Following up on the monthly Web Ministry statistical reports of the past, PIRAO is now going to start pulling together a more comprehensive report on the central task to "create public opinion and the independent institutions of the oppressed to seize power." We had planned on waiting till 2003 to start these reports, but matters of the struggle have pushed forward the urgency of these reports. This first report will try to catch us up to the present so that future reports may focus on monthly data.
By PIRAO chief, November 19, 2002
"About forty thousand workers have been buying Pravda; far more read it. Even if war, prison, Siberia, and hard labour should destroy five or even ten times as many--this section of the workers cannot be annihilated. It is alive. It is imbued with the revolutionary spirit, is anti-chauvinist. It alone stands in the midst of the masses, with deep roots in the latter, as the champion of the internationalism of the toilers, the exploited, and the oppressed." V.I. Lenin, 1915
Lenin reported that in the 1905 upheaval the mushy "left" sneered at him and even as late as World War I itself, Russian people still thought of Lenin as "insane," all the more so because he opposed the war. Did Lenin have no political common sense? Nor did Lenin just oppose the war: he broke ties with all previously fraternal organizations that did not. He sent out Zinoviev to represent him at major anti-war conferences to say it would be better to be 20% the size of a larger party that so much as vacillated on the question of the war. Yes, it was an elitist, authoritarian, top-down thing to do, to say "to hell with public opinion." The science of solving political problems is not just a matter of public opinion or voting.
Lenin says he had 40000 subscribers in 1915 and he was especially proud of the fact that thousands of exploited workers paid their own money for Bolshevik newspapers. He found that the workers were unwilling to pay as much or as often for the Liquidators' newspapers.
I raise this because we need to understand that MIM's public opinion work is already in the league where Lenin's was in 1915. That's right: MIM has already proven that our line does not put us out of reach of the masses despite the endless chatter of the opportunists. It only raises why the opportunists keep saying MIM line puts us out of range of the masses. Yes, the other organizations are bigger than us, sometimes much bigger. That only proves that MIM is getting done more per comrade. That's not to mention that the Black Panthers already proved that there is no need to water anything down. It is possible to hoist the banner MIM has and place it in front of people to consider. We cannot expect more at this moment, as Lenin understood and we will get into more in detail.
In starting this new series of statistical reports on MIM work, we have decided that it is not worth the security risk to release information on our total printed paper circulation. We will say that after September 11th, 2001, the state succeeded in intimidating some of our circles but others stepped up and MIM Notes printing roughly increased by one-third. Since that time, that crude measure of circulation is up another 17% annually. Nonetheless, it is not a secret that MIM's web site attracts 25,000 visitors a month as I write this report in addition to those who pick up the MIM Notes in paper form.
As we explained before in the 2001 party congress resolution on defining "masses," Lenin's readers were more motivated than ours on average, not necessarily more motivated than our prison readers who show every sign of doing what Russian workers did in Lenin's day--read the paper thoroughly and then struggle hard to pass it on to someone else.
Yet as Lenin himself pointed out even in his day, Amerikans have advantages in their political work too. Namely, technology and advances in communications make it possible for large numbers of Amerikans to hear something quickly. In fact it is true that the Internet is more widespread in the imperialist countries and the capabilities of that Internet are greater also.
Just looking at the web traffic alone, MIM's non-graphics web traffic has been growing at an 80% annual rate for more than a year. At that rate, it will surpass Lenin's 1915 circulation in a year or maybe four if we consider that MIM is responsible for a larger population than Lenin was in 1915 and we want to consider a per-capita circulation rate. On this point I speak of the web page by itself, never mind our printed word.
All across the Internet, people recognize that MIM is most out on the "limb." We are the ones promoting Stalin, Mao and our thesis on the labor aristocracy--not in an half-hearted or defensive way. For that, of course we have come up for countless opportunist criticisms that we should "wage the battle for the middle," without first answering the question of "middle of what?"(1) (BTW, the same question goes for those speaking of a "left": left-wing of what, the National Bolsheviks? The left-wing of those seeking a popular way to go to war in Iraq?) Countless people calling themselves "leftist" or even "Maoists" tell MIM to fight for the "middle" of the "masses," without defining either and thereby surrendering to exploiters. They fail to understand that opportunists spontaneously generate at a dime a dozen rate. There is no need to water things down for people, and MIM's current circulation numbers prove it. Whatever MIM says will be watered down by 10 times as many people than MIM currently organizes anyway.
Right now, MIM is doing a little public opinion work on a new web forum where there are many youth and others considering the subjects of Marx and Stalin. It sounds good. Our mechanical opportunists would probably advise us to pursue the "middle" in such a context--if not that context, what context? Isn't MIM "sectarian" not to pursue the "middle" even in that context? Shouldn't a forum where people are interested in Marx and Stalin be a good place to win over the political middle? After all, why would people be there talking about Marx and Stalin in the first place? However, it turns out that issuing airy and vague statements like "waging the battle for the middle" is only possible coming from those who do not carry out internationalist practice in the imperialist countries.
Indeed, politically within the imperialist countries, the "win the middle" approach may seem correct at first blush. However, if we get into the struggle we find that even amongst 15-year-olds in imperialist countries in this forum we are working in right now, one poster hates Jews more than any other religion. Another major poster moderating one of the groups says "tut-tut" to the anti-Semitism, but then says that Nepal and Philippines people on the WHOLE have no chance of making an advanced revolution. He refers to the CPP as "bandits." Another one there actually defending Stalin speaks in favor of eugenics. He and another Stalin defender refer to a web site where the authors have spoken for gassing Jews, expelling all Mexicans--and when confronted with this fact they cover for it. It becomes clear that amongst these imperialist country people (and this is in fact common, not just a factor in that particular forum), it is possible--barely--to talk about Russia and Turkey--who "coincidentally" appear closest to being white amongst those being discussed. The entire Third World is irrelevant to them. Yet, if MIM were to pursue the middle in that forum, these all would be in "our camp," including some closet national Bolsheviks who would go for the ride--because the rest of the population on the forum is worse. Well of course, some of these people are buying the MIM Theory magazines, and using the MIM web site to help defend Stalin, but even here, can we say these are part of our camp? Of course ordinary readers in the forum will perceive MIM as being in the same camp, regardless of what we say or do, since we are pro-Stalin. There is reality to that. However, there is no sense in which we should cater to that middle. Quite the contrary, that "middle" has an enemy aspect that has to be transformed. We can even say that enemy aspect is principal and the need for self-transformation higher than the need for unity. Any other approach is to make a mockery of naming the principal contradiction the oppressed nations versus imperialism, but that is exactly what the world's supposed Maoists are advising MIM. Naming the principal contradiction as Maoists have means that we split the difference on other issues, not questions of chauvinism. That's what it means to answer the "middle of what?" question.
This is something Lenin understood. It's easy to issue vague proclamations about what is politically wise, and tactically smart. It's also lazy, a way of putting off the horror of just how far the struggle has to go to get the humyn species through this violent period of decaying imperialism. Lenin had no problem appearing "insane" for more than a decade from the time of 1902's "What Is To Be Done?" and the midst of World War I when Russians finally saw the light:
"Let us, however, consider in general and in the light of present-day events the meaning of the 'unity' slogan. The proletariat's unity is its greatest weapon in the struggle for the socialist revolution. From this indisputable truth it follows just as indisputably that, when a proletarian party is joined by a considerable number of petty-bourgeois elements capable of hampering the struggle for the socialist revolution, unity with such elements is harmful and perilous to the cause of the proletariat. Present-day events have shown that, on the one hand, the objective conditions are ripe for an imperialist war (i.e., a war reflecting the last and highest stage of capitalism), and, on the other hand, that decades of a so-called peaceful epoch have allowed an accumulation of petty-bourgeois and opportunist junk within the socialist parties of all the European countries. Some fifteen years ago, during the celebrated "Bernsteiniad" in Germany -- and ever earlier in many other countries -- the question of the opportunist and alien elements within the proletarian parties had become a burning issue. There is hardly a single Marxist of note who has not recognised many times and on various occasions that the opportunists are in fact a non-proletarian element hostile to the socialist revolution. The particularly rapid growth of this social element of late years is beyond doubt: it includes officials of the legal labour unions, parliamentarians and the other intellectuals, who have got themselves easy and comfortable posts in the legal mass movement, some sections of the better paid workers, office employees, etc., etc."(2)
This quote from Lenin is relevant to my mention of the Internet forum discussing Marx and Stalin. It's clear Lenin was looking at these "socialist parties" of his day the same way MIM looks at this supposed "left" forum on Marx and Stalin. If we are in the midst of internationalists, then going to win over the middle is appropriate. Seeking to win over the middle of a chauvinist "left" or chauvinist anything misses the point of what our goals are right now. In some circumstances, Lenin advised us to take our lumps and be unpopular. The party sets up a banner or beacon. It shows another way, even while the vast majority opposes that way. Yet if no one sets up that beacon, it takes that much longer and that much more suffering to get to where society has to go, whether it likes it or not right now.
"Going for the middle" in Lenin's day would have meant supporting the war in exchange for worker pensions. In Lenin's day, only his paper stood against the war, and even in Russia where there was hardly any labor aristocracy, Lenin was in the tiny minority right up to World War I. So what should we expect in an undefeated imperialist country where the labor aristocracy is proportionately much larger? To be more popular than Lenin? What's crazy is the people claiming to be Leninist and saying that. Even more crazy, if revolution is on the agenda in the united $tates, even within two years, MIM is no further away from being prepared than Lenin was in 1915. He had many advantages to be sure, but we have our own, and if there is to be a revolution in the united $tates in two years, that is what will be relevant, not Lenin's advantages in his circumstances. I am not saying we are going to have a revolution in two years, only that to argue MIM should surrender the cardinal principles on account of being in touch with the "masses" is wrong, because we have the example of Lenin in 1915 to see what can happen in two years. To be quite frank about our times, today, we have every possibility of far greater horrors and de-stabilization than what Lenin saw in World War I in the imperialist countries and the Third World already experiences the devastating conditions Lenin did in 1915.
Today, MIM Notes is the only newspaper circulating in the united $tates saying that the right to condemn terrorism is not something verbal or intellectual. We have to stop our government's terrorism in action first. It's sad to say that no other organization is willing to say that. The most "extreme" Trotskyists called the Spartacist League condemn "terrorism" and MIM. The "RCP-USA" is even saying that MIM's line justifies terrorism. Yet the imperialists are more honest than these social-patriots. The imperialists call this a "war on terror," by which they mean a permanent war of the type Orwell already lambasted in 1984. Given the current context, it is clear the imperialists are right that they can go from the fear of terrorism to making war on 60 countries that Rumsfeld has suggested and implemented in several already. That is the objective nature of the labor aristocracy that such a tactic does work. We have to expose even the majority of the population's efforts at war-mongering to create an even more unjust world with even more lopsided super-exploitation. It would be a sufficient reason to do that exposure of the labor aristocracy solely to give the Third World people a realistic assessment of what they have to do.
People stuck in "lesser evils" electoral politics thinking are unable to see the dialectical potential in a moment. That's why they advise us to "wage the battle for the middle." They don't have MIM's experience of knowing what political views go with what buzzwords in the imperialist countries when it comes to some Third World "Maoists" criticizing MIM. When MIM listens to people speak politically, we know what the implications of what those people are saying are. Two people listening to the same persyn speaking may hear false consciousness or conscious chauvinism. Being able to distinguish that means having both Marxist-Leninist-Maoist discernment and experience. Proving who is right is a matter of comparative study of class consciousness, something Sakai did in his/her book titled "Settlers." There are a lot of ways of knowing whether something is rooted in the material reality of parasitism or just false consciousness, not least of all the actions of the population in question in relation to obtaining a share of superprofits.
One tactic that has worked from the beginning in the 1980s is taking MIM Notes to busy streets, crowded parking lots or demonstrations. Distributing MIM Notes at a large rally is going to be more efficient than what you can do on our web page. The whole web site distributes 100 documents in a good hour, so if you go to one good rally, at least for that moment you are beating the whole web site's work, not a small feat considering all the work that goes into the web site both by us and search engines--with 2 gigabytes of material on the web site that took so much work to do.
In passing, I would like to address a difference of opinion about distribution. Most organizations attempting independent media say it's important to "talk" to people while "selling" them a newspaper--"mass line" blah, blah. MIM's tactic is especially suited to what MIM is trying to do--which is to set up a beacon, not fantasize that advanced people with false consciousness just need to speak a few minutes on the corner with a salespersyn. It has to do with an underlying ultra-left view of distribution and what we do in an undefeated imperialist country. To get beyond a certain ultra-left view of distribution, one may have to carry out some distribution tactics as MIM has. In particular the belief that distribution is best done in a public housing project with oral agitation is something we had to try and decide against. It does not mean we reject the tactic categorically, and we welcome anyone who happens to believe in that tactic if they accept the cardinal principles. After all, tactics and the ability to implement them even vary by individual. That's the kind of two-line struggle we can afford to have and MIM has always given people tactical autonomy to prove MIM wrong in its prevailing orientations. We never let people abandon the party over a tactical disagreement. We expect to be abandoned only over the cardinal questions.
Instead of "sales" we prefer to build speaking events, petitions and rallies by accosting people with a few words as they go by. Being available is important. Fantasizing about instant revolutionaries is stupid. In some towns it is possible to carry out "mass line" while selling papers. MIM does not mostly use that tactic but our circulation and the interaction we have with the masses is beyond our capability to handle.
Something that our DISTRO department used to do was emphasize exchanges. One DISTRO Minister or DISTRO associate in particular pretty much contributed only that idea. It reflected an unhealthy Liberal proclivity for whatever reason. Again distributing MIM Notes amongst the "left" grass-tips is not the way to go, no matter how much opportunist pressure we come under. We needed to think much harder than that.
Of course there is also the question of professional distributors, both periodical distributors and bookstores. This tactic has had some limited success through the years, but it is one of the most costly ones.
Something I would like to address in the same context is the importance of people actually distributing the papers they receive or pick up. In the past, thanks to a lack of alternatives, we have had a fatuous attitude toward people distributing the paper. In 2001, even before 911 but completed shortly after 911, we had a shake-out where we cut the deadwood or incapable or gutless distributors. It cut two-thirds out of a particular kind of petty-bourgeoisie we had hanging about. It's partly a question of distinguishing hand-holding from leadership. Part of leadership is indicating to people what they are already capable of and not accepting "no" as an answer when it comes to someone's capabilities. In the small-minded, hand-holding, ultra-democratic petty-bourgeois mindset, comrades reinforce each others' lack of aggressiveness. In connection to this a whole friendly but bureaucratic style of work arose that emphasized the individual instead of procedure. It was onerous but actually failed even in distributing basic information about distribution.
In a communist party, especially in the departments connected to our central task, it is not possible for us to tolerate an approach where procedures do not match visions. We are not here to unleash individuals, which is impossible to do scientifically anyway. We are here to figure out how to maximize a class's participation and struggle. That means forward-looking procedure, simple accessible procedure.
All of this summation is possible, including criticism of the past because we have improved circulation. We have something to compare. If you have nothing to compare, then even just exchanging your newspaper with other organizations is one way to boost circulation, better than nothing and you better do it.
In 2002 and in quick succession we have tested our boldest tactics in circulation so far. I'm not going to go into that yet, but one thing I can say is that we have resolved one contradiction we had before thanks to new tactics. Now we are on to new contradictions.
MIM Notes writers, producers and distributors have considerable experience now. We are ready to ramp up distribution as support comes in. It would not take much to make MIM Notes the largest circulation newspaper in all communist or "socialist" history in the united $tates.
In the future, we would like to report on independent institutions of the oppressed aside from the public opinion question. At the moment MIM has several books that need to be printed. One includes a primer from the new Noble Young Lords Party. We need money for printing these books.
I already explained that newspaper printing increased one-third after 911 and then another 17% in the last year. There are a number of reasons MIM is not emphasizing the number of the print run that much. One is that newspaper publishers take surveys to measure how many times each printed paper actually gets read. MIM has no access to such a survey just yet. In prison the printed word gets passed on many times and for that by itself, MIM can be considered in touch with the masses. Overall, though our idea of printed circulation is no where close to being as accurate as our Internet statistics.
Another reason that we do not talk about the print run that much is that we have learned from concrete coordination
work that the print circulation influences the Internet reading. In fact, the Internet numbers tell us something
about what is going on with our print circulation. There is still no better set of statistics for the MIM
central task than the Web Minister reports which we are going to be expanding now as "Central Task" reports.
Get involved in distribution of MIM Notes!
Notes: 1. For just such a vacuous expression missing the answer to "middle of what?" see Bob Avakian,
"I was thinking not only about our strategy of United Front under the Leadership of the Proletariat (UFuLP) and its application in general but more particularly how the "fight for the middle" (as we have sometimes described it) will go on throughout the whole period of political preparation for revolution. And then, when a revolutionary situation finally emerges, this "fight for the middle" will be intensified. (Revolutionary Worker, "Great Objectives and Grand Strategy: The Basic Masses in Their Revolutionary Expression, and Winning Over the Middle Strata: Communism vs. 'Calvinism,'" December 23, 2001.
2. V.I. Lenin, "What's Next?" 1915, Collected Works Vol. 21.
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