Does the Mass Line Permeate the Entire RCP Draft Programme?

Scott’s Response to "naxalite" on April 27, 2002

Subject: Re: let’s talk mass line
Posted by: Scott H. on 2002-27-04 20:58

Dear "naxalite"—

You strongly defend the RCP draft programme with respect to the mass line. You say that besides the 2 or 3 little paragraphs which explicitly talk about it, the mass line "permeates the view of the rest of the programme."

But the very way you try to defend this claim shows that it is false.

You illustrate this by saying that the mass line "may not be footnoted in every paragraph (‘by the way our central task—create public opinion, seize power—is informed by, framed by, based on the mass line’) but that is not necessary." So let’s really take a good look at this example.

The mass line is the basic method of revolutionary leadership of the masses. Your draft programme says that too—twice in fact: "The mass line is the method through which the party both learns from and leads the masses." (Page 28 and page 37.) But it seems like many people can read that sentence over and over and still not come to understand that the mass line is a method of leadership!

Among other things, this means the mass line is a particular method of leadership—the method of from the masses, to the masses—and not just any old kind of leadership. It is the method of leadership which first requires the party to learn from the masses how to lead them before it is in a position to actually lead them. And what does learning "how to lead them" mean? Basically it means to learn from them what they are willing and able to do which will advance the mass struggle against the capitalist enemy. Then, as the struggle proceeds, the light of revolution can be successfully brought to the masses.

In short, the whole point of the mass line is how to engage in effective revolutionary leadership of the masses.

Now let’s look at your illustration again, what the RCP says is its central task, "create public opinion, seize power". Is this basically an issue of leadership or is it basically an issue of education? What it clearly seems to be saying is that the road to revolution is fundamentally one—not of any kind of leadership, but rather of education and propaganda—"creating public opinion". (It is therefore a very one-sided conception of the road to revolution.)

Thus it is quite ridiculous to claim that this phrase, or this basic task of the Party, is somehow "informed by, framed by, [or] based on the mass line"—which itself is centrally concerned with leadership and not education (though it presupposes that revolutionary education is also being carried on, as well as mass leadership).

"Creating public opinion" refers to the task of educating the masses about the need for revolution. It is of course very important. But leading the masses in struggle is also very important; equally important, actually. The reason that actual leadership of the masses is so important is that people learn through their experience in struggle, and because they are vastly more receptive to revolutionary ideas in the midst of such struggle.

It really is true that "creating (revolutionary) public opinion" must be closely connected to participation with the masses in their actual day-to-day struggles, but this is exactly what the RCP denies and what it has failed to practice for 25 years now. It is the main thing wrong with the RCP, the main thing holding it back.

So your claim that the Party’s central task of "create public opinion, seize power" is informed by, and based on, the mass line, is the exact opposite of the real situation.

I know you guys think you are using the mass line, and you think your draft program is imbued with it, but that is actually quite absurd. In reality the RCP talk about the mass line, is mere window dressing, pretty much unrelated to the educational (not leadership!) tasks that the Party has been focusing on for a quarter century.

No party can be serious about using the mass line unless it is seriously trying to lead the masses in their actual day-to-day struggles.

The real basic line of the RCP, both in the 1981 programme and in the current draft programme, is that propaganda is principal, indeed the primary thing the Party should be doing. The little bit of mass leadership the Party tries to provide—such as in recent years around opposition to police brutality and murders—is selected not for any mass line reasons (such as that this is what most people are ready to move on), but because the Party is only willing to participate with the masses in their struggles when these struggles can be directly focused on the system or the police.

I could go on about this, but "naxalite" tried to shut me up after my last posting by commenting that "nobody ever accused me of being brief, did they?" I’ll just reply to that by saying that when a Party is really screwed up in its approach to revolution, and has been making no progress for decades, then perhaps more than a few words may be needed to help them see the light.

For more on the issues I was getting into in this posting, see especially chapter 19 of my book on the mass line, "The Mass Line, Reformist Struggle and the Revolutionary Goal" at:

—Scott H.

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