Friday, February 22, 2008

Freedom Road on the Mass Line

"The people, and the people alone, are the motive force in the making of world history." - Mao Zedong

One of the main things that attracted me to Marxism-Leninism and the thought of Mao Zedong when I was becoming an activist and getting involved in popular struggles, particularly in the antiwar movement, was the revolutionary theory and practice of the mass line.

I was drawn to this method of organizing and leadership because it answers in a practical and straightforward way many questions that people have to deal with if they want to fight for fundamental change in society. When I was first beginning to organize and work is large mass meetings in the anti-war movement I felt the need for a revolutionary theory that could measure up to the test of practice. And the mass line measures up.

I first encountered the mass line in Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong. Later I read other articles by Mao Zedong on the subject, such as Some Questions Concerning Methods of Leadership and his January 30, 1962 talk on democratic centralism. I also studied articles by other communists like Liu Shaoqi's Concerning the Mass Line of our Party and the short collection of Lenin's writings, Party Work in the Masses.

That being said, I just wanted to draw people's attention to this newly released pamphlet by the U.S. Marxist-Leninist group, Freedom Road Socialist Organization on the subject, Some Points on the Mass Line. It is a study of the mass line that was developed by FRSO which explains many of the key points of communist organizing, theory and practice, philosophy and revolution, in a very clear way. If an activist/organizer wants to know what Marxism has to offer in practical terms, in terms of getting stuff done, talk to them about the mass line and show them this pamphlet. It is about how to organize for revolution and change the world.

Well, though it is being published officially by Freedom Road now, in February 2008, it is really sort of a re-release, because as a study it has been floating around for a while now. So at the very beginning of Some Points on the Mass Line it says, "This study was prepared by a leading member of FRSO in the late 1980s. Since then this study has been used extensively inside and outside our organization and it has been reprinted in a number of different political settings. The application of the mass line is basic to how we do our work in trade unions, in the movements of oppressed nationalities, in anti-war and other progressive struggles. It informs our work on building a new communist party." So the real target audience of Some Points on the Mass Line is clearly Marxist-Leninists, though I think advanced activists and organizers who aren't necessarily Marxists or communists could get a a lot out of studying it as well. When combined with a strong, Marxist-Leninist class analysis, a clear view of the national question in the U.S., and important texts like the Main Political Report and other documents from FRSO's 5th Congress (2007) we see that this document on mass line organizing is well contextualized within the rest of what Freedom Road has to offer.

When you get right down to it, Some Points on the Mass Line is an organizing handbook, with 20 points dealing with various aspects of the mass line, and including study questions. Some Points on the Mass Line deals with questions ranging from the philosophical (Marxist theory of knowledge, relationship between theory and practice) to the political (democratic centralism and communist organization), to the very practical (methods of work and methods of leadership). It shows how the mass line allows organizers to deals with questions as seemingly simple as how to respond practically to apathy and cynicism. It discusses the importance of summing up experiences and the struggle for summation. It talks about how to do united front work. It even deals with questions regarding how to build a stable core of activists to mobilize masses of poeple. And, importantly, it links all of these points with deeper questions such as how to raise the level of people's consciousness.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that there is recommended reading at the end. The point is made that "although the term mass line was coined by the Communist Party of China, the basic method of reliance on, and the mobilization of, the masses of people has been utilized by all successful revolutionary parties." So along with the well known texts of Mao Zedong and Chinese communism, others like Lenin's On Confounding Politics with Pedagogics and Stalin's Armed Insurrection and our Tactics are listed there as well for people to do more research into the classics of Marxism-Leninism.

It is in the mass line that the dialectical relationship between theory and practice is the most clear. As a revolutionary method, the mass line has be proven by successful revolutionary movements all over the world. This pamphlet from Freedom Road shows, point by point, just how that works. I would highly suggest that people read it and apply it.

"The masses are the real heroes, while we ourselves are often childish and ignorant, and without this understanding, it is impossible to acquire even the most rudimentary knowledge." - Mao Zedong

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Anti-War Unity Advances at Protest RNC Organizers Conference

Workers, oppressed nationalities, and other progressives in the U.S. and around the world are looking forward to huge antiwar protests at the Republican National Convention, and for organizers this provides a rallying point, in my opinion, for a great leap forward in the growing unity of the U.S. antiwar movement. The organizing conference that took place in Minneapolis, which brought together all of the major antiwar coalitions under one banner, was held only just days after the local coalition won an important part of the battle for permits.

I'm reposting the following article which includes some excellent podcasts from the RNC protest organizing conference that took place recently. And FYI, you can see some video coverage of the conference here.

Voices from the RNC protest organizing conference
Listen to some of the key speeches

Minneapolis, MN - Activists from around the country gathered here Feb. 9-10 for an organizing conference to plan the anti-war protests at the Republican National Convention.

The conference brought together more than 60 organizations and included the major centers of the anti-war movement, including United for Peace and Justice, International ANSWER and the Troops Out Now Coalition. Also present was Carlos Montes of Latinos Against the War.

The event was organized by the Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War.

Podcasts available

Click on the names below for the mp3 of that person's speech, or right-click on a name and select 'save as' to save the mp3 on your computer.

Jess Sundin speaking for the Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War. Sundin is a founding member of the Twin Cites based Anti-War Committee. She has participated in or coordinated solidarity trips to Iraq, El Salvador and Colombia.

Leslie Cagan coordinator of United for Peace and Justice, an anti-war coalition with more than 1400 member groups.

Sara Flounders representing the Troops Out Now Coalition. She is also co-director of the International Action Center.

John Beacham representing International ANSWER, a coalition of hundreds of organizations with organizing centers in scores of cites and towns across the country.

Angel Buechner a leader of the Welfare Rights Committee.

Carlos Montes of Latinos Against the War.

(reprinted from Fight Back! News)

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

SDS / IVAW Mock Raid in Asheville, NC

This counter-recruitment action, the staging of a "mock raid" by members of Students for a Democratic Society and Iraq Veterans Against the War in Asheville, North Carolina is an excellent example of what the antiwar movement needs more of: militant actions that disrupt business as usual, disrupt recruitment efforts, raise the social costs of the war, and tear holes into the fabrications of the war machine. Here you can watch a youtube video of the mock raid that took place there on Feb 5th, and read the "Joint Statement" from UNCA SDS and IVAW-Asheville.

The UNCA SDS / IVAW-Asheville statement reads, in part, "We oppose this war for many reasons. In particular, we oppose the war because it violates the sovereignty of Iraq’s people and their national right to self-determination. Furthermore, the U.S. government forces service members to fight an illegal war. We recognize that the military-industrial complex, corporate profiteering and imperialist designs fuel this war on an oil-rich and strategically important region."
After describing the action that took place, IVAW-Asheville president, Jason Hurd is quoted as saying, "This scenario is based entirely in reality. It is based on the first-hand experience of Mike Robinson, a fellow IVAW member and participant in this action. I also spoke personally with many Iraqi citizens during my tour who explained that raids like this one occur daily in occupied Iraq."
The statement goes on to say, "The guerrilla theater that took place on the 5th is in no way meant as an attack on individual military members, but rather as a statement against war and militarism as well as an indictment against the criminal regime here at home. Our government exploits U.S. soldiers who come predominantly from working-class and oppressed communities. Only the rich profit from this war. Therefore, we express solidarity with all U.S. service members; we see them as our natural allies in the fight against all oppression."
The statement goes on to analyze what military recruiters promise and offers a comparison to how that stack up against "the real world." Finally, the statement says, "SDS and IVAW want all U.S. troops out of Iraq NOW! We realize the futility and criminality of this ongoing occupation and we see the correlation between high-levels of violence and U.S. presence in Iraq. SDS member and participant in Tuesday’s action, Angela Denio said, 'This war is a complete injustice perpetrated against the people of Iraq. The anti-war movement must rise in solidarity with the Iraqi people and their just struggle for national liberation.' From this point forward, whenever any military recruiter sets foot on UNCA campus, SDS and IVAW-Asheville commit to countering their efforts by building a community movement that resists and disrupts war and militarism."
I sincerely hope that we see more of this type of thing in the months to come. As Ron Jacobs put it recently in Counter Punch: "The only existing national organizations that could possibly provide fresh leadership at this time are Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)." As we move toward the fifth anniversary of the war, groups like SDS and IVAW need to take the lead with more actions like this and the SDS call for March 17-21 days of action against the war in Iraq.
U.S. Out of Iraq NOW!

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