(Repost) Notes on the RSG Statement

Note: the following essay was published on January 30th, 2023. It criticizes some aspects of a statement I previously posted on here. We re-post this now to stimulate study and struggle. Sharing does not imply agreement or association.

By Kevin

Since the writing of these notes, it has come to my attention that the “Statement on the Opportunist Former Leadership of the US Maoist Movement” of the “Revolutionary Study Group” was not only posted on the Struggle Sessions website, but also the website of the former Red Guards Austin.

As a former member of RGA, I am intimately aware of how tight the leadership keeps their circles. I know that it is more likely than not that any individual with the credentials for their old WordPress is a close associate of the same leadership that their statement is denouncing.

Though there is no smoking gun, I believe there is good reason for any person to cast doubt on the prior connections of the individuals behind this statement, their affiliations to existing groups, and the methods of these groups in following the same practices which plagued the numerous groups that RGA spawned.

The desire for this group to take up the mantle of the old movement, its characterization of that movement as an overall positive effort, and its allegiance to the rotten “CI”, whose key organizations display the same two-faced methods of social chauvinism and dogmatism, is reason for any critically-thinking Communist to approach with caution.

Observers should not forget that as Ed Dalton (Dallas / Jared Roark) created Tribune of the People to break with Incendiary News, which worked from its beginning under the de facto control of Austin Maoists. The criticisms levied by Dalton towards Incendiary were, in reality, aimed at the very organ they were in control of in order to distance himself from his failure to lead the organization. What was disguised as a split was in reality an attempt by Dalton to throw his rank-and-file under the bus and avoid responsibility as a leader for the laughing stock he had produced. Readers should entertain the very plausible reality that this is of the same character.

I caution others in dealing with these groups not only for these reasons, but for reasons laid out in the following notes that address the content of their statement. I emphasize that these are notes and bare-bones sketches of ideas, and I regret that they are not as comprehensive as I would like, as there remain questions raised by this statement which should be addressed more thoroughly. Nonetheless, I believe that expediency demands a prompt intervention.

“In spring of last year, Tribune of the People News and several adjacent organizations dissolved due to opportunist leadership.”

The statement begins with a false claim which characterizes the side-stepping position of the piece. It may seem like mincing words, but the organizations did not dissolve due to opportunist leadership; they dissolved because there was no real basis for the continued existence of this organization.

What sort of advanced organization just ceases to exist and floats off into the wind without a word spoken? Were there no leaders willing to take up the task of picking up the pieces once things fell apart? Not a single revolutionary left to go against the tide and speak their mind against this group of pretenders? Clearly not. Once the ragtag group of bureaucrats failed to keep the whips cracking, there was nothing left. There were hardly any genuine ties built between its cities and rank-and-file members independently of organizational diktats. There was no sense of individual leadership and responsibility built among those who fell under its sway and were left standing. It was an organization led by kingly bureaucrats which produced the very same at almost every level.

To be sure, the leadership produced the conditions for the immense gap between themselves and the rank-and-file and the organizational-structural gap that made it a challenge for those who were left to pick up the pieces and even communicate with one another. The leadership produced the fundamental contradiction which, upon the dissolution of these organizations, expressed itself in the primary contradiction at that given moment, i.e. there were no leaders left standing to pick up the reins. There were those in some cities, e.g. Pittsburgh, who stood up and correctly spoke out, but as with this statement, they could not strike at the heart to grasp the contradiction as a whole.

“We are the largest and most active grouping to emerge from the old movement, consisting of a closely-knit national network of organizations in more than a dozen cities.”

The boastful inclusion of this statement sums up the positive characterization of their assessment of the entire Red Guards-Committee for Reconstitution (RG-CR) period. For them, the work of the eight years between 2014 to 2022 on the whole was a positive contribution to the advance of Marxism [an assessment whose contours are yet to be made in sufficient depth]. All that they see as necessary is to lop off the ten heads at the top and continue on as they were meant to. This, in spite of the fact that their prior organization has been without a beating heart for the better part of a year. This, while it took the better part of a year for any group or individual to even make a claim regarding the nature of the collapse. This, while no organization yet can produce, as the statement admits, a genuinely comprehensive account of the errors. The petty bureaucrats-to-be see themselves as the heir to the throne without daring to question upon what ground it was constructed. They sit firmly in the “left” opportunist camp, seeking their place in the sun, and dare not struggle too hard to dig at the fundamental questions of Marxism lest it disrupt their ascent to short-lived relevancy. This Revolutionary Study Group fits themselves neatly into the camp of the Left Opposition within the revisionist movement.

“We sincerely appreciate the encouragement the CI statement offers to make this long-overdue clarification…unfortunately a plausible interpretation is that it directly endorses these opportunists “

Now the ‘left opportunism’ of the domestic movement is trying its best to reconcile with the ‘right opportunists’ of the international movement without even realizing the balance of forces. The international wing of right opportunism in the US will not allow itself a loss so easily. Do you think you are in control here? The CI says it clearly: “the CRCPUSA continues to be the only recognized organization that represents the struggle for the reconstitution of the Communist Party in the United States, and we urge all comrades to develop internal two-line-struggle”. Are you the CRCPUSA? No. As far as the CI is concerned, you are liquidationists as well and will be handled with the same antagonism that they have always made use of.

“…these opportunists, who have committed crimes against members of the movement and refused all self-criticism, instead doubling down on their anti-people positions.”

When you later insist on the metaphysics and sexist chauvinism of the American movement in particular, one questions if you even delve deep enough into this issue to read the theoretical publications of the most prominent members of the CI, in particular the Committee Red Flag. If you did, you would understand that the ideological positions on this issue are not a unique, but are rather a watered down version, of the chauvinism exemplified by such trash as Klassenstandpunkt’s “The Ideological Decay of Imperialism”. These anti-people positions, now made concrete with the founding of their phony international, are at the very heart of the ideology which now proclaims itself to constitute the political-organizational center of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism in the world. If you think you are disagreeing with the Americans alone in your rejection of these ideas, you are woefully oblivious.

“The liquidation comes as a result of the mass rejection by hundreds of comrades of an opportunist leadership of no more than ten people who were responsible for egregious anti-people actions.”

This statement elucidates and strengthens my first comment. It is, of course, correct to call the right opportunists a clique, but what this subjectivist error does in effect is to minimize the numbers and prevalence of the clique’s errors to the largest degree possible so as to help those in the middle-management of the bureaucrat organs to evade responsibility for their failures or give a full-sided look at things. How do ten come to control hundreds in the first place? Are the hundreds so weak that they cannot simply overthrow the ten and seize their weaponry? Evidently not. Explain this. Can you?

“A full evaluation and synthesis of the problems of opportunism and revisionism is a pressing task.”

Is it opportunism or is it revisionism? You yourselves cannot demarcate between antagonism and non-antagonism.

Is it “a pressing task” or is it ‘the pressing task’? “At any one time there can be only one central task, supplemented by other tasks of a second or third order of importance.” This lack of clarity seems comical even to those familiar with basic bourgeois methods of organization. If a fraudulent company goes bankrupt, defrauding its investors of all their money, does it make any sense at all for an investor to continue doing business with a company under the same name if the new heads themselves admit they cannot really grasp the full errors of the fraudsters?

“The main ideological error of the old leadership was a metaphysical, mechanical world view, most egregiously in their ideas about the masses and their own place among them. To be blunt, they were utterly convinced of their own intellectual and moral superiority.”

For those charging liquidationism of other parties, they sure do a fair job here at attacking the principle that any genuine Communist vanguard must firmly and absolutely be convinced of the correctness of the Communists’ world outlook while at the same time deriving their tactics in proper humility from the masses.

“Ultimately, these political errors were carried out in organizational methods that can only be described as gangsterist and lumpen.”

Like everything in this statement, this touches only the surface. Fundamentally the errors of the RG-CR were petit bourgeois actions masquerading as ‘hard’, ‘disciplined’, and ‘militarized’, giving them a lumpen appearance. They were dogmatic errors – a middle class fantasy, playing copycat of the forms and styles of past organizations in order to replicate the success that those organizations garnered in their specific era. This is the laziness and lack of creativity that only the petit bourgeoisie can produce given their disconnect from their real world.

“As a result of the opportunists’ mistreatment and abuse, many comrades who were in various levels of organization in the movement are burnt out, pessimistic, and demoralized…”

Placing blame on the excesses and contingent errors again misses the main thing: the movement did not materialize sufficient victories capable of offsetting the weight the errors. Plenty of these errors are admissible and can be (and were, for a time) weathered by individuals who see that the organization nonetheless earns victories on the whole. The essence of the “burn out”, “pessimism” and “liquidation” that they allege is in reality that these comrades recognized that the movement had little to no stock among the people. Once outside the narrow social sphere of these organizations, it becomes obvious to nearly all “pessimists” what a poorly-constructed Potemkin Village they had been living in before.

“With this, they would expel good militants and refuse to organize with some people, forcing many through abusive and endlessly prolonged “rectifications” designed to break opposition to the personalist rule…”

Again, this is emphasizing the key element as the intra-organizational question as the fundamental reason behind the disintegration of the movement of the organization as the key element. Errors in excessive expulsions can be overcome if its successes draw in a greater degree of the masses. This group can answer the easy questions of excesses and dropouts, but they cannot answer why they were incapable of gaining the ground necessary to bring in new Communists without confronting the fact that this question still haunts them today.

“One example of this [dogmatism] is with the ideological organ, Tribune of the People. Over time, quantitative measures such as number of newspapers sold were emphasized over mass work centered within the trenches of class struggle. This was a mechanical application which failed to grasp Lenin’s concept of a “scaffolding” which acts as a collective propagandist, agitator, and organizer.”

This analysis inches closer, but is also a dismal failure. The quantitative measures, quotas for production and distrubition, etc. were not the fundamental expression of dogmatism. The dogmatism in reality lies from lifting Lenin’s words from the path of the Russian revolution to apply to the course of the American revolution today. Organizations are tools and you don’t screw in a nail with a hammer; you use the right tools based on your analysis of the situation.

All this and yet not even a sufficient explanation for the similarity in conditions which made the US in 2020 and Russia in 1902 unified on sharing the most pressing organizational task: the concept of a newspaper or centralized internet news organ as the necessary base upon which to build a movement to form a Communist Party. If one has half of a critical mind and awareness about the distinctness of our circumstances and the balance of forces in the world today, they should question why the organizational suggestions of Lenin do fit our conditions rather than why they do not. Lenin gives us the principles and methods by which to think and apply our creativity yet we opt to simply mime his words, bastardizing his method at the same time we use his words.

“The leadership failed to operate with democratic-centralism, principally centralism.”

Again, from the very first sentence, a nonsense thesis which ensures nothing but nonsense to follow.

“Centralism is in the first place the centralization of correct opinions.”

Centralism is, in the first place, the centralization of opinions solicited by means of democratic struggle in order to determine their correctness. The new bureaucrats betray their intents from the get-go.

“The leadership did not solicit the ideas of the lower bodies or provide them sufficient time and material to hold genuinely informed deliberation on the direction and decisions of higher bodies. Instead, they made decisions in advance and only held discussions as a formality, while seeking out and punishing any significant dissent. They did not place trust in the masses, instead relying on the imagined intellectual supremacy of the main leaders. They disdained democracy because they viewed everyone else as inferior.”

All this true, and yet somehow the authors arrive at the conclusion that the leadership “failed to operate with democratic-centralism, principally centralism”.

In the unity of opposites which constitutes democratic centralism, it is true that things occupy a principal and secondary position – centralism, in general, occupying the former. However, to maintain this while providing such a wealth of evidence for the myriad of ways in which democracy were suppressed and effectively non-existent is clear evidence to their own metaphysics. We should remember the basics taught by Mao on the interrelation between the primary and secondary aspects of a contradiction:

“the principal and the non-principal aspects of a contradiction transform themselves into each other and the nature of the thing changes accordingly. In a given process or at a given stage in the development of a contradiction, A is the principal aspect and B is the non-principal aspect; at another stage or in another process the roles are reversed–a change determined by the extent of the increase or decrease in the force of each aspect in its struggle against the other in the course of the development of a thing.”

It is true that stifling democracy does, in turn, stifle centralism. But the writers here jump one step ahead. Which of the two sides is the essential matter here? Clearly, the non-existence of democracy within the organization upon which to construct centralization. Any other conclusion takes some massive leaps in logic that insult logic itself.

We should understand that, on the whole, the principal character of centralism was upheld in circumstances where it was necessary to recognize democracy’s leading role. While this does mean that there is an error in understanding the dependency of centralism on democracy, this does not mean that the error was principally one of centralism – it remains first and foremost an error of the means taken to exterminate democracy at every level.

“Others whom we consider friends are now seriously questioning international organs like Communist International and even Maoism itself, especially the essential questions of maintaining an organizational center​ and centralism itself.”

And who among these friends wouldn’t cast the darkest shade of doubt upon this “International” when they have the sense to see the ideological, practical, and organizational links between the American revisionists and their reactionary counterparts abroad.

It is doubtful that any such friends question the principles of organization and centralism so much as they question the methods of these juvenile authors in putting the cart before the horse and insisting that, as if by some sort of magic, stringing together individuals into organizational structures is the same thing as answering the questions demanded by organization.

“We will comment briefly on what possibility there is for unity with the old leadership…”

In this section, again, I diverge on the basis of the assessment of the leading individuals and the movement that they led. By a certain point (where precisely, is to be struggled on elsewhere), the RG-CR descended from right opportunism into full-blown revisionism. This is not the revisionism of the abstract world and theoretical-historical questions as the leaders and descendants of this movement still understand, but revisionism as it truly means: in practice. The fact that these rats nominally uphold Maoism is not an excuse for paving over irreconcilable contradictions between Marxism and revisionism which have been proven concretely and undoubtedly. We must remember the crucial words that revisionism, reaction, and imperialism must be fought inseparably. You are fighting real revisionists in your movement here who pervert both the theory and the practice of scientific socialism. By leading their movement into the dustbin of history, they have, in all effect, thrown their lot in with the reactionaries. Though the principle of curing the disease to save the patient is always true, it is dangerously naive to treat their crimes against the Communist movement as something which is not dangerously infectious and warrants their isolation to the highest degree due to the existing movement’s susceptibility to their viral ideas. The devotion of this significant section of thought towards questions on their rectification and reintegration is worrying in that it provides the plausible notion that these revisionists can regain power through your own channels. Fool me once…

“As for anyone who may be currently supporting the old leadership who themselves have committed no abuses, they are encouraged to break with them as soon as possible and come forward with an honest self-criticism: they will receive a patient and even-handed assessment of what it will take for them to continue in the movement.”

Getting a bit big for your britches here, dictating already, even if it were possible or admissible to readmit these people, that you have the authority as an organization to make such assessments on behalf of the Communist movement or even possess the capability for outmaneuvering the manipulative reactionaries who have fooled you for years.

End commentary 1/30/2023 – to be continued