Scott H.’s First Posting to the 2changetheworld Web Site
(April 6, 2002)
Subject: Mass Line: “Is this all a waste of time?”
Posted by: Scott H. on 2002-06-04 20:32
IS THIS ALL A WASTE OF TIME?
The American humorist Josh Billings (Henry Wheeler Shaw) once remarked:
“When a man comes to me for advice, I find out the kind of advice he wants, and I give it to him.”
The RCP has now finally come to us, the non-Party masses, for “advice” (i.e. comments and criticism) about its new draft programme. Using Josh Billings’s approach, what kind of advice should we give them? Well, what we should simply say is “Hey, great programme!” and then shut up. That is really just about all they want to hear.
Oh sure, they are also probably interested in hearing about any minor misstatements of fact, slips of the pen, misspellings, and so forth. And no doubt they would like to hear about any stylistic problems that might obscure their message, and the like. But that’s about it.
No substantive criticisms are being sought, nor will they be given any serious consideration if any of us have the effrontery to put them forward anyway. And you can be damned certain that the current programme draft is not going to change in any important way, no matter what ANYBODY says here or anywhere else.
What makes me think this, you say? Does it just show I am terribly “cynical” or something? Well, no, not really; because it is pretty easy to demonstrate that what I say is almost certainly true.
Recall, first of all, that this new programme project has been going on for well over TWO YEARS. The original announcement was published in the RW (#1028) back on October 31, 1999. Did they set up a forum at that time where people could submit their criticisms of the old programme, and hash out new ideas for the new programme? No they did not. WHY not, do you suppose?
The answer is quite clear: The RCP wanted to tightly control the process of creating a new programme, and to make the new programme basically a rewrite of the old programme without any major changes in line. They pretty much said this in that original announcement when they wrote “We believe our Party’s current Programme sets a fundamentally correct course for revolution and expresses basic MLM principles which are crucial to make revolution in the interests of the masses.”
Why is the RCP bothering to create a new programme if they think the old one is correct in all its essentials? Well in their 1999 announcement they explain this by saying that over the past 20 years “there have been great changes in the world, and in U.S. society” which need to be addressed. The old programme says, for example, that in the 1980s the U.S. and the Soviet Union are “heading into world war”, and that “unprecedented opportunities, for revolution, including in this country, [are] shaping up in the ’80s.” [p. 1] All that looks a little foolish now, and is anyway obsolete.
In addition to the “changing times”, there was at least one other big embarrassment in the old programme that they had to get rid of—the statement in the section on “social decay” that in socialist society under the leadership of the RCP “education will be conducted throughout society on the ideology behind homosexuality and its material roots in exploiting society, and struggle will be waged to eliminate it and reform homosexuals.” [p. 77] This appears to suggest that homosexuals will perhaps even be forced to “reform”. The few lines about homosexuality, and the Party’s general stance on the issue, has probably done more to alienate folks in the revolutionary movement than anything else they have said or done, including much more central errors in their general approach to revolution (their general refusal to participate in most of the struggles of the masses, for example).
So the RCP clearly saw a need for a rewrite of their old programme, at the same time they rejected from the start any notion that their old programme was wrong on any essential point.
Right from the beginning I saw that this is what they seemed to have in mind, as I mentioned in an essay I wrote in November 1999. (Posted on the web at: http://www.massline.info/rcp/rcp_prog.htm) But at that time I hoped the process “might get away from them” to some degree, and that the Party might—in spite of itself—start to rethink its failed line of the past quarter century. (They have clearly made no progress whatsoever in winning the masses over to the idea of revolution, and the line they have been following certainly has a lot to do with that.)
Obviously, this enormously important rethinking of their failed line has not happened at all. They kept their strict control over the new programme process, and prepared their new programme draft without first publishing one single word of criticism of their old programme, from either their own members or from anybody else. Even after the new programme draft was published almost a year ago, no forum like this was set up to discuss it until about 6 weeks ago.
So then, why has the RCP (or its friends) set up this web site now, to allow some very-after-the-fact commentary and criticism of the draft? There are two reasons, I think:
1) They want to make a pretense (to both others and also to themselves) that they have consulted with the masses in creating their new programme. They demonstrated by their actions that they were unwilling to even publicly discuss any weaknesses of the old programme before they wrote the new draft, and they have been slow and reluctant even to set up this small discussion forum so late in the game, and after everything important is already settled. But as a Party which calls itself “Maoist” they have to make some sort of show, no matter how belated and pitiful, of listening to the masses and (supposedly) using the mass line. It is “expected” of them!
2) They have obviously been using this whole “new programme” process as a political campaign to build up interest in, and support for, their Party. They have formed what they call “flying squads” to go out and bring the message of the draft programme to the masses, for example. You would think the main thing you would want to do with a draft programme is get criticisms of it, so that the final product can be improved. But if you read the ads for the draft programme in the RW, you will see that in effect it is already treated as the Party line, a document to be used for educating and recruiting people. They obviously are not looking for major criticisms of the draft, and have already steeled themselves to reject any if they are forthcoming.
Is it therefore a waste of time to post criticisms of the RCP programme draft here? It is if you think that is going to change the final programme in any significant way. But it may be worthwhile from the point of view of discussing the RCP line with others who come to this site, others who are not wedded completely to the existing line of the RCP. Many of the people that post here are, whether they are right or wrong about what they say, at least trying to do some thinking. It is always a pleasure to read what thinking people have to say.
* * *
Over the past several years I have written a number of articles which address what I take to be some serious problems with the current line of the RCP. Among these are:
“On the RCP Announcement of their New Programme Project”, posted at: http://www.massline.info/rcp/rcp_prog.htm
“How to Fake the Mass Line”, posted at: http:www.massline.info/rcp/fake_ml.htm
“The Mass Line, Reformist Struggle, & the Revolutionary Goal”, [chapter 19 of my book on the mass line], posted at: http://www.massline.info/mlms/mlch19.htm
“Notes on ‘Notes on Political Economy’”, posted at: http://www.massline.org/PolitEcon/ScottH/NotesNPE.htm
I would be happy to receive any comments or criticisms of these essays, or of anything I said above.
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