Summation of Revolutionary Study Group (RSG)
1. Chronological development: Beginning, Middle, End
2. No Practice component
3. Academic trend
4. Against Friendship Politics: No more Social(ist) Circles!
We held our Revolutionary Study Group (RSG) program from January 2017 to March 2018 every single week on Wednesdays at 7 PM. Out of around 60 sessions only one RSG session was cancelled for this entire time period and it was because of snow. While our location changed at times, the clear majority of RSG sessions were held within a local activist-friendly church. We made the decision and finally ended RSG on March 20, 2018. However even today with almost six months of inactivity, the RSG Facebook page still gets new likes and follows consistently. This is worth mentioning because the influence of the study group model on the left (not only in this city but in others as well) is undeniable. Due to such an influence we have a responsibility to sum up our experience with its successes and failures. The following is a summation of the study group’s practice, and principally its errors. These were no practice, academic trend, and friendship politics.
1. Chronological Development
Revolutionary Study Group was the first project of Red Guards Charlotte (RGC, at that time known as QCMC). The Revolutionary Study Group started as a result of the J20 mobilization from Charlotte to Washington, DC to protest Trump’s inauguration. Charlotte was successful in mobilizing around 55 people for this trip. Some of our earliest supporters left the cryptofascist Trotskyite Workers World Party (WWP) and had accumulated contacts because of the J20 mobilization. There was a debrief meeting held in Charlotte to analyze the failures and successes of the mobilization the Wednesday after. A couple of Wednesdays later, the formation of the Maoist collective and the breaking from WWP was announced, as well as the formation of a study group for Maoism.
What were the political reasons for starting a study group? While with WWP some of our earliest supporters noticed a discouraging anti-intellectual trend. WWP’s common attitude was, “the masses don’t want to hear us quote Marx and Lenin” (a specific phrase that was said often in their circles). The result was not only anticommunism, but specifically for the purposes of this summation, a mechanical attitude against Communist education. Education was seen by them as an inherently dry and bad thing that had to be tiptoed around in order to gain any support. A huge reason why so many young people would leave WWP’s ranks burned out on so-called “socialism” was that the same practice was repeated continuously without a theory component. Maoist theory, here but also in general, comprises of both reading Communist theory and summing up an organization’s practice.
The Marxist Theory of Knowledge is theory—practice—theory—practice in an endless spiral. The revisionist WWP by ignoring the theory component was not willing to make proper changes and adapt their practice. Additionally, even their “theory” when attempted in organs such as their newspaper is bad enough to make no difference to the problem being described here. This is because as revisionists they do not yield Communist theory but actually capitalist theory. Revisionism can be understood as the ideology of those who claim to be “socialist” in name but capitalist in practice. Capitalism with nothing different from regular capitalism but a little red flag. Elaboration on revisionism and its historical definition can be found in the struggle-sessions.com piece entitled Ghosts Along the Capitalist Road. Now WWP goes so far as to write things they call summations and at times clearly tries to borrow from the Maoist writing style attempting to appropriate our work while shitting on it.
To reiterate, WWP did not focus on theory and had a mechanical focus on practice, but even when they mixed in theory here or there it was capitalist theory which rather than helping hurt the situation even more. Therefore RSG was the early Maoist conception of how to correct the wrongs of the revisionists our supporters were breaking with and nourish our minds with Maoist theory.
The first piece RSG read was Some Questions Concerning Methods of Leadership by Mao, commonly known as the ‘mass line document’. It took us about three weeks to finish this piece. Much time was spent on discussion and clarification as for many participants this was their first time reading a genuine Communist text. Especially memorable was people’s reaction to Mao’s description of democratic centralism and structured units within the Communist Party—this stood in stark contrast with the disorganized “left” we were all used to.
In the first third of the life of RSG, we spent a good deal of time reading texts that were not principally Maoist. Part of this was intentional, to force critical thinking of the shortcomings of other brands of so-called “socialism”. We read parts of Assata’s autobiography for Black History Month, as well as Black Like Mao. The latter we remember thinking resembled a Mao Zedong Thought (MZT) underlying piece. MZT is not Maoism—Maoism is not just Mao’s teachings but a further qualitative development of Marxism-Leninism. We certainly did not read things that pandered a shit ton to anticommunism however there was still somewhat of an eclectic mix of our readings in the beginning. As time went on we would come to read more principally Maoist texts.
Combat Liberalism, as always, was a huge hit with the non-communists as its political line and shade is relevant today. In the beginning presentations on dialectical materialism, the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, and the history of the Black Nation with regard to imperialist wars (both about black people being pushed into the military and having a rich history of protesting the wars) were given. We also read Five Golden Rays by Mao and Philosophical Trends in the Feminist Movement by Anuradha Ghandy.
A political trend that grew in the early stages of the RSG was a culture of debate. In the political spaces many participants had been formerly immersed it, spaces dominated by identity opportunism, this was unheard of because identity opportunism could not be questioned lest it be proven wrong. In stark contrast to identity opportunism this debate trend was a progressive thing and gave people an investment in the group. However, this trend had a dual nature and would soon prove to be a bad thing that overstayed its use and would come to be used against Maoist leadership. There came to be a Trotskyite-like necessity to “question everything” especially the unapologetic Red line. Today we jokingly refer to those who spread the white line as “debate club” attendees but seriously, many people came to perceive RGC not as a decisive organization but as an open-ended debate club. However we never were a debate club and the arguments that started in RSG sprang up from the necessity to impose the Red line on the white. The study groups were not decisive enough in doing this and at times gave the same amount of airtime to incorrect ideas as they did to correct ideas.
In May 2017 Serve the People Charlotte (STP-C) formed as a functioning organization, that had previously been just an idea floating around during RSG sessions. RSG existed as a standalone project before then. The correct decision would have been to end the RSG weekly sessions at that time after almost six months of its life (January 2017 to June 2017). Having given birth to the first revolutionary mass organization in the city, it had already served its purpose of making the leap from knowledge to practice, and this would have allowed for participants to focus all their energy in STP-C. At the time we were not yet used to having a project and sticking to it and so our continuing the RSG was a sincere grasp at consistency and stability (which was successful).
Certain trends characterized the second third of RSG’s life, from June 2017 to November 2017. We started to notice problems through RSG which would’ve come up with any meeting-type situation. It became clear to us that we were not structuring the facilitation of the sessions well, as many sessions went well past 9 PM (two hours since beginning). Also in the first half of the sessions we had a bad tailist problem of waiting until every confirmed person got there before starting. This would lead to sessions that did not start until 7:30 and even sometimes 7:40 all because there was an avoidance toward “rude” behavior that did not include everyone. This was a rightist line that has now been defeated in our organization and the organizations we have influence in. It is the duty of every facilitator to respect the time of the organization and its individuals by starting on time and interrupting people when they need to be interrupted. But within the study group’s atmosphere this took us too long to correct.
During the middle period more care should have been taken to immerse the random friends and people who came to one or two study groups into STP-C to get them consistently involved in mass work rather than waiting for them to stick around the study groups long enough. Though there was some overlap in membership of RSG and STP-C it was not all. Therefore there were many people who were in RSG and nothing else. Some merely did not want to become mass organization members (because it didn’t have the same quality of a social space that RSG did and required steady commitment unlike RSG).
In this period our content became increasingly principally Maoist and it became even more clear as it had from the beginning that the Maoist collective was in control of the RSG; this was one of its positive aspects. There was not an overly democratic process at least in the choosing of the content and that was an early sign of independence.
During this period we watched People of the Shining Path (while it has anticommunist propaganda it is also a good resource for footage of the PCP and Peruvian People’s War), read from the PCP’s Fundamental Documents, read parts of State and Revolution by Lenin, read all of Unity of the Working Class Against Fascism by Dimitrov, and On Identity Opportunism by RGA. When reading the last of these it became clear that many of our supporters wanted to deny the cohesive existence of postmodernism and what would follow was a long line struggle. There are many other pieces we read that are not listed in this summation but the ones listed here are some of the best.
Most of the time spent on the RSG in its last leg of life, between the months of December 2017 and March 2018, was spent debating on postmodernism. A rightist line composed of many of the regular attendees claimed postmodernism was not a real thing and was surely not a problem on the left. When it became clear that people were not going to be won over away from postmodernism through these arguments, and became clear that the study group was getting in our way of spreading our wings and focusing on genuine mass work, we decided to end it. The fight against postmodernist lines culminated in the organization which is now Red Guards Charlotte responding in a definition paper on Postmodernism which is available exclusively through Fourth Sword Publications but is sold out at the time of this writing. We have not published this piece anywhere else, but it was read by a supporter at the last RSG session ending the study group on a decisive note.
In ending the study group there was a determined effort to make sure there was no one person left behind without a mass organization to be absorbed into. These efforts while sought wholeheartedly were largely unsuccessful.
Leaps were made in the revolutionary movement in Charlotte because of the study group. It was our first project as a collective and early on it really forced us to develop some level of discipline in keeping it afloat every week. It forced many of us to get experience in public speaking by giving presentations, something we needed as all Maoists do. Some of the base of people it originally attracted would go on to develop into strong members of mass organizations. It also represented the emergence of the first Charlotte group concerned with revolutionary theory and truly teaching people, trying to make them into leaders. The study group is not something we regret having founded. Rather, we allowed it to overstay its welcome and tried to keep it alive when it should have been put to rest.
2. No Practice Component
RSG failed in many regards: first, there was not a clear objective for what we wanted to put into practice. There was no class struggle nor scientific method. There was no production of anything—other than training people in how to facilitate the RSG sessions and come up with questions to print out in preparation occasionally. There were not enough assignments to people to constitute any amount of discipline or semblance of democratic centralism. Recruitment of new people into the study group was limited due to lapses in leadership but also due to the lack of a base to pull from. Though many people were introduced to Maoism, the leap from a perceptual understanding of Maoism to rationally becoming a Maoist was not made for most participants. Concretely this can be traced back to lack of revolutionary practice. As was discussed earlier, there is a contradiction between theory and practice in which practice is principal. Theory and practice must move in an upward spiral. You can begin with theory then put that into practice or begin with practice and reevaluate with theory, each time your practice must sharpen, and vice versa, your theory too.
With the key component of practice missing totally, the development of RSG was one-sided and incomplete. This experience should be looked at with a critical eye. There were successes and failures, but the key portion worth highlighting is the potential to bloom into something new.
There was some overlap in membership of this group with membership of other actual mass organizations, but this was coincidental, not organizational. The result was that other revolutionary organizations inspired by Maoism in Charlotte did not develop their own organs of internal study because some of their membership depended on this separate RSG for such study—but then some members of the mass organization understandably did not attend the RSG and so the theory aspect was completely lacking for them. Really RSG represented a mechanical separation between theory and practice in Charlotte’s revolutionary movement. Ideological development should not be separate from practice, nor should it be something one is able to opt out of.
3. Academic Trend
People who attended the study groups were those who valued intellectual production in some manifestation or another. But that production was limited to our insular grouplet, which remained in the realm of ideas, not in becoming a material force. Ideas only become a material force when the masses of people take them up for themselves, but those very same ideas had remained in the halls of our activists’ spaces. To gain those ideas people had to come to us, instead of us bringing those ideas to the masses.
RSG had an overall academic trend as well as lacked a practice component. These combined became a breeding ground for a petit-bourgeois (PB) world outlook. In other words, it conceptualized revolution as “debate club”—not an armed struggle to overthrow capitalism. PB describes a relation to the means of production of a small-business owner, one who does not have to sell their labor to survive under capitalism. In short, a PB world outlook is a way of viewing the world through the eyes of those who won’t benefit from an earth-shattering revolution in the same way the proletariat will. People with a PB stand may have their heart set on making change but the way they envision that “change” happening is through comfortable, legal means that don’t challenge the existing order.
A PB world outlook must be replaced with a proletarian world outlook. The proletariat is the only truly revolutionary class: they lack any ownership over anything except their own physical and mental ability to work. As a class, the proletariat is chained down by the lack of ownership over the means of production (the tools, raw materials, needed to make a product). Instead those means are privately owned by a small group of capitalists. Therefore, the proletariat’s interest is in the total abolition of private property, since the working class owns none of that property that can be used to extract profit. The only solution is violent revolution. A proletarian world outlook equates to embodying a revolutionary both in words and in action. A proletarian world outlook can only be developed through studying of theory and waging the class struggles against enemies of the people—a study group cannot facilitate that.
The academic trend is a bit different from simply having supporters that are in academia. Similar to the difference between class background and class stand, academics can be transformed into proletarian intellectuals. Indeed, Chairman Gonzalo was an academic during his time in reconstituting the Communist Party of Peru, so we are not preaching against going to the academics to make them into revolutionaries. Even those inoculated with bourgeois education can become one of us. We also understand that though it can be fleeting the mass work done on college campuses is indispensable. Even then though, the mass work should not consist of simply a study group. Campuses who are host to revolutionary mass organizations should see consistent disruption and action complete with revolutionary violence.
For a long time chauvinism in the group’s dynamics went unchallenged. At this same time we tried to remedy this with “progressive stack” where from a list of people who had raised their hands to speak those with the most oppressed identities would be put at the top of the list. This did not remedy any problems with genuine chauvinism and actually made the understanding of the problem worse. Progressive stack is in essence a postmodernist way of dealing with the genuine contradictions of patriarchy and oppressed nations by prioritizing oppressed “voices”. We ended this practice because of this problem.
Related to the academic trend there was somewhat of an ultra-democratic trend that flowed in the RSG especially from the overuse of our groupchat in a certain messaging app. There were sometimes hundreds of group messages sent a day (when sent to a group chat all are required to read it and many respond hence the ultra-democracy). This document lacks the scope to explain ultra-democracy in depth but it is elaborated on in the piece titled Abuse by struggle-sessions.com.
4. Against Friendship Politics: No More Social(ist) Circles!
Finally, RSG had no mass character. While we put the same amount of energy into it as we might into a mass organization, the result fell far short. Subjectively based on inviting activist contacts and friends of friends, there was no objective base (such as a neighborhood or school) to replenish and if necessary replace the ranks of the organization. Inviting friends and not getting out of our comfort zone cannot qualify as a mass organization (especially when there are rarely newcomers who don’t already know someone). The “leftist community” is only so big and is a finite resource therefore if that is your only base you are bound to run out of steam and quick. While a lot of effort was put into outreach this almost always fell on the most advanced members when more people should have been trained through this in intentional outreach.
This line is probably our most controversial. We insist that Maoism is not a friend group with politics grafted on. In fact, it cannot be a space where politics and friendships are valued equally. We seek to cultivate organizations in which political ties are primary while any friendship ties are only as a result of comradeship (which is much different and closer than friendship could ever be). Anything that falls short of this does in fact cause the organization to become consumed by friendship politics. Friendship politics overshadow the political aspect of an organization and eventually due to friendship politics organizations disintegrate. We have found that those who stuck around for friendship had flimsy alliances with Maoism and did not stick around for class struggle. Insisting against friendship politics and against the liquidation of the Maoist movement is not mechanical; it is a matter of priorities. So many young people enter progressive movements excited about revolution but come out the other end dulled, made tired and complacent by the leftist “friend group spaces”. We refuse to be the place where that happens.
While Red Guards Charlotte had opposed friendship politics early on in our organizational life, the RSG objectively encouraged rather than discouraged this trend. People would hang around socially talking sometimes for an hour before the groups and for an hour afterwards. Even if the conversations were about politics they were principally social. There was almost a taboo aspect to leaving before greeting everybody and to leaving before someone was finished with what they were saying. This took a toll on organizational work to a large extent when members needed to get home to do work for other organizations.
Put yourself in the shoes of someone who came only to RSG but not to any STP-C nor antifascist events. For such a person their experience of Communism came to be equivalent to how they might interact with peers and who they would hang out with. A good amount of attendees developed a habit of coming to our RSG groups and leaving with one or two friends to go drink at Common Market, the epitome of the hipster bar scene in Charlotte. While this was not something we encouraged we should have fought against it harder. Romantic and sexual relationships started as a result of RSG. Aside from being patriarchal these relationships also came to be the reason people were sticking around.
This is being published in light of Charlotte “Revolutionary” Collective (formerly known as PRUC) starting their own study event as of today at 7 PM. As we already detailed here and here, true revolutionaries must boycott this horrendous excuse for an organization. CRC is now holding their “What is Socialism” event on the same day, time, and even location as we held RSG! Wednesdays at 7 pm in the exact same church as we did. They also stole the idea for their “What is Socialism?” (of which they have no clue) session after our own “Communism 101” session which we held on November 8th, 2017 with almost 30 participants. They attempt to pick up what we put down however we are ten steps ahead of them. This cheap revisionist copy of our RSG is confusing to the masses and this summation seeks to offer clarity considering such befuddled understanding propagated by CRC. In an unrelated event WWP and “CRC” recently joined some big-tent left coalition together. Both are enemies of the true revolutionary movement mentioned here; if you weren’t sold on charges of revisionism against CRC, having forged an ally with WWP should do the trick.
This was written not only with the audience of whoever CRC will attract in mind, but also to any genuine budding revolutionaries who seek to start a similar group. Overall, we advise against starting a consecutive study group to anyone seeking to promote Communism which today is principally Maoism. Instead study groups need to be only temporary when disconnected from mass work, and study should be consistent only when directly connected to mass work. A study group itself does not constitute mass work.
In sum, RSG served its purpose as an initial recruitment tool for STP-C, but beyond that held us back more than it pushed us forward. Due to largely lacking a practice component, setting an academic trend, an ultra-democratic tendency, and using friendship politics, we do not recommend that any groups hold such a group. These problems are not a coincidence of the study-group model but intrinsic to it. Since dissolving RSG we have encouraged supporters of Maoism to become responsible for their own political development and we have also embarked on smaller more temporary study groups made specifically for the purpose of bringing people closer to the Party (which in a microcosm is our collective). We have grown tremendously in this time, tempered in class struggle, in a way we never could have with RSG still around.
More importantly, the revolutionary mass organizations in Charlotte have added a theory component to their organizations because they no longer rely on RSG to do the job. Theory is the vital heart of the organization pumping fresh blood to all its other organs. But just as the heart cannot pump blood if the body remains still, theory does not become alive without a practice directly tied to the organization.
Earn the title of Communist in deeds and not in words!
Shed the bad from academia and take the good!
Communism is not a social club!
—Red Guards Charlotte, September 12, 2018
Recommended Readings (in order of appearance)
1. Ghosts Along the Capitalist Road
2. Some Questions Concerning Methods of Leadership
3. Black Like Mao
4. Combat Liberalism
5. Five Golden Rays
6. Philosophical Trends in the Feminist Movement (since it is currently sold out on Fourth Sword Publications it can also be found here).
7. People of the Shining Path
8. PCP’s Fundamental Documents
9. State and Revolution
10. Unity of the Working Class Against Fascism
11. On Identity Opportunism