozen years it has talked about the mass line every day. We have always maintained that the revolution must rely on the masses of the people, on everybody’s taking a hand, and have opposed relying merely on a few persons issuing orders. The mass line, however, is still not being thoroughly carried out in the work of some comrades; they still rely solely on a handful of people working in solitude. One reason is that, whatever they do, they are always reluctant to explain it to the people they lead and that they do not understand why or how to give play to the initiative and creative energy of those they lead. Subjectively, they too want everyone to take a hand in the work, but they do not let other people know what is to be done or how to do it. That being the case, how can everyone be expected to get moving and how can anything be done well? To solve this problem the basic thing is, of course, to carry out ideological education on the mass line, but at the same time we must teach these comrades many concrete methods of work.- Mao Zedong, A Talk to the Editorial Staff of the Shansi-Suiyuan Daily
Adherence to the practice of the mass line is one of the main reasons why Marxist-Leninist-Maoist led movements are having consistent success and growing in several countries. In the United States, many talk about the mass line, but do not apply it well, or at all. What is supposed to be mass work turns into its opposite. Mass work is something that draws in the broadest segments of the masses of people in a given area, and produces results in the form of a growing revolutionary movement, the isolation and repudiation of revisionist/reformist tactics and lines by the masses, and the growing of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist hegemony among the masses and entrenchment of our positions. Politics is a battle, warfare without bloodshed, thus, when we see revisionism or reformist tendencies rearing their heads and being smuggled into our movements, it is our job to wage war against it, in practice, among the masses. We need to not just polemicize and kvetch about Trotskyites and revisionists among each other, but show how we are better, make Maoism the dominant, hegemonic trend in this country, and make millions of Maoists. This can not be done without a firm grasp of the mass line! As a result of this mishandling of things and turning of the mass line into a toy, the actually revolutionary Communist movement here is tiny and has very little prestige among the masses of people. If we are to have a proletarian revolution in this country, we must learn to rely solely on the masses, and we need to defeat revisionists and reformists in practice and out-organize them. At this stage, most “Communist organizing” is done by groups such as the PSL, the WWP, and Socialist Alternative, we can complain about them all we want, but they have tens of thousands of people out for their demonstrations, and their front groups/coalitions encompass and swallow up heavy struggles. The MLM movement does not have this power, but we desperately need it. This is, in major part, our fault. To rectify our shortcomings, we need to rectify our mass line and our mass work.
This piece includes a very good chart of errors and misconceptions when applying the mass line. The major error that many people in the First World commit is the sectarian-dogmatist error, believing that they have all the answers, making lines and determining things among themselves, usually informed by reading old material that has no relation to the concrete conditions of the United States, not doing any SICA (Social Investigation and Class Analysis), and then carrying these lines to the masses. Spray-painting inaccessible slogans (VICTORY TO PEOPLE’S WAR IN PERU! FREE CHAIRMAN GONZALO!) in neighborhoods where people are worried about being deported or having their Social Security benefits or wages cut, pushing ancient lines that you read in Peking Review or A World To Win about arcane issues that maybe only 50 people in this country care about, going into black and brown communities or meeting black and brown people to tell them what they need, disrespecting their already established mass leaders, making lines among yourselves and then trying to argue with them on their internal community affairs, not developing mass contacts, and other things of this nature may work and get you pats on the back among your small group of comrades, but they hold no weight among the masses of people. First, you have never taken the initiative to reach out to and establish mass contacts in communities that you seek to begin work in. You mistake the small segment or fraction of “the masses” that is even slightly interested in your ideas or lines for the masses as a whole, and proffer your skimpy mass contact for actual, deep mass engagement and investigation. In “How to Fake the Mass Line“, this is discussed and laid out in detail:
Once the line and immediate goals are firmly decided, the “rationalization” phase of the process can begin. Start by realizing that these ideas in your leaders minds must have come from someplace. Probably some of the masses must have talked to some of the group’s members, who have in turned occasionally passed some of this on to other members until some of it just might get to the top. Even if no attempt was made to encourage this and systematize it, this could still be considered the “accidental mass line method”. And in any case there are people among the masses who might already agree with these decisions of the top leaders. Yes, that’s it, these ideas must surely agree with those of some of the masses…If anyone disputes that your group uses the mass line, point out that if you have any followers among the masses at all, even just a tiny few, then this proves that some of the masses do agree with you, and these are the masses from whom you must have gotten the ideas for the line and policies in the first place…If anyone still doubts you, appeal to the necessity for your group to keep its decision-making procedures secret from the ruling class. Tell them that “You’ll just have to take our word for it that we are really using the mass line.” That should shut them up!
The Filipino movement is the most advanced in the world today, and their piece on Mass Work is something that Maoists need to read and know. They didn’t unfold a mass New Democracy movement by not establishing deep and firm links with the masses, or being fools. It reads:
The first step in organizing the masses in the barrios, factories, communities, schools or offices, is to locate reliable contacts.
Preliminary contacts may be products of mass work in other places, relatives, our friends or acquaintances, or those of other comrades, or those of the family of a comrade.
Preliminary contacts may be formed into coordinating groups in order to carry out tasks collectively.
As much as possible, the preliminary contacts must hail from the class or sector to which we are giving principal stress. They must be honest, have an excellent record of humanity, know a lot of people, and [be] enthusiastic in carrying out tasks. When in a barrio, strive to find contacts from the exploited peasants or rural workers. If there are none, the preliminary contacts may also hail from the middle forces. But at the earliest opportunity, we must allow those contacts who hail from the basic classes to emerge. Before we give them work, it is necessary to conduct a detailed investigation of the preliminary contacts, especially those who do not hail from the basic forces of the revolution.
This means, get to know people. Get to know one, get to know 10 or 20. Strike up conversations with people. Go into churches, community centers, bars, get to know your co-workers, classmates, etc. If you’re a student at university, build up contacts among workers on your campus. Before you can organize a community, you need to have an in, you need to be known. Ask people what they care about, what’s affecting them. Find out what issues in the city are impacting them in a negative way, and what they think can be done to solve them. Get involved and be active in organic efforts launched by the masses themselves, whether it be an effort to help find missing Black women, or clean up trash off the streets, or curb violence in a neighborhood. Get into political discussions with people. Take notes. Some of what you hear may be advanced, some may be intermediate, some may be backwards, it doesn’t matter. The mass line requires input from the masses, some raw material may be good, some may be bad, that’s fine. A sectarian-dogmatist approach leads to isolation and alienation from the masses, this is currently where many US Maoists are. To build up, consolidate, and entrench the MLM movement in a particular area and win prestige among the masses, we need to do away with sectarianism and dogmatism, only speaking to other Maoists that agree with us, elitism, excessive formalism, and talking like Cultural Revolution era Chinese politicians. If we do not repudiate this trend, and reject arrogance and dogmatic posturing, we will continue to come up short and make embarrassing mistakes.
We also have bourgeois-populism in abundance, represented mainly by non-Maoist tendencies, usually Trotskyist. These groups cling to the legacy of Occupy and are more concerned about poaching other organizations’ members, getting as many of their professionally done signs on television or in the newspapers, elevating one or two members to the level of cult of personality *cough* Kshama Sawant*cough*, or being seen as “the vanguard” despite conducting little to no political development of people that join the organization, posing little to no militant opposition or threat to the ruling class, and using tired, incorrect slogans such as “We are the 99%”. This is tailism, it falls behind the most advanced segments of the masses, who should be united with, and in the revolutionary movement it does an extreme disservice, it pulls us backwards into electoral efforts and engagement with the bourgeois system. Our job as Maoists is to struggle against this trend and use the mass line to destroy these trends and cast them out of the revolutionary movement. Engage the mass base of these types of organizations, but criticize and isolate their leadership. We must be pragmatic in that we must realize that our work requires nuance and correct handling of contradictions, not sowing and promoting antagonism for no reason or to posture, but we should not be so pragmatic that we lose our revolutionary essence and yield critical terrain to reformists and revisionists.
The work today in the United States that falls on us Maoists, to build a revolutionary party and revolutionary mass movement capable of destroying this empire and liberating those captured within its borders, is dependent upon our grasp of the mass line and mass work. Without realizing that the mass line requires going among the masses, collecting their scattered ideas among which correct ones can be found, analyzing them and synthesizing them into a concrete line using MLM, and then propagating these ideas far and wide among the masses through programs, demonstrations, and other tools, and that lines that we determine often must be tested in the hard school of practice, where they are often proven incorrect, in which case we must start all over again, we will never make revolution in this country. Make revolution. Use the mass line, not a parody of it.
A lot of people new to the left, or to Maoism, make a pretty forgivable mistake and assume that Maoists and “Maoist” Third Worldists are the same. The cheetodust fingered sadsack Jason Unruhe (AKA “Maoist Rebel News”) dresses up like a Red Guard, despite being in a perfect position to have been struggled against were he alive in China during the Cultural Revolution, and horrid cults and scam organizations like the Leading Light “Communist” Organization also claim Mao’s mantle for their own. To the untrained eye, TWism and MLM are the same thing. This is a dangerous shell game that the TWists play, and it hurts and inhibits the work of actual Maoists. The TWists don’t give a fuck, they do no political work and most crawl back into the ether from which they came sooner or later. Basically, TWism is predicated and developed based on various misreadings of theoreticians and revolutionary scientists and, in many instances, is elevated to the level of dangerous farce verging on outright fascism by individuals like Unruhe and people associated with the LLCO/RAIM sphere. TWism isn’t Maoism at all, as a matter of fact, they uphold lines laid down by the renegade Lin Biao, who in 1971 attempted to wage an armed coup against Mao (Project 571) and ended up dying in a plane crash while trying to flee to the Soviet Union. The LLCO agitates (if the internet screeds it puts out can be called agitation) for a “Global People’s War”, a theory taken directly from Lin Biao’s “Long Live the Victory of People’s War“:
Taking the entire globe, if North America and Western Europe can be called “the cities of the world”, then Asia, Africa and Latin America constitute “the rural areas of the world”. Since World War II, the proletarian revolutionary movement has for various reasons been temporarily held back in the North American and West European capitalist countries, while the people’s revolutionary movement in Asia, Africa and Latin America has been growing vigorously. In a sense, the contemporary world revolution also presents a picture of the encirclement of cities by the rural areas. In the final analysis, the whole cause of world revolution hinges on the revolutionary struggles of the Asian, African and Latin American peoples who make up the overwhelming majority of the world’s population. The socialist countries should regard it as their internationalist duty to support the people’s revolutionary struggles in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
This is wrong for more than one reason. In our time, Yankee imperialism, is the number one enemy of the world’s people. The struggles of the people of Latin America, Asia, and Africa are extremely important in regards to driving the forces of imperialism out of their own countries, but the killing blow to Yankee imperialism will come from us Yankees ourselves. Lin Biao and the TWists expect the people of Palestine, India, the Philippines, Mexico, Peru, South Africa, and the rest of the places where people are today struggling against the imperialist ravage in their own countries to also handle the burden of making revolution here. Surround the cities of the globe from the countryside. What are we supposed to do? Are there not strata within strata in this country? Are we all parasites? Yes, we as first world workers do indeed benefit from imperialism in the form of lower prices, higher wages, etc, this is true, but this is not the only aspect. TWists believe that there is no oppressed proletariat in the United States, Canada, or Western Europe. What of the New Afrikan people, the Chicanx people, the indigenous people, and our proletariats? What of the enslaved and exploited prisoners? What of the immigrants living in the United States who come here and obtain citizenship, and end up driving cabs, scrubbing floors, cleaning hospital beds, or all three? Are they sucking the blood of their own people? What of the white working class? Although it leans backwards, is it not exploited as well? There is revolutionary potential wherever an exploited person lives and toils. The cause of world revolution depends on all of us. Our comrades making revolution today in the third world call on us to destroy imperialism. That entails destroying the United States as it stands, liberate the oppressed nations, and build the socialist order. This means that there are revolutionaries here, and there is revolutionary potential. Things are destroyed from the inside, internal contradictions lay the basis for change in the final analysis. America, if weakened from the inside, will collapse. If a building is undermined from the inside, its girders and support beams melted and compromised, it will collapse. If I collapse and die right now, something inside of me has been transformed and laid the basis for my body to fail and for my heart and brain to stop working. We can not rely on struggling people to make our revolution for us. To help the world, we must wage class struggle here, make revolution, and destroy this country in toto.
TWism has been pieced apart and punched full of holes by various Maoist theoreticians, including the most advanced MLM theoretician in the United States, Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, Minister of Defense of the New African Black Panther Party – Prison Chapter (NABPP-PC). Last year Rashid released a devastating polemic against Jason Unruhe, (who is a white Canadian, by the way, most are white I have only known of one black TWist), titled “Third Worldism: A Fanciful World Where the Privileged Play at Revolution“. It reads in part:
Unruhe embraces the Third Worldist line which claims to ally itself with Third World workers and demonizes First World workers as corrupted enemies of the Third World because they share in the spoils taken by the Imperialists from the Third World.
Well, if enjoying the privileges of the First World society renders one an enemy of the Third World, what the hell are Third Worldists like Unruhe doing here? What’s more, the Third Worldists are predominantly petty bourgeois (middle class) folks who enjoy even greater privileges and wealth than do general First World workers; yet they’re somehow the friends – no, leaders! – of the exploited Third World peoples! How it is that they can rise above their own privileged lifestyles and become the friends, allies, and even the professed leaders of the peoples on whose suffering their comforts depend, yet they argue that First World workers can’t, is a contradiction in their line that goes unanswered…“It’s amusing that the LLCO and their ‘Commander’ who goes by the name Augusta Luz (and is a white dude from Denver) claim that they are the vanguard of the Third World proletariat even though they are in the First World, and still find need to raise money and ask for items like computers and cars to support their ‘efforts.’ [Yet] they say there is nothing First Worldists can do in the First World except maybe oppose imperialist wars, that all First World workers are actually exploiters themselves, and that to struggle to improve people’s living conditions in the First World is ‘fascism.’”
Comrade Rashid lays bare the arrogance of white (like I said, nearly all of these people are not only white, but of petit-bourgeois class origin) TWists. They, from the First World, claim ability to lead struggle in the Third. On what basis? To lead, to be someone’s vanguard, one must be accepted as such. Groups like the LLCO, RAIM, and people like Unruhe have no basis to claim leadership over people in Bangladesh, or India, or Mexico, because they can’t even lead their own people! No comrades making revolution anywhere today acknowledge TWism as a valid theoretical framework for looking at the world, and reject its preposterous assertions that “there is no First World proletariat”, “there is no exploitation in the First World”, etc., etc. If you can not make revolution in your own country, if you can not get down to the grassroots and unite with people who look just like you, you can not claim to be a revolutionary, you are just a bag of hot air with a microphone and a camera and a platform. You arrogate titles for yourself, you write long screeds that come not from reasoned research, study, and analysis, but from whatever strikes you and whatever lackeys you’ve managed to cobble together as sounding good. This is not how Marxism, nevermind Maoism, is done. Rashid continues:
“V.I. Lenin denounced these sorts as “petty bourgeois revolutionists,” people who are left or ultra-left in words, but right in essence. They’re fond of spouting militant sounding rhetoric, fancying themselves as the only “enlightened ones,” and regard those who make their clothes, their cars, and comforts with disdain and contempt. They want to go on record as being “anti-imperialist,” but are unwilling to integrate themselves with the masses to do what is actually needed to make revolution, and recline in reformist forms of “protest” that don’t threaten their privileges.”
I’ve known more than a few TWists, and this is also spot on. They view white workers, their own proletariat, and all other “First Worldists” as “white trash” and “garbage”, and workers overseas as just pawns, people to hold guns and accept leadership from them who have never raised a finger to smash anything in these United States except a “like button” on a nonsensical Facebook rant. They criticize any manifestation of class struggle, calling the Fight for $15 movement in which Black and Brown workers are the driving force “parasitism”, degrading the struggles of people in the South and Appalachia, and even going so far as to wish the Taliban would attack the United States. These people have serious issues and certainly can not in all good conscience be called “communists”. Communists love their people, all of their people. I love talking to and learning from working class people, I had a 15 minute long conversation about Trump with a worker at McDonald’s yesterday. The masses give us life, we are ready to lay down our lives for their liberation. To hate the people is to join the fascists. It doesn’t matter if you couch your utter disdain and hatred for my people in words like “global slum”, or try to shame us like Unruhe does:
There are no First World victims in imperialism. No minority group, based on race, gender, or otherwise can consider themselves the victims of imperialist empire. All First World people who refuse to acknowledge their advantageous global position, who instead see themselves as victims, must be seen as enemies of revolution.
You are an enemy. No right-thinking Communist in the First World refuses to recognize that we are in an advantageous position. No matter how low I or anyone else here falls, we will never reach the level of the poorest person in India, or Peru, or China, or Nepal. But, for you to say that people who are being sprayed with freezing water so they develop pneumonia, or being murdered in the streets by the police, or who are being incarcerated en masse, are not victims of this imperialist empire, is to cross over to the camp of the enemy. You offer no support to the masses, here or abroad.You are worthless. Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is useful, the most useful thing on Earth, while your Lin Piaoisms should crash and burn like their renegade architect. Maoism and Third Worldism are not the same thing, the first will destroy imperialism, the second will be destroyed along with imperialism.
November, 2016, was book-ended by two situations that directly impacted our work and outlook as Marxist-Leninist-Maoist revolutionaries in the United States and will continue to do so for years to come. The first was the election of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States. This was a tremendous upset that nobody, myself included, expected. I don’t think even Trump himself expected it. Chris Hayes, Lawrence O’Donnell, Rachel Maddow, and the rest of the MSNBC crew probably racked up sizable bar tabs and hospital bills that that week. It was surreal, to say the least. Donnie actually fucking did it, and his base of neo-fascists and the other various social and political detritus that comes along with being the main imperialist base area on Earth today got bold as fuck. Hate crimes, of course, skyrocketed. The man appointed a literal, open white nationalist to his cabinet, named Steve Bannon. Of course, like clockwork, many on the “left” rushed to deliver their own hackneyed, one sided, and very wrong analyses. If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s leftists in the United States saying stupid shit and being divorced from reality with a surprising amount of confidence and a minimum amount of care. One former Workers’ World Party member (who is in the employ of both the Russian and Iranian governments) has apparently decided to swallow a big dose of Browderism and resurrect the worst of the 1930s and 1940s “Communism is the Americanism of the 20th century” filth through some shit excuse for an organization called “Students and Youth for a New America”. Their logo even has an American flag backdrop. Their mission statement tells us:
“As society enters a state of ruin, the time has come for American youth to defend the civil liberties and freedoms which have long been cherished in this society, and reject the calls for a greater police state or any new aggressive wars.
As society enters a state of ruin, the time has come for American youth to take history into their own hands, and fight for a new America that is no longer ruled by senseless greed, but rather by universal human values and cooperation.
SYNA is an organization that engages in service, study, and struggle.
We will work to feed, house, clothe, and aid those among our generation who have been left behind. This is our obligation. We cannot allow any more lives to be destroyed by a failing economic order.
We will work to learn about the forgotten revolutionary heritage of America’s working people. It is not just slave-owners, racist settlers, and cowboys who built the United States. Our veins also contain the blood of abolitionists, labor organizers, suffragists, and revolutionary warriors.”
If crackers want to lie to each other, that’s their business, but we know better. The United States was built for racist settlers, cowboys, and slave-owners. Even the liberal abolitionists, labor organizers, and suffragettes were tied in to this settler colonial project. Many abolitionists wanted to deport black people to Africa, the labor organizers participated in anti Chinese and anti-Black riots, and many of the suffragettes saw black women not as sisters, but as maids and laundresses. White leftists should study deeply their own history and stop trying to give themselves a revolutionary tradition that they do not have. White America, by and large, is settler trash, has always been settler trash, and will always be trash until it is liquidated as a “thing”. The revolution will burn and destroy “whiteness”. White people, as a caste, as a race in the United States, have never been the revolutionary vanguard in this country, and are not now. This is simple historical fact. Of course, there are strata that would benefit from a proletarian revolution and at least wouldn’t fight it, but as I have previously said, they can not be relied upon to be revolutionaries in their masses at this conjuncture. They need work.
The white working class flew the coop and gave us Trump, delivering Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin into his hands. Not the petit bourgeoisie, the ever so vaunted white working class. People that used to work in steel mills and auto plants. The jobs that are never coming back, but they want back anyways. Stop lying to yourselves. At this point, the white working class is more apt to join a militia on the Arizona border than your communist organization, and they’ve been like this for their entire history. Also, identity politicians, stop repeating the same old mistakes that solve nothing. There were material reasons for these people supporting Trump, it wasn’t just because they were white. The white working class exists. Many of them voted for Obama in both 2008 and 2012, not that that necessarily means much. Trump promised to bring their jobs back, he promised to give them a fair shake. They feel left behind, that everybody else, Blacks, Latinos, Asians, etc. are getting everything and they’re getting nothing. They believe that illegal immigrants are pouring over their borders, that the Commie Chinese took all their jobs away, etc. Of course, this is absolutely ridiculous, racist, and incorrect, but they aren’t going to listen to you, and they’re not going to stop being racists because you yell at them in grad school language. Their kids play on floors covered with bills and old newspapers, and through which the draft gives them colds that they break themselves to get medicine for. They sleep on 30 year old beds. Of course, he’s not going to help them, and they’re going to realize this right soon, through their own experience and through their own struggle. Communists should carry out propaganda among them and educate them, just like any other exploited people. Your think piece written in inaccessible language is not helping anybody, it shows you’re a goddamn egghead that only other goddamn eggheads listen to. He played them, very skilfully for someone with no political experience, I might add. They’re going to get mad again. What are you going to do, from your artisan’s coffee shop in a rapidly gentrifying Portland or Detroit, talking about your critical theories and calling the working class “problematic” and engaging in other time wasting activities of the petty bourgeois academic elite? Stop people from being racists? Nah. You’re going to do what you’ve been doing before. Fuckall. You’re as useless as Caleb Maupin and his ’40s nostalgia. Actually, more so, because you’re taking up valuable space with your shitcourse that I can be using to introducing people to Maoism, while he’s just some stupid apricot that rants on the internet and has a few white kids in college in his clique. You’re in our way. You don’t know what you’re doing. The only way that you can be useful in this shit is to become Communists, to become Maoists. Sit over in the corner and cry for Hillary Clinton among yourselves. She’s had her political career, killed many many people, and made lots of money. I’m sure she’s content, even though she’s lost the Presidency both you and she thought she was entitled to, twice, to upstarts. Maybe she isn’t. I don’t really care, to be quite honest. Let her drink herself to death with her rapist husband.
After Trump was elected, naturally, protests filled the streets. The West Coast threw down, we were burning Trump signs on the steps of the Old Courthouse (we also gave old Dred Scott a red flag), and in Austin, communists led demonstrations. One comrade had his neck broken by the pigs, several others were arrested and charged with all sorts of ridiculous nonsense. There were also partisans in the streets, armed and ready to defend the people. This is a good thing. Militancy and organization on a militant, anti-fascist basis is the correct line post-Trump, and any other time. If Clinton had won, we’d do the exact same thing we’re doing now. The liberals that have taken it upon themselves to organize demonstrations under the “Love Trumps Hate” slogan need to knock it off. They’re pointing out people to be arrested by the pigs. They’re getting people injured and hurt. They’re not qualified, politically, to lead this shit. Analyze the fucking slogan. “Love Trumps Hate”. Who do you love? Do you love the people? If you love the people, why are you aiding and abetting their oppression and repression? Why are you fighting the Communists, who really do love the people and are ready to die for them? You don’t love us. You love class peace, you love fascism, you love peace with the enemy. You literally love Trump’s hate, because you do nothing to actually stand in its way. This makes you, objectively, an enemy. At this point, if you continue to push peace line, you are no friend of ours. If you stand in our way, if you seek to wreck our organizations, if you seek to oppose our antifascist work and struggle, you will be crushed, just like anybody wearing a MAGA hat. This is fact, this is line. You can heed it if you want, but my people ain’t playing. Black and brown people were buying up guns after this shit, and they aren’t for show. Get some act right. The future belongs to the Communists, not to you. You’ve gone as far as you’re going to go with your bankrupt politics and bankrupt line.
Finally, the month was closed with the death of Fidel Castro. The man was 90 years old, he had survived hundreds of assassination attempts from the imperialists and traitors, but he wasn’t immortal. He said earlier this year that he’d soon be like all the rest. What’s his legacy? Why should we remember him? He was a man from a brown and black country that told the Yankees to fuck off, and chased the mob and the Yankee imperialists off his island alongside his comrades. Cuba supported the national liberation struggles of nationally oppressed people the world over. The healthcare and education of the island under Castro was top notch. Political refugees from the US knew that they had asylum in Cuba, if they could make it there (of course, disagreeing with the archrevisionist Soviet orientation got one in quite a bit of hot water, as RF Williams could attest). But, the truth remains. As a Black Communist, a Black Maoist, Castro was good for my people, and I do not celebrate his death. My latinx comrades wouldn’t let me get away with that, for one, nor would my Black comrades who know better, like Assata Shakur. Of course, as Maoists, we recognize that Cuba was not a socialist country. There was no class struggle on the island, the proletariat and its line was not in power, the island was basically a one crop (sugar) exporter for the social-imperialist Soviet Union. No Maoist that is saddened by Fidel’s death has said otherwise. The analyses here and here are correct and should be read by those that haven’t already read them. But, a one sided, dogmatic analysis and response is not what is needed at this time, especially from white American Maoists who do not suffer from national oppression. The US oppressed and exploited Cuba. It continues to do the same to Puerto Rico. If your first response upon hearing of the death of Fidel Castro was to post AWTW articles and pieces from the RCP, however good, you are behaving, objectively, in a chauvinist fashion, as a white person that does not suffer from national oppression in the US. Nothing good to say, all bad, is not a Maoist, or a Communist response to the death of someone like Castro. I and other Maoists of color are not phony communists for daring to pay tribute to the man who stood up for us and drove the Yanquis (y’all) from his island. Yes, we’ve read the stuff. Why do you think we didn’t? Are we stupid? Furthermore, attacking us for doing so makes you, objectively, a white chauvinist, and an ultra-sectarian, divorced from and detached from the masses of nationally oppressed people. You’re basically saying that you, by virtue of reading two articles, know more and have a better analysis of things than we, people who live under national oppression, do. You don’t. If you’re a comrade, a true one, you will respect us and listen to our analyses, not call us phony communists and attack us. That is, if you truly accept our leadership and the leadership of the masses of our people on questions regarding national oppression as more than just an abstract thing that you feel that you have to do. If you attack us for supporting the good points of and mourning Castro, Touré, Nkrumah, Sankara, Bishop, and other non-communist liberators, but have nothing but good words for non-communist radicals in white countries, like Connelly and the IRA, check yourselves. The past two days have shown how white Communists in imperialist countries need strong nationally oppressed leadership that is willing to criticize them and hold them to task when they display chauvinist and racist tendencies, not allow them to hand wave it away or defend them.
Basically, until white America makes someone who is worth one of Castro’s fingernails and gives us as much support and assistance as he did, revisionist that he was, keep his name out your filthy mouth. Adios.
Fratricidal street-gang fighting is a direct manifestation of a self-destructive behavior pattern. It is also a form of escapism by which Black youths vent their rage, frustrations and despair on each other rather than dealing with the true enemy. Pathological religionism or the fanatical indulgence in religion is essentially escapist because it encourages the victim to concentrate his attention, energy and hope for salvation and freedom upon a dubious, mystical force. It discourages confronting the actual causes of our misery and deprivation. It encourages the focusing of attention upon pie in the sky, rather than the securing of more lamb chops right here on planet earth. It also serves as a source of profits for those religious charlatans, preachers and ministers who exploit it.
Alcoholism is both self-destructive and escapist. It is also a source of tremendous profits for the capitalists. The amazingly high number of bars and liquor stores in the Black communities testify to this tragic fact. The capitalist liquor industry could prosper just on the business it does in the Black ghetto alone. – Cetewayo Tabor, 1971
The Black Panther Party had no way of predicting the new plague that would sweep Black and Brown communities beginning in the mid-1980s, that of crack cocaine. This plague would claim its leader, Huey P. Newton, who went from meeting with Jiang Qing and Chou Enlai and being recognized as the leader of the vanguard formation of the revolutionary liberation struggle in the United States in 1971 to lying dead in the street outside of a crack house in West Oakland in 1989, murdered by a drug dealer and a drug addict himself. This was a situation shared with many former Black Panther Party cadre, the internal contradictions that eventually antagonized into a split between the Cleaver (left-adventurist) and Newton (social-democratic) factions in 1971 would wreck lives, demoralize people, and generally sow an atmosphere of discord, paranoia and hatred within the Black Panther Party, as would the constant pig harassment. Sending of anonymous and forged letters to cadre and improper handling of such materials (brown mail), introduction of FBI and local police informants into branches of the Party like the pig O’Neal who played a direct role in the murder of Illinois BPP Chairman Fred Hampton, and outright murder of BPP affiliates and cadre all helped drive people to drink and drugs as mechanisms to help them cope with this situation, despite the fact that drug and alcohol use by cadre was expressly forbidden. This helped lead to fights, murders, beatings, and a general atmosphere of hopelessness and hatred all around that ultimately exacerbated to the point that the Party, once the most advanced group, the vanguard, admired by many, loved by the masses, and recognized internationally, was destroyed. The role of broken discipline and use of alcohol and drugs can not be simply swept under the rug. The overall negative relation of the masses and the revolutionary to drugs, the harmful relation of drugs to their communities, and the class nature who sell them as a sort of vocation must be consistently raised and concrete examples must be given to truly uphold a proletarian revolutionary line on drug and alcohol abuse and trafficking.
Who loves drugs? Who really, really, really loves drugs? Imperialists do! The British strung almost every Chinese official from the emperor on down to the lowest and pettiest official out on opium in the 1800s, the First Opium War began because Lin Zexu seized and burned 1,016 tons of the noxious chemical at Humen in 1839. The British then went to war, defeated the Chinese, and got most favored nation status and Hong Kong out of the deal. The Second Opium War opened China to imperialist missionaries, the use of Chinese as indentured servants for the Americans and British, access to new treaty ports, and general right to abuse and loot the Chinese nation. Drugs in relation to the Chinese people, just as they are in relation to the Colombian, Peruvian, Mexican, and New Afrikan peoples, are imperialist tools for our oppression and domination. The CIA dumped drugs into our community with the complicity and assistance of the Mafia, street gangs, and other lumpenbourgeois elements. They aided drug trafficking to enable them to assist right wing death squads in Central America in the 1980s. On our streets, on the streets of Colombia, on the streets of Mexico, they work with the police and routinely wheel and deal to enable themselves to escape bourgeois punishment, and bribe bourgeois politicians. In Mexico, they have cops on their payroll, and oftentimes it’s the police who do the killings. The Zetas were former Mexican Army troops.”El Chapo”, whose freedom was incorrectly demanded by some elements of the masses at my city’s anti-Trump protest that my mass organization helped organize, is an anti-people element who, if he were captured doing his dirty work in a revolutionary base area, would be executed after being denounced by the masses for what he is.
Drug dealers have an antagonistic relation to the masses of people that we Communists strive to organize, and the bigger they are, the more reactionary they are, the more lives they’ve ruined, the more people they’ve killed, and the more blood debt they’ve accumulated. The petty dealer can be struggled with and, hopefully, transformed and learn to serve the people. Individuals such as El Chapo who have cultivated and built ties to the reactionaries, fascists, and imperialists have cast their lot on the side of the enemy, and the masses simply will not allow them to remain unpunished for their thousands of crimes. These are the big lumpenbourgeoisie and compradors (whose illicit profits have allowed them in many cases to join the ranks of the regular bourgeoisie through money laundering and “legitimate investments”) who will be destroyed and wiped out just like any other imperialist or big bourgeois, they assist and serve the destruction and massacre of their people. There are millions of reasons why revolutionaries execute drug deals, why the Chinese Communist Party banned opium trafficking after driving the (opium soaked) KMT troops off the mainland, why the PCP, CPP, and the CPI(Maoist) and Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) took and take hard lines against drug trafficking and use in their base areas. To sell drugs is counterrevolutionary, to use them is to open yourself up for a myriad of health problems and an individual that is addicted to drugs or alcohol is prime for being brought into the web of police infiltrators, snitches, spies, and wreckers, and subsequently introduced to the revolutionary movement, where they can get revolutionaries arrested, killed, or turn the masses against us. A revolutionary who uses intoxicating drugs freely, disregarding all discipline except that of the pipe or the needle, is a threat to themselves and to others, and will sooner or later get themselves and many others killed, arrested, or isolated from the masses. The higher the particular cadre is, the more dangerous drug use is. See Huey Newton as an example. This is the line on drugs on those who are currently making revolution today and those who have made it in the past.
This said, as long as capitalism exists and the bourgeoisie hold state power in the United States, Communists do not push for further criminalization or support the ratcheting up of the already destructive, wasteful, and harmful so-called “War on Drugs”. Like I’ve already said, the bourgeoisie love their drugs, both to use themselves and to use to bring discord and death to our communities. Everybody knows that criminalization does nothing to stop the flow of drugs, the imperialist do not want this. What they do want is a justification to snatch our mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, cousins, neighbors, and friends away and introduce them to the prison slavery system. What they do want is for our communities to remain destabilized and destroyed by fratricidal gang wars, fighting over “turfs” that are in reality owned by developers and slumlords who live in condos downtown. What they do want is potential comrades wandering through the back alleys of every metropolitan area in this country with a pistol ready to blow someone’s head off to obtain money for their next fix. They don’t want to ban drugs, they want to suppress, sow discord, and oppress. Those who sell drugs play right into their hands. Some know this and do so willingly because their lumpen outlook prohibits them from looking out for anyone but themselves, some don’t. The 18 year old who sells shit on the side while working at McDonald’s is not an enemy, they are a victim of circumstances and, if they are given the opportunity to work and produce in a meaningful way, I believe they will. The vested drug dealer who sells large quantities of such drugs as methamphetamine, heroin, and crack cocaine to anyone who comes along, forces people into prostitution and sex slavery for drugs, is on record as a confidential informant and is responsible for many killings and incarcerations, is indeed an enemy and the masses view them as such.
That being said, legalizing drugs raises a new set of contradictions. Legalization doesn’t necessarily mean that oppressed nations people still won’t be locked up or arrested for dealing or using a certain drug, it does give Marlboro and other corporations the opportunity to experiment with selling them, though, and it gives their kids who use drugs an out. There is a law for the masses, and there is a law for the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie, as individuals and as a class, can do things that you can not. Marijuana or cocaine being legal doesn’t mean that you still can’t find yourself lying dead in a gutter, shot by a pig. I’ve also noticed that the triumphalism and celebratory atmosphere around the legalization of one drug in Colorado, Illinois, or some other state is generally the province of petit-bourgeois single issue activists who simply want to smoke weed without getting hauled into court and getting their parents upset. After it’s legalized, there’s no more activism forthcoming from these quarters. The Communist always asks first, “For Whom”, and these meaningless laws and bills and petitions are not for, from, or to serve my people. What does serve my people is making and building a party for revolution, and said Party will not be wandering around gentrified neighborhoods with petitions begging the bourgeois government to legalize marijuana in our hands or holding “free the weed” rallies where we smoke and play hacky sack. This is petit bourgeois degeneracy at its finest and a stopover on the road to a nice $190,000 a year position at a law firm or a position at a university where you can wow your students with stories from your “activist” career and glory days.
Drug users are, generally, not the enemy. They’ve got an illness. Of course, they shouldn’t be privy to confidential information, trusted with secrets, or trusted in any way until they have been treated for their illness and have been educated regarding the dangers of using these drugs, not in a pig type DARE way, but in a genuine way that shows concern for their well being, the role of drugs in our communities, and the broad benefits of not using drugs. Of course, these tasks are not just for individuals to strike out on themselves and try to attempt to do, this can only lead to demoralization and frustration, these tasks are for a collective of committed and experienced revolutionaries, many of whom may have once struggled with substance abuse issues themselves. We listen to those who have shared our experiences and have gone through what we’ve gone through and who treat us as equals, not those who come down from the church or the university to preach.
I was born at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Clayton, Missouri on Bastille Day, 1994. My mother was a 19 year old medical assistant student that worked at McDonalds, born at a de facto class and race segregated hospital (Homer G. Philips) in the winter of 1975. My father was born in the same hospital in the winter of 1971. All 4 of my grandparents and their broader generation within my family were born in Mississippi (3) and Texas (1), and all 4 went from the landless peasant/rural proletarian class to industrial proletarian (several of my great uncles worked in East Saint Louis steel mills or on railroads) or service proletarian positions (restaurant, cleaning and domestic service positions were held by women). So, I’m like most Black people of my generation, the second generation raised entirely in an urban environment, with grandma and grandpa’s memories of rural hardship, knowledge of our rural roots and status as a peasant nation bound to the land (reflected in the Haywood/Comintern Black Belt Thesis developed in the 1920s, when most of us still lived in the South and worked the land as peasant sharecroppers and peons) existing, fundamentally in the back of our minds, still there, still driving us forward in anger, still remembered, but not tangible or concrete enough for us to fight for a nation in the rural South, since we are no longer peasants and are thoroughly urban, to the point where “urban youth” is synonymous with “Black youth”. I’ve never touched raw cotton in my life, and only picked greens once as punishment. This is a social and class investigation and analysis of the city that I’ve called home for my entire 22 years of life from the perspective of the class, race, stratum and generation that brought you the Ferguson and Baltimore rebellions, and from the ideology (Maoism) that will bring you revolution. It will attempt to detail the contradictions of the city that has been under a national and international magnifying glass since August, 2014, and will spend most of its time trying to detail how I think revolutionary organizations can best organize here.
Saint Louis City proper is home to 315,685 people (2015). The Greater Saint Louis MO-IL metropolitan area, which is comprised of Saint Louis City and Saint Louis, Saint Charles, Franklin, Jefferson, Lincoln, Washington and Warren Counties in Missouri and Saint Clair, Macoupin, Madison, Jersey, Monroe, Clinton, Bond, and Calhoun Counties in Illinois (Metro East) has a population of roughly 2.7 million people. This investigation and analysis will focus mainly on Saint Louis County and City, and the areas in the Metro East closest to the river, particularly East Saint Louis. These areas are where I believe that the greatest revolutionary potential lies and where the greatest and most special attention should be paid by revolutionaries.
Saint Louis City is divided into class and race segregated halves. North of Delmar Boulevard is the mass of the black proletariat and lumpenproletariat (categories that more often than not overlap) while South of Delmar live Mexicans, Bosnians, and native born Euro-Americans of all classes. Of course, there are many poor Black people on the South Side as well, but for the most part they live on the North Side in their masses. This segregation is known to those who live here as the “Delmar Divide”, and the tangible difference in living standards and class composition of people above and below Delmar can’t be understated. You can literally stand on Delmar, throw a rock, and hit a huge, turn of the century mansion on one side (South) and a crumbling, vacant building on the other (North). The bourgeois Black people with degrees have fled, leaving the lowest and deepest masses concentrated on the North Side. Most of my family grew up north of Delmar, particularly in the Mark Twain district. This neighborhood is, like all of the North Side, overwhelmingly black, overwhelmingly populated by the lower stratum of the proletariat that are only a hairbreadth away from full time lumpen/unemployed status at any given time (as opposed to being split between working a main job and selling DVDs, scrapping junk found in the alleys, recycling cans, fixing cars, cutting lawns, etc. as a sideline), many of whom work in minimum wage or slightly above minimum wage service positions obtained through “temp agencies”.
The commercial corridors in North Saint Louis City (Kingshighway, Natural Bridge, Broadway, Union) are full of liquor stores, check cashing places, secondhand stores, used car lots, churches, convenience stores, cheap Chinese food restaurants, and other such places. There are also vacant lots by the hundreds, some sections of street having more vacant lots than buildings. The area is a veritable food desert, with the grocery stores in the area being few and far between and selling inferior products. Schools here are defunded with the tax base having fled West, and many students are bused to schools in the county or sent to charter schools. Deindustrialization stripped the heart and soul out of this area, for the overwhelming majority of the Black people of the North Side, there is no out. They’re basically trapped in crumbling housing, dead end jobs, and an endless cycle of debt and despair. Politically, this area is under the domination of the crooked Democratic Party machine which brings no benefits to the masses of black people that live here, both at the state and local levels. The alderpeople that represent the area get up to shenanigans like being shitty absentee landlords or installing decorative gates on city streets while people are shot to death in the streets. They keep getting reelected because they’re rarely challenged and nobody cares enough about their shitty political spectacle to waste energy struggling against them at the polls. Barely anybody my age votes. Virtually all of these politicians, most famously Alderman Antonio French of Ferguson Twitter fame, endorse the neoliberal war criminal and enemy of black people Hillary Clinton.
When I refer to North Saint Louis City, I’m referring to the neighborhoods of Baden, Penrose, Mark Twain, Fairground, Carr Square, College Hill, the (Greater Ville), Jeff Venderlou, Hamilton Heights, Kingsway East and West, Old North Saint Louis, Hyde Park, Walnut Park, North Pointe, North Riverfront, and O’Fallon. These neighborhoods are united in several aspects, namely, they’re literally contiguous, almost everyone there is black, poor, and dissatisfied in one fashion or another, whether it be over the constant fratricidal murders, police brutality and harassment, bone and soul crushing poverty, exploitation of the community by those who don’t (and do) live there, debt, high rent, difficulty in finding employment, especially if you’re a convicted felon like many people, abuse and killings of women, insufficient transit, and general poor quality of life. In other words, this area is prime for mass organizing, and it is fertile terrain for the growth of Communist cadre to lead that organizing. Tenant organizations, bus/train riders’ unions, unemployed organizations, felons’ rights organizations, self-defense organizations, anti-police brutality organizations, vacant land/building reclamation organizations, community dispute resolution organizations, womens’ organizations, neighborhood organizations, single mothers’ support groups, and youth/student organizations like that which I am a member of, PYO-STL (Progressive Youth Organization – Saint Louis), all have a place and must be set up as soon as possible on the North Side, preferably by those that live or have roots and links there. People embrace and unite with politics and people that relate to and unite with them, listen to them, and meet their needs. Mass organizations don’t just to march, they exist to unite and lead. They also exist to offer material support to the masses in their area and under their purview, hold cultural and educational activities, conduct mass meetings and deep going investigations into the welfare of the masses. This is not just feel good organizing, handing out food and pamphlets, this is the building of people’s power and a step in the direction of building urban base areasand Red political power.
There are very few grocery stores in North City where people can go to get cheap and healthy fruit and vegetables, and the stores that are in that area such as Walgreens or the convenience stores that are on almost every corner keep necessities such as baby formula behind lock and key and keep hawkeyes on black children, because they’re afraid the people will come to steal their overpriced products. I went into a store up the street from my old house once and the owner of the store was cursing at and threatening to call the police on a boy that couldn’t have been any older than 12 years old because he supposedly stole a bag of chips. Mass organizations under the leadership of Maoist cadre developed from among the masses are needed to not only organize punitive and enforced boycotts of such stores that abuse, cheat, exploit and mistreat the masses, but offer material assistance and support to both alleviate the masses’ situations, check up on the lives of and listen to/gather the scattered ideas of/be held responsible to the people, and carry out the mass line leadership and organizing practice well, to ensure the development and heightening of struggle and political development and advancement of the masses in a thorough and all around way. North City is, most likely, where the majority of the yet to be formed Saint Louis cadre organization’s base of membership is going to come from. Oppression, poverty, and depredation breeds Communists, and my city’s contributions to the future CPUSA (Maoist) are going to come mostly off the streets and out of the run down buildings of North County, North City, and East Saint Louis.
These are the lowest and deepest masses, those who, in Marx’s words, have nothing to lose but their chains. South City is going to be a bit of a tougher nut to crack and organize, and the presence and active participation of white comrades will be of utmost importance, namely because of the reactionary and anti-people world outlook of many of the working class whites that live there. When my grandmother first came to Saint Louis, black people simply didn’t go to the South Side out of fear. Yet, there are strata there that can be united with and will respond well to organizing, particularly working class Bosnian immigrants in Bevo Mill, Latinx people in Benton Park West, and pockets of Black and working class white youth that live there as well. The Black and Bosnian communities have on and off contradictions, particularly in the wake of anti-Bosnian attacks by Black youth after the Mike Brown murder in 2014 and riots at Soldan High School in the 1990s, but these are contradictions among the people and should be handled as such. Unity must be developed through struggle, petty divisions and quarrels stirred up by reactionary elements and the bourgeoisie must be struggled against and put to bed, and comradely relations between progressive elements of different ethnicities and races must be built if there is to be Red political power in Saint Louis. In terms of school organizing in the city, special attention must be paid to the community college (Forest Park), technical schools, and high schools on both the North and South Sides, especially in light of the winding down of the court ordered school desegregation program in the coming decade. The local HBU Harris-Stowe, can also be a site of struggle and support, but the heavy influence of petit-bourgeois ideology and cultural nationalism at such schools (buy black campaigns, elect x black leader, etc.) must be accounted for. Saint Louis University and Washington University are heavily petit bourgeois institutions, and Saint Louis University in particular sits on the site of a former Black district, Mill Creek Valley, that was demolished. It also is a Jesuit, Catholic school, but is somewhat malleable when overwhelming popular force is applied, as shown in the OccupySLU situation in 2014. Certain progressive elements at this school can be united with and support can be obtained from certain groups and individuals, the same goes for Washington University, but these schools should not be seen as potential mass bases of support.
The area in and around Downtown is also the site of sharp struggle and contradictions between the masses of the city’s houseless population and gentrifiers and developers, backed up by the city government, particularly the police, with progressive individuals such as Rev. Larry Rice and other individuals and groups who feed and offer clothing and other services to the houseless being oppressed and threatened with fines, arrests, and other punishments. The houseless themselves are constantly subject to such outrages as spikes to prevent them from lying or sitting down in comfortable spots, police harassment, and locks and bars over vents to prevent them from keeping warm at night. Revolutionary and progressive forces should constantly point out the contradiction between money being spent on senseless projects such as fixing up the area around the monument to settler-colonialism and genocide, the Arch, and the fact that thousands of buildings in our area, the property of parasitic developers and criminals like Paul McKee, who owns 1500 acres of property on the North Side, go to rot and waste while people live without a roof over their heads. Everything is a political struggle, and the struggle must be for more than reforms, the struggle must build people’s power, raise awareness in a real way, and make Communists out of and orient towards the expressed needs and desires of the masses in a given area, not what college activists and academics think they need and want. Meeting basic material needs, giving out clothes, food and blankets to the masses of houseless people is only one step of the struggle, and does not build people’s power. If that were the case, the Salvation Army and the Baptist Church would be mass organizations. Uniting revolutionary and progressive forces in solidarity with and support of their struggle in an all around way does.
What of Saint Louis County? As in the City, we must look North. We have Ferguson, the material conditions of which have improved little to none since August, 2014. The police still occupy, the masses of black working class people still live a precarious existence, the city is still controlled and dominated by people who don’t represent their interests. Beyond Ferguson, we have majority black enclaves. Next door is Kinloch, an all black shell of its former self run by criminals where the police do not even have insurance or registration for their vehicles. The communities of Bel-Ridge, Country Club Hills, Black Jack, Cool Valley, Normandy, Pine Lawn, Vinita Park, Jennings, Moline Acres, Pagedale, Flordell Hills, Beverly Hills, Wellston, Velda City, Northwoods, Bellefontaine Neighbors, Velda Village Hills and Berkeley got their start as suburbs built for returning white GIs and their families after World War II, and were once majority white communities. The housing stock in these communities is mostly from the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. After the demolition of the Pruitt-Igoe and other housing projects, Black people began moving into these communities and whites began fleeing in droves further west. Now, these communities are overwhelmingly black with double digit poverty rates, particularly among the youth. Spanish Lake, Hazelwood, Florissant, and Ferguson are more mixed both in terms of income and in terms of race, but struggle still exists in these communities, particularly centering around schools and police abuses. The police departments and city administrations of this section of the county are funded in major part by multi hundred dollar fines pressed out of working class Black people for such offenses as “manner of walking along roadway”, littering, and motor vehicle offenses. The police, prosecutors, judges and other officials in these communities do not live there, and function as an especially oppressive force. The contradiction between the people and these pigs has become especially sharp after the 2014 uprising, and the organizing in this area will be heavily targeted against police abuses. There is also the West Lake Landfill issue, where a landfill that stores nuclear waste from the 1940s is on fire and is responsible for countless cases of cancer and other diseases in Bridgeton, along with an extremely noxious odor.
The movement that grew up around the police killing of Mike Brown, Jr. has been continuously engaged the in two-line struggle that has been the hallmark of the Black Liberation struggle for decades, with petit-bourgeois neoliberal elements such as DeRay McKesson pushing accommodationist lines, lunching with Hillary Clinton, pushing “buy black”, meaningless “peaceful protests”, holding exclusive events and fundraisers, running for office and seeking to channel the energy of the masses into their own rising political stars. These comprador elements and lines are rejected by the advanced masses, who see this nonsense for what it is, exploitation and abuse of the death of Mike Brown, Jr, Vonderrit Myers, and Kajieme Powell for the compradors’ own nefarious and self-serving ends and goals. This makes revolutionary mass organizing in Ferguson and the surrounding area all the more easier, because the revolutionary does not seek to sell something, get elected, or boost their own fortune at the expense of the masses, and the masses already know how to say “Fuck the Police” and fly the flag upside down. It’s the petit-bourgeois activists who roll off campuses who need to be reminded that it is right to rebel. Several mass leaders of integrity and revolutionary outlook, a sizable chunk of whom are non-men, have come forth from the masses of Saint Louis in the wake of the Ferguson uprising and are seeking to unite revolutionary forces to wage actual mass struggle with teeth, and these forces and contacts are to be linked up with in regards to building strong mass organizations and Maoist cadre to lead them in North County. Schools to be targeted and developed for Progressive Youth Organization branches are the high schools, particularly in the Ferguson-Florissant and Hazelwood School Districts and the Florissant Valley Community College in Ferguson, which has a sizable number if not a majority of black working class youth as students.
South County is the most homogeneous (white) working class area of Saint Louis County. The communities of Affton, Oakville, Mehlville, Lemay, Fenton, and Sunset Hills are going to be tough nuts to crack, they are influenced heavily by reactionary, white/American chauvinist, racist ideology, to the extent that neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan type groups feel comfortable enough to flyer there. Thus, organizing here is probably going to fall heavily on white comrades who are experienced in antifascist/antiracist work, and are also capable of not falling into petit-bourgeois/exasperated “hate the masses, fuck white people” type thinking that serves to alienate themselves and push them further into the enemy camp. Patient explanation and mass work is needed to effectively organize and build something here, and it should start with working class youth who can be won over to anti-capitalist thinking and perspective through education and struggle. This is going to be a source of much valuable experience and practice (which leads to theory) in terms of winning over and struggling with the white working class. Many will remain enemies and stick with enemy thought, but a sizable chunk must and will become friends and comrades through struggle and patient. STLCC Meramac is located here as well.
Finally, Illinois. East Saint Louis is basically the left-behind debris of deindustrialization, with the steelmills that made this area known as the Pittsburgh of the West and that drew people from the South to this area long gone, slammed shut and remaining as polluting husks. Buildings are in such states of disrepair in ESL that people have to often dodge falling bricks. East Saint Louis is a sad shell of itself, with chemical plants spewing poison into the air, possessed of the highest child asthma rate in the United States, and full of decaying lead and asbestos filled buildings. If you want to see the end game of capitalism, book yourself a Greyhound bus and catch the Metrolink over here. The city and its steadily declining population that sits now at 26,000 people is virtually all black and all poor. The struggle here is all around, the masses don’t have trash pickup, Monsanto and other toxic companies pollute their air and soil as they damn well please, the city government basically behaves in a fashion similar to that of Chicago, and violent crimes (murders, rapes, and robberies) from the violent and anti-people segments of the lumpenproletariat, organized into fratricidal gangs (dual powers) run by nascent and vicious lumpenbourgeoisie, are fairly high, as are burglaries and car thefts. Teachers at schools are frequently on strike, and the city is generally begging for organization and prime for struggle. Contacts and mass links in this area should be developed, deeper on the ground investigation should be conducted and cadre developed through struggle in this area will definitely be among the most advanced. If you come from and can develop, organize the masses, and wage vigorous struggle in East Saint Louis, you’re an asset to the revolution, the masses, the Communist movement, and probably should be listened to.
In sum, my city is a complex maze, full of contradictions. We’re home to Boeing, the corporation responsible for the death of countless tens of thousands of people whose names we’ll probably never know. We’re home to Monsanto, whose wicked and nasty deeds can fill a book. We’re home to a smouldering landfill that threatens to set fire to 70 year old nuclear waste. Many people come here just to take pictures of the urban ruins. But, the people that live here, the masses, showed in 2014 and continue to show that they’re willing to make history and wage vigorous and to the bitter end struggle against that which exploits, oppresses, locks up, and even kills them. With the weapon of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist organization, theory, philosophy, and practice, we will storm the gates of heaven.