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[Organizing] [Theory] [ULK Issue 53]

Who Says the Masses Can't Lead?

For those of us who have received a political education and are locked away in Amerikkka's prisons, the September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity should be a call to action. As many people as have been involved in MIM and MIM(Prisons)-led study groups over the years, comrades should be more than clear on what their duties and responsibilities are to the prison struggle as well as to the International Communist Movement (ICM). The fact that September 9 events are still few and far between is therefore continuing indicative proof of a variety of contradictions still plaguing the prison movement. This essay attempts to address and give special attention to the development of the mass line.

Some people who have shown interest in taking up revolutionary politics incorrectly believe that they must spend years on end learning political theory before they are ready to take up revolutionary struggle, especially when it comes to applying Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. However, this type of thinking is incorrect, not only because it has the potential to slow down revolution, but because it can be used to purposely derail the revolutionary movement. Just think — where would any revolutionary movement be if everyone always sought to first become an expert in any particular field before they did anything? This is what Maoists criticized as the "experts in command" approach to education, production and revolution in communist China during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) (1966-1976), the furthest advance towards communism in humyn hystory!

The experts in command political line was initially related to the intellectual belief during the Great Leap Forward (1958-1961), that only experts with years of training (usually within the confines of a classroom or a controlled environment) were worthy enough to lead or teach. This same line was later used by traitors and the bourgeoisie in the Chinese Communist Party itself as a way to disempower the revolutionary masses and consolidate their grip on power.

In opposition to experts in command, Mao Zedong and others began popularizing Lenin's slogan of "fewer, but better" by pointing out that it wasn't necessary for comrades to have years of experience in political struggle before they were able to take up leadership roles. Instead Mao stressed comrades' dedication to serving the people as more important than this "expertise." Furthermore, Mao encouraged cadre to not separate themselves from the revolutionary masses, but to work amongst them and help them develop the mass line. To develop and carry out the mass line is simply to help the masses develop and carry the revolutionary programs that will best help them accomplish the task of developing revolution and achieving self-determination. Without the mass line revolution is impossible; the masses will sink ever deeper into despair, while the leaders lead the revolutionary movement astray and the oppressors will rein. Mao Zedong's instructions for cadre to develop the mass line are thus:

"In all the practical work of our Party, all correct leadership is necessarily 'from the masses, to the masses.' This means: take the ideas of the masses (scattered and unsystematic ideas) and concentrate them (through study turn them into concentrated and systematic ideas), then go to the masses and propagate and explain these ideas until the masses embrace them as their own, hold fast to them and translate them into action, and test the correctness of these ideas in such action. Then once again concentrate ideas from the masses and once again go to the masses so that the ideas are persevered in and carried through. And so on, over and over again in an endless spiral, with the ideas becoming more correct, more vital and richer each time. Such is the Marxist theory of knowledge." - Some Questions Concerning Methods of Leadership

Mao also said it would be enough for comrades to first put an emphasis on being "red" with an aim towards becoming experts through continued participation in revolutionary struggle.

There is also the problem of intellectuals in the prison movement. But does this mean that all intellectuals in the prison movement are a problem? No, of course not. There are revolutionary intellectuals and there are bourgeoisie intellectuals. Revolutionary intellectuals hate oppression, they value knowledge as power and the collective accomplishments of many people, and they are dedicated to using their knowledge to serve the people. Bourgeois intellectuals on the other hand don't much care if people are oppressed, they are apathetic, they value knowledge for the sake of knowledge and they view the accumulation of knowledge as the accomplishment of great individuals. Some of these people may sometimes cheerlead for anti-imperialism and revolutionary struggles, but thru their inaction they actually hold up imperialism. Such people often excel in MIM(Prisons)-led study groups. These types of people take up revolutionary politics for the sole purpose of study and discussion without application, which is to say that they get off on talking about revolution but very rarely do they go further. These types of people give lip service to communist ideology and the topic of national liberation. When pressed on putting their knowledge to use they'll suddenly come up with excuses. "Now is not a good time for me," "The masses aren't ready," "The movement isn't ready," etc, etc. In fact it is they who are not ready!

Real revolutionary intellectuals don't study revolutionary theory for the sake of knowledge, but to make revolution. Theory without practice ain't shit! Mao addressed this in his essay "On Practice":

"What Marxist philosophy regards as the most important problem does not lie in understanding the laws of the objective world and thus being able to explain it, but in applying the knowledge of these laws actively to change the world."

Maoism teaches us that there is no great difference between politically conscious leaders and mere followers, between leaders and led. The only difference is practice, for practice alone is the criterion of truth for knowledge, as it is through practice that the masses can come to power and exert influence over their destiny.

Notes: Third Draft of Criticism of the RCP by MIM.