Tensions between Mass Organising and Militant Resistance
This online debate took place from Nov 24th-27th 2014
Sukant Chandan: I hear a lot of talk from people I really have a lot of revolutionary love and respect for talking up militant (armed) response of our peoples to the likely white wash verdict on young brother Mike Brown's killing. My question is not disputing that response on an ethical level as such, but on a strategical and wisdom level: are our forces ready to take up militant self defence measures after the verdict? Or is it a case of 'we have to do what we have to do' for justice, or to raise a new level of struggle generally?
My feelings is that the mass movement of our peoples has to be built as primary strategy, but at the end of the day, what will happen will happen, and my one's revolutionary ethics informs us that we support our peoples and 'unite the many against the few' oppressors no matter what. But wanted to open this up for possible discussion.
I am reminded in this regard of this following profound piece by Huey Newton.
"The Black masses are handling the resistance incorrectly. When the brothers in East Oakland, having learned their resistance fighting from Watts, amassed the people in the streets, threw bricks and Molotov cocktails to destroy property and create disruption, they were herded into a small area by the Gestapo police and immediately contained by the brutal violence of the oppressor’s storm troops. Although this manner of resistance is sporadic, short-lived, and costly, it has been transmitted across the country to all the ghettos of the Black nation.
The identity of the first man who threw a Molotov cocktail is not known by the masses, yet they respect and imitate his action. In the same way, the actions of the party will be imitated by the people – if the people respect these activities.
The primary job of the party is to provide leadership for the people. It must teach by words and action the correct strategic methods of prolonged resistance. When the people learn that it is no longer advantageous for them to resist by going into the streets in large numbers, and when they see the advantage in the activities of the guerilla warfare method, they will quickly follow this example.
But first, they must respect the party which is transmitting this message. When the vanguard group destroys the machinery of the oppressor by dealing with him in small groups of three and four, and then escapes the might of the oppressor, the masses will be impressed and more likely to adhere to this correct strategy. When the masses hear that a Gestapo policeman has been executed while sipping coffee at a counter, and the revolutionary executioners fled without being traced, the masses will see the validity of this kind of resistance. It is not necessary to organize thirty million Black people in primary groups of two’s and three’s, but it is important for the party to show the people how to stage a revolution. [...] "
Lorenzo Kom'boa Ervin: If there is not a revolutionary movement in this period to provide that example, then you will see more spontaneous revolts. Also, the reign of terror that we experience today began after the destruction of the BPP. Of course, you do realize that Huey turned against this method of conspiratorial combat in favor of the mass line? He felt like the Party should not become a secret society in singular combat with the police, and if it did so, the people could not get access to its programs or leadership. Further, if there is no mass base for guerrillas, our forces would be isolated and wiped out.
Sukant Chandan: thanks for the contribution. Yes, I know about Huey moving towards the mass line, the BLA and some of the complexities and challenges of all that (gross understatement, I know). Of course, the mass line is not in contra-distinction to organised guerilla type struggle/peoples war.
Yes, the spontaneous para-military actions of the Black masses will continue, but perhaps there is some underground covert work going on, but there I see little guidance given as to what the strategy and tactics are from here to develop the struggle onto higher ground.
People are also paralleling this to the late 1960s, which I think does not hold water if we consider the much more mass character and militancy of that period which was in direct inspiration and connection from the worldwide revolution (Vietnam, Mozambique, China, South Africa, etc).
Lorenzo Kom'boa Ervin: All a matter of the proper steps. No guerilla insurgency can be successful or survive without the people in arms. Remember, it is people's army, people's war that has as chance to succeed, not an isolated underground in an empire. the empire itself is in crisis, a different and deeper crisis now, which is why we are see paramilitary policing, they are changing the form of state entirely. We need liberated zones, like Comrade George and other revolutionaries have told us.
Sukant Chandan: Yes, "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun", and again fro Mao (apologies, I am no orthodox Maoist as such, but the guy did have these concepts and strategy down more than most): "The revolutionary war is a war of the masses; only mobilizing the masses and relying on them can wage it. "
although its much less proliferated here in the 'UK', its not a problem to have access to arms, but how to use it politically and organisationally etc.
You'll know about the Uprising of the Black and Brown Poor in Aug 2011 here in england following the police killing of Mark Duggan. The problem there if we are to develop liberated areas, was a near total absence of political guidance, organisation, wisdom etc, and the net result of that moment was thousands in prison and next to no political positive outcome for our communities, quite the opposite.
Yes you are right, the crisis is deeper, but I see imho the political situation much more wanting and lower than it was in the 1960s. My feeling is that we are not on the cusp of some great upsurge, but on the cusp of intensifying general messier situations. True, the peoples struggle has always been messy, but we are in a growing mess without paddles and a compass. I hope I am proved wrong.
The priority it seems to me is building a new clear revolutionary analysis as to the continuations of the global struggle against nato and neo-colonialism and coloniality, and also building the necessary cadres for transferring to higher forms of peoples struggles and organisations.
But of course, I defer to the veterans like yourself as to these issues.