A Contribution to Thoughts on Unity and Alliances
MIM(Prisons) espouses a valid conviction that here and now is not the proper moment for a popular uprising (armed struggle).(1) Historically speaking, this is correct. Yet, it raises an important question: should those following the MIM-line dissociate themselves from militant-lines?
First, we must acknowledge reality. I don't mean theoretically or philosophically. Capitalists and their contributors will not surrender control/authority, or their social, global and class positions/privileges without mortal combat. Meaning it's not a question of whether violent struggle will be necessary or not, but rather when is the indicative time? Before we (revolutionaries) can make that distinction, another question must be addressed.
How do we succeed in armed confrontation? This isn't a matter to be solved with theory and study alone. Like Marxist theory or development of such it also concerns practice. Theory without practice is Proudhon-like idealism.
Comrade UFO asks, "What good is a gun if you don't know who the enemy truly is?"(2) A reasonable question. UFO then goes on about "the enemy" being "the system" how it "must be changed" and that "guns with no vision or discipline is suicide for the united front." The better question is: what use is vision or discipline if you lack the skills necessary to champion the cause?
A reliance on educating and building correct political perspective among the masses to solve the problem (capitalism-imperialism), is the same as praying to some benevolent deity for salvation,(3) while your house burns down around you. Your prayers may not be heard at all, let alone answered. If you act to put out the flames and call for help, you may find your salvation. I fear too many place study, theory, line and the likes on a throne of divinity. By doing so they become classroom revolutionaries. As important as all of that is, none of it becomes valid without practice. Engels, Fidel, Lenin, Luxemberg, Mao, Marti, Marx and others recognized this. So why do present-day revolutionaries seem opposed to practice?
Our answer turns on the issue of armed revolt. In theory it's an accepted fact: armed, violent conflict will be needed. Still, many justify not engaging in such confrontations, at present, claiming it'll bring disastrous repressions or "might jeopardize the united front." As if "premature" military operations were the only risk to any anti-imperialist movimiento. A belief which many identify with and then shun alliances with militant organizations and/or lines. A big mistake.
These early armed confrontations are as important as educating, creating consciousness and organizing. Many militias and militant lines are conducting the practice needed to actually champion battle. Such actions create theory based on concrete analysis of concrete conditions. Classroom work is necessary but fieldwork will be the deciding factor once revolutionaries are holding their rifles.
Alienation of these groups or lines, even the apparent alienation of them, can provoke a crippling problem for communism – internal angst. One must recognize their work and sacrifice is invaluable. With their efforts running parallel to classroom work; revolutionaries who educated, built popular support, correct political comprehension and such, will not see themselves obligated to struggle to find appropriate battle theory and principles. The foundational work has been done and its results only need application.
Marx said, "to leave error irrefutted is to encourage immorality."(4) As socialists and communists we all must employ and or cherish practice, not demonstrate aversion towards it. Through practice "man, in varying degrees, comes to know the different relations between man and man, not only through his material life but also through his political and cultural life...."(5)
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade is arguing that failure to engage in or at least support armed revolts is refusing to engage in practice. But yet ey concedes up front that now is not the time for armed struggle in the United $tates. It is true that historically we have seen revolutionaries gain many lessons from armed struggle that strengthen and solidify their movement. But these examples are in countries where the time for this struggle is ripe. In other countries, particularly in First World countries, where some groups have engaged in armed actions before conditions are such that there is a chance of winning, they have mostly ended up dead or in prison, not building a stronger movement.
The question this writer raises is: what is practice? Ey argue that educating people is not practice, it is theory. And it seems ey only consider armed struggle to be real practice. Further, ey seems to define "militant" practice as armed struggle. We disagree with this position. Theory work is study: reading and writing about that study. Practice is the real world activity of building a movement. This includes educating others. Someone who spends their time on their tier talking to people about conditions and the broader prison system and how it is tied together, building a united movement to fight those conditions, is not doing theory work. This is educational and organizing work. If you haven't learned how to organize people to do something as non-committal as filling out a grievance form, how can you organize them to war? Working with others to fight critical legal battles like censorship, grievance denial, or abuse is practice. That practice needs to include educating people about the theory behind these legal battles and how they aren't going to take down the criminal injustice system. And it should be focused on building unity for the longer term battles. But it's still firmly in the realm of practice. And we do not think armed struggle is necessary for an organization to be militantly and aggressively active in the service of a cause.
In the essay On Practice (referenced by the author above), Mao wrote: "Whoever wants to know a thing has no way of doing so except by coming into contact with it, that is, by living (practicing) in its environment." The point ey was making is that only through interacting with something can we come to fully know it. This essay actually defined practice far more broadly than just political activism: "Man's social practice is not confined to activity in production, but takes many other forms—class struggle, political life, scientific and artistic pursuits; in short, as a social being, man participates in all spheres of the practical life of society." The point being that one must participate in changing a thing to really come to know it: "If you want to know a certain thing or a certain class of things directly, you must personally participate in the practical struggle to change reality, to change that thing or class of things, for only thus can you come into contact with them as phenomena; only through personal participation in the practical struggle to change reality can you uncover the essence of that thing or class of things and comprehend them."
There are many ways that we can engage in practice to change the world. Of course we know that ultimately to overthrow imperialism armed struggle will be necessary. But this is certainly not the only form of practice that is legitimate and necessary political work.