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:
* 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 There will be many theoretical terms, ideas, and historical references that may be unclear or not entirely clear; this is okay!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.