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Thursday, September 07, 2006 

Single Spark Collective, New U.S. Maoist Organization, Published Organizational Documents

About a month ago I came across a link for the Single Spark Collective on LeftSpot's blog. Since then I've been waiting with some level of enthusasism for them to post unity documents or some sort of basic political statement. They did one better, and posted one of each. So for your reading pleasure: What We Beleive Statement (basic points of unity) and the Basic Political Statement of the Single Spark Collective.

Any idea who these folks are as an organization? e.g., a splinter of another group, or a new one entirely? 

Posted by Modern Pitung

Speaking, I guess, as a "rank economist," I think a lot of the politics that SSC put out in their documents seem pretty close to spot-on. It's good that they have a basically correct orientation toward involvement in the actual struggles of the masses and seem to oppose the "substitutionist" error of trying to put oneself forward in place of the masses, which they essentially criticize the RCP for (if not in those words).

However, there are at the same time some pretty sizeable lacunae. They say very little concretely about the actual struggles in the US, such as which ones they think have priority, what are the relationships between the struggles in various sectors, etc. Their basic political statement is kind of on the abstract end of things in that regard. Maybe they haven't gotten that far in thinking through stuff, though. They appear to be spending most of their energy so far on stuff that's going on in other countries, which is good as long as it's kept in its proper proportion. It's essential to remember, though, that when it comes down to it, our main energy needs to be put into building the struggle here in this country.

The one thing they do go into some detail on in terms of the US is the working-class struggle. They write:

"One major problem that the revolutionary communists must face is the declining state of the labor movement. By and large, the unions have been corrupted and rendered ineffectual. And because the unionized working class disproportionately encompasses more privileged sections of the working class (with major and significant exceptions), the unions and the unionized workplaces are by and large not major sites of struggle for the proletariat at this time. Indeed, many of the struggles that the proletariat must take up are not at all suited for union struggles, which spontaneously tend toward economism. However, the overall lack of unionization in most US workplaces has left the working class extremely vulnerable to the current offensive of the imperialists against the few protections the proletariat enjoys. A major task for the revolutionary communists is to find a way to engage in struggles to win better conditions for the proletariat as part of the overall revolutionary process, including through union struggles, without succumbing to economist errors."

I think that's a pretty well-formulated statement overall (although I might add an additional qualifier or two here and there). So, presuming that I and my comrades in FRSO/OSCL are some of those that they see as having "degenerated into rank economism," I guess one of the main line differences here revolves around differing definitions of "economism" in the working-class struggle. While I have a bit of a general sense of who SSC is and maybe some particular guesses about some of their members (which I certainly won't specify here), I don't have specific knowledge of the group. That said, one general thing I would venture to say is that it's a good thing if those who as organizations might not yet have rooted themselves deeply in the actual struggles of the working class be a bit careful about authoritative pronouncements as to what the proper parameters of such work are, and what constitutes economism, in the context of the overall balance of forces in US society in 2006.

Maybe sooner or later we'll see a little meat on the bones of the "rank economism" criticism. I would personally welcome some constructive line struggle with these folks, as they appear to be serious and to have their feet basically on the ground.

Another apparent lack in their politics is that they appear to draw the boundaries of their thinking a little bit narrowly as being restricted to the limits of the MLM tradition proper. While I think it's correct to view MLM as the central ideological framework to uphold, they don't so far appear to acknowledge, like the Nepalese in particular do, that there are significant bundles of thinking here and there in other traditions that should be embraced and synthesized into our overall dialectical materialist ideology. While I suspect they would likely acknowledge that point if asked, there's a qualitative difference between mere nominal acceptance of such and actively seeking out such "foreign" ideas.

I could probably say more, but I'm out of time for the moment. 

Posted by Eric Odell

Eric writes: "While I think it's correct to view MLM as the central ideological framework to uphold, they don't so far appear to acknowledge, like the Nepalese in particular do, that there are significant bundles of thinking here and there in other traditions that should be embraced and synthesized into our overall dialectical materialist ideology."

You mean, something like this...


Freedom Road does not uphold MLM as an organization. Significant forces continue to orient towards the Democratic Party, if this statement currently up on the Freedom Road site can be taken at face value... ah yes... the "upsurge of the 80s."

I think it's exciting that there is real ferment among Revolutionary Communists, internationally and here in the States. I welcome new collectives, even those dedicated mainly to ideological work and international study.

But Eric, I think you are missing what is happening in Nepal -- they are very much in the "solid core with a lot of elasticity" model, and are not syncretists. Acknowledging that Che and Rosa were revolutionaries, which the CPN-M has done, is different in kind from ALSO noting where they made mistakes -- which is also done.

But I think you have to observe that the CPN-M is in sharp conflict with the "Seven Party Alliance," and does not advocate a local version of, in the words of Jamala Rogers:

"That's why it is imperative that the Left resuscitate itself. Reports of its death are not exaggerated. The buzzards have been hovering for a while. Pessimism and demoralization are setting in like rigor mortis in a dead body.

"I hope this issue of Independent Politics stirs the pot of political inertia around the need for what Bill Fletcher and Danny Glover call a "neo-rainbow coalition." I believe such a coalition could energize and focus our efforts and have an impact far beyond the electoral arena. "

She's right about buzzards hovering, she's just mistaken in what exactly is dying. 

Posted by the burningman

FRSO is not the RCP. Guilty as charged. They don't engage in dickfights over who's got the biggest Red Book: guilty again. That they care more for the scientific application of revolutionary ideas to the struggle, rather than get involved in some religio-dogmatic fight on whether the proper name is Mao Zedong Thought or Maoism: guilty.

Burningman, you would do well to actually review Jamala Rogers's writing on the need for a new Rainbow -- a new united front of the advanced forces -- as opposed to cherry picking it, omitting the part on the need for our analysis to be as sharp as our tongues.

That section of the revolutionaries in the Rainbow Coalition that remained revolutionaries have thus far provided volumes of all-sided critique and criticism of the post-1980 Left.

For the RCP's part, what we've gotten is bizarre insistence that the failings of the Party in the past two decades -- in which its ties to "the masses" were confined to coalition-building with anti-social anarchists, and its organizing left to publicity stunts -- are all due to some conspiracy of "Mensheviks", Jesse Jackson and the failure of the broad masses to prostrate themselves before posters of the Chairman.

What is sad is that as an outside observer, I can say for Single Spark Collective have managed to make a far more coherent and cogent analysis of the RCP in a small assortment of documents than the RCP has in two decades of publishing papers and pamphlets. It'd be worth it if the RCP, like the CPN(M) they are now quiet about, got a clue from the 20th Century -- and not even all of it so much as the last two decades of it. 

Posted by Modern Pitung

Hmmmm, interesting statement. Its good to hear from a Maoist organization that isn't claiming to be "the" vanguard party. The MLM movement seems to have a tendency of being unnecessarily self-righteous and elitist on occasion.

To be honest though, I'm not sure about how I feel about Maoist groups in the US. Don't get me wrong--I agree that Mao was a great thinker and a brilliant revolutionary-- but the strain of Marxism-Leninism he developed seems to be more applicable to Third World, peasant-based societies in which guerilla warfare is still a viable option. While I certainly believe that Marxists in the United States should be on the front lines defending and supporting Maoist movements across the world, I don't quite see the point of creating a US-based party that is explicitly "Maoist."

Maybe I'm being naive, but that statement seems to suggest that one of Single Spark's primary concerns will be their "solidarity efforts for and efforts to learn from the most advanced Maoist-led struggles in the world, such as those in Nepal, India, the Philippines and Turkey." We can obviously gain much from studying the leadership genius and organizational efforts that revolutionaries have used to make Maoism a potent political force in certain countries, but its easy to overstate the similarities between political agitation in Nepal, for example, and the US.

Another thing that bothers me about the "Maoist" label is that many MLM parties seem to ignore other revolutionary movements that are not explicitly Maoist. FARC, for example, is the most powerful anti-imperialist force in the Westen hemisphere (with the exception Cuba), and has succeeded in many ways that the Shining Path couldn't...for example in attracting the support of the peasantry on a broader level. Why do Maoists seem to ignore their successes? What about other movements, such as the Landless Worker's Movement of Brazil? Maoists seem to be silent on these struggles while focusing almost entirely on their "own" political movements.

I suppose I'm just rambling now....but I guess my point is that, especially in the US, the "Maoist" label seems unnecessary and even divisive. We should learn from and appreciate what Marxists of various stripes have achieved (or failed to achieve) across the world--whether they be Maoists, Castroites, Kimilsungists, Trotskyites, whatever. Unfortunately, many of the Maoists I've met seem to be as sectarian and dogmatic as the Trots. Hopefully this Single Spark Collective will not make the same mistakes. 

Posted by Red Scare

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