Issue #5-6 Editorial1
by the kites Editorial Committee
This special double-issue of kites contains the results of social investigations carried out by kites readers in the summer of 2021 in a few regions across the US and a dozen cities and regions across Canada. While these results are only initial, they cover a wide swath of the proletariat and other popular classes, from one coast to the other, from a housing project in New York City to homeless encampments in Minneapolis, from skate parks to hospitals, from regions choked by heat and fire to those where hundreds of unmarked graves of Indigenous children who were victims of the Indian residential school system have been identified. Taken collectively, they present a number of important initial findings for those of us who hate this system and love the masses.
Most importantly, they present a clear, if only partial, sense that a revolutionary people could emerge on this continent in the millions.2 Young people from different classes and nationalities, but especially proletarian youth and the children of migrants, are deeply concerned about the persistence of white supremacy and the lack of opportunities they face in the future. The vast proletariat at work in the healthcare field are denied the ability to do their jobs safely and meaningfully, while public housing residents, many of whom are effectively locked out of the workforce, are being forced to live under ever-deteriorating conditions. Everywhere that kites readers found people who had been part of the pitched rebellions and protests in the summer of 2020, we found that there was a battle for the summation of those events—and at the same time, a sense of accomplishment, pride, and militancy.
As the objective conditions for forging a revolutionary people become more favorable, what is holding back the development of revolutionary politics and organization among the proletariat and popular classes? More than anything, the subjective situation is severely lagging (to understate the matter). To get specific, the low levels of class-consciousness, organization, and fighting capacity among the people are reinforced by, on the one hand, the failures of the vast majority of those who consider themselves revolutionaries to go to the masses and propagate revolutionary ideology and politics and build organization among them, and, on the other hand, and in light of the first factor, the uncontested intervention of opportunist or otherwise erroneous trends (DSA, revisionist, Trotskyite, or other careerist forces) which end up ruining and diverting the revolutionary potential that does emerge in such situations. Many people read “A Call for Communist Social Investigation a Year After the Summer of Rebellion,” published in kites #4, and too few in the US decided to take it up in practice or even reached out with questions about how to do social investigation and class analysis. Fuck, there was a wide gulf between people enthusiastically Tweeting our call for social investigation and the small number of people who actually did what it called for.
A noteworthy exception to the minimal uptake of the call that we saw in the US was how it was taken up in Canada. Canada, unlike the US, has seen two major party-building experiences over the past fifteen years—that of Revolutionary Initiative and that of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Canada—and while these were rather distinct examples of Maoist party-building initiatives,3 this legacy of party-building facilitated the coming together of a network of comrades to take initiative above and beyond what was called for in kites. Comrades in Canada saw the major crises playing out in Canada through 2021—namely, the climate catastrophes that rocked western Canada and the political crisis set off by the revelation of thousands of unmarked graves of children who were victim to Canada’s genocidal Indian Residential School system—and they decided to form a cross-country caravan of social investigation to find out how people were viewing and experiencing the emergent and long-running crises in Canadian society. Its final report is “Chronicles of the Struggling and Dispossessed: An Investigation into the Other Side of Canada.” Here’s hoping that this initiative puts a bit of fire under the collective ass of Leftists in the US (and elsewhere in Canada too) to make a break from localism, form up, and move out amongst the people with political purpose in similar or entirely original ways.
Why are Leftists so terrified of and/or condescending towards the masses? Probably because the masses are not Leftists, and anyone who has been trained in a Leftist world outlook (no matter what flavor) who dares to step out of their comfort zones of podcasts, online debates, Leftist organizations, and hipster hangouts and go to the masses will quickly find that Leftist politics have very little traction among the masses.4 Outside of the small number of proletarians churned out through the petty-bourgeois nonprofit meat grinder (so called because of its tendency to turn out people who think exactly alike), no one gives a shit about performative land acknowledgments, pronoun circles, or the latest woke terminology from Instagram grifters. To the contrary, these woke gestures are often downright repugnant to the masses who can see how disingenuous and ineffectual they actually are. This is not to argue, as some idiots do online, that the masses of people are actually just social conservatives and, therefore, we should be too. Of course some masses, especially the more religious, are. But, as the social investigation reports in this issue of kites show, in contrast to Leftist thinking, the masses are not monolithic—there are advanced, intermediate, and backwards masses, they have all sorts of different ideas, and there are plenty of contradictions among them. More to the point, the common Leftist desire to turn everyone into an identity group (queer and trans, BIPOC, tenants, people who think a bag of shredded carrots is a meal) with a single desire and a single way they can be organized misses the big picture: There are millions of people cast asunder by the motion of capitalism-imperialism who could be organized for communist revolution, but to connect with and organize those masses, you must stop being a Leftist and start being a communist.
Perhaps the most pernicious example of the disconnect between Leftist orthodoxy and the lived experiences of the masses is around crime and the police. The persistence of white supremacy in the US and the use of the prison system as a form of social control for the large portion of Black proletarians who the motions of capital has made into a permanent “reserve army of labor” has created an antagonistic relationship between Black people and the police. The principal job of the police is to wage a campaign of brutality, murder, and criminalization targeted especially at young Black proletarian men. The very same motions of capital that have rendered many Black proletarians a “surplus population,” locked out of employment, have also worked to concentrate much of the violence and crime associated with the drug trade in Black proletarian neighborhoods.
Thus, when there was an increase in crime and violence months into the COVID pandemic and following the uprisings of 2020, it was experienced most intensely by Black proletarian masses. As kites readers heard from the masses, there is significant and genuine concern over the rise in shootings (particularly when young children are caught in the crossfire), carjackings, and other crimes, and for the masses, this concern is warranted and justified even if we don’t know the exact causes of the increase in violence. We strongly suspect that it is, at least in part, caused by the police to punish the masses for rising up in the summer of 2020.5
Who among Leftists has any response to the masses’ real concern about the proliferation of violence in their neighborhoods, other than the tired platitudes that the police need to be abolished and replaced with community programming? For anyone justifiably worried about being shot or carjacked, that’s clearly no answer. Furthermore, it’s clear that most proponents of increasing social welfare programs have never used those programs, which are almost always bureaucratic, demeaning, and no real solution.
So then, with Leftists almost universally in favor of “abolitionism” and disconnected from the day-to-day lives of the masses, those same masses are increasingly up for grabs. Some are being grabbed by reactionary world outlooks, including via conservative politicians (New York Mayor-elect Eric Adams is a prime example), but also by way of cynicism, the development of reactionary anti-people ideas, and various conspiracy theories. By refusing to engage with the masses, learn from them, and challenge reactionary ideas among them, self-proclaimed communists are serving up a potentially revolutionary social base to the bourgeoisie.
More Opportunities Missed, Claimed, and Coming
The most damning indictment of this state of affairs is the lack of political organization created in the US in the wake of the summer 2020 uprisings. More than a year after the 2020 rebellions, there is not a single national organization against police brutality and murder that people can join in the US.6 We have “abolitionist” members of Congress and city councils, “abolitionist” ice cream companies and therapists, “abolitionist” community gardens, and yet nowhere on this continent are the police anywhere close to being abolished. In fact, in the places where the bourgeoisie moved some money around to claim that the police are being “defunded,” they have already started to re-fund the police!7
People who want to be communists can continue to identify with the Leftists, giving the excuse that “abolitionism is the most radical thing out there” and letting the masses who want to fight police brutality continually get pulled in by reformist schemes and grifter lawyers. Or, would-be communists can break with this state of affairs, get off of social media, study the historical efforts of communists to build organization against police brutality,8 carry out some social investigation, and go integrate with the masses. Anyone who does this will immediately find that their preconceived abolitionist notions will be challenged by the widespread demand among the masses that killer cops be punished…severely.
Beyond the massive potential to build resistance to police brutality and murder, we can think of a number of other social fault lines that those who aspire to be communists should consider intervening in to concretely push forward class struggle and develop new communist cadre:
- In the US, the Biden administration is continuing many of the most heinous policies towards migrants and refugees that were widely despised when Trump was president. This includes the horrific images of Haitian migrants being whipped by Customs and Border Protection agents on horseback, but also the continued detention of children who migrate to the US without parents and the use of COVID as an excuse to not process asylum claims. Who is learning or using their Spanish (or Creole) to integrate with migrants on both sides of the border, lead them in struggle against oppressors near and far, and carry out agitation and propaganda to expose US imperialism as the root cause of their need to risk their lives in dangerous border crossings and of being hunted down by ICE?
- In Canada, the explosive contradictions centered on national oppression are barely being held back by the Reconciliation politics of the Trudeau government, while the climate crisis yields a whole new layer of society into the ranks of the precarious and dispossessed. Meanwhile, the combined effects of the housing and affordability crises and the rampant proliferation of opioid addiction are grinding down harder and harder upon the lowest and deepest sections of the proletariat, with the masses broadly becoming increasingly despondent with the present order, creating greater openings for the intervention of revolutionary ideas and politics. Finally, workers are becoming increasingly aggrieved by their working conditions and life prospects, and with the reformist movement and labour aristocracy having done absolutely nothing to inspire any real resistance to the effects of the crises of capitalism-imperialism, its long-past due for communists to begin rebuilding the revolutionary workers’ movement.
- While the US and Canada continue centuries of imperialist destabilization and plunder in Haiti, while the US-led invasion and two decades of occupation of Afghanistan are exposed as the criminal acts they were, while the geopolitical rivalry between the Anglo imperialist-led bloc and China is heating up, who is seeking out the rebel youth, the disaffected military veterans, and the diaspora populations to build a genuine anti-imperialist resistance that exposes the vicious nature of US imperialism, popularizes the resistance of the oppressed, and targets the ability of the empire to wage war?
The list of social fault lines crying out for communist intervention goes on: the new wave of attacks on women’s right to abortion and bodily autonomy, the ecological crises, the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 crisis, etc. The point is that there are opportunities for communists to integrate with the people and lead them in struggle, if there are people willing to step up and become communists. But instead of looking for the opportunities to advance the overall development of the class struggle, including the development of a communist vanguard, we find people operating under the rubric of “mass work” carrying out “red” versions of NGO charity, usually done worse than the NGOs.
Would-be revolutionaries have adopted a strong sense of localism: the desire to build narrow-minded, small-scale projects, myopically focused on small geographical areas, using the postmodernist identarian category of community as a replacement for the Maoist category of the masses, and often opposed to the second part of social investigation—class analysis.9 We have heard, including from kites readers, that they want to focus their organizing mainly on taking their own small crew of people and having them “go to the community” and “start locally.” While, of course, a small group of people can only start where they are at and communists need to build organization in specific neighborhoods, we find that these plans (1) are always narrowly conceived and divorced from any sense of the need to build a vanguard party, (2) treat the masses as though they cannot think beyond their neighborhoods, (3) are rarely based on study of previous attempts, and (4), because they’re not based on real social investigation or concrete analysis, fold at the first contradiction.
Instead of social investigation and class analysis, the starting point for these supposed projects is often schematism, a narrow Leftist idea that successful organizing projects will somehow be replicated in other places magically and mechanically, i.e., a tenant organizing project successfully organizing a building and then another building, until there is some mythical strong tenant organization that will do…something? Alternatively, schematists feel they can’t do anything at all until it’s tied to a larger plan: i.e., instead of two or three people doing social investigation by going to a park four or five times or spending time outside a transit hub every weekend for a month and interviewing people there, people have told us that they can’t do social investigation until there’s a plan for organizing a whole neighborhood or city, thus scheming to talk to no masses at all.
Two articles in this issue of kites sharply point out why the pervasive problems of localism and schematism have been leading to no revolutionary advances. “Lessons from Beyond the Grave,” a submission from a reader, Akio, sums up the failures, grounded in Leftist delusions, of a tenant organizing effort in Lawrence, Kansas, and provides valuable lessons for all those imagining tenant organizing to be a magical gateway to forging a revolutionary people. We call on our readers to learn from this example and to write their own summations of their experiences; see our call for summations in kites #4 and hit us up for help with this process.10
Kenny Lake’s “Revolution Has Vanished” connects localism and schematism to the various forms of Pac-Man politics, including its “Maoist,” electoral, and direct-democracy variants, that imagine you can somehow build alternatives to and supplant capitalist rule without overthrowing capitalism through revolutionary civil war. Along the way, crucial questions for communists, such as the nature of state power, the need to uproot commodity relations, and what Maoists mean by the concept of base areas, are addressed by dissecting several articulations of Pac-Man politics.
Today’s fixation on “local organizing” among North American Leftists is entirely alien to the communist tradition. In kites #4, we published interviews with Comrade Kiran, who played a leading role in the Maoist people’s war in Nepal, and the Italian CARC Party. In this issue, we are excited to present the second interview in our two-part series On Granite Conviction: Revolutionary Communism in Italy Today, “Banish Pessimism and Defeatism,” an interview with Umberto Corti from the (new) Communist Party of Italy ((n)PCI). To our knowledge, Italy is the only imperialist country today with communists who have the seriousness, organizational capacity, and strategic thinking to be a real political force leading significant class struggle, and our interview presents readers with the opportunity to learn and critically assess how that came to be (and strive to catch up!).
Neither Kiran nor the Italian comrades—nor Lenin and Mao, for that matter—ever talk(ed) about the importance of “starting locally” or in “the community.” What they talk(ed) about is building a communist vanguard party with deep roots among the masses and advancing the class struggle towards the revolutionary overthrow of bourgeois rule. The bourgeoisie has their ways of absorbing small local concerns and demands and making little reforms to appease people—that’s how bourgeois-democracy works. What motivates people to become real revolutionaries, to sacrifice their lives for the world proletarian revolution, is not narrow neighborhood concerns but the fight for a whole new world.
That spirit of sacrifice sharply contrasts with another pervasive problem that has plagued resistance movements and revolutionary politics, namely grifterism. In this issue of kites, we call out the grifters who use protest and posturing at revolutionary politics to advance their own careers and/or swell their egos with social media popularity. Our editorial, “Abolish Grifterism,” goes beyond criticizing the most egregious examples of grifterism and puts forward a taxonomy of different types of grifters, analyzes the culture and mechanisms in which grifterism thrives, and calls for revolutionary principle and democratic centralist practice as antidotes to grifterism.
To sum up and perhaps explain the tone of this introduction to kites #5-6: If Lenin wrote What Is To Be Done? today, he’d be canceled in a second. Stop being a Leftist; start being a communist.
Speaking of sacrifice, in the months preceding the publication of this issue of kites, we lost several precious comrades in the international communist movement. Chairman Gonzalo, who led the Communist Party of Peru and a revolutionary people’s war until his capture in 1992, died on 11 September 2021 while still held captive by the Peruvian ruling class. We commemorate Gonzalo in this issue with an obituary that heralds his steadfast revolutionary principles and strategic innovations.
In the Philippines, three important comrades (among a number of other red fighters and cadre) have recently made the ultimate sacrifice for the ongoing revolutionary people’s war: veteran revolutionary leader and fighter Kerima Lorena Tariman, known as as Ka Ella, the internationally recognized artist Parts Bagani, and New People’s Army spokesperson Jorge Madlos, known as Ka Oris (Ka, short for Kasama, is the Tagalog word for comrade). Ka Ella was a former student activist, remembered by her comrades for her courage in battle and relentless commitment to building red political power. Ka Parts is known for his beautiful and vivid paintings depicting guerrilla life and struggle, but he was first and foremost a red fighter and member of the New People’s Army, who brought his artistic talents to bear both in his paintings and in drawing up battle plans. Ka Oris joined the New People’s Army as a young man and was remembered for his role in building and expanding the reach of the revolution in the region of Mindanao before his imprisonment in 1987. Upon his release from prison, Ka Oris jumped back into the organizational life of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and was remembered by his comrades for his decisive role in the Second Great Rectification Movement of the CPP, his leadership as a member of the Central Committee of the CPP, and his lifetime commitment to the life of a red fighter and to studying and applying revolutionary principles.
We at kites offer a revolutionary salute to all the martyrs of the Philippine revolution for being exemplary vanguards of humanity and for making the sacrifices they’ve made. In recognition of these comrades, we dedicate our double-issue release, kites #5-6—on the cover of which can be found one of the many paintings of Ka Parts Bagani. And we honor the contributions of all those other kasamas (comrades) who dedicate themselves every day to serving the people, destpite formidable obstacles, by committing ourselves and our comrades to a life of plain living and hard struggle.
1. We intend this quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet in our title as a challenge to the narrow thinking of North American Leftists, especially when it comes to understanding the lives of the masses. Touch grass.
2. Regrettably, in the US, we received no social investigation pieces from nor were we able to lead any such initiatives within the South or among migrant workers; and in Canada, likewise comrades there were unable to conduct social investigation in the North or in the Maritime provinces.
3. Comrades in Canada have assured us that summations on each of these party-building experiences are forthcoming, and we expect to see some of these published here in kites.
4. See “Kick ’Em While They’re Down” in kites #3 (2021) for a detailed explanation of why so many self-styled communists still hang on to anti-communist ideas, particularly what we have been calling Pac-Man politics.
5. For more on the bourgeoisie’s strategic use of inflaming violence among the masses after righteous rebellions, see Kilmor, “The Tinderbox and the Tourniquet: Voices from Baltimore in the Wake of the 2015 Rebellion and Bourgeois State Intervention,” kites #4 (2021).
6. No, the pathetic reformist attempt of some revisionists to recreate a CPUSA front group doesn’t count, and neither do any of the third-rate October 22nd Coalition knock-offs that various revisionist organizations have created in recent years.
7. See, for example, J. David Goodman, “A Year After ‘Defund,’ Police Departments Get Their Money Back,” New York Times, 10 October 2021.
8. See, for example, “From the Masses, to the Masses: A Summation of the October 22 Coalition’s Resistance to Police Brutality in the Late 1990s” in kites #1 (2020).
9. It’s no coincidence that Saul Alinsky, the founder of modern community organizing, was a committed anti-communist.
10. “Welcome to Splitsville. Population: Every Leftist Organization of the Last Decade—A Call for Summations, Not Subtweet Recriminations,” kites #4 (2021).