– Translated from a paper issued in Summer 2003 by the then Revolutionary Communist Party (Organizing Committees).
Everyday, proletarians commit acts of revolt against their exploitation. These acts of anger can take many forms, from smashing the windows of slumlords, cutting the network cable service during the strike against the Québec company Videotron, slinging mud, paint and projectiles at the police during protests, etc. Everyday, in Canada, spontaneous mass violence directed at capitalism takes place independently of communist activities.
Given the reality of spontaneous mass revolt, what must be the role of those who resolutely want to fight against capitalism, not only during one struggle, but with the intent to overthrow this system? When you’re a Maoist, and you want to put the proletariat’s revolutionary theory—Marxism-Leninism-Maoism—into practice, how do you intervene in struggles, and with what objectives?
This document, the first version of a Maoist Manual for Serving the Struggle of the Masses, aims to support the current efforts in organizational, agitational and propaganda work that Maoists are deploying across Canada by showing, through examples, that the forms of struggle, methods, relationship with the masses and style of work all have an active and powerful political and ideological content in the construction of our movement. How one acts within this or that struggle––in particular circumstances, as a reformist bureaucrat, as a clueless Anarchist or as a Maoist revolutionary––is not a matter of indifference; rather, it is quite the opposite.
There is no magical recipe in Maoist work and intervention within mass struggles, but there are:
• A style
• Consequent forms of action and organization
All of which are inspired by Maoism and guide us in developing such work. These are the objects of this manual.
1. Applying the Mass Line
No one is born a Communist. And, among those who claim to be, some will only be communist during a single struggle. For revisionists or dogmatists, the labels one chooses for oneself are the most important thing in the world when it is time to work with the masses. They are seldom, if ever, eager to analyze reality since they are too busy trying to mold reality to their already static ideas. Let’s take the example of the election campaigns during the 2000s. Reality tells us that in the past dozen or so years, participation rates have been consistently dropping. We must study this data, since it suggests that in general, the masses find the electoral process to be less important and question its legitimacy. Furthermore, the results of the “left-wing” in these elections are constantly marginal. Facing a changing reality, in front of this idea of the masses, Maoists try to understand this situation, assimilate and synthesize it so as to turn it into a positive factor in weakening the dominant system and reinforcing the revolutionary camp. By launching an electoral boycott campaign and agitating during the campaign to reject the electoral way so as to demand the necessity for revolution, Maoists apply the Mass Line.
Opposite to them, the reformist left, including the Communist Party of Canada, made a major if not a central issue of the election, which caused them to orient their campaign around the defense of the current bourgeois parliamentary framework—so contrary to revolutionaries—to reinforce the dominant system, thus weakening the masses’ desire to aspire to revolution.
2. Defending and revealing the proletariat’s general interests, distinguishing between just and unjust struggles
For Maoists, the issue of linking with the masses (their organizations, struggles) is articulated in a different manner from the reformist left. Marx and Engels, as the first practitioners of Marxism, have underlined several times that Communists set themselves apart from other workers’ parties on two points: “In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality. In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole.” (Communist Party’s Manifesto)
Communists are the most resolved representatives of the proletarian masses, and of their and only their interests. As Communists, our first task in the revolutionary struggle must be to clearly separate the proletariat’s interests from that of the bourgeoisie. More specifically, Communists must be the most significant representatives of the proletarian masses’ short- and long-term interests, from the smallest demand to the largest, from global to temporary and conjectural interests.
When the interests of different groups of the masses are in opposition—and this can and does occur—Communists defend the whole movement’s interests over those of part of it.
In so-called “peaceful” periods, the bourgeoisie in imperialist countries offers spaces of legal activity where a series of activities can take place that are essential for the mass movement’s development and growth. The revolutionary party cannot refuse to use all the space and means the bourgeoisie gives away because it is in these spaces that the mass movement first develops. It is important that communists occupy theses spaces because if they are not occupied by the revolutionary party, then they remain in the hands of bourgeois forces. But a revolutionary party must use these spaces to weaken the bourgeois camp, not to weaken the revolutionary camp.
A Communist Party that isn’t intimately linked with this movement—that doesn’t use all occasions to convince, through the proletariat’s own experience, the interests that divide the proletariat from the bourgeoisie—will never be able to create the conditions to overthrow capitalism. The mass movement is the main, determining, decisive force of the revolution.
3. Building the Party through struggles, not building struggles with the Party
We already said it: mass struggles exist independently from communists. But the revolution and capitalism’s overthrow cannot be achieved without a party, without a vanguard. Therefore, one of the goals of communists, while engaging in these struggles, is to accumulate forces for revolution, to rally the vanguard that will allow the whole class to advance along the revolutionary path.
In a certain way, each communist originates from the spontaneous movement; a majority amongst us took their first steps towards communism by taking part in the mass movements—we shared their aspirations and also their fragmentary consciousness. The movement is a sane thing, a necessary and universal passage. For some, however, this first step becomes the whole thing and is treated as a permanent stage: they recognize the spontaneous movements but deny the active role of consciousness and its materialization, the Communist Party.
Appropriate tactics stem from revolutionary strategy (building the revolutionary camp). To put it another way, results from each initiative we undertake in a given struggle are measured by the growth of our forces and the weakening of those of our adversary.
If Maoists don’t start with revolutionary strategy to determine the immediate struggle’s objectives, mottos and demands—in a nutshell, their tactics when intervening in the masses—their contribution to revolutionary struggle will amount to nothing. That is, their tactics will be the same as that of any other reformist group: economism.
Economism was an important deviation in Action Socialiste (AS) during most of the group’s existence. Without going into detail (an interesting account was published in 2002 in “Socialisme Maintenant!” No. 8), AS activists had developed a significant intervention in various mass movements (welfare rights groups, student movement, women’s groups, unions) and even were at the origin and leadership of many important struggles in the 1980s. However, after years of intense activism, what were the results on the progression of that organization towards building the Party or advancing towards revolution in Canada? To be sure, many wasted years!
Many AS activists left the group to “recycle” themselves as employees in reformist groups and abandoned all revolutionary praxis. The “vanguard party” that AS claimed to be, had only succeeded in “building” the spontaneous movement by injecting it with its best forces (which the spontaneous movement could have lived without), instead of gathering the best activists from spontaneous struggles and rallying them into the vanguard.
Without a revolutionary strategy and the preoccupation of accumulating forces, the spontaneous movement swallows and scatters revolutionary energies and forces. Provided with a revolutionary strategy, however, such forces would be able to tap into the “endless reservoir of energy and resources of all kinds that is the proletariat.”
4. Independent Communist Work
The Communist International at its third Congress gave small parties (and that’s our case) the simplest, crucial tasks: forming a communist nucleus and linking it to the working masses, in particular “in the depths of the proletariat, where privileges are non-existent, where exploitation is the most severe.” (—Our translation)
This nucleus doesn’t miraculously appear, but is the result of relentless communist work in the heart of the most exploited masses. This is the most solid base on which to build the revolutionary movement since—contrary to the top of the worker’s movement and the people’s movements dominated by reformists—in the most exploited masses we can find the majority of the proletariat and the largest number of proletarians whose interests are to destroy capitalism.
At the stage of forming the Party, intervention in the masses is weak. During this period, Maoists have the objective of winning vanguard elements to communism. In regards to this goal, communist agitation and propaganda are our main task and activity.
Whether being part of an organizing committee, a cell or on one’s own, in a metropolis or a small industrial town, communist intervention is basically the same and only differs in the methods that can be used. For example, it’s obvious that communist work in a big city demands more investigation; in other cases, we can imagine that interventions will multiply if it’s possible to count on a large group of people.
Independent Communist intervention consists in undertaking:
i) Communist agitation and propaganda (flyer, newspaper, program, postering, etc.)
ii) Investigation (about ongoing struggles, existing mass organizations, their points of view, etc.)
iii) Indentifying vanguard elements (in a more radical community group, a youth space, among masses in struggle, if not by agitation)
iv) Organizing work: establish clear objectives along with Party strategy (participating in an existing organization to make contacts, or setting up an ad hoc committee for a given struggle, starting by having a coffee and discussing, organizing meetings with 1-3 people, proposing the distribution of pamphlets/posters, discussing the program, etc.); continue agitation-propaganda with contacts;
v) Establishing a liaison between the various workers’ groups, between various proletarian strata;
vi) Leading the struggle against union bureaucracy and reformists, etc.
At the Party building stage, i, ii and iii are the main tasks (but this doesn’t mean that others have to be neglected).
At the root of Communist work among the masses, there is what we call investigation. Investigation allows us to work from reality and not simply from the idea we have about reality (or what we read on the internet). It also allows us to determine, in a given place of intervention, how to “open doors” so as to link ourselves with the masses.
The investigation includes:
- Reading local newspapers, gathering facts, hanging out in places frequented by the masses, and listening, hooking up with and discussing with proletarians outside factories, with youth, etc.;
- Drawing lists of factories, schools, working class neighborhoods, concentrations of social housing and proletarian dwellings, organizations—in brief, identifying proletarian places where there is potential for intervention;
- Analyzing and appreciating the information to prioritize places of intervention, determining which forces to look to for support;
- Identifying the problems most acutely felt by the masses (police repression, housing, racism, etc.);
In a nutshell, investigation allows us to:
- Fight against book worship (learning exclusively from books);
- Struggle against an idealistic appreciation of the classes’ strengths;
- Struggle against idealistic leadership in work;
- Define appropriate tactics of struggle.
6. Developing the practice of evaluating one’s work, criticism and self-criticism
Evaluation means to review and verify our practice in order to correct our mistakes, to validate the just character of our ideas, and to improve our future interventions. An evaluation is the fruit of collective work; it must focus mainly on political objectives and, to a lesser extent, technical questions.
Before drawing this evaluation, we must first have fixed political objectives to our interventions. From these objectives stems different questions. Did we succeed in reaching our objectives? Did these objectives translate into action? Did they help accumulate forces? Did they permit the gathering of support from the masses? Each answer to these questions must lead us to new solutions or changes that will allow us to improve our practice and develop a real communist work in the masses.
For its part, Criticism-self criticism possesses two dimensions:
A) Criticizing the activity of the Party/organization in its relationship with the masses: accuracy of the political line, watchwords, actions put in place or proposed, etc. For example, we can say that at the 2001 Summit of the Americas (held in Québec City), our organization largely underestimated the masses’ will to fight. Everything was thought out for an action that would have lasted no more than two hours on a Friday night but, contrary to our expectations, the masses widely replicated this first action, and maintained constant activity throughout the Summit (three days).
B) Individual criticism, to be done collectively, among us: its aims are to identify a person’s strengths and weaknesses, to evaluate our involvement in implementing the organization’s plan and tasks; all this not with the objective to stigmatize any particular comrade, but to improve individual and collective work. It is part of the two-line struggle that must make us be able to struggle against the bourgeois line and its manifestations (opportunism), so as to reinforce and bring about the triumph of the proletarian line.
In our work within the masses, we must develop an attitude that will allow us to win over their confidence and support. They are won not only through a just political line, but also with the way this line is transmitted and applied. By developing a correct style of work, we are providing a living and concrete example of communist (equalitarian, generous) ethics, as opposed to bourgeois (individualist, elitist) morality. This attitude, these ethics, are what we call the Maoist style.
Here are some of this style’s attributes: modesty (to listen and trust the masses), discipline (to be trustworthy in one’s engagement with the masses), combativeness and a struggling spirit; creativity, flexibility and initiative in applying our line; firmness about principles; engagement with the proletariat and revolution; party spirit, that is our solidarity with the political line.
• Dare to struggle, dare to win and going against the tide: even if we are convinced of being communists, we must fight with ourselves to get rid of the constant pressure of dominant bourgeois and reactionary ideas. This means seeking to apply the political line we eloquently defend every day, in all aspects of life, and not just among us in meetings. Such an application is not always easy to perform amongst the masses, because they are also subjected to the dominant ideology. But we must have the courage to defend just points of view, and struggle against our own limits, including the tendency towards self-censorship.
• Win ideological leadership before organizational leadership: sometimes, circumstances can lead us to take organizational leadership of a community group, student union, women’s group or labour union. Communists generally should first try to gain ideological leadership, i.e. gain the masses’ support to advance the most revolutionary points of view at the heart of these struggles. It is preferable to keep our whole maneuvering marginal by organizing our interventions from the base, as simple participants in mass struggle. If organizational leadership ends up reducing our capacity to develop a communist point of view, or even causes us to defend opportunistic or erroneous points of view, we must abstain from doing so. Whatever the type of intervention considered (in a leadership position or not), it must allow us to openly spread the most advanced ideas, not hide them.
CONSEQUENT FORMS OF ACTIONS AND INTERVENTIONS
We don’t reject in advance any tactics or forms of intervention if they do not oppose our strategy. It’s all a question of political analysis at a given moment, fitting in with the revolution’s objectives.
Lenin in Guerrilla Warfare explains how we should foresee struggles led by the masses:
“In the first place, Marxism differs from all primitive forms of socialism by not binding the movement to any one particular form of struggle. It recognises the most varied forms of struggle; and it does not ‘concoct’ them, but only generalises, organises, gives conscious expression to those forms of struggle of the revolutionary classes which arise of themselves in the course of the movement. Absolutely hostile to all abstract formulas and to all doctrinaire recipes, Marxism demands an attentive attitude to the mass struggle in progress, which, as the movement develops, as the class-consciousness of the masses grows, as economic and political crises become acute, continually gives rise to new and more varied methods of defence and attack. Marxism, therefore, positively does not reject any form of struggle. Under no circumstances does Marxism confine itself to the forms of struggle possible and in existence at the given moment only, recognising as it does that new forms of struggle, unknown to the participants of the given period, inevitably arise as the given social situation, changes. In this respect Marxism learns, if we may so express it, from mass practice, and makes no claim what ever to teach the masses forms of struggle invented by “systematisers” in the seclusion of their studies. We know—said Kautsky, for instance, when examining the forms of social revolution—that the coming crisis will introduce new forms of struggle that we are now unable to foresee.
“In the second place, Marxism demands an absolutely historical examination of the question of the forms of struggle. To treat this question apart from the concrete historical situation betrays a failure to understand the rudiments of dialectical materialism. At different stages of economic evolution, depending on differences in political, national-cultural, living and other conditions, different forms of struggle come to the fore and become the principal forms of struggle; and in connection with this, the secondary, auxiliary forms of struggle undergo change in their •turn. To attempt to answer yes or no to the question whether any particular means of struggle should be used, without making a detailed examination of the concrete situation of the given movement at the given stage of its development, means completely to abandon the Marxist position.”
In the mass movement, we are putting forward and trying to generalize forms of action and organization that:
• Clearly identify and separate the proletarian and enemy camps;
• Allow for the unity of allied social strata and classes;
• Encourage the expression of the masses’ anger and allow the expression of their revolutionary potential;
• Develop the masses’ autonomous organizations, completely independent from capitalists and their State.
Among forms of action that we favour, depending on circumstances (without excluding others), let’s mention:
• Strikes: not so much those announced and authorized in the restrictive framework of current bourgeois law, but also spontaneous and/or illegal strikes. For example: an illegal walkout following a workplace accident, harassment from a manager, collective refusal to work in dangerous conditions, a general strike to oppose a layoff threat or announcement, etc.
• Street demonstrations: without police escort and/or supervision from professional bureaucratized organizers (with their security services functioning as police auxiliaries); consequently, without a permit or authorization begged for from the authorities; without a method that prevents the masses from knowing the demonstration’s objectives. Those objectives must be carefully targeted and shared among participants.
• Occupations of factories, schools, government offices, enemy headquarters: we put forward occupations that significantly affect the enemy’s interests, rather than symbolic occupations in which the masses are mainly assembled to act as bystanders in a publicity stunt to support something happening elsewhere, “where it counts” (for example at a negotiating table). The occupation’s location must become where it really happens—where we will attack and/or paralyze the enemy’s activity, where the masses will organize and make all decisions about continuing the struggle.
• Barricades and road blockings: this type of action again hopes to paralyze enemy operations, and can also fulfill propaganda objectives. Barricades and road blockings can prevent or delay transportation of merchandise or enemy troop movement (cops, scabs, bourgeois politicians and cabinet ministers, etc.). This form of action involves a high degree of preparation, in that it will almost inevitably trigger direct confrontation with the enemy.
• Acts of sabotage: these must be carried out in a collective and organized way. We do not denounce individual acts of industrial sabotage in themselves, which have always existed since the birth of the modern proletariat. What we favour, however, are acts of sabotage rooted in mass mobilization and that are collectively assumed. For example: destruction of material and property within a strike, stealing the enemy’s files or technical manuals, etc.
• Commando-type actions: we support “commando” actions that allow for the participation of the largest number of people—housing and food appropriation, flash occupations to denounce the inadmissible behaviour of a civil servant or demand the galvanization of a specific case (welfare, immigration, etc.). Commandos specifically prepared to open a breach within a mass action, tear down a fence, push repressive forces back, etc.
• “Attacking a target:” if investigative work reveals to us the existence or possibility of a local struggle, and according to the forces we have on hand, we need to identify the target of the anger of the masses (a company boss, a member of parliament or a mayor, a condo project, etc.) and develop a plan of attack that will potentially unify a maximum of forces on the revolutionary side and isolate the enemy (as we did a few times with the “Let’s Attack the Summit!” motto). All forms of action can then contribute to this attack.
As for organizing, we are first looking to create, develop and support forms of organization that allow proletarian masses to lead themselves, rather than be led by the enemy and/or its agents; this implies favouring the most open worker’s democracy possible which will allow, among others things, for the expression of the most radical points of view, including ours:
• In unions, student unions and mass organizations with similar forms, and against the concentration of power in the hands of elected or nominated executives with long mandates who don’t have to answer for their decisions, we favour holding decisional and frequent general assemblies, as well as the setting up of struggle committees open to the participation of militants. Against the domination of bourgeois intellectuals and union bosses and community group professional employees, decisional power must be given to members and elected delegates with mandates and, in return, these delegates must answer to the members and not to union bosses. To encourage full participation and leadership of the most exploited layers of the proletariat, we support setting up women’s groups and immigrants’ organizations within larger mass organizations.
• As soon as a struggle movement develops, we call on the formation of solidarity committees: around a factory, in a neighborhood, in a town, relatively to a struggle front. One of its objectives is to spread the struggle but also that the general interests prevails over particular ones. In the function of our capacity and of opportunities, we can initiate a committee ourselves with 2-3 people, sign a support leaflet and meet the struggling masses, linking up with them.
• Against repression—exerted by the bourgeois state apparatus or reactionary militias (far-right, landlord’s associations, private security, etc.)—we favour organizing self-defense brigades based on mass participation, along the Black Panthers’ example of fighting against Ku Klux Klan terror in the Unites States.
• In street demonstrations, our basic forms of organization are the red fists. This first means a communist method of organizing, distributing forces and task division. Secondly, this is an active and living form of vanguard solidarity through which revolutionary activists join and participate with concrete communist action.
As a general rule, we propose in mass organizations in which we are involved the development of the same kind of tools we use ourselves to do communist agitation and propaganda: frequent and sustained publishing of pamphlets, newspapers and other instruments of people’s education, using posters and graffiti to spread awareness of struggles and demands, deployment of political and organizational campaigns around precise objectives, etc.
In all mass work, Communists’ main goal still remains the reinforcing of the revolutionary camp and the weakening of the reactionary camp. We shouldn’t neglect the importance of the political line and revolutionary strategy’s just character, since tactics alone never can determine a revolutionary position. Indeed, it would be a mistake trying to distinguish ourselves only by more radical slogans and more hard-line actions than those of the reformists: when they demand minimum wages be increased to $14/hour we simply ask for $15; when they hold a peaceful demonstration we just organize a violent one, etc. Acting in this way is to forget that reformists can be, in specific conditions, as radical in their slogans and actions as us.
Rather, we set ourselves apart from reformists by our defense of the general interests of the whole class, by our attitude towards the State and the enemy camp, by our struggle against bureaucracy so that the proletariat leads, and also by the fact that we build, brick by brick and space by space, a new people’s power.
Our mass work, along with the development of the mass movement itself, must serve at all times to accumulate forces for revolution. Therefore, we must always keep in mind—and this also holds for those of us for whom mass work is the main activity—the need to identify and organize the most advanced elements within the proletariat.
Within a united front that includes multiple forces (for example, Anarchists, national liberation movements, genuine mass organizations from the proletariat and its allies, etc.), we absolutely must maintain our political and organizational independence and openly lead the two-line struggle, in a non-sectarian manner. Mass work must be practiced in liaison with the Party’s organization and under its leadership. Any campaign or intervention we undertake among the masses must be approved by distinct agitation and propaganda plans and tools; it must constantly be revaluated and reviewed.