On the necessity of communism in my own life

The root of every defect is a right tendency, and it is the abuse of that right tendency that turns it into a defect.

When I was born I set out to look for fulfillment in this society and found it drowning in wounds, mouth full of blood.

I looked for a way to transform the pain I felt seeing it and living in it into beauty and found I was best at it when I was destroying my body with drugs and alcohol to get far enough out of my mind, out of my fear, to write honestly, to write with a single, infuriated mind. And even then all I achieved was to condemn everything I had ever known while praising the concealed and unnamed goodness I saw struggling behind it all.

I knew I was destroying myself and I felt ashamed that I had been so turned against my own flourishing, that I had allowed myself to become so vain. The intellectual-bohemian distractions I used to be so caught up in make me gag now, they are over-ripe and bitter to me. And I am still bitter I fell for them, that I was ever anyone’s fool.

I love humanity, and in the final analysis every last one of us has turned to abusing ourselves because it is our way of coping with oppression, both ongoing and in the trauma we have inherited from ten thousand years of brutality.

All around the world there is only this rot, except there is also a purifying honesty, which admits that the whole world really is drowning in rot and insists we will never escape it except if we are willing to use any means necessary. It destroys me to wade into the rot. I can’t live another way. For my own well-being, I need the revolution. I used to worry that I was acting from something nobler but flimsier than that, but fortunately, it’s much more basic. For me, communism is a necessity.

The urgency with which liberals praise pigs for mere civility reveals their desperate desire to believe in the reformability of the police

There’s this video that went viral of a pig in Gainesville, FL showing up from a noise complaint on some black kids and instead of messing with the kids, plays b-ball w/ them instead, like yeah good job, you behaved like a human being for a second.

but check out how (and why) some people eat that shit up. they are *so desperate* for there to not be a systemic problem that they cling to even tiny, meaningless things like that. like, *for real*, those cops weren’t even going above and beyond basic decency, they’re just avoiding being douchebags for a second.

like, if anyone else undertook this behavior it would not deserve a cookie. and yet some people just lose their shit fawning over it. they are eager to try to frame evidence of moments of *merely acceptable* behavior as some kind of great acts of self-sacrifice and virtue. and it doesn’t seem like they are even aware of what a double standard they set for pigs vs. regular people.

and why? maybe because if there were a systemic problem with the pigs, then what would need to be done to resolve these issues–revolution, the destruction of capitalism, widespread thought reform, the total destruction of the united states and all its civic mythology–is a distressing thought to these people.
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Marxism is an all-considering method that must be practiced with one’s entire intellectual approach, and is not just a buffet of techniques: The importance of “Reform Our Study”

There’s something I’ve been trying to put my finger on for a while, about how people find some particular idea that Marx, Lenin, or Mao first fleshed out, and then they argue based on that isolated analysis alone that some campaign of theirs is correct.

But Marxism is not just a way of looking at economics, which people most often reduce it to. They take some of Marx’s insights and then use capitalist-minded methods and perspectives to try to respond to the world.

The other day, a comrade wrote something that quoted Mao’s “Reform Our Study,” and I realized this piece is intended to help people see exactly this error I was trying to put my finger on. Mao writes,

Many comrades seem to study Marxism-Leninism not to meet the needs of revolutionary practice, but purely for the sake of study. Consequently, though they read, they cannot digest. They can only cite odd quotations from Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin in a one-sided manner, but are unable to apply the stand, viewpoint and method of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin to the concrete study of … present conditions and … history or to the concrete analysis and solution of the problems of [our] revolution.

Get this: to practice MLM is to apply the STAND, the VIEWPOINT, and the METHOD of Marx, Lenin, and Mao. People may not even realize it–I know I didn’t, when I first started studying Marxism–but we all have to try to understand that this, and nothing else, is what it means to be MLM.

Their method is all-examining, all-considering. It is staunchly, unadulteratedly proletarian. It is based on seeking truth from facts where, as Mao writes, “‘facts’ are all the things that exist objectively, ‘truth’ means their internal relations, that is, the laws governing them, and ‘to seek’ means to study.”

Now I don’t know that I am quite there yet. I do know for sure that I need to keep studying to further deepen and sharpen my understanding of how Marx, Lenin, Mao, and Gonzalo approached problems. I do my best to be all-sided, to approach a situation looking at all the interconnections within it. But I do know that even I very often see self-declared Marxists treating Marxism (or ML, or even MLM) like a buffet where they can pick and choose articles or quotes or context-dependent positions that seem to justify their current position.

To use that method is to fail to practice Marxism. We cannot just see some aspects of the universe using a few of the methods they used–we have to study them and learn to examine all aspects of the universe using the entirety of the method they used.

This is why we say that the only true Marxists in this day and age are or are on their way to becoming Marxist-Leninists, and the only true Marxist-Leninists are or are on their way to becoming Marxist-Leninist-Maoists. Both Lenin and Mao understood this wholly, and deepened our practice of this entire, complex method.

We have to recognize that we all grow up in this society being given the capitalist-minded stand, viewpoint, and method. The communist movement will transform the world completely. If we intend to assist in this process, we must recognize that Marxism(-Leninism-Maoism) is a complete, all-examining method. Unless we have thoroughly transformed our thinking when it comes to philosophy, political economy, and methods of organization, and how they are part of one interrelated whole, we will fail to practice Marxism and will instead practice capitalist-minded thinking. We will be using some ideas formulated by Marx, but with a practice that can only, regardless of our intentions, perpetuate capitalist relations among people.

Here are two poems from Spring 2011 that I don’t think I ever posted.

On the Properties of Night

(The sun is a führer
who scrapes gelatinous shards of word and animal into a column several feet high
and on threat of death demands it stand up and endure citizenship—
but I don’t want to talk about that.)

In every mutter and cloud, in brooks in the coldness of January,
is night. And in every oleaginous dollop of oil (like fish gills) on wet cement,
every opaque tinted window obscuring dealer or diplomat, in hunger, in power,
but not in contentedness, is night.

Believe me when I say that even in the glare and swelter of July is night,
that it is always night in prison and on the internet,
that even a white dove dark against the sky is night
and that a porch is designed to contain night at all hours of the day.

I do not know whether night is in amber waves of grain,
or in a well-mopped art gallery, or in a particle accelerator.
I cannot say whether blue jeans hold night in or out,
but probably all clothing is night.

Basil

Just like the oak’s yellow rain
stealing my tears and my windpipe
with its yellow grit, with its autogeny,
a ghost of great illness in perfect weather,

the basil growing in my yard
reminded me how it would taste when I tasted it
and that I had not tasted it,
and that for whom I thought of and whom I didn’t
a shattering was coming by highway at night.

I wrote a disorganized sort of poemlike thing because of the autumn air. it is not as edited as it could be, but i liked it well enough.

I was probably 15 or 16 the first high school football game I went to,
in my rural u.s. town.
69 degrees Fahrenheit, 81% humidity, 10 mph wind.
The cold air as it settled thickly–

I did enjoy the games, but even more, I enjoyed the marching band,
how can you describe the sound of five people drumming in unison?
how can you describe the horns coming in at just the right time?
how can you describe synchronized, stylized diagonal, careful criss-cross stepping?
how can you describe the way people I knew, my friends, somehow made this much greater, more rhythm-holy thing happen?

–settled thickly on my friends when I saw them just afterward,
sweating, steaming, proving their vividity against the autumn air.
I was probably 15 or 16 when I first fell in love.

A little love for the people of your country can make you a fascist,
a lot of love for the people of your country can make you a proletarian internationalist.

And it was there I first learned to move among the crowds, stirring conversations,
testing out poses, physical and conversational,
swimming through the masses in the stands and by the concession booth,
gathering opinions, building the party.

in a different, more jaggedly academic city,
I would go dancing at 18, looking for someone or something,
someone proving their vividity in the heat of their skin, the
enthusiasm of their flowing poses against the coldness of the brisk-chilly pop dance music,
against the autumn and winter-hinted air.

I wanted to see god again, or whoever it was who arrived at halftime each game,
I wanted to hug someone, steaming and cold at once.

In the dim lights of the dance hall, I went looking for you.
for now we see only darkly, as through a veil,
the features outlined but indistinct.

I am still in love with your synchronization,
My heart still gets chilly-hot-excited tense when I see you.

I am still building the party,
I am still stirring through the masses,
still blessed to witness humanity in its genius.
I am still in love.
for now we see but dimly,
but one day we shall see face to face.

A few thoughts on imperialism, socialist construction, and the attitude a communist has to have in approaching our work

In capitalism-imperialism it is conflict, distrust, and competition on every level:

– The middle management employees at a company vie for promotions within their department.
– The heads of each department vie for funding for their department within each company.
– Each subsidiary company of a multi-industry corporation vies with all the other subsidiaries for funding from the overarching corporation.
– These multi-industry corporations themselves vie for funding from their country’s collective financial capital.
– The different factions within each country’s collective finance capital war each other for control over the various industries.
– Each country as a whole competes with all the other countries within each imperialist bloc for the spoils of that bloc’s imperialism.
– And finally the imperialist finance capital blocs themselves war the other blocs on the global scale.

As a successful communist revolution attempts to turn a capitalist country into a socialist country, and as we turn a capitalist world into a communist world, there will be a tendency toward distrust, at each scale—a tendency toward thinking that each entity that draws from the same pool of resources that “our” entity draws from is misusing or overusing those resources. Each region of the country will be inclined to suspect that some other region is overusing resources, for instance.

While we should not give up vigilance on this, nor the tool of criticism where we see others making genuine errors, we must also be working to overcome the ready dubiousness instilled in us by lingering elements of bourgeois society (both base and superstructure) that may lead us to automatically suspect that each of those entities “competing” with “our own” is misusing the resources we must share with them.

Only this willingness to give them the benefit of the doubt—only this generosity of spirit, of putting the long-term desire to see a communist world built in command over the attitude of narrow, short-term profit-seeking—can enable us to make the sacrifices and compromises against our own narrow, miserly, short-term self-interest that will slowly but surely allow the building up an economy where “from each according to their ability, to each according to their need” is a policy that our economic infrastructure everywhere supports with no trouble.

I sometimes encounter members of the masses at Serve the People’s servings who are taking more than the average share of resources and I sometimes catch myself thinking, “They’re taking a lot! maybe they’re just acting from a ‘greedy,’ resource-scarce mindset, and there won’t be enough for everyone else!”

But I don’t know how their need compares to the needs of others. And if this adversarial mindset is my primary attitude, I am far less likely to engage with them person-to-person but instead am going to approach them with skepticism and some amount of conflict and condescension, and it’s far less likely I will be able to effectively build connection and trust with them, gather their ideas, conduct successful agitprop, and effectively convey the current campaigns to them.

This spirit of benefit of the doubt, of seeing the person beyond the actor-who-is-gathering-resources, is utterly indispensable at every level of communist work. That attitude, which is close to the heart of the communist spirit, is in fact the only thing that can help us be patient as we collectively “dissolve” those material economic blockages and “borders” that keep our short-term interests at odds with others people’s. I write this at least partially as a self-criticism, but also partially because I was reading the “imperialism” chapter of “The Science of Revolution” and I found myself having this line of thought about socialist construction that I thought others would also find interesting.

Some suggestions on how to help others in your area become Marxist-Leninist-Maoist organizers

(Note: Updated on February 18, 2017, to expand some suggestions and, more importantly, add one crucial recommendation at the end; small update on the importance of releasing analyses added on June 12, 2017)

1. Learn the people’s history of your city. 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 late 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? Where do the pigs kill the most people? What are the most oppressed and poor areas of your city? Go see them for yourself. 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? Where does drug-related activity happen? Where do homeless folks gather? If you can, 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.

Three specific maps to look at for sure are (1) the so-called “One Dot Per Person Racial Dot Map,” (2) maps produced by the city or county government indicating wealth and income differentiation to help find the areas with the poorest residents (e.g.), and (3) land use maps (aka land development, land use, land use inventory, city plan, or city planning maps).

One specific use of the land use maps (e.g.) is, among other things, to find apartment complexes–in the U.S. context, low-income apartment complexes are often proletarian strongholds. And additionally, in larger and growing cities, workers in apartment complexes are especially vulnerable to gentrification because while those who own houses can sell them as development moves in and raises property values, people in apartment complexes have no upside to getting displaced.

3. Integrate among the masses of poor and working people. Whether you are or aren’t working-class yourself, make a habit of spending time in places where the predominant group of people spending time there is working-class. You can hang out at working-class restaurants or gather with folks at the local corner store or fast food place. Strike up friendly conversations! Use mass transit, whether bus or metro, even if you don’t necessarily have to go anywhere. Consider public parks. Consider sitting in on the sermons in working-class churches. If you’re concerned you’re not sure how to start conversations, don’t worry about it. Literally just put yourself bodily in working-class places as often as possible. You will get more and more comfortable the more you do this—and often people will strike up conversations with you. The point is that conversations frequently and regularly happen spontaneously when people are spending time physically near each other. Be very open-minded. There is absolutely no substitute for this kind of real and broad contact. Do this enough, and it will help you gain an understanding of the issues working folks are struggling against. Be wary of spending time in bars, as alcohol culture is antithetical to a good communist discipline. Also, even if it is painful and uncomfortable, take consciously and ongoingly take as big of steps as possible to dissociate yourself from any petty-bourgeois environments and social scenes you frequent; one tends to absorb the class perspective of whichever class one spends time around.

On that note, it should be said that the use of alcohol, cannabis/weed, 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. Here is a Marxist analysis of how some communist principles are related to concepts about addiction. (It should be said that this is not intended as a guide or to be in any way comprehensive–merely as something that some may find useful to think about when combating addiction.)

One more word about discipline: As Mao says at the end of Combat Liberalism; one cannot be considered a communist until one is putting revolutionary work ahead of one’s own narrow self-interest. There is nothing in the life of a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist that politics does not touch and transform to better meet the needs of the revolution. Constantly search your life for any “stuff” you want to “hide” from revolutionary transformation, and gently but firmly and persistently seek to transform these aspects of yourself. Read Five Golden Rays with any other comrades who have come to consider themselves Maoists, and have frank discussions about areas where your personal life is still getting in the way of your political work. Be real. Though organizing is not a complete solution to addiction, it is still true that the more thoroughly we build a political environment where we can devote ourselves to this life-giving work and support and care for each other as comrades, and really listen and have compassion for each other, the easier it will be to abandon narrow and individualistic habitual comforts.

4. Look for and meet organizers from the poor working-class sections of your city, whether or not they’re actually communist, as long as they are not anti-communist or committed pig collaborators. 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” 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 Front” or something like that. Study Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. Read Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong. Study revolutionary history. Study 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 over time 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 committed 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 the text being studied out loud). Regularly attend the meetings of any radical student organizations in your city and politely and productive contribute. If you 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”–in September 2016, some good ones might be “Fuck Trump” or “Fuck Trump and Clinton, and all politicians”; in February 2017 in Latino-majority areas, you might try “Chinga la migra” and “Fuck ICE”) 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 inevitably put off a few people with these bold slogans—but they will also attract people you wouldn’t otherwise attract, and these are the folks you most want to talk to, and they’ll know what you’re about. 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. If you make a good connection, get their contact information! 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. Meetings are boring to a lot of people, but you can attract mass involvement and achieve a lot of what you hope to achieve at a meeting anyway by having an engaging event like a film-showing and then having a conversation about the would-be meeting topics afterward, using examples from the film to bring them up.

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?” 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 to 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! (P.S. That linked document is really excellent–study it!) 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. For an example of how your group can become more and more revolutionary and disciplined and start to transform from a loose organization into a cadre organization, read the first-year summation of the experience of Red Guards Austin.

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 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. And for the advanced (enthusiastic and dedicated, even if not fully revolutionary) people you meet, don’t treat them the same as you would any other contact, just periodically sending them text messages–instead, make a genuine connection with them, become their friend, personally invite them out a lot, even if they don’t come at first.

10. Reach out for guidance! There are several MLM cadre collectives operating in the united states today, including Red Guards Austin, Red Guards Los Angeles, and Kansas City Revolutionary Collective, and mass organizations guided by Maoist principles, such as RATPAC AustinRevolutionary Student Front – Austin, and Progressive Youth Organization – Kansas City. The Revolutionary Communist Party in canada is also an advanced and disciplined MLM organization. Contact these organizations directly via email or Facebook message and you will find comrades happy to offer advice.

11. Don’t found a collective before you’re ready. (Added Feb. 18, 2017.) Five months after this post first went up, it seems very relevant and crucial to offer this suggestion. An MLM collective should not be founded until there are at least three organizers who are not only (1) ideologically thoroughly consolidated in MLM but also (2) reliably able to devote significant amounts of time to organizing for the indefinite future and (3) experienced organizers, either having come to Maoism after having previously undertaken complex and militant political work before, or else undertaking such work after becoming a Maoist but before founding a collective.

If a Maoist collective is declared with fewer than three organizers, or with any organizers who fail to meet all three above those criteria, that collective does not actually exist regardless of whether it has been declared to exist. To go online to declare the existence of such a collective is to make the error of orienting toward the existing left rather than toward the broad masses of the oppressed and exploited. When we declare the existence of a collective, we are making a promise to the masses in our area that they now have and for the foreseeable future will have a sharp, hard, and sturdy weapon in their struggles–and we must always keep our promises to the masses, especially when it comes to something like that.

With that said, it is important to privately start doing one’s best to act like a collective before declaring oneself as one–and in fact doing so is an important part of the process of becoming one. As you gather other committed Maoists who are prospective members of your collective, begin regularly and reliably having secret meetings outside the presence of phones and other electronic devices. These meetings should be run tightly, and should feature, either every meeting or every other meeting, regular criticism, self-criticism, and criticism of the work of the proto-collective with a view to improving the work, discipline, and development of each individual member as well as the effectiveness of the unit. These meetings have the function of consolidating the line that will become the collective’s line and helping comrades hold each other accountable as everyone works to transform themselves into better communists.

At this time, it is critical to begin releasing concise, accessible, but still fully theoretically developed political analyses of events and trends going on in your area and your region, as well as analyses of more fixed, long-lasting phenomena that could also benefit from a revolutionary perspective. This is critical for a number of reasons. For one, it provides a practical way to sharpen your group’s ability to use MLM theory to make concrete analyses of concrete conditions (which Lenin called the living soul of Marxism). Taking the time to work on an article until the organization is satisfied it is theoretically sound offers important practice in the scientific precision we must have in our organizing and in the way we determine political lines. Also, just as importantly, as you publicize these analyses it will help those in your area see the value in Maoist theoretical methods and how they cut through the mystifications being offered by the state and other organizations to reveal the real laws governing society. This refreshing clarity will help attract people to your study groups and other work. These will also help spread your own insights and help your comrades elsewhere get a sense of what’s going on in your area, which helps us all deepen our understanding of the universal trends currently at play as well as the concrete ways these trends can manifest, helping us all improve our work in our own circumstances. They will also help your comrades elsewhere get the best possible sense of where you are theoretically in order to offer criticism wherever they feel you are misguided, which is one of the foremost ways we can all help our comrades in other areas improve.

It is also important to build and continuously deepen genuine unity among your would-be cadre. Whether or not you you have a good deal in common culturally with your fellow Maoists when you first begin to organize together, you should begin regularly and consciously trying to increase the amount of not-explicitly-organizational time you spend with them–that is, you should make sure you are regularly hanging out with these people, even if you have to schedule the time to hang out. Drinking or other substance use together should be strongly discouraged, and you might instead go on hikes or otherwise undertake strenuous activity with each other. The degree of unity between comrades and within an organization is a real, objective interpersonal psychological fact, and having unity is absolutely vital.

While it would be imprudent and counterproductive to try to offer a minimal reading list for an ideologically committed Maoist, it should also be said that it is not enough for a person to have heard the highlights of Maoism; a person who is genuinely a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist has a firm grasp on the three parts of Marxism–philosophy, political economy, and scientific socialism–and understands with nuance the way Mao brought each to a new level, and seeks to apply this understanding in approaching literally all questions they encounter, both in life and in organizing.

Finally, being a genuine Maoist means being prepared for struggle and to make sacrifices. It means being willing to accept the risks of militant work. It means being prepared to weather the insults and denunciations that all genuine revolutionaries receive from others who call themselves friends of the people–both from NGOists and from others who call themselves revolutionaries–as extremists, as ultra-leftists, as reckless. It also means being prepared to struggle against, lose the favor of, and draw sharp lines of demarcation against people who are flattering us and ingratiating with us–shooting at us with what Mao calls sugar-coated bullets–to try to convince us not to differ with them sharply, as we must with every last organizer who offers lines that hurt the interests of the masses.