What is the root cause of the problems of the world, and what can I do about it?

Q: What is the root cause of the problems of the world?

A: Capitalism (that is, the political-economic system we currently live in, in which the infrastructure is owned by private individuals and groups instead of everyone in common, and therefore in which political-economic decisions are made according to what will bring the most profit to those individuals and private groups). From the first moment of capitalism’s existence up to the present moment it has sustained and exacerbated poverty, oppression, war, and ecological destruction. It cannot exist without these things, and if we want an end to them, we must move to a system of a democratically run planned economy.

Q: Can capitalism be reformed away peacefully, or through legal methods?

A: No. This has been attempted many times. All such attempts involve attempts to move people, resources, and infrastructure beyond the reach of the profit system. This invariably hurts the profits of the capitalists of the world, and every single time their profits are significantly reduced, they use their control of the political system to ensure that violent repression is used to smash the movement against the profit system, thereby returning the people, resources, and infrastructure back to the disposal of the profit system.

Q: If such a movement must invariably be confronted with violent attacks, how can it survive such violent attacks and still succeed?

A: Capitalism depends on the existence of a working class. Without a working class, there would be no one to prop up the capitalist class, and their entire system would fall apart. Therefore, the capitalist class cannot act to harm the entire working class. Thus, a movement to end capitalism that merges itself with the working class, and which is harbored and concealed within the working class, cannot be destroyed.

Q: How can a movement to end capitalism merge itself with the working class?

A: By carrying out a method of organizing called the mass line.

The essence of this method is “from the masses, to the masses.”

The mass line combines and acts upon two important truths: the masses are endlessly creative, and they are the true makers of history. We also believe that organizers are necessary for the victory of any mass movement. The mass line acknowledges both of these crucial facts.

The mass line has three steps:

1. Gather all the diverse and sometimes contradictory ideas and demands of the people.

2. Analyze them using an understanding of revolutionary theory, revolutionary history, and revolutionary experience in order to sharpen the people’s ideas and demands into programs, policies, and slogans that meet the immediate needs and demands of the people in a way that also (1) strengthens and deepens the people’s political understanding and (2) promotes the long-term interests of the entire global working class.

3. Go deeply among the people and spread these programs and ideas. Then, keep and improve the ideas that have been proven correct because the people have adopted them and made them their own—repeating this process over and over.

This process continuously grows and strengthens both the movement and its participants, deepens the connection between the organizers and the masses, attracts members of the masses to become organizers themselves, and raises the masses’ overall political consciousness.

Q: What does the practice of the mass line look like?

A: There are movements in India, such as the Communist Party of India (Maoist), and in the Philippines, such as the Communist Party of the Philippines, which have undertaken this method for many years and are now major forces for the end of capitalism in those respective countries, on track to end capitalism within a couple of decades.

Q: What about in the united states?

A: One of the most successful anticapitalist movements in recent history, the Black Panther Party, especially from 1966 to 1969, was very consciously practicing something much like the mass line, which was the source of both its community self-defense programs to meet the black community’s urgent need for security against a violent and racist police system, and their breakfast for children program, meeting people’s basic biological needs in order to allow them to focus on organizing their own lives rather than remaining at the mercy of a system that wants them desperate. This factor, this conscious practice of meeting the community’s needs while politicizing them and helping them take increasing self-directed control over their own destiny while defending themselves against capitalism’s and white supremacy’s attacks, was what led to the rapid growth of the BPP during this period of time. Their abandonment of this practice was what led to their disintegration.

Q: Is anyone carrying out the mass line in the united states today?

A: Organizations such as Serve the People – Los Angeles, and Serve the People – Austin are very consciously trying to undertake this strategy. STP-LA has been at it for longer and is steadily growing among the most oppressed and exploited section of the working class. STP-A has been going for a shorter time but is also showing promise.

Q: What can I do if I want to participate in this personally?

A: Study Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. Probably the single best resource available for that is the MLM Basic Course.

If what you read there makes sense to you, either join, found, or support a Maoist collective in your area that intends to carry out the mass line.

On the relationship between reform and revolution, and reactionary reforms vs. revolutionary reforms

I just wrote this in a comment on the MLM Communism 101 page, and I thought I expressed it pretty well, so I wanted to share it here. Credit to a friend of mine in RAIM for a status she wrote that really helped me grasp what a revolutionary reform looks like (the one about ending solitary confinement).

As the RAIM comrade put it, revolutionary reforms are reforms that increase the fighting power of the working class more than they do that of the bourgeoisie, or in a way that doesn’t concede anything (or at least anything of meaning) to the bourgeoisie.

Solitary confinement is a very good example, because it is a way that they lock up and torture the proletariat’s greatest leaders. Winning those leaders back to be able to engage with the masses, even if in prison, is a great victory for the working class.

My claim is not that *all* advancements in the condition of the working class overall help the bourgeoisie. I am arguing that *some*, and *in the long term*, are *overall* more helpful to the bourgeoisie than to the global proletariat.

For instance, if we could disarm the police or end solitary confinement, that would simultaneously improve workers’ situation in the here and now AND make the bourgeoisie weaker. This is true for both the short and long terms.

And in the short term, they are almost all better. If we were in a near-revolutionary situation and a working class guided by a revolutionary party was pushing for a social democratic program, that victory might be an overall positive thing, because it would give an already potent working class more resources to work with, to allow it to more probably consummate its revolution.

However, I believe all historical evidence shows that some worker demands, if not granted in near-revolutionary situations where the working class has become armed and guided by a party, can overall serve the bourgeoisie’s agenda more than the proletariat’s. I believe the social democratic program is an example of this.

. . .

> would you have opposed limiting the 12h work day? payed vacations? minimum wage?

Those demands were being made in an increasingly revolutionary situation by a not-yet-much-corrupted working class. I think they were good demands in their time that were building the proletariat’s strength without sapping much of its revolutionary energy.

But at this point, there are defenders of those concessions even among the bourgeoisie, and there have been since at least FDR’s time. Large sections of the bourgeoisie see a value in having a comfortable imperialist-country working class for a variety of reasons.

> where is the line drawn?

I think the question you’re asking here is, what should communists be doing? Like, where should *we* draw the line, in terms of what we support? The line can only be drawn based on historical analysis.

Basically, since we are in a non-revolutionary situation, we have to assume that these reforms will stick around for a long time and have their long-term effects. This means that pushing for social-democratic reforms is probably overall harmful for the proletariat’s position in the global class war.

So I do not think we should support economistic reforms like Fight for 15. Let the SEIU and other lapdogs of the bourgeoisie fight for that. We should not spend any resources on it.

If we do voice support for any, it should be for more political ones, like ending solitary confinement or disarming the police, or for justice for migrant workers.

I think there is a blurry line where it can be good to voice support for resisting austerity efforts. But I need to study this specific question more, and I also think it might be a really nuanced thing where you see what the masses are demanding, especially the lowest and deepest section of the proletariat.

In fact, that’s one of the most important things to look at: as a comrade of mine was just pointing out earlier, while it *looks like* the demand for universal free tuition helps the whole working class, in practice there are all sorts of hidden expenses and obstacles that mean the poorest and most oppressed section of the proletariat actually do not have any better access to education as a result. It is a demand that helps the labor aristocracy, and doesn’t really help the lowest and deepest sections of the proletariat at all.

This is much the same with the question of raising the minimum wage, because the lowest and deepest sections of the proletariat are also the most unemployed, and are the quickest to be fired, so a higher minimum wage is not as helpful as it might seem to the most revolutionary sections of the working class.

But truth be told, I don’t think this whole question is as important as it might seem.

It is not super important because currently, we do not have the power to meaningfully participate in the electoral arena at all. If we were as big as the Communist Party of the Philippines, we might have the power to win those kinds of more political reforms through the work of the united front.

But I sincerely believe that for every imperialist country in the world right now, the primary task of communists should be carrying out the mass line among the lowest and deepest section of the proletariat, Black Panther Party-style, in order to build an uncompromising underground revolutionary party that is providing leadership to a united front and which is carrying out people’s war, or preparing for it.

We cannot build this by participating in electoral movements first. That is precisely what they want us to do. Our first work is to build self-reliant, disciplined, theoretically advanced people power that can survive no matter what laws are passed.

* * *

I was making this explanation as a way of defending a claim I had made earlier:

Welfare capitalism is a strategy that imperialism has used to stabilize itself, and in that way has only deepened capitalism’s grip on the world. . . .

The workers of the Scandinavian countries (those who are citizens, at least) now have even less reason to struggle against capitalism, and more reason to align themselves with imperialism than ever.

Welfare capitalism is twins with fascism. They are both strategies that bring the workers of an imperialist country into tighter alliance with that country’s bourgeoisie while making the super-exploitation of outside workers all the more brutal.

On the motivation for a soldier in the class war

tell me, tell me what it was to live and then die in the people’s war in 1946.

tell me. tell me what it is to live and die and not see communism.

the rest of us vicious souls want to know more about what it is to live and die
and get somewhere close.

do you know, lenin?
do you know how we love you?

you burnt everything you were, and we love you for it.

malcolm x, you burnt everything you were, and we love you for it.

there are tens if not hundreds of millions of you setting matches to yourselves, and it speeds us along.
who will praise you? who will love you?

i have no idea, but i myself who am living, who am setting a match to myself, i swear to god i will make it count for you.

* * *

In Marxism we say that the working class struggles for liberation not out of some idea of moral superiority or because it is the right thing to do, but because it has no choice. Everyone who is in the working class is there because of a denial of options, a denial of any other choice in life. They won’t even let us eat unless we work.

So the working class is a group of people who struggle to bring about a new world, to liberate itself and thereby everyone else, for purely “selfish” motivations: to have a materially better life.

But then there’s this open question:

It’s one thing for the working class to struggle because there is a material gain to be had in it, whether it is better food and shelter or good medicine or whatever. But it is another thing to lay down one’s life for the class struggle. The logic of “the working class struggles because they want a better life” doesn’t quite hold up for those individuals who risk or even willingly give up their lives–they will see none of that material gain. So what is the motivation for a soldier in the class war?

Obviously not nothing. There have been so many brave people to do it that it probably doesn’t make sense to abandon material analysis when it comes to this question.

I think it makes sense to instead recognize that non-objects can still have value–in fact that much of the value that seems to inhere in an item (such as a status symbol) is actually in the social relationships (such as esteem) that that item grants us. The working class doesn’t want medicine because we value the aesthetic beauty of the arrangement of atoms that make up the medicinal molecule–we like it because it feels good, it alleviates pain, it helps us. We want better relationships, to ourselves and to those around us. We want to be better people, among better people.

So it is that sort of “material benefit” I  think a soldier in the class war enjoys, and that is why they are willing to risk everything to do it. Amilcar Cabral really makes most of the point that I would like to make:

Consider these features inherent in an armed liberation struggle: the practice of democracy, of criticism and self criticism, the increasing responsibility of populations for the direction of their lives, literacy work, creation of schools and health services, training of cadres from peasant and worker backgrounds—and many other achievements. When we consider these features, we see that the armed liberation struggle is not only a product of culture but also a determinant of culture. This is without doubt for the people the prime recompense for the efforts and sacrifices which war demands. In this perspective it behooves the liberation malovement to define clearly the objectives of cultural resistance as an integral and determining part of the struggle. (source)

And on that same note, a really good comrade of mine pointed out something similar recently: to some extent, we are communism. We are communism as it emerges into history, onto this earth. We in our hearts and among comrades are already the liberated base areas where a new world is being made.

Being among comrades who are consciously seeking to constantly re-make and improve ourselves through self-criticism, who are constantly seeking to be as good as we can to each other and to the masses, to become as brave and radical as we possibly can, and that we are actively helping each other to do this through loving criticism–well, that is a very real compensation.

And finally..

I fully expect to be swallowed up whole by history, to live and die and not see the new society I’m working to bring about. But I feel good about doing the work. I look back and see how long and hard so many people have worked in the past to get us closer. There are so many heartbreakingly brave and hard-working people who went through so much just to get us where we are, people whose names I know and so many more I will never know. I am honored I have the chance to make their sacrifice worth something. I am honored knowing that I am doing my humanly best to make them proud.

I read this recently in a document put out by Red Guards Austin:

There is no greater act of love than picking up the rifle of a fallen comrade and continuing their battle. (source)

And maybe this is even stranger to say, but I think about all the peasants who rose up over the past few thousands of years, before communism was possible, these people buried in history whose struggle nonetheless slowly but surely built up a consciousness for the toiling people as a class. I look back at them, and realize that I am one of them. And when I look back at them, I want to pump my fist and shout and cheer them on. Yes! That is what I hope I would have done in their shoes! And because I am trying to be one of them, I feel cheered on alongside them by something that is bigger than me, by those ahead of me, in the better world, looking back at me along with everyone else who fought, and I am proud and grateful to be among them, to have had a chance to serve, to have run as hard and as fast as I could while I was on this earth.

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