The Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade (youth group of the Revolutionary Communist Party) has a group discussion on MySpace where the article I wrote, "Don't Just Protest, Organize!" is being discussed.
I wrote a response and wanted to share it with people.
Response to the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade
I like to thank the RCYB for letting me in on the debate and for taking the time to discuss the piece I wrote on organizing and protests. I'd like to further discuss some of my arguments, because the essay could not go into my position overall -- it wasn't my intention in doing that anyway.
I think what tends to happen a lot with authoritarian leftists is the "all or nothing approach" -- and what ends up happening is that you don't accomplish anything. You end up as an arm-chair/ivory tower intellectual. I have a disliking for party liners who spend their time on theory and no time on actually developing new ideas through your practice (developing a praxis).
I think the question was posed by my friend Rolando, how are you going to develop a revolution through a newspaper?
That is a very good point, and I can speak to this with my own experience. I used to be a member of the RCYB, and was a maoist in name (and an anarcho-communist in my heart). In the four years, I had to take out the Party's line -- mainly through their newspaper. In the housing projects in Watts when we were organizing, what ended up happening was that the "masses" ended up viewing the revolutionaries as Jehovah's Witnesses. They didn't relate to what we were talking about. They hid from us when we were trying to talk to them about communism. We didn't build any real relationships with them first, or even realize that people will not make the leap or see themselves as revolutionaries overnight. People have to empower themselves through organizing, taking action, taking up theory, and being part of all decision making. You can't just talk to them in some old dogmatic rhetoric and expect them to join the "vanguard."
Even in Russia -- what led to the revolution wasn't Lennin and their party's newspaper. It was a multi-faceted strategy -- where people organized themselves in ther workplaces and in their communities. It had a lot to do with the Military Revolutionary Committee (where anarchists and socialists organized the military to overthrow the tzar). The Soviets (councils of elected delegates) had to do witht the development of the struggle in Russia and developing direct-democracy. The Bolsheviks' opportunism led to one party rule in Russia and the centralizing of power in the soviets and the repression of autonomous communities (in particular in the Ukraine).
We need better living conditions, we need dignity and justice -- that's the reality.
You can't expect somebody to eat theory to survive -- and these are small reforms that are desirable. These are problems that we face in our communities and we need to struggle to change these today as part of our overall revolutionary vision. We face: isolation, degradation, exploitation, oppression and so on.
On the other hand you have what you mentioned -- the reformists. The folks who have no intention in connecting our organizing today to an overall program for fundamental change locally and globally.
We need to fight for dignity and justice in our communities, in our workplaces, and in our schools. We can't just go after the "bourgeoisie" -- but we have to connect our organizing to our overall aims. Reforms at this point (depending on how you carry them out or how you pose them to people) are not necesarily a bad thing, and can empower our movement in different ways -- but it shouldn't be left up to reforms.
The RCP views Revolution as an event: where we get our army and the ruling class has their army and we go at it -- that's wrong for different reasons. For one, its bound to fail and two are you trying to build a party or empower the "masses" to organize themselves and take back what belongs to them?
Revolutionary change is a process of building dual power and defending/safeguarding what we create and have taken back. Dual Power basically means that we build the structures right now that will replace capitalism and the state with all its oppressive institutions. This is happening right now (today) in communities in Chiapas and occupied factories in Argentina. They're building direct-democracy, autonomy, and dual-power through their organizing and their actions. I agree with George Jackson of the Black Panther Party-- I think that if we organize and build dual power the state will come down on us eventually. He called for self-defense (in any way possible) of the communities, but organizing locally through programs and projects of the BPP. When the state comes down on the community they will be organized and prepared. They would be coordinating also with other communities and fighting for similar aims and goals. This would result in a civil war -- where conflicting futures will struggle against each other. I think that this is part of an overall strategy where "humanity fights for humanity."
I do agree in order to win we NEED TO HAVE the orientation of humanity fighting for humanity, and uniting with the majority to defeat the minority, but I think we need solidarity among the working class/all of the oppressed first before we can have solidarity with other classes (but I don't disagree with having support from the middle strata at this point or even including them in our organizations).
Anarchists are not opposed to developing political positions, but we see our positions as changing with time and relating your ideas and your strategy to your region's conditions (I think Mao had similar ideas -- having himself been an anarchist and coopting Chinese Anarchists' ideas). The RCP as well as other state-socialists have a tendency to implement ideas and strategies that are outdated (basing them on history they have romanticized). We feel that we need to develop our leadership skills, not centralize power in the hands of a few.
We can point to where power has corrupted and turn revolutionaries (no matter how well intentioned) into oppressors -- as in China, Russia, Cambodia and so on. Also where movements were decapitated because of the reliance on a few charismatic leaders (as in the u.s. in the 1960's).
Bob Avakian, in my opinion, is a great intellectual. I do think we can organize for the revolutionary process with out his "vision and leadership" (which I don't think is innovative -- just recycling old dogma). I think that to have the position that "without this man we won't be successful" is backward. You're telling humanity in general, but Blacks, Latinos, Women, and all oppressed people in particular, that we have to rely on another rich white male to rule over us and save us. Is that really revolutionary? How is he going to lead us from his self-imposed exile, just through his writings?
Last thing I would like to get into is the argument over "the correct line." I don't think a small group of people can know what's in the interests of humanity. I don't think that this party can tell all of us how to organize ourselves and what is best for us. What about when the RCP had a position on homosexuality that WAS homophobic. They thought that homosexuality was a product of capitalism and that it would be abolished under socialism through "re-education." Ofcourse, they've come out recently and said that this position was incorrect, and "they've never had a problem with homosexuality." Regardless of their new position, they thought for decades that they were right. Imagine if these people had power, they would of rounded up all homosexuals and tried to re-educate their sexuality -- same as Christian fundamentalists do (same as Mao did in China and his answer to dealing with different lines). They were criticized for many years but didn't change their position until recently. Was the party right back then? Imagine if the RCP made a mistake in your line if you had state power -- they would kill and oppress hundreds and thousands.
The way you arrive at a position is through the direct-democratic or consensus process; through debate, dialogue and popular participation.
The revolutionary process is one that has to be made by the people not a vanguard party. This is why I'm part of a federation -- where we learn as we teach, we develop ourselves as longterm organizers, support and build solidarity among our communities and oppressed people, build support among other classes and humanity, and help in the process of self-organization in our communities, work-places, and schools.
Anarcho-Communist and member of the Southern California Anarchist Federation -- Los Angeles