#FreeDallas, Free All Political Prisoners, Temper Ourselves in Struggle


“Either a human or pig

Either to survive at any price or

to struggle until death

Either part of the problem or part of the solution

Between the two there is nothing

Victory or death—the people everywhere say that and that is the language of the guerilla”

— from Holger Meins’ last letter

On March 9, federal agents in Austin, TX surrounded and arrested Dallas, a dedicated anti-fascist and Maoist supporter of Red Guards Austin, on several felony charges that were produced in conjunction with the work of an informant. Using “evidence” of hearsay and deliberate fabrication from this single person, the Feds have claimed weapons that are legally registered and that were at his fiancee’s apartment that he doesn’t even live at are actually his.  The prosecutors, unable to produce concrete physical evidence, are in a marriage of convenience with a liar and do not care about witness reliability. This isn’t Dallas’ first rodeo with them – pigs tried to rip Dallas’ head off and broke his neck in multiple places at a rally in November 2016, almost leaving him permanently paralyzed. Surviving and continuing to fight, this is the deeply hated establishments’ next pathetic attempt at using general repression to extinguish successful militant anti-fascism (note—please read Red Guards Austin’s Defend Comrade Dallas and fight for his freedom for more information)

There is much at stake for all anti-fascists in Dallas’ case—APD, TxDPS, FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are firing the opening salvos of Cointelpro 2.0 by targeting allegedly armed anti-fascists and those whose anti-fascism is not just reaction-ism (chasing from rally-to-rally) but based on a more protracted process of engaging communities in resisting fascism. In Austin particularly, where Maoism and revolutionary politics has achieved hegemony over militant anti-fascism, the fight over the gentrifying and Nazi-collaborating Blue Cat Cafe, the numerous mass rallies that RGA organized in tandem with mass organizations like the Revolutionary Student Front, and the response to neo-Confederates and alt-right attempts to march have attracted international reporting and support, but also the fear of the police. Pittsburgh and Austin’s Fraternal Order of Police both endorsed Trump and many, because of the occupational stress that comes with maintaining white supremacy and the property relations of capitalism, know that the violence of fascism which is the same as theirs is never met with docility but with resistance — which is why they are going to such great lengths to criminalize armed anti-fascism. Department of Homeland Security documents leaked to Politico referenced Red Guards along with Redneck Revolt as a worry, and cited RGA’s partisan unit open carrying during one “White Lives Matter” counter demonstration a little over a year ago as one example. They fear it, as one very class conscious senior law enforcement officer claimed, because they know that one day gun shots will ring out between these sides.

Clearly those who’ve brought charges on Dallas and on his fiancee, and that are harassing anyone with even tangential relationships with RGA supporters, are not neutral nor do they pretend to be. Fascists and militias use lethal and often illegal weapons, yet are not harassed anywhere near the degree to which comrades such as Dallas are.

As Charlottesville proves, fascists were the ones who fired their guns and ended the day by murdering someone. RGA declared that they would not remain unarmed while facing an armed enemy, that fascism is organized reactionary violence and that it is hardly unintended when someone is murdered at their demonstrations, and that to defeat fascism we must gain parity on this front so that no one has to unwillingly become a martyr. The state has responded to this declaration (one that has been backed up in action) by targeting those within the anti-fascist movement who are already in a legally precarious position because of past records. The consequence to a conviction of Dallas is a declaration that proximity to firearms while having anti-fascist politics is a thought-crime worthy of up to three decades in a federal dungeon, and the opening up of an array of other political witch-hunts into those who support or are members of groups that open carry at demonstrations.

We will not stand idly by and let our comrades be kidnapped. This system is not interested in arguments on prosecutorial ethics and discovery as it relates to unreliable witnesses; it will always thrive off of informant falsehoods no matter what we scream at them, for if they had incentive to admit the truth then Dallas would be free now. What we will do is give them the incentive to consider the ramifications of locking Dallas up with an international campaign to demand his immediate release and the dropping of all charges, where we show people the role the pigs and FBI plays against our movement. Everyone—from workers at the frank stands and coffee shops the federal agents and judges go to, to our neighbors and theirs—will know their evil works in splitting Dallas from his family and locking him in a dungeon.

Donations are going to be crucial here, as the costs for doing legal defense work and jail support work will be high, as is the cost of building the movement against FBI repression. The fundrazr page was taken down, so donations are recommended to be sent directly through PayPal: avantiguzman@gmail.com.

Stay up to date on local events so you know what’s happening with the case and find out about upcoming events, activities and protests. There will be a fundraising event soon with planned speakers.

Talk to your friends, co-workers and family about the case. Popularize the anti-repression struggle. You must tell the world that resistance should not be a criminal act, but always will be as long as the capitalist dictatorship holds power.

Get your organization to pass a resolution or issue a statement of solidarity with Dallas and revolutionary antifascists in Austin, including the need to make donations directly through PayPal at avantiguzman@gmail.com.

Dallas has a big heart and big love for the people. He has dedicated his life to serving, and struggling with, the people to build resistance against injustice and oppression. In Austin, Dallas was there for many who were struggling through the evils of addiction, always willing to lend an ear to listen. Everyone who knows him can testify to his encouragement in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, to remain positive, and to have faith in the masses. Valuing so many as comrades and friends, he has been a mentor to many in his kindness and intelligence.





ATTN PITTSBURGH: Loose Lips Sink Ships!


PITTSBURGH: Don’t talk to cops or fash sympathizers — resisting fascism is not a crime! Snitching and badjacketing are irredeemable offenses!

A day ago it came to our attention that an unknown actor linked a number of Red Guard Pittsburgh supporters’ government names to racist-skinhead affiliates and that there are now attempts to dox them underway. We write this for (1) the purpose of making antifascists aware that doxxing is underway, and (2) to also reaffirm and promote the basics of security culture.

We are living in a time when we can see the outlines of a new Cointelpro* forming. Many activists and revolutionaries are now in confrontation with forces they don’t see (and too often, that they don’t yet understand). And there is a need for people to become more sophisticated quickly. We need a realistic sense of the viciousness of the state and the fascists, the flimsiness of the legal protections the state promises, and we need to understand the stakes inherent to any serious liberation struggle. We cannot afford the illusions or methods of social democratic forces. As a revolutionary movement we need to be as open as possible to the people (especially in regard to its policies and goals), and as closed as necessary to its enemies.

The state uses many methods against revolutionaries, but for the purpose of focusing on what seems to be situationally relevant, we will here touch on its use of disinformation, rumor, unsafe security practices, liberalism, and on informants and turncoats in order to attack its opponents.

Snitching and Loose Lips

To state it plainly: if someone is a police agent or turncoat, they have deceived and betrayed everyone around them. Even if the snitches’ action is portrayed as just “innocent”, loose gossip and organizational speculation, “innocent” reference of alleged ownership or connection of certain events to specific personalities, it is still snitching! Snitches choose, deliberately and consciously, to serve the most sinister forces in history — and whether they do it not knowing they are part of a campaign based on undermining the as-yet fragile hopes of our class and oppressed people is unworthy of consideration.  To be a rat is reprehensible — there is little lower or more repulsive than a counterrevolutionary rat.

Such individuals need to be exposed, repudiated fiercely, and removed from the movement. There are some who, in spite of someone proving they are capable of secretly serving fascists and/or the state as an informant, will want to point to some possible basis to trust the snitch again. Such ideas are common in politics that don’t see revolution as possible – they genuinely think informants don’t do much damage. In their mind it’s preposterous to investigate into people with such counterrevolutionary inclinations, the consequence of this line being that snitches are permitted unlimited access to spaces and institutions the movement uses.

There was a debate within the Chinese revolution precisely on this question. Imprisoned revolutionaries were asked by the Japanese or the Kuomintang to denounce the revolution (publicly, in court, and in writing) as the price of release. The line of phony communist Liu Shaoqui (who ran the underground urban apparatus) was to allow such denunciations of revolution and welcome the released prisoners back into underground work. The line of Mao, which would surface again during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, was that turncoats and capitulators had to be identified, removed from the party, repudiated and never readmitted. The argument was the simple point that once you allow capitulation and informing (even if under pressure) there is no way to maintain the integrity of an underground organization, which becomes like a dead ash tree, its bark rotting and falling as it becomes riddled with the insects that are proven capitulators; it becomes weakened by liberal attitudes of situational capitulation.

A movement that is liberal which tolerates that kind of betrayal will be riddled with future betrayals — betrayal will be encouraged and accepted through lies and by putting friendship over politics. And it can be very destructive, to the point of even being fatal.

Bars, drinking/drug culture, alcoholism, and friendship cliques** become a terrible mix which form up to often run contrary to our desire to start to develop rudimentary and effective security cultures for a large movement. They often become the dampened and dark spaces by which the goals of Counter-Intelligence Programs (Cointelpro) and fascists are able to be pursued. Sleazy people do sleazy things, and when substance abuse goes ignored, some choose to be oblivious as to how this ugly behavior can be a marker of a larger corruption. While paranoia is corrosive its dialectical opposite of laxness is destructive as well, both are encouraged and desired by our fascist stalkers. Drunken naïveté with friendly strangers at bars replaces consciousness.

Infiltration is a method that deploys all the ugly power-trips of a dying imperialism and all the vices of human beings, such as the corruption of the disaffected, the ego stroking of the lame, exploitation of the damaged, blackmail of the legally compromised, and briberies of the most desperate. They don’t always appear as police-types, those approaching you with certain questions or certain rumors may come from the weak and damaged. Informers offer intimacy and flattery. They thrive on gossip and promote a culture of gossip. They can come with resources, cred, or skills – the informant Lawrence Goff, who once quipped that he was “redder than a baboon’s ass,” was a man of working-class background and an ex-Marine who was able to offer weapons training and access to firearms.

Others often provide commitment that often surpasses understanding***. Minneapolis FBI infiltrator “Karen Sullivan” was able to enter FRSO by being quiet, keeping their head down and “working hard” at movement tasks, building credibility and trust, all while listening and taking notes. Many police cadre who entered Vietnam Veterans Against War posing as veterans with military expertise were able to easily expose their secret police activities through time by showing their more reactionary side. Consciousness is hard to fake, but not impossible as seen with Karen Sullivan: some sociopaths fake every genuine human emotion in life — as a habit — and can assimilate political ideas seamlessly, and can go from being a Marxist-Leninist one day, to being a insurrectionary anarchist the next.

Malinovsky, who was a “working class intellectual” in a sea of middle class intelligentsia (and who, beyond his politically convenient class background, was also an amoral turncoat, egomaniac and extremely talented huckster) ended his time as an agent and his political career by suddenly fleeing in an emotional panic from his office as a parliamentary representative — just simply disappearing (on both his political coworkers and police handlers) into the night. At some point he just couldn’t handle the “double life” anymore, but out of guilt returned to face those he betrayed and harmed.

Like Malinovsky, every snitch must face justice. Informing on radical movements is not ok when people are teenagers. It is not ok if people are facing blackmail. It is not ok if the authorities threaten people with prison and death, whether it’s done accidentally while drunk, or if it was done by telling someone who they thought was their friend certain information. It is not ok, period. There are no justifications and no excuses.

Oppressed people rightfully hate those who inform and don’t care about a snitch’s intentions, nor should we worry about whether snitches “learn and grow.” A snitch’s spiritual problem or personal development do not matter; we are preparing a party, army, and movement that must be preserved in the midst of the present and future conflicts to come.

What we do want from snitches is to fail, to be prevented from accomplishing their criminal goals, and to get them as far away from the movement as possible. And we want to deter those twisted and weak individuals who are tempted to take that path.

That requires being alert, avoiding denial, being firm, and maintaining high standards — to, in short, recognize that loose lips sink ships and to have a long sighted view of who the enemy is.

Combat Liberalism Everywhere, Fight Fascism Everywhere!

 Combat Liberalism

It would be wrong however to try to develop some sort of fixed “profile” of what informants will appear as, for we run the risk of falsely tagging innocent people with labels that can get them hurt, and thus do the pigs’ work for them. We should be unafraid to critique and reject the methods of the 1930s standards adopted by the communist movement (which was often cynically indifferent to facts and investigation, and routinely smeared political opponents and dissidents as agents), as Mao has already done by rightfully pointing out that “people’s heads aren’t leeks.” We should carefully avoid paranoid witch-hunts and destructive badjacketing.

But this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t develop cautious collective methods nor run away from making everyone aware going in what the expectations of their involvement is. We must combat liberalism and hold each other accountable for behavior, and not look the other way when suspicious things happen. Don’t tolerate behaviors that endanger the whole. Deploy the wisdom and judgement of collectivity. Speak candidly and truthfully about problems.

We must encourage this not just in collectives but also in the neighborhoods we organize. Liberal behavior can get people killed so we must stress that security is not about protecting each individual, but of protecting the survival and functioning of the movement in the very streets we live. It is about taking care of the future within the present, the whole within the part.

In light of the current doxing attempt, we ask our supporters, those working within organizations that do united front work with us, and those in our neighborhoods to:

  • Be suspicious of ugly rumor campaigns and efforts to inflame differences into hostilities;
  • Replace naivete with consciousness and diligence. What you say has consequences;
  • Be aware that there is an active fascist presence in Bloomfield and that they aren’t afraid of collaborating with the police;
  • Be protective of personal information if you work in the movement in any way. Don’t say nothing to anyone;
  • Develop nuanced policies of “need to know,” where the movement and the people are able to evaluate their own progress through public summation, while some other matters are kept private;
  • Avoid sectarianism and practice elementary and substantive solidarity for those under attack, in a way that recognizes contradictions among the people and contradictions between the enemy. Bail out and provide jail support those who participate in revolutionary militancy regardless of what school of thought they are. Fight side by side in tactical unity against fascists.

We will not permit our supporters, friends, and community members who have worked tirelessly in past campaigns to be threatened, intimidated or bullied into not being antifascists. Already we have seen some of the flyers of the mass organization we participate in marked with “1488” and swastikas, as well as the defacement of “Anti-Racist Neighborhood” tags at a bus stop in a popular neighborhood. Fascism is a death factory, it is human vivisection, it is industrialized rape and torture, and the only way to make that extinct is through revolutionary violence. When one chooses to collaborate with fascism they became a fascist, and while reeducation and reintegration is not out of the question at a future time, we (and the many oppressed people they wish to kill right now) do not have the resources or privilege to carefully confront fascists so that some are not as hurt as others. It’s as simple as this — if you have bonehead parents, drop them. If you have a bonehead roommate, break your lease. Or else you are declaring your own immediate economic and emotional needs as more important than that of humanity.

We will continue to propagandize around antifascism, we will continue to develop community reporting of fascists and to hold community workshops to help identify fascists, we will continue to provide self defense when asked of us, to provide training when asked of us, and to dig deep roots among broad numbers of increasingly conscious people in a way that promotes their security as well as ours, so that their survival becomes ours.

Delay means death – organize against the fascist enemy!

*Cointelpro is Counter Intelligence program, it was an elaborate and aggressive counter insurgency program employed by the FBI to attack several movements.

**For the opportunists to note, drinking in social situations is not bad, but getting so drunk that there is either active lack of control or more passive ambivalence towards statements one is making is a security risk and constitutes a behavior worth criticizing.

***Individuals have different levels of maturity, insight and consciousness. And a movement needs to be alert to those differences. People can be quite conscious and self sacrificing without being politically correct all the time or ideologically consolidated. As so, we must be careful in again noting that there is no fixed informant profile, though there are examples that we must draw from.


Rest In Power Michael!

Earlier this week Michael Morgavo (AKA ‘Mush’ and ‘Maël Bisset’) unexpectedly passed away. Mael was a supporter of Serve the People Pittsburgh and of Red Guards Pittsburgh, and of the U.S. MLM movement in general.

Though comrades in the struggle here only met with him briefly and developed a cut-short relationship based on theoretical exchanges and the shared deeply felt need to change the world through revolution, we still feel it proper and our humbling and somber duty to write this small tribute.

Mael was obviously loved and admired by his friends and family and those in the area’s DJ scene as well as by any comrades who knew and struggled with him.

We pine and our class cries for every comrade, for every revolutionary soldier, for every supporter and also for every friend of the people who passes away. Tighten the grip on the red banner, and carry it higher. Take it up and do not let it down.

When somone as young as Mael dies suddenly, it is often the reflection of some crime of the capitalist-imperialist system: dope, suicide, car crash, lumpen or police violence, and so on. We do not know the circumstances of his death, but whatever the cause we say feel no shame! No one should hang their heads in such moments, not when the sun is just rising now over the hills, silhouette, penumbra, corona, and shining light.

We prepare for war now in your absence, friend.

We encourage our supporters to donate to help alleviate his family’s funeral expenses here.

Red salute,
Red Guards Pittsburgh

Solidarity with the People of Afrin! All Out for Supporting the Right to Kurdish National Self-Determination!

Solidarity with the People of Afrin! All Out for Supporting the Right to Kurdish National Self-Determination!

Image: YPJ

Kurdish women YPJ fighters in Rojava.

The people of Afrin are facing a genocidal assault by Erdogan’s fascist state, with thousands of Turkish troops, Humvees, and tanks moving into Syria. The genocidal Turkish army moved into the Kurdish-dominated province after it was announced that Assad’s Baathist state was going to give the national movement the concession of limited autonomy. Here is revealed the territorial logic of oppressor nation chauvinism – much like the Baathists did in Iraq and Syria in the decades before, there are plans to de-Kurdify the area and create a Turkmen majority here to undermine the Kurdish Nation. Horrific video footage of Turkish soldiers in Salafist jihadi-beards excited to butcher “atheist Kurds” have went viral but have been consciously kept out of the capitalist press.

This offensive shakes the already delicate balance of the region. As a blood soaked inter-imperialist proxy war, U.S. imperialism and its junior imperialist lackeys of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel and others have supported the Islamist Free Syria Army as well as Daesh on one side. On the opposing side, Assad and the bureaucratic capitalist class governing Syria has cut deals with Russia to further deepen it into its status as a semi feudal and semi colonial state, through arm deals, unequal trade agreements which deepen the underdevelopment of domestic industries and force greater dependency, and deepened invitation of Russian military presence there (though it was announced recently that Russian personnel would be pulled out). The revisionist and national chauvinist Syrian Communist Party has marched the most class conscious and revolutionary parts of the Syrian Arab proletariat into the latter’s camp.

In this cauldron did the Kurdish national movement grow, specifically in Rojava. To receive material aid to defeat Daesh, the Kurds there, represented by the Democratic Union Party (DUP), Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) and People’s Protection Units (YPG), entered into a temporal “alliance” with U.S. imperialism. While Kurdish national leadership have emphasized the fleeting and tenuous nature of this relationship, and recent meetings between the Orange Duce Trump and Erdogan resulted in the cutting off of military aid to Syrian Kurds, 13 U.S. military bases remain in Rojava. All imperialist moves and manipulations in Syria must be counteracted. The Turkish invasion of Afrin did not occur without U.S. or Russian permission, as betrayal by imperialist vipers who only have an insatiable taste for the blood of this resource-rich region is inevitable.

It is clear that there is no time for “tactical alliance” anymore, illusions are something the brave Kurdish fighters can no longer afford. But in spite of criticisms we should have of the line and direction this movement has taken, the need for our international solidarity is needed now more than ever. Turkey, a NATO state, and the ruling fascist AKP party of Erdogan, is kept awake at night by the fact that Rojava is the fuse to the dynamite of Kurds living within the interior of Turkey. Turkey’s interference in Afrin to suppress the Kurds, Assyrians, and Arabs there is related directly to its fears that the Kurdish national movement’s accomplishments will strength the revolutionary movements to the west of Anatolia. Their destiny is, in many ways, intertwined.

Our duty as revolutionaries in the belly of the beast, far from the cauldron that is brewing, is to to practice solidarity with the Kurds. We must organize against the aggression of the Turkish state in spaces of political and military importance to it here in the USA, including at Combined Tactical Inc. in Jamestown, Pennsylvania (a factory where 130,000 tear gas cannisters which were used in Turkey in the last 4 years were produced). Or at Carnegie Mellon University here in Pittsburgh, where technology for killer drones and other aerial systems of imperialist death that are given to Erdogan’s gangsters is financed through Department of Defense grants.  The most advanced guard of the revolutionary proletariat here in the USA will be organized to tip of the smoldering cauldron Turkish fascism and imperialism is creating over into the streets here, making mere statements of solidarity into resistance to the ruling system and its enforcers.

Victory to the resistance of the Kurdish people and other indigenous peoples of Afrin against the genocidal aggressors of the Turkish state!

Death to AKP’s fascist gangs!

Death to the invaders!

Red Guards Pittsburgh

Settle the Issue

Sophia Burns’ Politics is a Case Study in the Right-Opportunist Conception of the Mass Line Method of Communist Leadership


pcp organize with guns image

“The necessity of systematically imbuing the masses with this and precisely this view of violent revolution lies at the root of the entire theory of Marx and Engels. The betrayal of their theory by the now prevailing social-chauvinist and Kautskyite trends expresses itself strikingly in both these trends ignoring such propaganda and agitation” — Lenin in State and Revolution

As Maoists, we define our position in relation to the masses, the rest of the Left, and the world in general through struggle. This means criticism of every position, including our own.

As we exist in the imperialist metropole, one of our main struggles must be against a kind of default right-opportunism, an opportunism produced through the strength of the superstructural forces of the bourgeoisie and through the bribery, relatively large or small depending on certain factors, of large swaths of the masses in the metropole through admission into the labor aristocracy, etc. These factors which impact the masses also impact the Left, making tailism and economism very attractive (this is by far not the last word on this default opportunism — see the “Further Reading” section for more on this).

This struggle against right-opportunism often manifests itself as a struggle against a rightist deviation from the mass line method of communist leadership, the method through which communists scientifically unite with and lead the masses, as well as the method through which we identify the social body called the masses which, led by the proletariat, are capable of making revolution.

The Communist Labor Party activist and theorist Sophia Burns is a leading US theorist of the right opportunist deviation from the mass line. We have prepared this initial criticism of Burns’ positions to help clarify in folks’ minds the stakes and forces at play in the defense of the correct application of the mass line. We hope this will be useful for Maoist activists, activist folks tangential to or interested in Maoism and the mass line, and also folks relatively new to organizing and activism.

Sophia Burns has positioned herself as a leading theorist of a resurgent left-communism in the US (which, contextually, manifests as refoundationalism) made concrete in the loose coalition of social-democratic, left-com, and big-tent groups called Marxist Center, all united around a right-opportunist conception of the mass line method of communist leadership.

Here we look mostly at a few of Burns’ theoretical pieces, “Don’t Run for Office” with some discussion of “You Have to Deliver” and “Front Groups Kill the Revolution”. All of these are individually penned and not explicitly related to Burns’ political organizations or trends, but at some point an intellectual and their writing becomes a representative of a group, tendency, etc; it is the easiest thing in the world to wave off criticisms by claiming that they’ve missed the mark, especially around big-tent projects which pride themselves on their unity around indecision, but it is clear that Burns represents at the very least a significant trend in contemporary refoundationalism.


What we find in Burns’ writing is an affect of seriousness, of getting down to business and being done with all the sentimental nonsense such as 1917, the Party, our ideologies, etc, that has hampered the Left. But this affect functions as a repression, and as with all repression it is simultaneously the return of the repressed — she circles around to sentimentality and virtue posturing just at the moment of the radical break from past false consciousness and opportunism. This is precisely the gesture of the centrist (to be done with X or Y nonsense or “shibboleth”, a favorite scare-term of Burns), which always eventually overdetermines into rightism.

For instance while Maoists say that election work in the long-run disarms the proletariat and the masses, Burns argues in “Don’t Run for Office” against engaging in election work as this work tends to lead to the full co-option of left groups. This is a tight and logical, and thus comforting, argument for the left line on elections, and seems clearer and more actionable than the more poetic Maoist line.

However, there is no shift from quantity to quality with Burns, no formation of the universal which can guide politics, thus we are left only with things tending towards their already chosen destinations (this is the role of a tendency towards X). Election work will derail and eventually overcome community work, very well, but what of the question of power at the very base of this distinction between election-work and base-building work? Who is being co-opted? Left groups or the community itself? What separates the two? Where does the question of the gun come in? Nowhere.

It in fact becomes very clear that Burns has no conception or doesn’t want to have a conception of the armament or disarmament of the masses or even of proletarian politics as opposed to merely “community” politics. The only operative distinction for Burns is between self-organization and organizing co-opted by the state apparatuses.

But the question of the gun is central to politics, for it is the question of the seizure of power, which itself structures and encapsulates all these other questions.

We cannot push the question of the seizure of power into some unspecified time in the future, and for the same reason we cannot push aside the question of leadership and organization until another unspecified time in the future. To be a refoundationalist and thus to linger on the current “undecidability” of matters is akin to setting out to expand the field of biology while remaining undecided on the universality of Darwinian evolution. One will necessarily get nowhere.

This is why in the “What is to be done?” section of Burns’ piece we are left merely with the blueprint for building an unspecified dual power, i.e. without knowing whose power, what power is to be opposed to that of the bourgeois state and capital.

We should ask the Leninist question of every ideological term: X very well, but X for whom, and to do what? I.e. we should ask “Dual power very well, but for whom and to do what?”

We are left with nothing but the image of a proliferation of dual power networks and schemes: more and more community-run gardens, health clinics, etc without acknowledging, again, the need to shift from quantity to quality. In revolution this shift takes place ultimately when the gun is taken up and declared to be the primary mode of revolutionary struggle, and all struggles before that critical moment must be oriented towards it—legal and non-legal, above-ground and underground.

As an aside: this generalized right-opportunism masked through pragmatic and leftist language can also be seen through a symptomatic reading of this “What is to be done?” section. For instance, here Burns says that “the two most prominent sets of institutions [which direct social activity]… are the largest capitalist corporations and the governments”. Here we should remind ourselves that it is not governments which we should focus our analysis on, but the class character of the state, in particular. As the Communist Party of Peru reminds us in their General Political Line, focusing on governments can lead us to opportunistically tail after one or another governmental faction, which inevitably means tailing after one or another faction of the bourgeoisie (comprador against national bourgeoisie, for instance) rather than setting up independent proletarian power.

[Note: This section has been edited for clarity] This is no idle theoretical point: various Marxist Center-affiliated groups have shown legalist tendencies or worse, with Tacoma Serve the People an official non-profit, organizing with sanction from the state, and Austin Socialist Collective harboring a member who is unapologetic about having worked with the police, as RGA discusses in its piece criticizing him and ASC.

This means functionally mis-identifying the class character of the state even if they declare themselves in general against capital and its state apparatus.

Power comes from the barrel of the gun. It does not come from giving people things that they want or need better than the state and NGOs and etcetera, proving therefore through successive good deeds that revolution is the way forward.

Without a conception of the place of the gun in revolution, without a conception of protracted people’s war—the only proletarian science of warfare—and without the conception of the party there can be no talk of making revolution. There can instead only be talk of little community pet projects given a semblance of revolutionary life because against the backdrop of the general US leftist swamp of opportunism and do-nothingism, it seems very radical and forward-thinking to speak generally and vaguely of dual power.

Thus Burns leaves us with the feeling that dual power has no power at all and in fact can only exist through the good graces of the enemy. This is particularly ironic when the majority of “Don’t Run For Office” is spent arguing, correctly, against relying on the good graces of the enemy—against electoralism and reformism, as the gains from these strategies are so easily swept aside or co-opted.

But the same truth holds for “dual power institutions”: the moment one’s free breakfast program become a threat or seems to be gaining hold of the imagination of the people, it will be co-opted or destroyed. This holds doubly so for the kind of dual power Burns imagines: institutions which are not controlled or led by “outside powers” like a vanguard party, that 21st century bogeyman.

It’s revealing to Burns’ ideology (at base a clever anti-communism, or at least more clever than the DSA’s anti-communism) that the community itself is not posited as outside itself when it is constructed through the processes of capital, of the enemy, while the Party is constructed specifically to organize the people against this enemy.

Indeed, what proof is there that direct or participatory democracy and community control of institutions helps these institutions resist co-option, let alone destruction? It seems quite natural that a community organization formed to achieve certain goals for the community will self-liquidate as soon as these goals are met or as soon as the state promises to achieve these goals. In this way, Burns smuggles movementism into a conception of struggle that at first glance seems opposed to movement-hopping or tailism (i.e. following after the more backwards sections of the people rather than uniting with the advanced and bringing up the rest).

Also, and following from the above, the critical question of trade union consciousness versus class consciousness is here thrown out. At least the anarchists attempt to resolve this contradiction through positing one’s internal “desires” as the wellspring from which class consciousness, or revolutionary/insurrectionary consciousness, emerges. Thus the anarchists have something going for them as they rely on a “black box” theory of revolutionary upsurge, unscientific and idealist to be sure, but Burns doesn’t even offer this bit of minimal positive programme despite all the pretenses and flourish to really getting down to business.

We cannot just muck about with vaguely defined dual-power politics assuming this experience will coalesce at some point into a clear blueprint for revolutionary success. Only an organization comprising the most advanced and far thinking of the proletariat can lead the people to total victory. This much is made very clear by historical analysis.


More trickery, more weaponized truisms, are deployed by Burns in “Front Groups Kill the Revolution”, a piece that attacks Trotskyists, Marcyites, and Maoists as all attempting to fool the masses into following them.

Of course we must not lie to the masses, this too is a useful truism. And we do not lie to the masses in the Maoist movement; Maoists who work in mass organizations do not hide their politics or ideologies, though sometimes it is necessary to hide one’s membership in specific organizations due to the possibility of police or fascist repression. All of this seems like a non-issue. However, there is a greater deception that really will “kill the revolution” which, one way or another, Trotskyists, Marcyites, and Burns engage in.

In arguing that other groups through electioneering and “building the party” put off the question of power, Burns has herself put off the question of power, but this time by being silent in order to distance herself from those who speak falsehoods to the masses on this question—for instance the falsehoods that elections or a forever-delayed insurrection will lead to power. Burns’ position is thus a lie by omission, no less harmful and misleading than a direct lie.

It is a great and dangerous lie to tell the masses that we can have a revolution through the vague peaceful means of building dual power, and it is a similar deception to put off this question. Thus Burns engages in the same error, the same lie in the face of the people, that she claims the so-called “insurrectionists and vanguardists” engage in by putting off the great insurrection to the distant horizon of the future—but while these “insurrectionists” and “vanguardists” put off the question of the armed struggle, she completely erases it from existence! Burns can claim that having correct ideas is less important than building working class power, and that correct ideas don’t make correct politics, but at this point we wonder if Burns even believes that there are correct ideas.

We know that correct ideas come from struggle, and that these ideas in turn will help the struggle progress. The most advanced and correct forms of struggle coalesce and are enacted by the vanguard party and the advanced masses it leads. This means that if a force is rising up as the most capable of leading the struggle forward, it is labelled the vanguard. This is objective, not the subjective diabolical plotting of some shadowy “vanguardists” seeking to enter and corrupt the good, spontaneous, and participatory movements of the masses.

Of course, Maoists think M-L-M is the most correct and useful ideology for revolution. For instance we know that individual liberation struggles, i.e. national liberation, trans liberation, etc, can only go so far without being unified and thrust forward through proletarian leadership in the general revolution of the broad masses of society. Calling such beliefs, formed through struggle and study of history a “sociological phenomenon” as Burns does, calling groups with ideological unity “groupuscule[s] with a messiah complex” kicks her arguments from the realm of the political to the realm of petty mud-slinging. Indeed, the very same mud-slinging charges she brings against the RCP, Trotskyites, and the US Maoist movement could be brought against her and her loose “left unity” group the Marxist Center: you go to the masses with vague talk of “dual power” while engaging in the same economism and right-opportunism as the old opponents of Lenin and Mao. You think you can save the US Left because you’ve discovered the scientific formula for building power, which boils down to “people are congenial to us when they get what they want!” Here, too, the critique falls flat insofar as it relies on a political parallax.

Tangentially—though part of this left-in-form-right-in-essence rhetoric—in this same piece on front groups, Burns repeats a dangerous myth that the Maoist organization in Austin overlaps completely with the trans liberation group there, putting the trans activists at risk from the very active and dangerous fascists of Texas. This rumor-spreading is done in the service of speculation on the organizational lines, make-up, and sincerity of the Maoist movement in the US. There is only bad faith argument happening here; for instance, can we not more easily imagine that the trans activist group and the Maoist group in Austin came to a level of agreement and unity through struggle, debate, etc, than we can imagine that the Maoists set up a false trans organization in order to siphon the trans proletariat’s spontaneous anger into the Maoist “self-justifying sect”?


Some may say we are being un-generous or too hasty in the charge of opportunism along these lines, that arguing from a negative or missing piece of Burns’ theories (the missing theorization of revolutionary violence) towards a positive assessment (that of the presence of opportunism) is a stretch. Indeed, perhaps Burns merely discusses violence elsewhere, or only with the masses she encounters in her activist work, or via a pseudonym to avoid persecution, etc. Perhaps. But there are public intellectuals elsewhere who candidly discuss violence (Badiou and Bonanno for instance) and there are ways to discuss violence intellectually without contributing to future conspiracy cases the state will levy against us. Which is to say, we cannot always hide. This is the same form of mistake that Engels criticizes the German Social-Democrats for in using the vague and nice-sounding phrase “free people’s republic” in order to blur revolutionary ideology and appease the Prussian state.


When the question of violence does come up for Burns, as in her piece “Catharsis is Counter-Revolutionary”, it is pushed aside as a question for another time. She says the “cathartic” left just smashes stuff to feel good, or conversely just organizes self-help circles. Very well, but what of the violence which follows the mass line method for building actual dual power? What of the violence which charges first into the trench while waving to the advanced masses to follow, thus teaching the people the invaluable lesson of the necessity of revolutionary violence? Conspicuous silence, ringing in our ears like the after-effect of a nearby explosion.

Indeed, Burns says of “combat catharsis” that it “…does not engage positively with anyone who doesn’t already share its values. The defining image is an individual activist trying to be heroic. It rarely leads to the growth of roots in working-class communities or further collective action.”

What can we say about this? Other than the banal argument that street fighting often doesn’t connect with the masses, there is, again, something ominous lurking in the background: a moment before, Burns says without explanation, as if it is self-evident, violence must only be used “when it strategically makes sense — and it often doesn’t”. Thus revolutionary violence is usually not useful, and furthermore it is, for Burns, a way of reinforcing a gendered division of labor into activism, making women do reproductive activist labor while men fight the good fight in the streets.

Both these objections are, characteristically, opportunist contortions of correct positions on violence’s connection to the masses and to the women’s liberation struggle. First, the masses are itching to confront the enemy. In the workplace, in the home, in the streets. There are of course subjective and objective conditions which must be met in order for this confrontation to be successful in building revolution, but it is precisely the voice of opportunism which claims that only a small group of activists (and macho ones at that!) wishes to fight in the streets, while the masses are alienated and confused by such actions (the ISO piece on the Berkeley anti-Spencer action, for instance).

See Red Guards Pittsburgh’s piece on anti-fascist mass based action “Fight, Bleed, Win Alongside the Masses” for more on the willingness of the masses to fight, and the opportunist maneuvers to separate the masses from their weapons for liberation.

This goes as well for the supposed gendered and patriarchal division in activist circles that street fighting breeds. The macho men want to fight the fascists and the police, while the women are relegated to behind-the-scenes, banal reproductive labor. If this is the case, the issue is not with street-fighting, but with the methods of organizing these fights. Women’s liberation requires revolutionary violence, thus women must be steeled as revolutionary leaders, and part of this steeling, as with steeling the masses for battle and developing revolutionary leadership from among the masses, is through engaging in actual battles. How does one learn to fight without fighting? We must break the frankly sexist and patriarchal view that guns and boxing gloves are for men. If a group operates like this then they must be struggled with, and not through taking away their guns, but through placing the guns in the hands of women.

It is telling, engaging in symptomatic reading again, that in the piece in question Burns says combat is “radical chic”, a term coined by the reactionary writer Tom Wolfe in his anti-Black Panthers pieces, used to reduce the Panthers and their (white) supporters to sex objects.

All of this should be fairly uncontroversial for revolutionaries, as the revolution is not a dinner party. But again and again, Burns has made the revolution into a dinner party. Whether or not this dinner party takes place in a community-run garden is of no consequence.


What we find, then, is that at the centre of Burns’ project is a left-communist mis-diagnosis of the issues with the general US Left: not enough participatory democracy, too much lying to the masses, too much sectarianism and narrow orthodoxy, etc.

This spectral non-critique becomes all the more clear in Burns’ piece “You Have to Deliver” which argues that the weakness of the US Left is due in no small part to an internal contradiction and not merely external repression and the difficult conditions caused by organizing in the imperialist metropole. Very well, that much is clear for much of the left today. But Burns’ characterization of this contradiction is where things become odd: she draws a distinction between ideas and practice, the latter being the delivery mentioned in the title, and says the left has focused too much on propagating ideas and not enough on putting them into practice. Of course the masses will take up radical ideas more readily if they are shown to work in practice. This is a no-brainer.

So what is the essence of the critique at work here, then? Lasting institutions which give to the people must be built, says Burns, which can put ideas into practice and thus prove them and improve upon them in turn. This is a basic re-hashing of the Marxist theory of knowledge, but with a key bit of deception, for history shows that the best and longest-lasting revolutionary institution is the communist party (though even the Party must be challenged and eventually “withered away” through a series of cultural revolutions which attack bourgeois restorationist elements within the party and society at large). Not so for Burns. For Burns, the Party cannot serve the people; it can only trick and alienate the people. For Burns, it seems, only spontaneous and results-driven (i.e. economism-driven) institutions can avoid co-option or destruction by the state and its NGOs, etc.


There’s nothing new at work here, just the same old revisionism and dead-end opportunism that resurfaces like a corpse time and time again. For instance, let’s look quickly at a section of Harry Haywood’s study of the opportunism of the anti-Stalin revisionists in the CPUSA (a link is in the “Further Reading” section below). It is not only important in general to learn from past struggles against opportunism and revisionism, but will also help us end this analysis of Burns’ rightism without the mistaken sense that Burns, Marxist Center, and their affiliated refoundationalist groups are anything new or exciting. Forgive the relatively long quote, but we hope it will sound with a familiar peal:

“The tactics of the open liquidators, the center and the “left” conciliators were very similar. They kept trying to forestall any kind of meaningful discussion. Given Foster’s original scheme at the 16th Party Convention, the revisionists continued their effort to separate a program for mass work from any basic, fundamental discussion of line. Ben Davis and others ushered in the slogan of “let’s get to work.” “The rank and file,” Davis said in the Party Voice, “are sick and tired of internal strife, of arguing over meaningless abstractions.” I made a speech at the reconvened convention in Harlem, fighting for restoration of our revolutionary position on the Negro question and an end to tailing after the leadership of the NAACP. Davis immediately attacked me — “Left to Harry here, he and me would be left along to fighting it down to the ropes. We can’t afford that, we gotta get to work!”

We see here another related trick of the opportunists which involves the prescriptive closing-off of when theory, or line formation, is acceptable. For example, we do not need to ignore historical analysis when it comes to electioneering or attempting to work within the Democratic Party – we do not need to re-confirm today what we found out quite convincingly yesterday, that the Democratic Party is a graveyard which we should not leap into again and again. But at a certain point, theory becomes an unacceptable hindrance to the kind of “work” one wants to do. Perhaps this should give pause to consider what kind of work this is — what kind of work finds theoretical analysis useful when drawing a line of demarcation with election work or protest-oriented work, but will then consign holding lines related to the Party, to building the People’s Army, to the dictatorship of the proletariat and cultural revolution, to national liberation vs. assimilation, as going too far, as engaging in “too many study groups,” or as synonymous with “sectarianism”.

Indeed, opportunism draws the lines convenient for its kind of work but there is no coherency, no thorough principle, behind this except for finding sloppy justifications for what one already wants to do. Again, the really radical rightists will go so far as to invoke Mao on the circuit of knowledge: practice-theory-practice, as if this means that instead of basing ourselves on the accumulation of generations of practice which have clarified the battlefield, we should instead limit ourselves to starting from the “practical” point of what happens when we step outside our doors in the morning.


Where do we stand, finally?

In criticizing Burns’ conception of the mass line method of leadership, we have posed the question of what is to be done. The solution is protracted people’s war, led by the communist party as the most advanced formation of the proletariat, at the head of the broad masses. This much is clear from revolutionary history: nothing less can win us power. Not the un-scientific fooling around of the anarchists with “anti-authoritarianism”, not electoralism and reformism, and not the Burns-ian talk of the eventual creation of parallel social structures which then vaguely transform into dual power and then overcome capitalism as we somehow grow to no longer need capitalism.

While Burns has correctly diagnosed the majority of the US left as sinking and drowning in the metropole, she has proposed in drowning’s stead to merely tread water. We must instead rise up out of this left-activist cesspool by uniting with and thus leading the masses through the revolutionary struggle, upwards to ever higher stages and intensities of struggle until communism.

Further Reading:

Three River Reds is now Red Guards Pittsburgh

Originally published November 30, 2017


first shot at rgpgh graphic

3RR is happy to announce that we are now Red Guards Pittsburgh. This name change reflects a step towards ideological and political unity with Red Guards Austin and Red Guards Los Angeles, two of the longest running autonomous Maoist collectives in the United States.

We reaffirm our guiding ideology as Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, principally Maoism. We reaffirm our dedication to build a fighting communism in Pittsburgh as all the Maoist collectives struggle toward greater unity and the eventual creation of the Communist Party, a proletarian Party capable of leading the broad masses in the struggle for revolution – for revolution until communism!

Let’s make communism a threat again! 

Lets build the collectives and build the Party!


Black Holes: Speak Bitterly, Boycott Elections

Originally published September 27, 2017

This piece is part of an ongoing debate within this collective, as well the mass organizations we’re involved in, about whether we can electorally transform society in ways that the oppressed need. It is a call for the nonnegotiable necessity of an independent revolutionary movement able to take initiative in long term strategic ways, a movement that has a separate apparatus, identity, program, and agenda than those that are part of the legal left. This means a movement whose defining unity is a profound radical change in society — toward a socialism that is not conceived as “welfare state writ large” or a bit of nationalization, but as a movement with a unified understanding of the need for the deep structural and uncompromising uprooting of empire, national oppression, the inequality of women and non-men, police and prisons, and the exploitation of one human by another. This piece will show what we strive for in the organizing projects, propaganda projects, and theoretical projects our members are involved in as it relates to elections. We encourage communists and non-communists alike to study this and criticize us as part of a living dialogue against strategies that urge us to abandon revolution for the system’s politic of the “real.”

black hole

A black hole occurs when millions of star’s worth of gas gets compressed into a supermassive space that sucks in matter for lightyears around it, depriving the local area of star making material. Eventually, as the star-building material gets locked up in black holes, white dwarfs and other star relics, the galaxy becomes fainter as the massive, short-lived stars wink out and only the long-lived red dwarfs remain. Eventually, these too will fade away, leaving a dead, dark and desolate galaxy filled with nothing but black holes, black dwarfs (White dwarfs that have cooled down) and the occasional cold, dead planet that survived its star’s death.


The system and its ruling class generally push people, especially the proletariat, out of political life. Then, once every few years, it drops vast sums of money and energy to indoctrinate people in its politics which is the management of the state of affairs. And it mobilizes people temporarily in this ritualized process of electioneering and voting. This arena, and even these local elections here in the working class neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, are not an opportunity for revolutionaries, but one of the least advantageous times for conducting our politics – it is the place and time where revolutionary voices are blown away, and a relentless (and very reactionary!) logic grips. Some “socialists” don’t even feel the need to hide their opportunism, they don’t even feel the need to even imply that they see these sham elections that mean nothing to our class as somehow illegitimate, they explicitly invest money and support in running people for senate or city council, upholding this system, its offices, the constitution, “American democracy,” the due process of this racist lynching court system, the “will of the people,” and so on. Who are those that wish to push us into this black star – which has historically and will today swallow us, if we choose to steer our ship into it?

This goofball bunch of pig apologists, collaborators, NGO poverty pimps, and water carriers for the ruling class have gained momentum since the election of Kshama Sawant in Seattle to City Council and Bernie Sanders’ nearly successful securing of the Democratic presidential candidacy. While us, poor people, alienated youth, black people, immigrants (especially the undocumented) become tense when cops arrive into a situation because we know that the police are the enemy. But these “socialists” see a potential Sheriff they can help elect. While we have mothers who warn us that confrontation with the police can lead to death, to swallow pride in front of magistrates and put on passive, non-hostile poker faces to not go to the jail, the Democratic Socialists of America see an excellent opportunity helping one run for office! In Brooklyn there was a DSA candidate for District Attorney in the Democratic primary and there is now a DSA city council candidate who works as a clergy liaison with the NYPD, the “stop and frisk” and mass surveillance police agency. In Pittsburgh we have the endorsement of Mik Pappas by the DSA to be the Magistrate of Garfield, East Liberty, Stanton Heights, Morningside, Upper Lawrenceville, Bloomfield, Friendship, and Highland Park.

These neighborhoods are ground zero for urban displacement (what people call “gentrification”) in Pittsburgh, it’s where the smashed ruins of Penn Plaza are at, a housing complex which was sold to LG Realty to be turned into a Whole Foods for the new residents. Pappas’ office is actually located on Penn Avenue, a street in Garfield and Upper Lawrenceville that was once mostly Black, but that now caters to yoga studios, dog wash stores, art galleries, tech incubators, and other gentrifying businesses that aren’t there to suit the needs of the people in the neighborhood. In Pappas’ Magisterial district there was 650 landlord-tenant cases last year alone, data revealing deep economic trauma and abuse by politicians, city planners, developers, bankers, and landlords against the working class.

But will this end, or at least meaningfully mitigate, that trauma? No, we all know it will not. One sees that this politics that advocates a gamble in trauma mitigation is (in essence) liberal and social democratic, not communist and revolutionary. What is harmful though, is the pitch they are making to the revolution-inclined in the neighborhoods, those people who are ready to fight for their lives and for a new society. Its point is, inherently and rather consciously, the liquidation of independent communist work as “ultra left” and the promotion of an illusion that a stage of social democratic activism will create more favorable conditions for radical social change.

Pushing for elections, then, represents the liquidation of any militant anti-gentrification movement. It represents flying into the blackhole, running a campaign as nothing more than part of a immediate social movement protest around immediate demands, with “socialism” as a passing reference. It means never creating a revolutionary situation. What are some examples of elections liquidating militancy? And it’s also easy to talk about the liquidators, but what are the methods of initiating revolutionary struggle and gathering revolutionary forces?


History has showed that when phony “communists” in the USA entered into elections, it’s been both disastrous and a predictable joke—immediately upon entering the process of supporting ‘progressive’ candidates you enter into a process in which you find yourself supporting the empire, its enforcers, and its illusions. You find yourself arguing that domestic concessions are more important than opposing worldwide murder… and you’ll find yourself exaggerating the differences between different shades of imperialist and pro-police politics. Most important: You spend your time training anyone you meet, influence or lead in bourgeois politics (cut of the pie, budgetary approach to policy, inner-imperialist compromise, imperialist foreign policy, focus on reform at the margins, etc) rather than in proletarian politics. This is, in short, liquidationism—the reformist theory, strategy, and tactics of a capitalist reformist movement infiltrating and overcoming the revolutionary theory, strategy and tactics of a revolutionary communist movement through the latter entering into alignment with the former and thus losing its ability to fight. There are many examples of this in 20th century USA to help us guide our thinking on the question of liquidationism.

The Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) supported the Democratic Party—from the inside and outside—since the 1936 Presidential election. It dumped the Trade Union Unity League and other mass worker organizations and marched them into the AFL-CIO. CPUSA became a junior partner within Roosevelt’s New Deal and World War coalition, which allowed it to rise to its greatest size in history – with hundreds of thousands of members – but as the left wing of the Democratic war coalition. It enforced “no strike” pledges in the industries it organized, dropped all pretenses of support for Puerto Rican independence as the “blood tax” (what they called the WW2 draft there) marched them as colonial subjects off to fight, and angrily attacked Communists in Alabama who chose to organize black sharecroppers, as this upset the Klan-affiliated Dixiecrats who were part of Roosevelt’s electoral coalition. For all this pandering and reactionary work, the CPUSA was then discarded and shattered when their good graces no longer served U.S. imperialism in its temporal and opportunistic alliance with the Soviet Union.

From there the CPUSA still supported Democratic candidates, with the exception of their third party attempt with Henry Wallace after WW2. They would also “run” their own Communist candidates, but mainly as a gimmick, so that their favored “progressive” Democrat could disavow Communist support (“how can you accuse me of association with the Communist Party, they are running someone against me!”)

In the Democratic primaries of 1968, thousands of antiwar college students went “Clean for Gene,” cutting their hair and straightening it. These efforts at first demobilized many people, while conversely, for all things are in contradiction, the 1968 Democratic National Convention showed who the gatekeepers of the Party were – and the riots that followed taught a harsh lesson against trusting in bourgeois elections and politicking.

But still afterwards quite a few sheepdoggers (i.e. those who gather up the people who drift away from their “rightful” bourgeois leaders”) continued their liquidationist work – for instance Carl Davidson, the Aliquippa DSA water-carrier for the Democrats. Davidson saw the George McGovern campaign in 1972 as an arena for finally pressing through the antiwar victory everyone had been fighting for. Not just liberals, but supposed leftist forces joined into the sheep dogging;, including, for example, Jane Fonda who had famously gone to North Vietnam and made a series of historically important defeatist statements, including in broadcasts to American GIs. More, the Vietnamese Workers Party urged revolutionaries to actively support McGovern. Curiously influenced by that, the Revolutionary Communist Party’s close collaborators in party-building at that time, the Black Workers Congress, was urging McGovern support. The word was put out (deceitfully) that “The Vietnamese are losing the war” — and that if we didn’t support McGovern, they might suffer a military collapse. This, again, caused considerable disorientation and confusion.

So where was the DSA during this? Its leader Michael Harrington was at first to the right of even Carl Davidson. As author of “The Other America,” the forces that grouped around Harrington were greatly encouraged by the rise of Lyndon Johnson to the U.S. presidency, especially with his attempt to formulate a “Great Society” of new social programs (wedded to the voting rights act), as a response to the struggles of black people for liberation.

The excitement over the liberal “domestic agenda” made the democratic socialists scared of the new antiwar movement, which had started during Kennedy’s opening of intervention in Vietnam. They used the rebating excuse of “communists” in the antiwar movement to take a distance. Today, funny enough, DSA members are still barred from being “a member of a Leninist organization,” just as back then they were wedded to an old and very reactionary 1950s policy of refusing to work in any coalition that included “the Stalinist totalitarians,” since (they argued) such a movement would not have any credibility in the USA. This was opportunism, considering that what they cared more about was seeking sympathy and possible allies in ruling class circles than the construction of an independent proletarian politics.

Michael Harrington’s intuitive sympathy for Lyndon Johnson and Vice President Humphrey meant that the democratic socialists were MIA in the creation of the greatest anti-imperialist movement in U.S. history (and it meant that, as a trend, they were not able to build themselves a new political current out of the 1960s revolutionaries even though the ground was as fertile for their trend as it was for others).

Later the DSA was instrumental in backing Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaigns in 1984 and 1988. Using a lot of self-deception and ignoring the dangers of again tailing liberal electoral campaigns, the DSA again never learned and walked into the wolfs den. Jackson then worked ruthlessly to dismantle (shatter!) those forces that had grouped around him, precisely so they could not operate as an independent force. How could he broker his career as a fixture within the Democratic Party if he allowed anything “independent” to operate? The aftermath of Sanders’ defeat, of which the DSA has done little summation or analysis, also showed a similar process of dismantlement, with an emphasis on a “political revolution” around supporting Hillary that came after.

These all should be raised as the cautionary tales they are. Analogies are difficult, and Bernie Sanders (for many reasons) will never simply be “today’s Lyndon Johnson” — even as he now emulates him in some ways by voting to escalate Trump’s Afghan war and aggression towards Korea. While this history should  underscore the importance of opposing the U.S. government (whoever sits in the seats of power), and developing a revolutionary communist movement with real and proletarian independence from bourgeois machinations, initiative, and a public radical critique of the capitalist system itself, the DSA will continue smashing its head on the pavement, continuing Harrington’s tradition of being fascinated with the “domestic agenda” of liberals-in-power, and an ambivalent or paralyzed and paralyzing stand toward their attacks against the people.

When the social democrats, in this ambivalence, do not take a stand with the masses, it will prove forever unforgivable. The masses are watching. History is watching. These false socialists and their so-called progressive candidates will inevitably commit crime after crime against the people and their revolutionary initiative, and it will be necessary to resist their influence if we do not wish to capitulate totally to liquidation.


 ebert bernie and big pappas
Freidrich Ebert, The Bern, and Mik Pappas

What then, is the path forward? Must we reinvent the wheel again, trying and failing to push progressive change through bourgeois politics? No, we say instead that we must make revolution, which is necessarily an illegal act. And moreover, we know that regardless of how kind-hearted or progressive an individual member of the ruling class may be (including a judge we helped elect, hoping for mutual back-scratching on that account), they will ultimately use both sugar-coated bullets (pandering, redirection of militant energy, and more) and real bullets to stop the masses from making revolution.

But because the revolutionary road may be difficult to grasp, because it is hard to imagine now in this environment of defeatism, dispassion, and disconnection from the masses, the legal left endlessly defers the question of revolution until such a time as our forces are “strong enough” or even sees revolution as part of a process of accumulating reforms within the system until some vague “socialism” is reached. It’s telling that such a deferral of revolutionary action never takes the form of actually building up fighting capacity, but instead engages in tailing trade unions, electioneering, organizing vigils and toothless demonstrations.

Bernstein, a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) who was an opponent to more revolutionary enemies, said that talk of fighting was old-fashion as reforms would pave the way over time to socialism:

“All the speeches of the [SPD’s] representatives breathe reform…the social democrats [at that time the term meant communist––it wasn’t until after Bernstein and Kautsky that it became a slur for welfare capitalist ideology] formed an alliance with the middle-class democracy for the municipal elections, and their example was followed in other Wurtemberg towns.  In the trade union movement one union after another proceeds to establish funds for out-of-work members, which practically means a giving up of the characteristics of a purely fighting coalition… Everywhere there is action for reform, action for social progress, action for the victory of democracy.”

Bernstein imagined that the reforms he passed was the same as revolution, when all it was doing was liquidating the movement there and leading to collaboration with fascism to quell those who stepped out of rank. Similar statements come from those on the legal left today – including the DSA.

Because social democratic politics refuses to break from bourgeois legality, from campaigning for someone who they hope will crush the people slightly less due to his innate kindness and legal understanding of how the criminal justice system works, they set the stage for when this innate kindness becomes trumped by the material conditions, the driving forces of capitalism. Kindness cannot stand up to market forces.

In this context, all these reformist promises that the DSA present will be dashed to pieces when Pappas turns on militant anti-gentrification and tenant struggle committee activists, on Communists, on tenants, and on workers, just as it was dashed to pieces when the Freikorps murdered Luxemburg and Liebknecht when Bernstein’s SPD, embedded as it was in electoral practice, had called upon and permitted these assassinations. Corpses speak the need to break, consciously and decisively, from the black hole of bourgeois legality and politics to build an actual communist movement.


speak bitterness struggle committee image

How do we break from this disastrous road and build up our fight capacity, our class’ independent fighting capacity, over and against the insistence from the DSA and other reformist forces that such a break is premature, disastrous, and ultra-left? Such a break involves the development of independent organizations through armed struggle and revolutionary violence primarily, along with “legal” methods secondarily and subordinated to the formation of a fighting, militant Party, all derived from mass participation and the development of militant and communist leadership from among the masses. Such a break also means uniting and struggling with the “left wing” of social democratic parties and organizations, as good people can be in bad political projects, and as social democratic, reformist, and legalist organizations can nevertheless contain some elements of “spontaneous” mass character.

A revolutionary movement must first be unified theoretically and practically, and it needs to step outside of those institutions that are apparatuses of the bourgeois state. This must mean it must break from the very style of organizing that is limited by bourgeois legality. This must mean it has to develop three magic weapons, and it must do so concentrically through working class struggles and from within our neighborhoods themselves—these weapons are the revolutionary Party, the People’s Army, and the United Front. These weapons do not arise spontaneously in the process of working within institutions or projects beholden to capitalism, of being a paid staffer for a union or nonprofit, or of a campaign for a “progressive” candidates. They will only arise through the conscious combination legal and illegal methods, to prepare and strengthen those we live among the masses for confrontation with the enemy.

This means organizing the masses in “speaking bitterness,” which was the process by which the masses in China demanded, through popular committees, that overthrown landlords answer for their crimes. Speaking bitterness was and is about the development of common campaigns and actions which serve to create legitimized and accountable new systems of political command and authority. This a demand for confrontation which is material and real to the oppressed, that shows how our movement “represents” (and communicates) in ways that are beyond words, and that enter the realm of action. While we need a new written program and must tap people into macro questions of how society works, people  often think at first about power and change on the micro scale, i.e. in ways that is immediate and material to them.

There are many ways into which the representation of “speaking bitterness” enters into our tactics, which are subordinated to a larger strategy of war, of moving the fight from the housing project to downtown. This may mean organizing struggle committees and tenants committees which confront landlords. This may mean organizing an illegal strike. This may mean targeting a well known and hated oppressor within the neighborhood, not just through art and propaganda, but through leading and announcing an attack on an enemy. In Turkey, for example, the DHKP-C (“the People’s Front”) is a Party with considerable influence in Küçük Armutl, a working class neighborhood near downtown Istanbul, to the point that the police only enter it in armored trucks, which are most often met with paint bombs, rocks, and Molotov cocktails. The gangs that would sell heroin in the neighborhood were often connected with the “land mafia,” a group of developers unafraid of using illegal methods of bulldozing with no notice and forced eviction without due process; these gangs murdered a member of DHKP-C who had demanded one of their dealers quit selling. The neighborhood was mobilized and responded by setting fire to the drug dealer’s home, chasing him out.

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In Boyle Heights, a Chicanx and Latinx neighborhood in Los Angeles that is also facing mass displacement, revolutionary Maoists organizing in Serve the People-Los Angeles and in Defend Boyle Heights mobilized the neighborhood against gentrifying art galleries. As part of this coalition they organized an un-permitted march, and signed and delivered eviction notices from the neighborhood by the order of the people of Boyle Heights, pasting them on the side of the buildings. Many art gallery owners who were stupid enough to come outside to confront the masses, in other similar actions, faced the wrath of the people. At one point, an unknown rightfully pissed member of the neighborhood graffitied “Stop White Art” on the front of one of the art galleries, which the racist LAPD chose to investigate as a hate crime. Pickets which have faced significant police harassment go on till today outside of a new coffee shop. These tactics have rightfully been named as “guerrilla” in nature, and commercial real estate developers see gentrification been carried out to its full fruition “eventually…but slower in pace” as a result of these tactics of moving the people to speak bitterness.

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Those who focus on elections may be afraid to be near those who speak bitterness. Through the development of the class struggle, they’d be forced to acknowledge that armed struggle and revolutionary violence is the primary expression by which our class speaks, that phone-banking and door-knocking for candidates does not turn the masses active communists and rulers of a new society. To acknowledge this – that the masses learn revolution only by being revolutionarily – would be disastrous to their worldview, which sees “revolution” as a series of milquetoast reform struggles, not as militant refusals to abide by bourgeois legality. This pushing for people to vote, or to become members of a union, or any other series of legalist political orientations will not make revolution, for revolution is not made through gradually adding reforms until enough quantity produces a change in quality, as if by the stroke of Hegel’s pen.

4.2 Steps In Speaking Bitterness and the Potential Of Failure

To get to a point of organizing the people to “speak bitterness” we must first be where the people are actually at, physically and ideologically. If we are from alien class backgrounds, we take up proletarian jobs to demolish soft academic thinking and individualist pursuits of gluttonous luxury. We live among them and participate in their struggles, and in doing so, offer them guidance while also learning from them. This is defined by serving the people, as all communists should do. From beginning to participate in their struggles we find the most “advanced,” and it’s important to note the advanced doesn’t mean those with the most political know-how or even necessarily who the most ‘active’ are, but those that know intuitively that capitalism and white supremacy cannot be reformed or voted out. This is the case even if they use problematic language or if they don’t instantly know all the theory that more privileged people can easily grasp –their own ideas around explicit proposals of action and thoughts on relevant questions are the raw material that make speaking bitterness possible, so they should be collected.

There is potential of making an error of confirmation bias in mis-identifying the advanced, as we can’t possibly immediately know everyone in a whole neighborhood instantly. This error can be prevented in many ways. First, it’s important to develop actual links through living and forming relationships with our neighbors, hopefully all of them through time, so that we can become more understanding of all experiences, class backgrounds, and level of class consciousness. In doing this we avoid errors of discovering who the most militant leaders are, as our interactions are just a small part of a total working class neighborhood and the social matrix by which one advanced worker exists. While college ethnographers and social workers are in our neighborhoods within a limited timeframe, the microscope in which they examine working people’s day-to-day lives happens within a short time horizon – we on the other hand understand our agitation as long term, as these neighborhoods will experience oppression (and resistance!) that happens over a long cycle of time.

By taking these steps of avoiding premature and preemptory analysis, the advanced and their ideas can be consolidated into mass organizations and communist leadership – in other words, their raw material becomes concentrated in order to be given expression. With speaking bitterness being the physical action, the experiment of seeing if the collected ideas of the masses push steps forward in this protracted revolutionary process, the concentration and processing of such ideas, are the planning of this battle, the abstracted hypothesis by which this experiment happens. The two errors that can occur during this stage—no participation from the masses, or only generating a short-term victory without building revolutionary forces—become obvious only after the third stage, as we find only through the product of this popular expression of speaking bitterness if the ideas of the masses were collected sufficiently and if those ideas once synthesized actually push towards revolution.

The aforementioned third and final stage is the advanced mobilizing, winning over the intermediate, and actually moving to articulate their speaking bitterness. Here in Pittsburgh this three-pronged process is engaged in through 33R members’ participation in Serve the People-Pittsburgh (STP-Pgh), a revolutionary community organization that provides direct material aid to the working class in the form of organizing neighborhood BBQs, naxolone trainings, as well as children’s clothing and mattress drives. While initially based on the Northside, 3RR members have developed the most mass contacts in Garfield. In this neighborhood where the costs of rent is rising, many are facing eviction because of the urban displacement spurred by art spaces, bars, and cultural boutiques along Penn Ave and Butler St. This is leading to the initiation of tenant struggles where the people are mobilized against slumlords.

While we’d like to take time to discuss these experiences in detail, we instead urge those who follow 3RR to prepare for a 6 month summation of the work STP-Pgh has done so far, which will show the success that this process provides.

4.3 “A Change in the Sky”: Guerilla Tactics Applied to Mass Organizing

When notorious oppressors are brought to justice when the people speak bitterness, this signals a “change in the sky.” This is a moment when the revolutionary consciousness of the people is broadened and deepened through this confrontation, even if this confrontation does not result in an immediate victory for those involved. Some anarchists, frustrated with the opportunism of the reformists and passioned by their fully justified moral outrage at the state, see the process of building consciousness as an endless series of physical confrontations, regardless of whether an action has a mass character or not. Lenin pointed out correctly, “to accept battle at a time when it is obviously advantageous to the enemy, but not to us, is criminal; political leaders of the revolutionary class are absolutely useless if they are incapable of ‘changing tack, or offering conciliation and compromise’ in order to take evasive action in a patently disadvantageous battle.” On the other hand, Gonzalo says when asked about the orientation of communists towards the spontaneous, and perhaps doomed, uprisings of the masses: “In those circumstances, we would do what Lenin  did: tell the masses that this is not the moment, but if the masses launch an insurrection, fight along side them, so that together we can make an orderly retreat… And if we die with them, our blood will be merged with theirs to a greater extent”.

We must apply protracted people’s war to our conditions as so. This reliance on and unity with the masses is the military science of our class that gives us an understanding of how to defeat our enemies.

Simply put, our guerrilla tactics are based on “tactics, ten against one; strategy, one against ten.” The landlords we confront are protected by an effective executive centre which commands various subordinate state apparatuses, but the hegemony of such coercive/military forces are often overstated. This does mean that, even when our work becomes violent or involves the threat of violence, we are unable to (immediately!) hope to have base areas, but that through treating every mass action as a school of war, we are connecting even moments of securing the best possible compromise for the working class to promoting the development of new political structures within which the masses can be drawn into active participation in this war.

While we could continue to go into detail about urban strategy, suffice it to say here this process of navigating the terrain of class struggles and understanding the contradictions which are likely to precipitate the next crisis all stem from a policy of “hasten and wait” (where we both hasten in our work and await changes in the objective situations that allow the seizure of overall power). This is, first and foremost, protracted, meaning it develops over a period of time. There is a right opportunist trend within Maoism and within certain revisionist ML tendencies that does not take this long term perspective, and sees credence only in insurrectionism, which means that rather than building base areas and an underground resistance movement, we engage in a semi-permanent mode of legal and reformist organizing, until a moment in which there is magically a transfer of power due to the defection of the decisive element of the armed forces of the existing state to the side of the revolution, e.g. October 1917 in Russia. Hoping to inherit the great vacuum created by an implosion of the executive organs of the state and consequent lack of coordination between parts of the repressive apparatus is the equivalence of communist astrology or chakra aligning; such a strategy does not even follow from how the Russian revolution went down.

In our hastening we will draw the ire of revisionists and reformists alike, who will paint us in the darkest colors.

4.4 Reformist Conservationism, Or Treating the Masses As an Endangered Species

While the masses have never been afraid of using violence to secure their lives through “unsafe” self-defense, resistance, or attack, the dominant practice of liberal “anti-oppression” politics demands that we relinquish power to political representatives like the ones the legal left has supported. A vast nonprofit industrial complex and a strata of professional “community spokespeople” come to define the parameters of acceptable political action and debate. The politics of “safety” emphasized, for example, in the Homewood March (3RR’s “Fight, Bleed, Win Among the Masses”) and at the counter protest outside of Planned Parenthood, is not new here in Pittsburgh, seeing that NGOs and the legal left must continually project an image of powerlessness and keep communities of color, women, and queers “protected” and confined to speeches and mass rallies rather than speaking their bitterness to their most hated oppressors. “White allyship” is demanded, as if oppressed communities are a single, homogenuous political bloc where there is a single unified anti-racist, feminist, and queer political program which the legal left can become “allies” of. This politics is fundamentally conservative, silencing, and coercive.

In one sense, the people of the communities we organize in are treated by contemporary liberal anti-oppression discourse (“identity politics,” as its pejoratively labeled) as a place akin to a habitat of endangered species which is in need of management by those “political representatives” that are assigned to contain the potential of class conflict at all costs. The legal left understands power as something which is granted or bestowed by the powerful. Appeals to institutional benevolence runs in contradiction to their supposed understanding of capitalism, which is that a Mik Pappas cannot act and take power for himself on behalf of the masses. So while we continue to live very “unsafe” lives, DSA and others continue to advocate for us to dance, to perform an image of legitimate victimhood for white middle class consumption. Rather than engaging in revolutionary violence that works, we are policed and scolded, told that our activities will be barely recognized by this audience unless we eat shit, and play the role of peaceful and quaint undeserving victims rather than survivors who will fight for what they need using any means necessary – and not through voting and patient waiting.

How do we resolve this harmful triplicate of NGOism, electoral politics, and respectability in the coming month, as elections near?


These elections and the system it legitimizes were not made for us.

The magistrate court at 1742 Morningside Ave is a body which hosts the horrific farewell parties of the displaced, a kangaroo tribunal of the ruling class against the evicted and the wrongfully arrested. Pappas and the DSA act like David Blaine, promoting an illusion that they can subvert the economics of real estate, that they can suavely soothe the contradictions between the people and the pig, to bring out a ‘better deal’ for the people. We all know that magic and David Blaine, in spite of how astonishing his tricks can appear to be on surface, are fake, and what must follow is that without power outside of the courts, all is an illusion as well!

Most working class people already engage in a mass election boycott—what we call a passive boycott, in that those who do vote do not do so for reasons that are immediately and primarily political. We will, in our revolutionary work today and later, work to turn this passive boycott into an active one. An active boycott is the strategy that turns that boycott into an explicitly political act. This means:

  1. Disseminating popular propaganda and cultural forms explaining the illegitimacy and ‘revolutionary’ impotence of those candidates running
  1. Pointing the way forward through connecting the struggle against the exploiters in the neighborhood with those running in the sham elections themselves
  1. Not allowing volunteers and campaign organizers to safely push reformism where organizing is occurring. Encouraging the masses to act against them, to remove signs, and to confront candidates as an attempt to delegitimatize them. Generally to make where we live uncomfortable for them to enter. If the masses wish to vote, it’s important to note that there is no stopping them and there should be no compulsion or guilting them for doing so. Telling them truths and providing guidance allows them to understand our line as correct when post-election disappointment kicks in
  2. Continuing to sharpen contradictions on the tenant and anti-gentrification front

Leave the march down the black hole; we have a revolution to build! Smash or sabotage the voting machines, rip Costa and Pappas signs down, and slam the door on the campaign volunteers that have come to harass and mislead the masses!

Without power all is an illusion!