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Under Lock & Key

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[Theory] [Organizing] [New Afrikan Maoist Party] [ULK Issue 16]
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Self-Criticism on Relations with New Afrikan Ujamaa Dynasty

[Editor's Note: Before the public version of this self-criticism was published, the NAMP comrade mentioned below denied most of the political lines attributed to h herein. Since NAMP has made no official political statements either way on these issues, the question of NAMP's real line is a mystery for now. We hope that they will print documents that clarify their positions for future struggle.]

This self-criticism comes following the rectification of the relations between MIM(Prisons) and the New Afrikan Maoist Party (NAMP) and its associated organizations. After being assigned the role as the primary contact for relations between MIM(Prisons) and other organizations, i failed to correctly apply the Maoist theory of United Front in this position. Here i will outline my mistakes and demonstrate why they should not have happened.

Historical Background

NAMP predates MIM(Prisons), and both organizations came out of circles working closely with the Maoist Internationalist Party - Amerika before its disintegration. We were both focused on lumpen organizing within a Maoist framework. Soon after forming, MIM(Prisons) took over "MIM Distributors" and continued this institution by distributing MIM literature through the Free Political Books to Prisoners Program that MIM had led for many years. At the same time that we were developing this transition of responsibilities, our comrades were in dialogue with NAMP to help with the distribution of their journal that had been launched earlier that year.

MIM Distributors became the main source of the NAMP's Party Bulletin. MIM(Prisons) dedicated its own resources to producing and distributing these materials as a fraternal Maoist organization with NAMP. On the whole, we uphold the Party Bulletin as correct and an excellent starting point for a New Afrikan vanguard party. The Party Bulletin even premiered some new political line on the lumpen in the United $tates that MIM(Prisons) and others also uphold to this day.

As NAMP had established itself as a fraternal organization with a correct line and practice, the responsibility of coordinating our work together on behalf of MIM(Prisons) was put into my hands. By the time the last issue of the Party Bulletin (issue 6) was put out, NAMP had already launched a new mass organization called the New Afrikan Ujamaa Dynasty. This organization was explicitly less radical than other groups NAMP had attempted to launch under its umbrella, with a focus on their strategy of developing ujamaa or "cooperative economics." While we had already struggled with NAMP over this strategy in the past, i did not see this difference as a dividing line question.

The Party Bulletin ceased and after a period of "reorganization" NAMP's leadership came back to MIM(Prisons) with the Blueprint for Ujamaa Dynasty asking for help with production and distribution. This was part of a plan to expand and fund the work of NAMP and the New Afrikan Liberation Movement in general. But it was more than a fund-raising tactic, it was a strategic orientation that saw pushing the contradictions between the New Afrikan national bourgeoisie and the imperialists as principal. It is at this point where my practice began to violate the Maoist line on United Front, not to mention our line on the cell structure.

Fundraising: Strategy or Tactics?

Throughout our relationship with NAMP, i expressed disagreements with their strategy based on building New Afrikan-owned businesses, but did not want to impose unrealistic fundraising techniques on a fraternal organization struggling to get going.

In 2002, MIM's PIRAO Chief had already dismissed the strategy of developing bourgeois businesses with proletarian politics, using lumpen and labor aristocrats from the imperialist countries, as being an ultra-left strategy. A counter argument would apply if comrades are unemployable. Having one's own business would be a good way to employ comrades with prison records, for example. Generally though, we should be opportunistic in our fundraising and not get sucked into life projects nor into risky get-rich-with-little-work schemes. The Amerikan dream is an easy resource that we can tap for the movement with minimal work and preparation.

Most New Afrikans are legally employed and are therefore labor aristocracy/petty bourgeoisie. Compared to starting their own businesses, they could do more for the struggle by being part-time cogs in the imperialist country mall economy to raise funds for anti-imperialist work. Ironically, NAMP lost the hypothetical unemployable argument for building businesses when they more recently switched their recruitment focus from the lumpen to the petty bourgeoisie.

Strategy should stem from one's political line. Therefore, when NAMP and i (as representative of MIM(Prisons) ) agreed that we should not split over strategic orientation i should have been pushing some of those disagreements harder. To an extent they were correct to say we should not split on strategy, particularly in a stage when we do not have a centralized party as is currently the case. Different cells and organizations will vary in their tasks and therefore in the strategies to achieve those tasks. So the question should have been, do we agree that the tasks that each other is taking on are worthwhile? Now it is clear that we do not. If we had dug into these issues deeper at the time, we could have avoided the confusion we have now created and the setbacks we have caused both organizations.

No Neo-Colonialism

Part of this self-criticism is a criticism of the NAMP leader putting forth a liquidationist line. In short, NAMP abandoned their focus on the lumpen in favor of the petty bourgeoisie, who they said had the most revolutionary potential. This was justified by an inappropriate application of aspects of the theory of New Democracy to New Afrika. While Mao used his theory of New Democracy to demonstrate the impotence of the bourgeoisie as a revolutionary force in a semi-feudal exploited country and the need for proletarian and peasant organizing, NAMP used it to justify organizing primarily the petty/national bourgeoisie for their own economic interests as a necessary precursor to a socialist revolution. This is backwards, because even the impotent Chinese bourgeoisie were economically hampered and oppressed to a degree that New Afrika has not seen for at least 50 years, and Mao showed that they could not be depended on as a progressive force due to imperialism's influence.

NAMP's New Democracy line is an example of something that i didn't investigate enough and struggle with thoroughly. Others in MIM(Prisons) have also been self-critical for not thoroughly investigating the line of this material we distributed to the masses, due to laziness. To approve these items for distribution by MIM Distributors, we should have been as thorough as we are with an issue of Under Lock & Key. Ultimately, it is not practical for one of us to serve as the distributor for the other because NAMP and MIM(Prisons) are not in democratic centralism with each other. With the movement decentralized in a cell structure, we must each study and understand each others' work before distributing it. Being forced to do this, and the subsequent learning process for all leaders that will occur, is a benefit of the cell structure in a period where theory is a big focus.

At MIM's 1998 Congress they defined the "No Neo-Colonialism" point of their United Front policy by saying, "Always keep the perspective of the international proletariat and do not use the United Front as an occasion to cut 'a special deal' for one oppressed nation." Siphoning resources from MIM(Prisons) to NAMP effectively cut short the internationalist struggle in favor of one nation's struggle under a leadership that was openly organizing for the economic interests of those benefiting from the super-profits from Third World nations around the world! The open focus on the petty bourgeoisie happened late in the game, but it was the logical conclusion of the "cooperative economics" strategy and "New Democratic" struggle with no proletarian leadership.

The limited size and influence of our organizations makes the claim of neo-colonialism seem a little disproportionate to reality. But that just shows how narrow my view was to take resources for the internationalist struggle and funnel them into this very small operation, on the premise that it represented the New Afrikan struggle for self-determination.

No Pimping

"The most backward masses should be able to see what the difference is between us and our allies, except for fraternal parties on issues that are not the third cardinal [the labor aristocracy question —ed.]." - MIM's 1998 Congress resolution on policy for building the United Front

One thing that NAMP's work demonstrated was the appeal of nation-based organizing. While NAMP was pushing essentially the same political line in the Party Bulletin as MIM had put forth, often printing MIM articles, they attracted recruits that MIM did not. This small confirmation of the correctness of single-nation parties reinforced the importance of building NAMP to me.

It was a combination of attempting non-interference and of trusting a long-time comrade that led me to support Ujamaa as we had supported NAMP. While MIM(Prisons) did not officially run the Ujamaa, it was associated with MIM(Prisons) in a way that i saw as validating our correctness to the masses. Here was another mass organization coming from the lumpen that was part of the MIM camp. Like NAMP, the Ujamaa recruited people who then read MIM literature, which was also a material benefit of keeping the Ujamaa around. This was opportunism, linked to sectarianism, or putting the organization first as opposed to the struggle and the correct line to push the struggle further. As a result we confused the masses about what the best line and practice was.

For a Maoist organization to provide resources for a mass organization that it leads, particularly in its early stages, is completely legitimate according to Maoist theory. For NAMP to fund Ujamaa work is one thing, since NAMP controlled Ujamaa. For MIM(Prisons) to provide labor, supplies and funds to promote the Ujamaa was incorrect.

A correct practice was to print an interview with the Ujamaa in Under Lock & Key, i.e. within the context of our own Maoist newsletter. To co-publish materials with other mass organizations is completely within the realm of United Front work as long as we are able to assert our political line and criticize our comrades when necessary.

Hard Bargains

Another lesson to take from this is that any material/financial exchange for work should be strictly accounted for between the parties as well as with the central leadership. It is ultra-left to assume relationships under capitalism can exist in an amorphous mutually beneficial way. Acquiring material wealth is THE goal under capitalism, and it will take many generations of socialism before this will cease to be true. That's not to say that people can't act outside their material interests under capitalism, but instead to put a realistic standard on how relationships should be structured at this time to avoid problems.

As NAMP effectively liquidated itself into the Ujamaa, they went as far as to imply that MIM(Prisons) should do the same. But it was only after MIM(Prisons) work continued to expand and a long period of conflict between my efforts to support the Ujamaa and our own work that i seriously considered breaking our relationship with NAMP. Harder bargaining wouldn't have corrected the situation, but it would have reduced the setbacks to MIM(Prisons) work and the false expectations developed within the Ujamaa of our relationship.

It was a liberal approach that led me to continue siphoning MIM(Prisons)'s resources to NAMP/Ujamaa for so long. I saw our relationship as a binding contract, and i saw breaking it as going back on my word. This was an incorrect view of the situation, since MIM Distributors agreed to distribute NAMP material only by virtue of it being fraternal, Maoist literature. Because NAMP was leading the Ujamaa work does not mean that we should honor that relationship; that is a bourgeois approach. This was my biggest error: that i didn't say 'no' to working on the Ujamaa because it is not a Maoist organization.

Another way i looked at it is that NAMP was working hard and in the middle of a lot of things that i could sabotage if i just cut the rug from under them. But again, neither of us should have gotten in this position in the first place. NAMP cannot be an independent organization if MIM(Prisons) has the ability to do that to them. This is important to realize in a time when the movement is made of many small, independent groups who are trying to figure out how we can support each others' work.

No Liquidationism

When the Blueprint for Ujamaa Dynasty came out, a couple of comrades within MIM(Prisons) brought significant criticisms of the line presented in it and asked why we were distributing it. I justified it by saying it was only a mass organization and need not be held to the same standards. While i was privately criticizing and debating NAMP, i essentially silenced the Maoist critiques of the Ujamaa with my line that these criticisms were too harsh for a mass organization that we were effectively bankrolling.

There is one simple rule that should have prevented my errors and it is not new to me. That rule is that Maoists do not distribute materials that we do not agree with without criticizing it or providing our own line in conjunction with it. Reading MIM Theory 14 on United Front helped me fully realize the mistakes that i made, and i recommend that it be studied thoroughly by all revolutionaries as a crucial component of building an effective anti-imperialist movement. I don't think i will make the same mistake again, but there is no excuse for making it this time, when i had already studied United Front theory.

In the end, both MIM(Prisons) and NAMP have suffered from my mistakes and the mistakes of others in both organizations. The masses have suffered because an organization they look to for leadership has confused things for them. This is not to condemn mass organizations like the Ujamaa, or even the Ujamaa itself, which has taken aim at many of the pressing problems of New Afrikans. But we are seriously criticizing its leadership to the extent that it overlaps with NAMP. For those who see the system for what it is and hold no illusions or attachments to it, we should expect much more than petty bourgeois business development built on super-profits from the Third World. For me to treat work for Ujamaa as equal to work for MIM(Prisons) was a disservice to the pushing forward of the struggle and promoting the most correct line needed to do that. This is the same error that NAMP has made (to a greater degree) by liquidating itself into the Ujamaa.

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