A kites readers’ guide to starting a discussion group

From the kites editorial committee (July 2022)

We stand for active ideological struggle because it is the weapon for ensuring unity within the Party and the revolutionary organizations in the interest of our fight. Every Communist and revolutionary should take up this weapon.

-Mao Zedong, Combat Liberalism

We strongly encourage comrades in the US and Canada to take up the challenge of building discussion groups around kites, taking up a collective study and discussion of articles in our journal. Participating in regular, organized discussion of kites is one crucial way for people who aspire to be communists to put the principles that they proclaim into practice by training themselves and others in communist theory, engaging in active ideological struggle, and forging collectivity. It is not in opposition to studying the “classics” of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM), although from our observations, those who only study the classics and not the most cutting-edge communist theory being produced in their countries (and around the world) today tend to only learn dogmatism and remain incapable of applying MLM to the challenges of making revolution.

The last few years have seen a growth of online pseudo-discussions of Marxist politics in various corners of social media, Discord servers, podcasts, and YouTube channels. While that has generated some positive discussion and helped to promote an interest in revolutionary politics, it is crucial for people to meet and discuss revolutionary ideology and politics in person. For one thing, the major social media platforms are owned and surveilled by our class enemies. For another, the “discussions” on these platforms have little in common with the active ideological struggle that Mao called for; instead, they are filled with ignorant proclamations, fronting, and half-cocked regurgitation of a few popular books. It might be time to popularize asking people who start podcasts and YouTube channels: what qualifies you to speak about revolutionary politics? And we do not mean that question from the standpoint of postmodernist identity politics.

The best and most productive discussions, where comrades can practice and internalize the communist methods of unity-struggle-unity and criticism and self-criticism, are those done in person, where people can disagree in a comradely way, struggle with each other sharply, fight for a higher level of unity without misinterpretation or recriminations, and look each other in eye. And put the cell-phones in another room while your discussion group is meeting, both to insist on a serious discussion free from distractions and for security purposes.1

The first step to forming a discussion group is to get yourself some physical copies of kites. Having physical copies of kites means that everyone in your group doesn’t have to be accessing kites online, but more importantly, physical copies facilitate the readings and re-readings that, combined with active ideological struggle, are necessary to fully internalize communist theory.

The second step is to get some people together. You can start with just two people if that’s all you have, but three or more is better. Importantly, forming a discussion group should not be based on people’s declared political preferences at any given time (“Our group is one ML, two MLMs, a LeftCom, and two Expos fans”) because “the politics of declaration that flood the internet” and the lack of a proletarian vanguard have rendered those terms effectively meaningless in the imperialist countries. Instead, we urge comrades to form their discussion groups with people who genuinely want a better world, respect the mandate and politics of kites, can commit to comradely discussion and struggle, and are good people that you want to spend time with (no assholes is a solid rule).

Once your crew is together, it’s time to decide on a few things to read. This is a good time to practice the mass line approach of communist leadership rather than bourgeois-democracy. Find out what the members of the group are interested in, what they have previously read or are struggling with, and combine that with the group leader’s (that’s you reading this!) understanding of what will ideologically advance the whole group. One person should overall lead the discussions, preparing some questions ahead of time and using the discussion questions we have made available on the kites website (we will continue to update the website with discussion questions on more articles). People who are stepping up to lead a discussion group should take some time to study Combat Liberalism and On Correcting Mistaken Ideas in the Party by Mao Zedong. Communist discussion and struggle is adamantly not about the bourgeois-democratic principle of “everyone gets their say” or the even worse leftist-activist principle of “only a few people get their say.” Instead, we should strive to uphold the communist principle of waging struggle to arrive at a higher level of understanding.

One measure of the seriousness of a discussion group is logistics: Do people follow through with their individual tasks (making discussion questions, taking notes on what they read, etc.)? Do they show up on time (to us, punctuality is a communist principle)? The principle of combining revolutionary sweep with efficiency applies here: discussion groups should strive to meet at consistent times and consistent locations, people should know what the reading is in advance, and transportation should be easily coordinated, all so that people don’t have to send a million text messages. In fact, it would be a considerable organizational advance if would-be communists could start setting up meetings without the use of text messages, including encrypted texts. A good way to think about security questions and organization is to ask: what would a Bolshevik do? (WWBD? Bracelets will soon be available for purchase on the kites website…just kidding.)

Some coffee and food is nice to build comradeship if it doesn’t become too burdensome. Comrades should give themselves fifteen minutes at the end of their discussions to sum up the current discussion, unite on the next readings, and settle up any logistical questions (we’re having the next meeting in X park) so as to avoid texting about them.

If you can get a solid discussion group together, reading on the regular, the kites editorial committee would love to hear about how the discussions are going. What did people in the group agree with and disagree with in the articles they read? What did the group struggle over, and how was that struggle resolved? How did studying kites together affect your political practice? What questions does kites not adequately address? It’s a good idea to take stock of how the discussions are going every few months or so, and make adjustments as need (How has attendance been? Are people keeping up with the reading? Can we ask X comrade, who was new to all this a few months ago, to try leading a discussions?).

Finally, to those who are more intrepid and have the time on their hands, we suggest taking the kites cover-to-cover challenge: starting with kites #1, study and discuss all articles in each issue of kites. This will get you steeped in the content of our journal, and curtail the problem of would-be communists only studying articles they can more readily agree with but not the ones that challenge them more sharply to make ruptures. The latter are more crucial to ideologically remolding yourself as a communist.

1A brief corrective to many would-be revolutionaries’ ideas about cell phone security: The bourgeoisie’s repressive state apparatus, via entities such as the NSA, actively collects massive amounts of cell phone meta-data. If a group of people all converge at the same location and turn their cell phones off when they get there at the same time and then turn them back on when they leave, the NSA’s computer algorithms would have no problem detecting that there is a meeting going on that the attendees are trying to keep “secret,” including by retroactively analyzing meta-data stored on NSA hard drives.