I. Stop Dealing in Abstractions!
It is often said of an ideal revolutionary society, “That’s nice- but it’s not realistic.”
Throughout the course of mass work, it’s made abundantly clear that most people desire for a change in the capitalist-imperialist world system. Many desire it to be outright eradicated. People don’t have a very hard time envisioning what an alternative society would look like: sharing, co-operation, labor which is both fulfilling and answers a material need of the people, collective decision-making, and an end to injustice everywhere. While many people easily grasp this concept, they for the most part only do so in the abstract sense. The word used above to describe a revolutionary society, “ideal,” illustrates this error in thinking.
Revolution, for many, is an abstract idea. Revolution is therefore “not realistic.” What is a “realistic” society to the people? One filled with exploitation, alienation, survival, strife, violence, apathy, greed, and scarcity. This kind of society is the only “realistic” one to the people because it is the one they all live in. Ideas, after all, come from material conditions.
We recognize that ideas derive from one’s experience in production, pursuit of science and the arts, and class struggle. Many believe greed is inherent in “human nature” because they experience greed from the ruling class every day. They see how only selfishness can lead to success under capitalism. Many believe exploitation is inherent in human society because they are exploited for their labor=power just to survive. They can’t put their faith in a future world in which people are not exploited because such a world does not exist. Many believe alienation from each other is the only possible reality, because under capitalism, workers must compete against each other for better pay, better positions of work, and higher status. Many believe scarcity will always persist because waste is a constant persistence in their lives.
Mao Tse-Tung writes:
In class society everyone lives as a member of a particular class, and every kind of thinking, without exception, is stamped with the brand of a class.
Many believe they will never have power because they do not have it now. Many believe that the current electoral system is the best chance they have to achieve reform, because they live in a society where voting is the only option for them to express their voice- despite how little their voice actually matters. However, a growing number of people also know that the political system does not currently represent them. The broad masses of underpaid workers, those without college education, those who constantly sit on the fence between poverty and stability, and those who are poor, understand that they have no power. The majority of this section of the working class, the lower strata, understand that democracy is an illusion. This is because they have gained nothing from the capitalist-imperialist world system. Higher strata workers, those who reside in the developments of the suburbs, gentrifiers, successful business-owners, and those with high-paying jobs and a college education, are much more likely to believe that the system works- because for the most part, it does for them. The more capital one has direct access to, the more the political system explicitly represents their interests.
People believe what their experience tells them. What good is it to lecture a poor person on the benefits of joining your Party, your collective, or your protest? These things come and go, and the capitalist-imperialist world system has not changed in their favor. What good is it to lecture a worker on the necessity of building socialism? These are abstractions! These ideas are rooted in nothing material- they are only ideas!
The need for building something real in which the people can begin to have the power becomes apparent.
II. Relationship Between the Construction of Mass Base Areas and the Construction of Political Power for the People
It is easy to say, “go and build power for the people,” but another entirely to do it. “Power to the People” is not just a good slogan, it is the essence of our work. To build a revolutionary mass movement, the construction of mass base areas is essential. A mass base area can be generally defined as “an area in which the power of the State and bourgeoisie must contend with the power of the organized, revolutionary masses.” It is an area in which revolutionary struggle can be waged, where the skeletal structures of socialism are being erected. A mass base area has 5 universal characteristics, each of which informs and develops the next:
- A leading body of organizers comprised of the politically advanced masses
- Self-organization of the broad masses to directly represent their needs, ideas, and concerns- as well as to build solutions to the problems in their areas
- Rapid mobilization of the masses to assert their power and freedom from state-sanctioned exploitation and oppression
- Mass rejection of State and corporate power
- Militant capabilities to defend revolutionary gains and protect newly-found sovereignty
The unifying aspect of all primary characteristics is the active participation of the masses in the attempt to change conditions. Without a revolutionary people, there is no revolutionary movement. Direct actions without the active participation of the masses, while well-intentioned, often do not lead to long-term change, and many times lead to unnecessary difficulties for those involved which hinder their abilities to organize the people. Statements and proclamations, without the ideas of the masses, are self-isolating and lead to stagnation.
The organs of political power are thus the new structures which enable the active participation of the masses. They are the primitive foundation of what the new society will look like. Their practice will shape the formation of the post-capitalist world. They are responsible for the long-term sustainment of mass base areas during the period of revolution, they remain essential during the period of post-revolutionary construction, and they are further expanded to bring about the final abolition of all class society.
Organs of political power represent the direct will of the people. Through direct engagement and struggle between revolutionary organizations and organs of political power, the revolutionary movement can steadfastly advance. An examination of the mass base area’s characteristics explains why:
Rely on the advanced to lead the intermediates.
In any given area of work, there are those from among the masses who are willing and able to change the conditions which cause their problems. They are the natural leaders of their communities. They live to serve others. They freely speak their mind and share their ideas. Their homes and spaces are used as a common space for others in their community to gather socially, to celebrate, and to grieve. Thus, they are the most likely to move the people, as they have developed concrete relationships with many in their neighborhoods. The people will most likely listen to them, and they should be relied upon firmly for this reason. Because of their close relationships with the people, and acute understandings of the problems affecting everyone, the revolutionary organization should gather ideas from them, and commit to a protracted struggle with them to develop plans of action for mobilizing the people to assert their own power.
The people must be organized to assert their own power and expand it.
With the advanced from the area leading the way by example, the politically intermediate people, who represent the majority of the masses, can begin to witness the necessity for organization and can take the first steps to asserting their own power. Because alienation and competition are conditioned into the people from birth as a consequence of existing in a capitalist-imperialist world system, the tendency for fracturing and fighting emerges during any mass organization of the people, and actively prevents them from working together. The leading group will help alleviate these problems, primarily by getting them organized to voice their problems, concerns, and ideas. These ideas will directly influence the course of the leading group, and another avenue of further political education is opened. Throughout this process, the people will gradually begin to understand, as a whole, the need for further co-operation and collective decision-making. These new bodies of organization will serve as the real means from which the people will directly control what is produced, how resources are distributed, and what demands must be made on institutional powers.
To assert power, power must be taken.
Power is taken from the State through the mobilization of the masses around a set of demands. The tactics for accomplishing this are numerous and won’t be discussed in detail here. When demands are met, and victory is accomplished, the people develop a greater understanding for why the State is not necessary, why the capitalist ruling class is not necessary, and how they can further develop their own structures of power.
Outright rejection of State power leads to the creation of dual-power.
When the State and capitalists must bargain with the people to get anything done, then it can be said that a state of dual-power in a mass base area has been reached. At this point, the organs of political power are nearly in full-control. The State is threatened and responds with violence to protect the interests of the capitalists.
Greater consolidation of defensive capabilities to resist State repression.
While militant, defensive capabilities should be developed throughout construction of mass base areas, a higher stage of unity between fighting forces should be achieved in order to adequately resist the inevitable, overtly violent response from the State. The broad masses of the people will give support to them, and will participate in them, because they will be defending their own sovereignty and right to democracy. The importance of utilizing all sympathetic fighting groups to resist State repression and encroachment on Free Territory is of the utmost importance. The successful development of the United Front up to this point will determine how the course of armed struggle will go.
A mass base area is constructed over time, through a protracted period of struggle, and the key characteristics can be developed unevenly depending on the particular conditions. It is always important to remember: start with the general, move to the particular.
III. Using ‘For the People’ Mass Organizations to Develop Organs of Political Power
The ‘For the People’ (FTP) mass organizations across the country offer great insight into how organs of political power can be developed. In Atlantic City, NJ, this process is underway. The advanced masses are already beginning to take leadership positions, call for further action, and get people organized. If the revolutionary organization can provide the means, the space, and the education- then the masses will take the initiative. What follows is the general strategy for how the Atlantic City chapter intends to develop organs of political power.
Serving the people.
Food, clothing, hygiene products, baby care products, books, bike repair, home repair, education, medical care, skill training, youth services, and child care will be raised, organized, and distributed regularly at events. Currently, the Atlantic City chapter has managed to organize weekly food distributions. Additionally, once a month there is a larger cookout event, in which hot food, canned food, books, hygiene products, clothing, and free bike repair are given out. These larger events serve to conduct social investigations, engage with the people politically, and recruit new leaders for the construction of an Organizing Committee.
The formation of Organizing Committees.
Organizing Committees are comprised of the politically-advanced, those who volunteer to help, and those who assume leadership positions at events. They are typically well-known by the community, already active in their own pursuits for change, and have an acute political understanding of the problems their community faces. They will be eventually given full control over the FTP branch in their part of the city, as they are gradually trained to become leaders with a higher revolutionary consciousness. They listen to the needs and ideas of the people; and decide what material needs must be organized and distributed by FTP. Eventually, they will be tasked with helping to draft a list of demands against an institutional power; and will be primarily responsible for moving the people to mobilize. They will be given constant political education and will serve as the primary basis from which the revolutionary organization will recruit new cadre.
The campaign for demands.
The revolutionary organization will struggle and assist the Organizing Committee with the drafting and carrying out of a mass-based campaign around demands against an institutional power. This would most likely require several existing FTP-AC branches in the city to effectively carry out. Achievable demands are created based upon the ideas of the organizing committee and the voice of the regular masses. This campaign is carried out primarily by agitating for it at events, during engagement with the community at regular intervals, and by delegating responsibilities to the Organizing Committee. When a victory is achieved, the organizing committee will have effectively won a small amount of power. They can then go on to draft another campaign for change and further organize the broad masses into People’s Committees.
The formation of People’s Committees.
The People’s Committees are the direct voice of the people in any given area of work. These are the embryonic structures of people’s power. It’s how the people organize to represent their ideas, concerns, and solutions to the new organs of political power. They can hold their Organizing Committee accountable, remove representatives at any time, and can serve as the basis from which to rapidly spread revolutionary consciousness among the people. They will serve as the primary means from which to recruit and build support for revolutionary fighting groups.
Given that the Atlantic City chapter is only undergoing the second phase of this process, it remains to be seen what will be effective, what will need to be adjusted, and what will need to be outright scrapped. Further practice will determine this.
IV. Relationship Between Revolutionary Cadre and Organs of Political Power
Leadership is something that is won through struggle, not assumed. If the people are receptive to this strategy, then they will embrace it as their own. If not, then it will have to be adjusted according to their ideas and objective material conditions. If the strategy does not work, then a full summation and analysis will have to be worked through, and given to the people, as well as a rectification of our errors.
It is important to state that Cadre do not micromanage or outright control the organs of political power. We serve the people first and foremost. We seek to struggle with the organs of political power to reach a higher stage of unity between the revolutionary organization and them. We base our theory on correct revolutionary practice. We don’t rail at the masses and expect them to conform to our ideas. We apply the mass line, and we learn from them.
We gather the unorganized ideas of their advanced, summarize their experiences, synthesize it with our revolutionary goals, create a plan of action, and propagate the newly-organized ideas back to the masses so that they take them as their own. We must not seek to become the new bosses, the new overseers, the new rulers. We want the people to have their own power, and that’s why we are building a revolutionary movement- to make that happen.
V. Without the United Front, We’re Alone!
Principally, the United Front is the coordinated body of sympathetic, broadly progressive organizations which conduct work among the people, seek to create change, or have revolutionary aspirations of their own. In Atlantic City, the United Front has been instrumental in the success of FTP events. First, all leading organizers are involved in both membership and coordinated struggle with many existing groups outside of their own. Around 10 NJ-based organizations and a small number of store managers all give varying levels of support and direct material aid to the FTP distributions. Without their aid and support, the events would be almost impossible. The Atlantic City branch does not necessarily agree on every political idea with each group. But that is not the point of a United Front. The United Front exists to unite all who can be united. If they are sympathetic to a particular cause, project, or campaign that is being advocated by the FTP group, then they should be organized and struggled with to attain a higher level of unity.
There is often a tendency among communists, but especially among Maoists, to reject the struggle for unity, instead demanding unrealistic levels of ideological agreement as a prerequisite to build together. The MCP-OC categorically rejects this model. Instead, we seek to move from a lower level of unity to a higher level of unity. The process of actually implementing revolutionary change will open the minds of many to more revolutionary ideas.
A United Front is the strategy for bringing in all existing struggles together. One of the pitfalls of the revolutionary movement is that each group only works together on occasion. There is no systemized method for combining all struggles. Instead, many resort to fighting and petty competition. We reject this and aspire to learn from the Filipino style of building a United Front, which has proven itself in practice to be the most successful in the present era.
Additionally, we ourselves may not have the correct idea about a thing, and there are many lessons to be learned from other styles of work, and other kinds of ideas. We should guard against revisionism, but at the same time utilize what we can to accomplish what needs to be done. The people aren’t interested in quarrels among organizations. They want to know what we’re going to do for them.
Contradictions between groups should be resolved, but ruptures are not necessary if the contradictions are non-antagonistic. Unnecessary splitting leads to stagnation and isolation. Resolve non-antagonistic contradictions through patient struggle, investigation, earnest sympathy, and principled criticism!
VI. A Note on the Necessity for Armed Struggle
The ultimate success of the revolutionary movement hinges on the success of the People’s War. We proceed from strategic defensive, to strategic equilibrium, to strategic offensive. At the current period, we are at the “gathering of forces” stage. We cannot be hasty in our desire to reach the next stage- and posture a false militancy which will only result in swift defeat. The people are not only the thrust of the revolutionary movement, but they are also our eyes, ears, and hands. Without the active participation of the masses, nothing will be accomplished. At the same time, we cannot be afraid to lay the groundwork of the People’s Army. We cannot be afraid to establish working relationships between existing fighting groups of varying levels of militancy. We should develop our FTP organizations, the United Front, and the People’s Army concurrently.
Why should we concern ourselves with laying the groundwork for armed struggle now? Because when the organs of political power begin to take hold over the cities and countryside, the state, the bourgeoisie, and the fascist running-dogs will do everything in their power to take it back. They will use overwhelming violence, even on the most peaceful and moderate of activists.
The United States is already swiftly retreating from decades of neoliberalism and slipping into outright fascism. Its attacks against the working class, against the various oppressed and colonized nations of people both inside and outside the US, and the criminalization of dissent are all molding into a new era of bourgeois dictatorship. The violence it exerts on the people has no precedent in word history, in both size and scale. Without capable fighting forces, there is no way to resist its onslaught.
The stage of strategic defensive, therefore, is a means for the organized people to resist state repression against their assertion of political power. It is defensive. But without adequate groundwork, preparation, and training- it will be too late to organize effectively. Strategic defensive means protecting the revolutionary gains, defending the rights of the people, and resisting oppression. We must be willing to defend what we have won.
VII. Serve the People, Organize the People, Win Power for the People!
What will it take to fundamentally transform the ills of our society? It requires the destruction of capitalist-imperialism, an overthrow of the bourgeoisie, a higher stage of unity between the exploited classes, and the construction of new organs of political power for the people. It’s easy to be against imperialism- but it’s much harder to implement a strategy for its demise.
“Making Revolution is Not a Crime!”
The movement of human history can be summed up as the struggle of the oppressed against the oppressor. What we seek to do is not original, or new. It is as old as human civilization itself. But without implementation of a revolutionary strategy- without the construction of organs of political power- our movement will be swept away into the dustbins of history. It will be left in the graveyard of so many other movements before us.
We should study their examples, learn what mistakes were made, and figure out how to avoid repeating them. Beyond that- we should be constantly striving for seizure of political power in practice.
By answering the needs of the people, organizing them into self-sustaining bodies in which they can assert political power, raising their revolutionary consciousness through deep struggle, and pushing militantly forward through all means available, we can live to see the destruction of world imperialism, and lay the foundations of a new society.
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