The concrete history of the failings of mass-line idealism is deeply intertwined with the history of the New Communist Movement [sic]. Part 2.9 of this series dealt with the who’s who of the New Communist Movement. This article will elucidate the political context of the New Communist Movement and relate it to the dismal record of the “mass-line.”
The New Communist Movement was conceived in the turbulent 1960’s. The years preceding the induction of the NCM was marked by mass radicalization [including very healthy national liberation trends] within amerika and a global upswing in worldwide revolutionary movements led by the example Maoism. Unfortunately, even before NCM fully came into being, this trend began to reverse: a visible decline in U.S radicalism had begun and the Cultural Revolution had already been dealt a number of serious blows. Understanding this context is key to understanding the NCM and much of its errors.
While the New Communist Movement never had a unified political line, there is a specific set of political characteristics were widely descriptive of it. First, the NCM was deeply influenced, at least in form, by Maoism. Second, the NCM ran slipshodly over class analysis and held that amerika was majority exploited. Third, they declared that a “genuine” vanguard party was needed to organize the “masses” and lead them towards revolution. Lastly, they often held that the way to do this was through “mass-line.”
On a personal level, Red Guard Camp sympathizes with the early NCM. A period of astounding revolutionary energy followed by an immediate and irreversible die-off in radicalism must have thrown many genuine comrades through quite a loop. From this perspective it is easy to understand how and why such conclusions were reached. Additionally, not all of these erroneous ideas can be solely attributed to the RYM and early NCM. During this same period, the supposed vanguard of revolutionary thought and practice- The Chinese Communist Party- upheld an incorrect line regarding the extend of parasitism and the labor aristocracy. In this regard, uncritically following the lead of the CCP and so-called “Marxist” conventional wisdom helped push the NCM into wrong positions.
On the other hand, understanding the conditions which lead to specific errors is not the same as excusing these errors or those who commit them. Indeed, it is not like the NCM couldn’t have made a scientific class analysis itself. There were a few comrades of the period who were raising serious questions about the role of parasitism and the labor aristocracy. Likewise, there were historical references to the labor aristocracy by Engles, Lenin, the Communist International and indirectly Lin Piao. But all and all revolutionary science was vastly overshadowed by the “sounds good, feels good” politics of the day.
But the point here is not to further beat down the NCM. There isn’t really much use in that since there isn’t a “NCM” to correct. Maoists must critically assess the errors of the NCM so that we can push revolutionary science further. We must understand the NCM’s errors but also their root causes so that we ourselves do not perpetuate them.
Nearly four decades has passed since the NCM came into to being and something like twenty years since it was reduced to a degenerated mess. This hindsight has turned out to be quite valuable as it has given us not only four decades to further study to extent of imperialist parasitism but also two to objectively study to the NCM itself. People who are unable to render both of these things, a critical reassessment of imperialism and an objective critique of the NCM, into a synthesized conclusion cannot be called scientific Maoists.
But alas, that is exactly what we have today: people calling themselves “Maoists” who are blindly committing the exact same mistakes.. But before we go any further, lets take a look at the historic failings of the NCM’s mass-line idealism.
The NCM’s erroneous “mass-line” fixation is perhaps nowhere better documented than massline.info. This website is [I assume] ran by one Scott Harrison. At the top of the main page, the first paragraph explains that the website is “devoted to mass-line” [bold in original]. This is no mischaracterization. The website worships the “mass-line” with an air of religiosity.
According to Scott H., he was expelled from the RCP in 1977 for having an interpretation of the “mass-line” that was, in his own words, “that of Mao Zedong’s.” Besides maintaining massline.info, Scott H. has also spent the several years working on a still uncompleted book about the “mass-line.”
The website itself contains documents stretching all the way back to 1976. Most of them are of various NCM groups going back and forth on how to correctly apply the “mass-line.” Interestingly, in the entire website there is not one mention of global class analysis and no serious mentions of the labor aristocracy. Humorous, in a page about his failed attempts to create a “New Revolutionary Organization Which Actually Uses the Mass Line!” and in a section reserves for links of “Ongoing Current Efforts to Create New Revolutionary Communist Organizations,” Scott H. writes, “If anyone is part of, or knows about, other current efforts along similar lines, please let us know!”
So after 40 years of endless polemics and platitudes about “mass-line,” have we ever seen its successful implementation in the First World? No, not one single example. All we have is pathetic Scott. H. fanatically clinging to his bankrupt ideals of a “genuine mass-line.” One would think Maoists today would have learned a great deal by the NCM’s grave errors. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Today we have phoney-Maoists committing the exact same mistakes in the exact same fashion. Rather than undertaking a scientific investigation of global class structure, today’s maoist-wannabes are still running around idealistically promulgating erroneous ideas about the mass-line. For these fakers, its almost as if the NCM and their failings never existed. It’s even getting to the point where they are splitting and reforming over “mass-line.” It’s sick and overall damaging to Maoism and world revolution generally.
The idealistic errors of the Revolutionary Youth Movement turned into a deviation for the early New Communist Movement. This in turn became a full blown new First World revisionist movement when the NCM finally got some air [some air] under its wings. Now this “mass-line” revisionism is replicating itself with people like Leftspot and blogging collectives like Good Morning, Revolution.
Any new efforts towards a “genuine revolutionary practice of mass-line” and a corresponding "genuine revolutionary party" will fall hard fast. The objective history of the “mass-line” proves this. But like everything else, pseudo-maoists prefer idealism, subjectivism and ahistorical tripe over materialism.
Underpinning Leftspot’s idealist approach to history is an outright metaphysical approach to who the “masses” are. The pseudo-maoist problem with mass-line is at its heart an incorrect assessment of imperialism and extent of parasitism. Until so-called “Maoists“ can correctly answer, “Who are our enemies? Who are our friends?,” no matter what they pronounce almost anything they try to do in a “revolutionary” manner will end in great disappointment. Thus has been the history of the New Communist Movement and pseudo-maoism generally.
Next Part: Mass-Line, Applications for the First World?