In the next installment of this series on the "mass-line," Red Guard Camp will be discussing the New Communist Movement [sic]. As a lead up to this, RGC is here posting a brief 'biographical' history of the NCM.
To be clear: the following is not a Maoist analysis. The purpose of this post is to make Part 3 more accessible and better understandable to the majority of possible readers.
Students for a Democratic Society was a student coalition of liberals and radicals that rose to prominence throughout the United Snakes during the mid-late 1960’s. As the war against the people of Vietnam raged and the worldwide revolutionary movement was in ebb, the character of SDS began to grow more radical. Along with this tendency in towards heightened militancy and radicalism, two specific trends began to emerge: one, led by the Progressive Labor Party, which put into prominence the role of the U.S. "working" class; and another, inspired by Third World national liberation struggles and Maoism, which emphasized the anti-imperialist struggles of oppressed nations. SDS soon split along these lines with the latter group taking the name Revolutionary Youth Movement.
But it wasn’t long before RYM split also. The first part of RYM, RYM1, advocated immediate armed struggle against the imperialist system. This group soon turned their advocacy into action and became the Weather Underground Organization. The second group, RYM2, argued that the conditions for armed struggle were premature. Hence, they called for the building of Marxist-Leninist vanguard parties as a prelude to this eventual revolution. This second group is what became known as the New Communist Movement [sic].
After the NCM agreed that the path to revolution was through vanguard proletarian parties, they split on how to build such parties. That is an understatement. They split, split and then reformed- and then split again- over how to do this.
A good linear example of this is the Revolutionary Worker’s Headquarters. RWH, which was a splitter from the Revolutionary Communist Part (previously Bay Area Revolutionary Union, an original member of RYM2), joined with Proletarian Unity League (another RYM2 descendant) and the Organization for Revolutionary Unity (which was created through the merger of two RYM2 groups) to form Freedom Road Socialist Organization. FRSO consequently split into two organizations which both retain the same name.
So where is the “New Communist Movement” today? There are a few groups today, such as RCP and FRSO, which have linear continuity with the NCM. But on a much more important level the NCM is nowhere and everywhere. They are nowhere is the sense that almost no one still claims to be part of the NCM: the term itself has largely been swept into the dustbin of “leftist” history. At the same time the NCM is everywhere in the sense that, even after it nominally died, the characteristic errors that led to its overall degeneration are being committed today by those that call themselves Maoists [see “Fake-Maoist Links” for a few examples].
And while the physical continuity, the who’s who, of the NCM is complex, it is not important. What is important is politics: the political context, political errors and political lessons that should have been learned. It is from this vantage point that we will pick up our discussion of the NCM and more broadly the historic failings on the part of mass-line idealism.