1. Learn the people’s history of your city. Learn this history from the elders in town, even if they’re left-liberals. Research in your city’s archives if there are any (call your city’s library and ask if they can help you search their archives of the city’s newspapers) for any kind of revolutionary history, or the struggle of oppressed groups. If there are any notable figures who are still around, try to get in touch with them. What political campaigns got masses of people moving in the past? What was going on there in the 60s? When’s the last time it seems like a spontaneous protest broke out among the most oppressed section of the city. What was it about?
2. Explore the demographics of your city. What are the biggest employers? How wealth and income unequal is it? Is there an epidemic of police murder? What are the most oppressed and poor areas of your city? See them for yourself if you can. Do they have community centers in their neighborhoods? What kind of activities happen at them? What are people concerned about in these neighborhoods? What is the political sentiment there? Compare present-day income and racial demographic maps of the city versus older ones, decade by decade, and find out where gentrification is proceeding, and how quickly.
3. Go among the masses of poor working-class people. Eat at the restaurants they frequent. Talk to them, learn from them. If there is a mass transit that the working-class people use, whether bus or metro, use that. Use it even if you don’t necessarily have to go anywhere. Often working-class people treat fast food places such as McDonalds and Taco Bell as social places to gather. If you have work you can do there, go there to do it instead of to a coffee shop. Anywhere where you can think of that working-class people spend time in public where you could be present and potentially strike up a stray conversation, go there and do it. Consider sitting in on the sermons where they go to church. Be very open-minded. There is absolutely no substitute for real contact with the working-class masses in your area. Be wary of spending time in bars, as alcohol culture is antithetical to a good communist discipline. With that said, although it is not likely, if it seems like an extremely good avenue where you could go, not drink, and nevertheless make good connections with the people, it may not be something to rule out entirely.
On that note, it should be said that the use of alcohol, marijuana, and other mind-altering drugs is a powerful deterrent to organizing. They foster poor health, create mental inclarity, and reduce ability to focus. The social environment around their use in society promotes idleness and self-gratification. Do your utmost to become sober from these and all other mind-altering substances. Begin to create sober spaces, events, and activities that promote revolutionary politics, both for yourself and for others. This will create a pole of attraction for a different sort of life that fosters discipline, which is priceless for organizers and for a revolutionary movement. If you are currently working to remove these or any other substances from your life, use Marxist principles for combating your addiction.
4. Look for and link up with organizers from the poor working-class sections of your city, whether or not they’re actually communist. Meet other radical organizers in town. Build genuine relationships with the ones who seem sincerely committed to making the world an altogether better place and willing to listen to new ideas. Once you have a decent relationship, don’t hesitate to engage in respectful but genuine political disagreement with them. See also point 8 below for orientation on how to handle these interactions in a fashion that is both principled and productive. This will connect you with the most potentially revolutionary segment of the city and make you a better organizer.
5. Learn about the official electoral politics of your city. Who are the commissioners or councilpeople or whatever? Who are the alderpeople or the mayor? Who funded their campaigns? How long have they been in office? Do they represent organized labor or land developers or whom? What are their political histories? What segment of the voting population must they please? If nothing else this will let you know who will oppose you depending on what issues you press on. What are the politics of the police department (e.g., do they prioritize appearing liberal, or are they more forceful and heavyhanded)? What are the local unions, and what are their politics? Who are the reigning nonprofits and petty-bourgeois forces that aim to monopolize grassroots politics and lead the struggles into reformism?
6. Start an agit-prop and education group in as public space a space as possible where both radicals and working-class people might go, erring toward the latter. Keep the faith, show up and be there even if no one comes. Hold discussions on issues of concern to a variety of people. If you keep it up, you will probably sooner or later attract a few people. Call it like “[City Name] Communists” or “[City Name] Communist Study Group” or “[City Name] Revolutionary Education Front” or something like that. Study Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. Study revolutionary history. Study anticapitalist and anti-imperialist revolutions from all over the world. Let your study be guided by what the members and the masses are most interested in. If someone displays racism, sexism, cissexism, and any other oppressive thinking, gently but firmly struggle with them to help them arrive at correct ideas (show how their own interests align with uniting with the group of people they are currently disparaging, and how much they have in common with them). Resort to kicking them out only if they are truly reactionaries, or if they become abusive. Struggle against their incorrect thinking, but don’t constantly police the masses’ language; the point is to help them arrive at correct ideas as a priority over them always using the “correct” language. Conduct these study groups in a fashion that is accessible as possible to the masses (e.g., one crucial thing is to not require reading ahead of time, but instead go around in a circle during the actual group and read out loud). Regularly attend the meetings of any radical student organizations in your city and politely and productive contribute. If you talk to people afterward or have a chance to do so during the “announcements” section of their meeting, invite people to your group.
7. Regularly post up in a well-foot-trafficked public place at a specific time each week with a sign that says something provocative (such as “anti-cop, pro-worker” or, as I write in September 2016, some good ones might be “Fuck Trump” or “Fuck Trump and Clinton, the elections are a sham”) and/or maybe a table with literature that is written in language accessible to the masses (consider some of the things being released by Serve the People – Austin). You will put off some people with a bold slogan—but the ones you do attract are the people you most want to talk to, and they’ll know you mean business. When people show up, talk to them! Talk to them person to person, having a real and living conversation. What you are looking for are their ideas—what they want to see done in the city, how things are in their neighborhoods, what they take to be the root causes of the problems in the world. Find out what their burning political questions are. Consider having something like coffee or light snacks to hand out for free, with a sign that says “FREE [WHATEVER].” Keep the faith in this, too—what you are doing is cumulative with this and most things in organizing. It may take someone a month to notice you, a month to take an interest, a month to think of something to say, a month to think of how to say it, a month to develop the gumption to approach you, and then two more months before you see them again. You will develop a reputation and respect by the sheer virtue of displaying a sustained capacity to give a fuck. Sign interested people up for your mailing list, and a texting list, and keep inviting them out to your group.
8a. Begin to put on events through your group. Organize speakouts, lectures, roundtables, film-showings, and protests on any or all of the following topics: liberation struggles of oppressed-nations people (that is, black, brown, or indigenous people), environmental concerns, prisoner liberation, anti-ICE/immigrant rights, promote people’s wars, anti-cop, anti-fascist, pro-refugees, anti–political repression, antiwar (that is, against imperialist wars, not against people’s liberation struggles), pro-peace (from the perspective that only the presence of justice and freedom can genuinely be called peace, so genuine peace means people’s war). This will also attract people to your group and your work, make you a better organizer, and teach you more about the city.
8b. A few words about how to decide what sort of events to do: Find out what the burning political questions of the masses are in your area and find a way to provide accessible answers to them from a communist perspective. Figure out what pisses them off or worries them. At the time of this writing, many people are paying spiteful attention to Donald Trump, understanding that he represents something not seen in quite a while—an openly reactionary figurehead with truly mass support in u.s. society.
Hit the ground. Talk to people. Look for places where working-class and young people vent their frustrations or share their opinions online or in other places. Eavesdrop while riding the bus. Ask working-class people open-ended political questions if they’re hanging around somewhere killing time (“What do you think of the elections?” “What do you think of President Clinton?” or whatever seems like it might start an open-ended question).
Obviously this is a chicken-and-egg question to some extent—once you hit a wall with your social investigation and on-the-ground research, you will have to make a guess and then make a bold experimental action. You may not reach certainty that there is interest in events about a specific topic in your area—but if you think there might be, give it your all and do everything you can to organize it and make it a success, advertising it with many posters in many different places, a Facebook event, and even creating a handbill and distributing it to where working-class or young people gather in public, such as at bus stops. You might even try a series of presentations. For instance, if Chicano liberation is a concern of the working class in your area, you might put on a month of events (three events, two weeks apart), and then create a poster to advertise all three, for instance:
Nov 1: History of the Chicano Liberation Struggle
Nov 15: How the criminal u.s. government stole the land of an entire people: Brown power and the need for revolution!
Nov 30: Revolutionary Chicano Groups Today
If you put that on a poster, people might miss the first one but make the second or third. It works as propaganda for people to know that you’re serious and willing to work hard. After they see enough of these posters for a variety of topics, they might decide that you’re serious enough to drop by and see what you’re about regardless of which topics you’re covering.
When you undertake these, be sure that your presentations are highly interactive. Use the mass line in everything! Devise a series of questions for the audience that can help you move from point to point. When you get an answer from a member of the audience, use that as an opportunity to use their own language and concepts to make your point. Solicit concrete examples, whether countrywide or local, of the abstract theoretical things you’re discussing, which will allow it to become clearer and concrete to everyone in attendance. Always give a great deal of opportunity and invitation to the audience to participate and be involved.
9. The masses will keep struggling even while you are still in the process of creating more Maoists to form a collective with. It may be “spontaneous” (that is, the organizer may not understand themselves as an anticapitalist) or it may be led by reformist or revisionist organizations. There is sometimes an instinct not to promote events or struggles if the main organizers are revisionists or reformists, but this is an anti-masses line. Instead, if there is any mass character to the event at all (that is, if people who are strangers to the organizers will likely be showing up), do promote the event, and couple your promotion of the event with criticism of what you consider incorrect in the politics of the those who have organized it. And then, once you’re there, support the initiative of the masses, provide material support to help them deepen their struggle, talk with them and form ties with them, and do what you can to help a Maoist line (anti-revisionist, anti-reformist) take hegemony of the event—that is, help the event become more radical than the incorrect/reformist/backward leadership would like it to be. This will generate conflict with these organizers, but genuinely winning the masses over and supporting their struggle and helping deepen their class consciousness is primary. Your goal is to build a united front with revisionist and reformist organizers toward revolutionary goals that MLM has hegemony within, and you must criticize the revisionists and reformists in all areas where they are betraying the interests of the masses, which can only be pursued with genuinely revolutionary politics. This will allow you to win over the best of the revisionists while isolating the diehard ones who are committed to their anti-people politics. Help the masses involved see that their struggle can be accomplished best if they link it up with other sections of the masses who are also struggling, because then each can support the other and they can have twice the numbers and resources at any given time. Sign them up, stay in touch with them. Always get really people’s contact information—don’t just give them yours and wait for them to contact you.