Keeping Opportunism and Self-Interest at Arms Length, Lessons from a Recent Betrayal
The San Francisco BayView newspaper has outed their former editor Keith Washington as an informant and a manipulator. Previous editor Mary Ratcliff has reasonably posed that this could have been an FBI operation to undermine the BayView. Yet, Washington’s brief stint as editor after being released from prison, followed by relapse into addiction and violence also seems consistent with someone who has jumped from group to group driven by eir own self-interest.
Keith Washington, aka Comrade Malik, was a politically eclectic, self-promoting prison activist. It is for those reasons that his passions often did not overlap with the program of MIM(Prisons), despite being in close contact for many years. During eir time in prison, Washington was a regular reader of ULK, MIM Theory and other literature we distribute on the Black Panthers and Maoism in general. For years ey could not receive ULK because of TDCJ censors, so we had to mail em select articles separately.
We are not saying we did not work with Washington, for we published dozens of articles and reports by em while ey was in prison. Most were reports on conditions in Texas prisons. For a quick minute, ey was even part of the the USW Council, but was quickly removed for openly disagreeing with MIM(Prisons)’s 6 main points. The reason they were even considered for the position was that it was hard to pin down eir political line.
Washington seemed to work tirelessly to expose the corruption and abuses within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice(TDCJ) – though ey often did so from an angle that seemed to believe in the system. This approach conflicted with eir initial focoist tendencies when we first encountered Washington and ey seemed to believe that we were too hesitant to use arms. Later eir politics hinted at patriotism. For much of the time ey worked with USW ey also was working with the New Afrikan Black Panther Party - Prison Chapter, ideologically led by Tom Big Warrior and Kevin “Rashid” Johnson at the time. At one point Washington was the Deputy Chairman of NABPP, but ey never was consistent at upholding NABPP line. Ey went back and forth on the labor aristocracy question in an opportunist way that seemed to be attempting to please MIM(Prisons) with one message and Rashid with another. But communication with Rashid was much more difficult than with us, so ey seemed to lean towards us at times; another example of opportunism over political line. This also showed there was no effective democratic centralism within the NABPP. This is why we say you cannot be part of a democratic centralist formation while encapsulated by the state, except perhaps in an organization within a prison where you can freely interact with other members of the formation.
While Washington pledged eir allegiance to MIM and the NABPP, overtime ey branched out into other forums and organizations, always promoting the persona of “Comrade Malik”. Despite all the articles we did print by em, there were many more we did not, or we had to cut down significantly due to the self-promotion.
We must learn to recognize political opportunism. We should not be surprised that someone with such a history would also opportunistically lie to the pigs to earn favors.
At best, political eclecticism is a sign of immaturity. An immaturity that cannot be trusted with leadership. This is not to say we do not work with younger people or people who are still learning, far from it. We just must recognize their role. But when someone has spent a decade or more studying revolutionary literature, and they are still putting forth eclecticism, or just straight reformism, then it is clear they are not a communist revolutionary, and perhaps they can play a role better somewhere else. If we cannot convince such people to follow our leadership, then we must work harder to prove our effectiveness.
Eclecticism is always connected to forms of subjectivity and idealism. They are thinking about what feels good to them or feels right to them. Combine this with the self-promotion of “Comrade Malik” and you have a risky individual who will probably bounce from one group to another, one line to another to serve eir own self-interests, leaving havoc in eir wake. This is no longer immaturity, but a conscious self-interest.
In our introductory study course we go over the question of how to implement an effective security program for your organization. This example of Washington is a good demonstration of how political line was applied by MIM(Prisons) to keep a potential wrecker from playing a more damaging role. We would say the work Washington contributed to the pages of ULK served the people, as it was done under our leadership. We did not allow Washington’s self-promotion or right opportunism to take away from the mission of ULK or United Struggle from Within. For organizations that look for the charismatic individuals to promote, this is a danger.
We must also recognize that addiction to chemical substances, violence and criminal behavior plagues the lumpen. The transformation of the lumpen into proletarian revolutionaries is an arduous and life-long task. Even those who have seemed to overcome for years while imprisoned, will often relapse with the dramatic changes and pressures of being released to the free world. That is why we have developed a Revolutionary 12 Step Program that takes the proven techniques of the steps, as applied by the lumpen masses in California, and reframes them to include the transformation to the proletarian mentality. It is the constant struggle to submit our self-interest to the interests of the Third World proletariat that can solidify our own transformation from addiction to action that changes society. Imperialism has addicted us all, especially in this consumerist society in the United $tates.
Our leaders must be forged in a disciplined revolutionary organization built on democratic centralism. They must exhibit self-sacrifice and embody the interests of the Third World proletariat. We cannot follow the bourgeois individualist approach to leadership that decides elections and celebrity in this country. We must put politics in command when developing relationships with new comrades and bringing them into our circles. Some people may never exceed a supporter role, and that is okay, we welcome their support. Being around longer, having connections or resources, or being energetic is not enough to qualify comrades to lead. A consistent practice that upholds the correct line is how we must judge who is to be trusted with responsibilities and leadership roles.