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.

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.


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)

(Update on February 2, 2018: While a large number of the points below still provide valuable insight into how to move forward, fundamentally they cannot fully be relied upon to start up genuine revolutionary work.

What they are missing above all is an understanding of the role militant struggle plays in helping develop revolutionary forces in an area. Without struggle, which is always uncomfortable and not infrequently requires us to be sharp with those who want to have unprincipled peace with us, we will get absolutely nothing. Before a more thorough update of this piece is possible, a helpful correction can be made by reading every part of the post bearing in mind this excerpt from the piece “Blow for Blow” by Gauche Prolétarienne, a French revolutionary organization from the 1960s:

“Since May ‘68 there are people who go all over the place saying; nothing can be done without a party. The conclusions they draw from this are: let’s do nothing. Let’s build a party, and afterwards we’ll see what happens.

In June 1968 the revolutionary workers wanted to resist the Gaullist counter-offensive. … Did we have to capitulate? Or should we have organized the resistance?

This was a fundamental question, one on which the future depended.

Some wanted to capitulate. They said: “We can’t do anything more now. If we continue to fight we’re going to be massacred. Let’s stop now and build a party. Once we’re organized we’ll pick up the struggle.”

If we had followed these people the students and workers would never have resisted the police together… The proletarian resistance wouldn’t have been born. And the future would have been compromised. …

[When we resisted], something new appeared: the independence of revolutionary workers, united with the students, unlike the unions, who made deals with the [reactionaries].

If today we can build a new Party that organized popular resistance, it’s because [we resisted].

Those people who pushed for capitulation wanted to construct a party, but refused the struggle.

They don’t want to construct a party of class struggle, a party of resistance: they want a discussion and propaganda club.

These people are fleas. We still see them at the factory gates. They try to bring in their vices: empty discussion and propaganda cut off from life. We don’t want these people or their party.

The party that we want is born of the class struggle, of the Resistance. Its building blocks are the most active elements of the mass resistance movement. An advanced element is one that is resolute, the most conscious of the class struggle. The party must be made up of such elements. … And it’s starting with these elements that we can build an authentic party.”

Without struggle, we will get nothing. With struggle, we start to get everything. We ourselves grow, we get comrades, the masses start to wake up, the government starts to act like an enraged bull and further alienates people whom we can then talk to who we couldn’t talk to before. And not just against the state–struggling against revisionists, reformists, and postmodernist safe-spaceists exposes their grotesque opportunism for all to see, teaches the people the real value and importance of theory, and ends these people’s ability to control the masses and dampen their enthusiasm for rebellion. When a Maoist party begins a protracted people’s war, the party, the people’s army, and the united front (which becomes the new state) all grow through the struggle, through the bloodshed, through the war, and through no other way.

What you find below can help you with many technical skills, but what it underemphasizes is the need to rebel and lead rebellion, making sacrifices along the way that ultimately grow our forces and consolidate our position.

Here is another crucial section:

“Our enemies within the people, the collaborators, have taken from the garbage pail a very old insult: we are fanatics of commando actions, and we don’t give a damn about mass action. …

Already in … the liquidators within the French Communist Party attacked the first FTP with this argument: “We Communists — the cowards said — we are against individual action and for mass action.”

In fact, what they wanted to say was: “ We liquidators, we’re for capitulation and against resistance.”

If we had listened to the liquidators there never would have been the mass uprising against the occupier. Like yesterday, today we distance ourselves from traitors and liquidators.

All of our partisan actions have as their starting point the masses; all partisan actions aim at the mobilization of the masses.

When a group of partisans in a workshop sabotages the pace of work, in another workshop another group spontaneously rises up to sabotage. Is this not an action that mobilizes the masses?

When from day to day more and more workers get onto the metro without paying, isn’t this a mass mobilization?

When in the beginning it’s only a small group that sequestrates a boss for a quarter of an hour, and in the second phase it’s … hundreds of workers from all the workshops who sequestrate the big bosses, isn’t that a mobilization of the masses?

Partisan actions have progressively taken on a more accentuated mass character. Ever since their first actions the partisans have started from the masses to little by little strike out as a measure of partisan mobilization.

And then one day, entire factories that have risen up will be protected by partisans against the army of the oppressors.

The capitulationist spirit is hidden behind the “argument’ of the liquidators. When they speak of mass action they are really speaking of the inaction of the unionized masses: empty work stoppages, bureaucratic occupations where the workers are sent home, dispersed, while a small group remains in the factory playing belote.

It’s true: we are against mass inaction and for partisan actions.

This is because partisan actions have as their starting point the proletarian instinct of resistance, and allow for the progressive mobilization of ever larger masses.”

We need action that is truly going to lead the masses to the furthest destination. If we have a choice between an action that will bring out 1,000 but not transform anyone or threaten our enemies whatsoever, or bring out 50 but confront and strike against the enemy, and steel everyone attending to be more militant and disciplined, then we should absolutely always choose the latter. If we don’t prioritize the quality of our actions being genuinely revolutionary at every step over the quantity of numbers (whether attendance or any other simple statistics), we will not get anywhere at all. In time, organizing by the principle of ensuring our actions are truly revolutionary, truly leading the charge in revolution, will bring out the millions; meanwhile actions that bring out hundreds but only for meaningless ritual will never grow anything or change anything.)

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 Study Group” 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, or 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).

A note on public-oriented study groups: the point of these is not primarily for providing people a growing foundation for of MLM on the thinking that you can implant this education in someone externally. Instead, study groups must be understood as a form of mass work. In fact, it would be totally impossible to proceed through a list of the MLM classics with the attendees of a study group. It would take years, and no one would stick around for that.

Instead, the goal of the study group should be to provide readings that will be so interesting/useful/helpful to the attendees that they’re like, “damn, Maoism is an incredible tool, it’s showing me a way to look at the world that’s more compelling than anything I’ve ever encountered,” so that they take an independent interest in Maoism and begin to engage with an ongoing project of self-education on their own time because they are so impressed by how useful Maoism is when applied to every subject. That’s the only way someone will ever actually get through the whole classics. So the goal of the study group should not be education in itself, but rather producing motivation and enthusiasm for, among other things, self-education.

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. Consider regularly posting 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). Whether or not it is suitable to stand in public somewhere, definitely poster heavily for your organizing effort. 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).

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 engaged 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.

One list of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist classics and three other reading guides

UPDATE Feb 14, 2018: I’ve just added a new list (the first one) to this post. The first list in this post is centered around helping someone get up to speed in all aspects of being able to make a fully Maoist analysis of any situation. This new list started off as a list of the MLM “classics,” but it also includes things I consider just about equally important in the U.S. context as those others are globally. There’s not a particular order recommended. Each is on the list because it adds something the others can’t quite.

It’s not a short list. But nevertheless I’ve really, really tried to avoid the “more is better” approach that many self-identified MLM reading lists I’ve seen have taken. People should definitely not wait until they’ve read them all before starting to organize. But organizers should commit to always steadily and diligently reading (and absorbing, in order to apply) these works.

The very final section of the first list is kind of a “guide for independent research,” which has some more general suggestions about how to continue learning beyond this, to learn the things that, if no one else, the leaders in the movement need to know.

Finally, of course this list is based on my own limitations. Capital isn’t on it, though it is a classic, but I honestly haven’t read it all yet. This list was put together through learning from a lot of great Marxists. It will probably change with time. Most of this stuff can be found online. If you’re having trouble finding something, email me using the info here.

Marx &/or Engels

– Principles of Communism
– The German Ideology (just read ch1)
– Critique of the Gotha Program
– Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State
– On Authority
– Wage Labor and Capital
– Wages, Price, and Profit


– State and Revolution
– The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism
– What Is To Be Done
– Imperialism


– Marxism and the National Question
– Foundations of Leninism


– The Fascist Offensive and the Tasks of the Communist International in the Struggle of the Working Class against Fascism (parts 1 and 3, skip pt. 2)


– On Contradiction
– On Practice
– Quotations
– Some Questions Concerning Methods of Leadership
– Oppose Book Worship
– Reform Our Study
– Rectify the Party’s Style of Work
– Talk on Questions of Philosophy
– A Study of Physical Education
– Analysis of the Classes in Chinese Society
– On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People
– On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship
– On Khrushchov’s Phoney Communism and Its Historical Lessons for the World
– “Five Golden Rays” (which contains “Combat Liberalism”)
– On Protracted War
– On Guerrilla Warfare
– Problems of Strategy in China’s Revolutionary War
– Talks at the Yenan Forum of Literature and Art
– “The Centre’s Instruction on Learning from Each Other and Overcoming Complacency and Conceit”

China generally

– A Basic Understanding of the Communist Party of China (no need to read the constitution)
– Fundamentals of Political Economy
– How Yukong Moved the Mountains (multi-part documentary film) – Search for it on youtube

On fake vs. real socialism

“Rethinking Socialism”
“Capitalist and Maoist Economic Development”
“Evaluating the Cultural Revolution”
“Realities of Social-Imperialism Versus Dogmas of Cynical Realism”
“Turning Point in China: An Essay on the Cultural Revolution”

Gauche Proletarienne

“Blow for Blow”

Communist Party of Peru

General Political Line of the Communist Party of Peru
Interview with Chairman Gonzalo
Marxism, Mariategui, and the Women’s Movement

Communist Party of India

– Philosophical Trends in the Feminist Movement
Marxism-Leninism-Maoism Study Notes
“Urban Perspective”


Women’s Participation in People’s Army
Women’s Participation in People’s War in Nepal
People’s War, Women’s War (Includes “The Question of Women’s Leadership in People’s War in Nepal” and “Interview to People’s March”)

Revolutionary Communist Party (Canada) (pcr-rcp.ca)

We Are the Continuators

Red Guards Austin

On Identity Opportunism
Everywhere a Battlefield
On Contradictory Action
– A Year Summation
Condemned to Win
It Will Not Fall Unless You Hit It
One More Time for Those in the Back

Red Guards – Los Angeles

From Rebellion to War: Escalate the Anti-gentrification Strategic Defensive to Equilibrium!

Revolutionary Student Front – Austin

Summation of the Revolutionary Mental Health Program

Serve the People – Los Angeles

– A 2017 Summation of STP-LA

Defend Boyle Heights (LA)

A 2017 Summation

Stonewall Militant Front – Austin

– 2018: A New Year, a New Us
– Omissions and corrections to the Stonewall Militant Front announcement

Stuff that is less about analysis and more about applying that analysis to organize

Communist Party of the Philippines – Mass Work
Red Guards Austin – Throwing Light
Serve the People – Austin: “Paid Activists: Minions of the Rich”
Serve the People – Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh’s First Six Months
Serve the People –  Kansas City – Summation, Sep–Nov 2017
Serve the People – Los Angeles – The people want revolutionary justice: A brief report back on building our People’s Committees in Boyle Heights
South African Communist Party – How to Master Secret Work
Irish Republican Army – Green Book
Marighella – Minimanual of the Urban Guerrilla
Mao – Basic Tactics

Other theoretical stuff

Kaypakkaya – On the Kurdish National Question
Communist Party of Peru – We Are the Initiators
Communist Party of Peru – For the New Flag

Further study for developing leaders

There are of course a whole shit-ton of things missing from the above list. To go beyond it, you could start by checking out the three reading guides further below (again, I can’t 100% vouch for everything in them). But even better than that, you won’t go wrong if you just start reading through everything certain parties or individuals wrote. Again, most of this you can find through Google.

– All of the PCP’s works
– All of Mao’s selected works (Especially all the bolded works in this list)
– All of Lenin’s selected works
– All of Marx’s selected works
– All of the major works by the leaders of the CPI (Maoist)
– All of the major works by the leaders of the CPN (Maoist)
(a lot but not all of the two immediately previous things are on the Redspark Library)
– All of “A World to Win” magazine
– All of Red Papers (put out by the RCP-USA/RU during the New Communist Movement, found on this page)
– The PCP’s newspaper El Diario (you will have to translate it) (e.g., here and here)
The Communist, the RCP-USA’s theoretical journal from when they hadn’t totally degenerated
– Look through all of Banned Thought
– Look through all of the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism Online


Original post:

Below are the three MLM reading lists/guides I know about. I haven’t read but a small fraction of these, but I thought sharing them would help others.

1. The one on massline.org: http://massline.org/MLM_Study/MLMstudy.htm

2. One that was recently posted to the /r/Maoist subreddit. It was deleted, but I saved a copy and it is reproduced below.

3. One that was not so recently posted as a random comment in the MLM Communism 101 Facebook group once and I think was also deleted. This is also posted below.


A lot of these things are available with a simple google search. Often you will find them on marxists.org, marx2mao.com, bannedthought.net, or massline.org. Many more are on http://gen.lib.rus.ec (which, if you’ve never used it and are having trouble w/ it, just lmk and I’ll provide some instructions.) If you can’t find something on any of those, lmk and I’ll see what I can do.



Marx, Engels. Manifesto of the Communist Party
Engels. The Principles of Communism
Einstein. Why Socialism?
Prakash. Why Maoism?
Mao. Quotations from Mao Tse tung
CPI(Maoist). Marxism-Leninism-Maoism Study Notes
Thompson. Marx to Mao Tse-tung
Thompson. Capitalism and After
Thompson. The Human Essence
PCR-RCP. Programme


Marx. Theses on Feuerbach
Ilyenkov. Activity & Knowledge
Mao. On Practice
MCG. On Maoist Practice
Ilyenkov. Dialectics of the Ideal
Mao. On Contradiction
Siqi. Antagonistic and Non-Antagonistic Contradictions
Althusser. On the Materialist Dialectic
Badiou. The Rational Kernel of the Hegelian Dialectic
Badiou. Theory of the Subject
Ollman. Dance of the Dialectic
Ilyenkov. Dialectics of the Abstract & Concrete (Full Version, poor translation)
Siraj. Post-modernism Today


Balibar. The Basic Concepts of Historical Materialism (Self Criticism)
Ollman. Alienation
Lukács. The Phenomenon of Reification
Biel. Eurocentrism and the Communist Movement (2nd Edition)
Amin. Eurocentrism
Sakai. Settlers (4th Edition)
Tani, Sera. False Nationalism, False Internationalism
Lee, Rover. Night-Vision (JMP’s Review / MIM’s Review)
Engels. Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State (Reading group)
Mies. Patriarchy & Accumulation on a World Scale
Federici. Caliban and the Witch (Review)
Yami. People’s War and Women’s Liberation
Bettelheim. Class Struggles in the USSR, First Period
Bettelheim. Class Struggles in the USSR, Second Period
MLMRSG. Chinese Foreign Policy
MLMRSG. Evaluating the Cultural Revolution


Lenin. State and Revolution
Althusser. Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses
Badiou. Of Ideology
Gramsci. Selections from the Prison Notebooks (Study Notes, Amil K., JMP I, JMP II)
Moufawad-Paul. The Communist Necessity (Kersplebedeb / AK Press)
Luxemburg. Reform or Revolution
Mao. Combat Liberalism
Ghandy. Philosophical Trends in the Feminist movement
Fanon. The Wretched of the Earth
Sayles. Meditations on Wretched of the Earth (AK Press / Kersplebedeb) (JMP, MIM)
Ilyenkov. From the Marxist-Leninist Point of View
Lukács. Lenin: A Study on the Unity of his Thought (Reading group)
Hongqi. Long Live Leninism!
RIM. Long Live Marxism-Leninism-Maoism!
Ajith. Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Thought Are Not the Same


“FPE” Working Group. Fundamentals of Political Economy / AKA the Shanghai Textbook (MIM Study Guide)
Marx. Capital Volume I (Study Guide, Reading Marx, Harvey)
Amin. The Law of Worldwide Value
Marx. Capital Volume II (Study Guide, Reading Marx, Thomas)
Marx. Capital Volume III (Study Guide, Reading Marx, Thomas, Kapital)
Cope. Divided World, Divided Class (2nd Edition Preface) (JMP)
Bromma. The Worker Elite
Biel. The New Imperialism
Biel. The Entropy of Capitalism
Turner. Is China an imperialist country?


Derbent. Categories of Revolutionary Military Policy
PCR-RCP. Getting Started
CPI(Maoist). Constitution
CPI(Maoist). Our Work in Urban Areas, part 3 Policy and Guidelines
Mao. Methods of Work of Party Committees
SACP. How to Master Secret Work
Mao. On Protracted War
Mao. On Guerrilla Warfare
Mao. On Production by the Army for its Own Support
Mao. Problems of War and Strategy
PCP-SL. Military Line
PCR-RCP. Protracted people’s war is the only way to make revolution
PCR-RCP. More on the question of waging revolutionary war in the imperialist countries
PCE(r). The Party-guerrilla coordination
Mariguella. Minimanual of the Urban Guerrilla




Marxism-Leninism-Maoism: Study Notes
Shashi Prakash – Why Maoism?
Bernard D’Mello – What Is Maoism? (2009)


CCP – The Historical Experience of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat (1956)
CCP – Long Live Leninism! (1960)
Chen Yen-shih – Lenin’s Fight Against Revisionism and Opportunism (1965)
PKP – Program For A People’s Democratic Revolution (1968)
Chang Chun-chiao – On Exercising All-Round Dictatorship Over the Bourgeoisie (1975)
Yao Wen-yuan – On the Social Basis Of The Lin Piao Antiparty Clique (1975)
RIM – Declaration of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (1984)
Chairman Gonzalo – Interview (1988)
PCP – On Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (1988)
Armando Liwanag – Stand For Socialism Against Modern Revisionism (1992)
RIM – Long Live Marxism-Leninism-Maoism! (1993)
TKP/ML – Contemporary Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (1998)
RIM – For a Century of People’s Wars! (2000)
CPI(Maoist) – Programme (2004)
Kishan – Without a Struggle Against Revisionism It Is Impossible To Take Even One Step Forward in the Revolution (pp. 24-27) (2006)
PCR-RCP – Programme (2007)
IA – Right Wing of LGBT Rights (2011)
JMP – Marxism Beyond Marx, Leninism Beyond Lenin, Maoism Beyond Mao (2011)
MCPM – Programme (2011)
SF – With the Looters and Against the Left (2011)
SF – Put World People’s War on the Agenda (2012)
SF – Occupy and the Allure of the Petty Bourgeois (2012)


RCP,USA – On the Class Struggle in China (1984)
RWOR – Chiang Ching: A Revolutionary Life (1991)
Zafia Ryan – Chiang Ching The Revolutionary Ambitions of a Communist Leader (1993)
AWTW – Chang Chun-chiao: An Unrelenting Champion of Communism (2005)
MLMRSG – Evaluating the Cultural Revolution in China and its Legacy for the Future (2007)
MLMRSG – Chinese Foreign Policy during the Maoist Era and its Lessons for Today (2007)


Chindu Sreedharan – Karl and the Kalashnikov (1998)
Aloke Banerjee – Inside MCC Country (2003)
Sudhakar – Dandakarnya: A Saga of Twenty-Five Years of Glorious Struggle (pp. 3-7) (2006)
Rita Khanna – War Against The Maoists: But Who Are They And What Do They Want? (2009)
Arundhati Roy – Walking with the Comrades (2010)
Arundhati Roy – The Trickledown Revolution (2010)
Gautam Navlakha – Days and Nights in the Heartland of Rebellion (2010)
Suvojit Bagchi – 34 Days with Maoists Inside the Forest part 1, part 2, part 3 (2011)
Arundhati Roy – Capitalism: A Ghost Story (2012)


AWTW – The People’s War is Sinking Roots (1998)
Li Onesto – Dispatches: Report from the People’s War in Nepal (1999-2000)
Arjun Karki & David Seddon – People’s War in Nepal Left Perspectives (2003)
AWTW – Building Red Power in Nepal (2004)


AWTW – When the Andes Roar (1985)
AWTW – People’s War Continues: New Regime, Same Reaction (1985)
Carol Andreas – Excerpts from “When Women Rebel: The Rise of Popular Feminism in Peru” (1985)
CSRP – Revolution in Peru (1985)
AWTW – Communism Marches Forward in Peru (1992)
Gary Leupp – Peru on the Threshold: A Reply to Hobart A. Spalding (1993)
Heriberto Ocasio – Why the People’s War in Peru is Justified and Why it is the Road to Liberation (1995)
RWOR – The Road of Liberation Strategy and Goals of the Revolution (1997)


RWOR – With the New People’s Army in the Philippines: Report from a Guerrilla Front, part 2, part 3, part 4 (1998)

How to learn everything a communist ought to know, from the beginning

There’s really no end to the stuff a communist ought to know, but if I wanted to start someone from the beginning, it would go something like this:

* Read this page that explains in layperson’s terms exactly what the problem is with capitalism and what we can do about it.

* If you are not yet convinced of the necessity of revolution, first read William Blum’s Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions since World War II and after that, if you like, Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States.

* Read The Science of Revolution, a really excellent book that goes deeper into
all the necessary things that a communist should know, and explains them using really brilliant metaphors and a keen knowledge of history, and non-expert language. It’s great. If there are things that remain unclear, that’s okay! Just make a note of them for later. (One highly recommend alternative here is From Marx to Mao Tse-Tung.

* Read the MLM Basic Course to learn the history of the development of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, the highest and sharpest stage of communist theory to this point. This text is somewhat less analytical and more historical than Science of Revolution and you could definitely read this first if you preferred. There will be many theoretical terms, ideas, and historical references that may be unclear or not entirely clear; this is okay! Make a note of them for later and read till the end. (Another highly recommended alternative here is the Marxism-Leninism-Maoism Study Notes.)

* While you’re at it, read some inspiring shit by some people who have fought against the system, like Malcolm X’s or Assata Shakur’s autobiographies. I really loved Stone Butch Blues, too, and I think it’s really important because we live in an era where transgender liberation struggle is becoming more consolidated, and Leslie Feinberg was a communist and a beautiful and moving writer, and she captures so much of other aspects and reasons why people struggle against capitalism and all oppressions. I also recommend Fanshen, which covers the Chinese revolution like a film documentary–it is very well written and inspiring and gives us on-the-ground insight into a period of history that we are taught nothing but racist-ass propaganda about. On the subject of documentaries, watch all or part of “How Yukong Moved the Mountains,” an inspiring and amazing video documentary of many aspects of life in China during the Cultural Revolution (The generator factory episode is especially recommended.)

* Read Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong. Reread it periodically after that. Also read the Interview with Chairman Gonzalo and the General Political Line of the Communist Party of Peru. Also very, very highly recommended at this point is A Basic Understanding of the Communist Party of China (especially from ch. 6 onward)

* Don’t give up–it seems like there are truly a lot of moving parts, at first, but if you keep studying, it will all get clearer and make more and more sense. (There are a lot of different schools of thought that call themselves communism, but the deeper you get, more and more of them will seem obviously wrong and your course of study will get clearer.) Take all the loose ends you’ve put your finger on in terminology, theory, and history and explore them through 101-level communist FAQs such as the Communism 101 subreddit’s and the MLM 101 Facebook group’s for answers. While there are many people who don’t practice what they preach in these groups, and unfortunately on top of that there are many people who are also quite petty–still, don’t underestimate these resources. I learned a lot by reading online discussions (including a few I started by asking questions) between regular, hard-working, non-famous communists and then making up my own mind.

You can (and should) use the Facebook group’s official search function to find out things you want to know more about. And to search the subreddit, don’t use the official reddit search, it is not very good–instead, use google by clicking here for the communism 101 subreddit, and then enter your search terms after the text that’s already in the search bar in those links. In case that sounds confusing, here’s an example of what you would plug into google (and then click “search”) if you wanted to know more about everyday life in socialist countries:


* Once you’ve explored some of those things, you now have a thorough grounding in the basics and a clear idea of where you could still sharpen your knowledge, as well as a feel for how a revolutionary thinks. Proceed at this point to find an MLM reading guide and read works to continue to explore all the things you have noticed you need to get clearer/sharper on. Use this in a feedback loop with the 101 groups (the Communism 101 subreddit and the MLM Communism 101 FB group) to ask questions that you can’t find answers to in the FAQs or by searching, when your reading still leaves you confused. Your comrades online are very happy to help.

* IMPORTANT: The truth is, there is a VERY SHARP limit to what a communist can learn through books. As Marx said, “Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.” This is true. A key part of Marxism is that while we absolutely need theory, it is totally dead and mummified unless you are using it. We cannot truly grasp what we have read until we put it into practice. If you truly want to know everything a communist must know, you must commit yourself to communist organizing. So then if you want to know what to do to put it into practice, I can only recommend Red Guards Austin’s position paper that goes into the current situation with communism in the united states (if you are from another country, you will have to adapt some of what you read to your condition) and what should be done about it.

* If after this process you find yourself the only MLM in your area, check out “Some suggestions on how to help others in your area become Marxist-Leninist-Maoist organizers.”

If this post has been helpful and you’d like my take on other things, check out this blog’s list of popular and useful posts.

What Maoism has to offer the world

(Note: This article was significantly revised on 5/1/2017.)

Maybe one of the most important prerequisites to any discussion of Mao is to point out that much of what we are told about, say, Malcolm X, or the Black Panthers, by the white-supremacist capitalist education system, white-supremacist capitalist media, and the white-supremacist capitalist culture that pervades “the West” is just total lies and propaganda.

On that note, it’s important to bear in mind that, similarly, whatever your current conception of Mao, if all you have heard is that he and the Chinese Revolution were brutal and bloody and heartless, it’s important to investigate this from other sources that the ruling class does not have full control over. There are lots of these if you like, but for the sake of this piece, it will be enough if you’re willing to at least entertain the idea that there might have been lots more dope shit, and far less bad shit, going on under Mao than we’re taught. Suffice it to say that either you have the prejudiced belief that hundreds of millions of Chinese toiling people were brainwashed into thinking they were running their own society, or you accept that Mao and the Chinese Communist Party were doing a lot of things right.


One of the most important contributions of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM) over previous Marxist tendencies is that it offers a specific mechanism for “doing communism” wherever you are—a method called the “mass line.”

How do you make more communists? How do you turn the working class and other oppressed groups into communists? What is the method by which communists can successfully provide leadership?

Is it enough to just sort of fan the ideas of communism in their direction? To put a newspaper in their hands and hope they read it? It hasn’t helped the “International Socialist Organization” and similar organizations grow in decades.

So how do you do it? You recognize that capitalism-imperialism causes concrete forms and experiences of suffering and oppression in each area, and that these problems and experiences will vary from area to area. So the people in each particular area want solutions to those particular problems, but only communism can fully solve those problems, so here’s what the communist collective in each area does:

First, it gathers the ideas of the masses. It figures out (a) what particular problems they most want to solve, and even more importantly (b) what they understand to be the root cause of those particular problems, (c) how they believe those particular problems can best be addressed by collective action in the community, and (d) why they believe those problems will be best solved by those methods.

So then, second, the communists take these ideas about what the problems are and what the masses believe should be done about them and why, and they analyze them with communist theory:

There will be three groups:

A small group of “relatively backwards” people, a larger group of “relative intermediate” people, and a small group of “relatively advanced” people. What is this a measurement of? Two combined things: (1) consciousness of the need for revolution, and (2) commitment to making revolution happen.

So you take the ideas of the most advanced in the area you’re working in and sharpen them, retaining their essence but amplifying their revolutionary content into (a) slogans that are sharpened forms of the concepts they themselves have spoken to you in and (b) a campaign based around their ideas for how to accomplish the task at hand. e.g., if they say the rent is too high and they mention that everybody’s suffering from it, we may decide to say, “you’re right, let’s turn our collective suffering into a collective strength by forming a tenant’s union and going on a rent strike,” also pointing out, using the terms they use, how landlords try to raise the rent as much as possible, and how the whole government collaborates with them to keep them able to collect rent, and that the cops work with the landlords, etc.

You then present this campaign and slogans back to the relatively advanced people. And if you’ve done your work right, they will love this campaign that is very much from their own ideas, and they will rally a large section of the intermediates (who are their friends and family and co-workers) to the campaign as well.

If you do your campaign right, some of the advanced will become communists, some of the intermediates will become advanced, and some of the backwards will become intermediates; and hopefully any enemies living among the people (e.g., committed white supremacists, pimps, and anyone else committed to making a living by preying on the masses) will be more isolated and less able to harm the masses.

Then you repeat and repeat, the more communists you recruit, the more of the population you can “mass line” with. And then the more of the population you can “mass line” with, the more communists you can recruit, and so on.

This is the method the Bolsheviks used for the most part, but it wasn’t really theorized. Mao systematized and theorized it, and now groups all over the world use it.


The most successful revolutions in the world right now are all led by parties carrying out lessons that were learned in the Chinese revolution. For instance, the revolution in the Philippines is such a massive force in the country that the government recently unilaterally declared a ceasefire for a little while. Meanwhile, the most theoretically advanced and sharpest revolution in the world today, the people’s war in India, has gained a tremendous amount of ground since its beginning with small numbers.

This is not to mention the people’s war that occurred in Peru. In Peru, where MLM was created—in a country that was thought to be difficult to wage revolution in—the revolution went from being very small to quickly being a force that many of the world’s capitalists thought would take power within a decade, increasing in strength and size more quickly than even the revolutions in India or the Philippines.

There’s also the fact that the one of the most advanced communist movements in a part of the world that resembles our situation, the DHKP-C in Istanbul (and also the largest communist organization in Turkey), is heavily inspired by Mao, very much engaged in the methods of meeting material needs while conducting political education, which has helped them produce areas in urban neighborhoods where the cops and soldiers fear to go, to steadily expand outward from.

There have been setbacks and twists and turns in all of these places and there will be more to come. But regardless of the short-term situation at any given time, this clear overall greater success shows that the lessons of the Chinese revolution, and now today the lessons from the people’s war in Peru, are without a doubt the best way forward for building a revolution that will really bring the people to power.


Without question the single most successful communist organizations in modern times in the United States were the Black Panther Party (BPP) and the Young Lords, and other groups like them, in addition to the groups of the New Communist Movement such as the Revolutionary Union. They were all either explicitly Maoist or heavily inspired by Mao; you probably know that the BPP read and sold “Quotations from Chairman Mao.”

But even more important than that, they ran the mass line, or something much like it. The BPP met the masses’ basic needs (using “Serve the People” programs after a slogan from revolutionary China), which provided a point of contact at which to talk to the masses, show them the politics behind their concerns, and bring them in. And it worked—they and the other groups grew very quickly, in large part because they used this method.


The Chinese revolutionary experience also answers a very important question that has rightly and worriedly been raised by many different communist tendencies and non-communists who learned about the ideas of Marxism-Leninism: how do you keep your centralized power apparatus from turning on the people?

In China, although it came too late, they realized the solution: it is true, as many have thought, that a new capitalist class does constantly arise within the communist party under socialism. However, it does not arise equally and uniformly—some individuals will become corrupted quickly, others slowly, and others not at all.

What is the answer? Maoism believes that “the people, and the people alone, are the motive force in the making of world history” and that “the masses are the real heroes, while we ourselves are often childish and ignorant.” The masses know what’s up, they can tell when someone in the party or other position of power is getting corrupted or capitalist-minded, wanting to use their power to serve themselves instead of serving the people.

So the solution is the Cultural Revolution: call upon the masses to “bombard the headquarters,” pulling out and denouncing all corrupt party members and other people in authority, as well as criticizing all aspects of culture that these authorities use to try to legitimize their corrupt power.

Maoism recognizes that the state isn’t actually exactly going to “wither away” on its own; actually, you have to help the process along. Since the idea of the end goal of communism, to be achieved through a transitional socialist period, is that you don’t need a state anymore because the masses themselves have assumed all the tasks of the state and exercise them collectively, Cultural Revolution is a way of fostering that process by encouraging the masses to take initiative and become emboldened to start running society themselves directly to an ever-growing extent.

A state is still necessary during this time, and will be necessary until (a) all the rest of the countries of the world have gone socialist and no longer pose an external threat and (b) the internal economy and culture have been so transformed that the slogan of communism, “from each according to their ability, to each according to their need,” is a realistic material possibility, and is something that will actually happen. Once that occurs, you have one final Cultural Revolution that abolishes the state for good, and communism is achieved, and the masses run society directly. No other method will get us there but Cultural Revolution. But you need the state to stay true servants of the people up to that point, and Cultural Revolution is the process by which the masses purge it of capitalist elements and keep it the people’s party.

The MLM party is also a new type of party

The way the MLM party itself is built is also importantly different from the old model used by the Bolsheviks. The MLM party is intentionally built to avoid being an unchanging, monolithic organization but instead to be the opposite: a living thing, where lively disagreement and change are not only allowed but encouraged and considered absolutely necessary. This means that the party can continually adapt to the times and avoid becoming dull, and instead become an increasingly sharp weapon of the masses.

MLM understands that within the party at all times there will always be a contradiction, a struggle between the leftist line, the people in the party who are continually trying to hear the new ideas of the revolutionary masses and lead the country forward to a new world, and the rightist line, those in the party who have become disconnected from the masses and whose ideas are mainly shaped by the old, stagnant world we are trying to leave behind.

Building the party with this understanding helps avoid capitalist restoration in at least two ways: First, the fact that struggle is seen as good and necessary helps create room for the correct new ideas to keep emerging and eventually win out even if they are put forward only by a few people at first. Second, the fact that the party officially acknowledges that many authorities within it can and will be wrong means that the masses see it is not only acceptable but crucial to air their criticisms—and so the broad masses of people are strongly encouraged to trust their own ideas and abilities, building a culture where the people are more and more able and eager to run society directly themselves.


Finally, Maoism offers the communist movement a systematized political-military strategy for achieving power for the working class far superior to any other ever developed. The Bolshevik method was a successful one for their time, but all attempts to duplicate it have led to failure and massive, crushing reaction.

The Maoist strategy, which Maoists hold is universal to all countries, recommends a different strategy from the method of insurrection most people associate with the Bolsheviks. (A better way to put it might be that the actual process that brought the Bolsheviks to victory was more like a protracted people’s war, and the insurrection in 1917 was just one part in an armed struggle that had lasted decades.)

Instead of staying mostly legal until one glorious lucky moment when you risk it all, instead we do it slow and steady. It has three, you might say four stages.

First, build forces. Serve the people. Win their hearts. Live among and merge with them. This stage has many legal components, and it happens region-by-region instead of across the whole country all at once.

Second, once you have support among people who love and trust the communists and offer them support, the movement begins a guerrilla warfare strategy. The guerrillas can “swim through the masses like the fish through the sea,” using 10-on-1 ambush tactics to slowly weaken the state, steal their arms and resources both for the party and to serve the people with, train your soldiers, kill enemies of the people (e.g., fascists, particularly corrupt and vicious police, violent criminals who prey on the people) as a way to serve the people and win their hearts and trust, and inspire the people to join.

Third, this leads to a time when there are “base areas,” places where the communists have power and the cops and soldiers fear to go. Here you can begin outright building the embryo of socialist society, and using these areas to produce resources that strengthen the movement and politicize the masses and spread the revolution to other parts of the country. The tactics remain guerrilla tactics, but there are many more attacks than there were before, and the sheer number of these attacks is creating a pressure on the state that the pinpricks from the previous stage could not.

Finally, once there are enough base areas, you start taking whole cities in a more conventional fashion, first starting with the small ones, then moving to the large ones. Once you have those, you can surround the main cities and bring to bear a whole country’s worth of resources on the holdouts.

This is how you turn a country socialist in our day and age. People all over the world are working on getting this strategy up and running in their countries.

Other important aspects of protracted people’s war

* The weapon of the people is the people’s army. The people’s army is an army of a new type, because (a) it is not like an imperialist army where they go among the masses and leech off of them; instead, it is a toiling/producing army and actually goes out in the field and participates in productive labor to help the people eat, and to support themselves; (b) it is a politicizing army, constantly connecting with and learning from the masses and helping them ever more sharply understand the specific mechanism of the specific exploitation and oppression they face and helping them see the necessity of revolution in fully resolving it, and so on.

* The “united front” is a strategy that recognizes that not everyone who can and will work to bring the government down needs to be a communist or a Maoist. The united front is a vast movement, much bigger than the party but guided by the party, that consists of mass organizations that the communists control or which are allied to the communists without necessarily being run by them. This recognizes that, for instance, the petty bourgeoisie (small business owners and many “white-collar” workers), who are a huge group in the United States, might not have the same class interests as the working class, so they can’t lead the revolution, but many of them will support it because hey, they recognize that we live in a sham democracy and they want to live in a real democracy where they will have a meaningful voice, and also where crime and other ills of society have disappeared because people are truly taken care of. And after all, the petty bourgeoisie are still being oppressed by the big, monopoly capitalists who run the world’s giant corporations and control the government. So you win over and provide revolutionary guidance to sections of all the groups that may not be working-class but still have an interest in revolution.

* Another aspect of MLM is that it brings a great deal of clarity on a crucial question of revolution: what does it mean to take power? Two of Mao’s most important insights are that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun, and that without a people’s army the people have nothing—or another way of putting it is that unless the masses have the military organizations necessary to protect themselves as they build their new world, then everything they’re setting up and building is for nothing and can and will disappear at the point of the enemy’s guns. MLM follows these insights to a deep conclusion and then offers the specific practical steps we have to take to create a society where there is really and truly no power but the people’s power. To build such a society, we must make sure that actual power is spread broad and deep among the masses. This means that the masses must be militarized: armed, trained, and emboldened, and helped to form into militias. This means not only that the new society that the masses are building will be better able to defend itself against the brutality of existing capitalist governments, but very importantly that even within socialism, if some wing of the new state should ever turn on the people, the sea of armed masses will be able to swallow up these would-be tyrants and replace them with genuine servants of the people.

How can the masses be militarized?

First, this process can only be successfully carried out if the leading force of the revolution, the party itself, has no illusions about where power actually comes from. In technical terms, the party must be militarized. What this means in practice is two things must happen: (1) Every member of the party must also become someone who understands on a deep and intuitive level exactly how class oppression works and how to physically fight and stop the military forces who want to enforce it. For this reason, every member of the party must also be a member of the people’s army. (2) The party as a whole must make the people’s war the most important focus of its work. It must realize that its central task is to destroy the military forces of the old, capitalist society while building the strength, size, and determination of the military forces that nurture and protect the new, communist society. In practical terms, this means that the party builds the people’s army around itself in the most careful and thoughtful way to advance the revolution.

An essential aspect of the militarization of the party is that it allows the party to maintain a more firm control over the people’s army, ensuring that “the party commands the gun” (that is, maintains political leadership over the army) so that the gun can “never be allowed to command the party” (that is, force the party to accept a certain politics). This is all the more crucial because one of the main problems that led to the restoration of capitalism in China is that the people’s army increasingly became separated from the party to constitute its own center of political power that consistently deviated toward more rightist conceptions. Eventually this separation was exploited to allow the pro-capitalist faction to seize control over the party and restore capitalism. If this “gap” between the party and the people’s army doesn’t exist because the party has been militarized, then it becomes impossible for rightists to exploit it and try to wield the army independently of the party.

Second, we must make sure that the individuals who do the most work to serve the people aren’t just anyone—they must be people who will best help the masses get very clear on how power actually works and how they can get it and keep it. Thus, the main people who lead the work among the masses in the united front must be members of the people’s army. This is an additional and utterly necessary part of the work that the people’s army’s does to serve the people: not only do they do productive work and help educate the people, teaching them how to analyze the world and learn to run their own society—but they also help the masses learn how power really works and how to keep it, and place it squarely and securely into their hands, making sure that the militarization of the masses is occurring. In this way, the united front is built so that it is most helpful with the central task of the movement—the people’s war—while simultaneously the masses themselves are physically, mentally, and strategically transformed into the genuine holders of power.

This model, where the party builds and commands the people’s army, and the people’s army in turn builds and guides the united front, is called the “concentric construction” of the three tools of the revolution.

* The enemy cannot militarily defeat PPW. The reason for this is the following: In PPW, the military becomes one with the people. And the capitalist-imperialists cannot kill the soldiers without killing all the people. And they can’t kill all the people, because then there would be no one to keep producing for them. So they’re stuck—they cannot actually kill the militants more often than the militants kill them. In this way, the militants can slowly accrue guns, and experience, and leech the enemy’s resources to build their movement and serve the people, and bleed the imperialists, coming out when they know they can win and never attacking otherwise. This is how the Chinese communists took down a numerically larger and better-armed force. A similar method is how an outnumbered and outgunned Vietnam drove out the U.S. It is how communists damn near toppled the capitalist governments in Peru and in Nepal, why they are today a large force in both India and the Philippines, starting from a very small number.

* Meanwhile, the “orthodox” strategy of insurrection requires waiting for the exact right moment and risking it all. One of the premises of insurrection is correct insofar as it says that there will be crises in capitalism—there definitely always are. However, the insurrectionary strategy is foolish insofar as it says “wait with a bunch of untested ‘soldiers’ for the exact right moment, then risk everything.” Attempting to use this strategy has failed again and again. Meanwhile, if instead you have a live, active, trained and fully-committed group of revolutionaries ready at every moment, then when each crisis comes, they can fan out, make maximum use of the crisis, and then return to their regular strategy once the crisis moment has receded. In this way, the crises are still used and territory is still gained, but the risks are very low compared to the rewards. Lasting through time, you can learn over many crises how to “ride the wave” of them, and your timing will get better and better, and you know you will survive even if you don’t make good use of a crisis, instead of risking everything on a moment you aren’t even prepared for, as is called for by insurrection.

that is dope! what next?

If you feel like you need a little more clarity on some of the things in this post, check out “How to learn everything a communist ought to know, from the beginning.”

For a deeper but still very accessible statement of what Marxism-Leninism-Maoism looks like, check out the General Political Line of the Communist Party of Peru.

If you want to know how to start doing Maoist organizing, check out Red Guards Austin’s position paper “Condemned to Win.”

If you like what RGA suggests as far as undertaking Maoist organizing and need at least two more MLM comrades to found a Maoist collective with, check out “Some suggestions on how to help others in your area become Marxist-Leninist-Maoist organizers.”

one final note

Being a Maoist isn’t just about believing that the above positions are true. At its core, Maoism requires applying the same scientific method of analyzing the world that Marx, Lenin, and Mao used to arrive at those positions. Being a Maoist means carrying out an analysis of every question in life, large and small, in the same way they analyzed the world, and then boldly acting on it. For this reason, even though there’s no doubt that the above aspects of Maoism are stunning in their clarity and depth in understanding humanity and the world we’re living in, in order to truly act on them, there’s no replacement for studying (and really absorbing) “the classics.” This takes time, and we definitely shouldn’t wait until we’re done before we start organizing, but devotedly absorbing the classics is essential in order to be sure that what we’re applying is genuine Maoism.