The Mass Line

Pamphlet by the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

In 1976 the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, published a pamphlet entitled “The Mass Line”. This pamphlet consisted of three articles reprinted from the Party’s newspaper (which later became a magazine), Revolution. These articles briefly presented the basic theory of the mass line method of revolutionary leadership as developed by Mao, and even attempted to bring out a few aspects of the mass line that were not sufficiently emphasized by Mao and his Chinese followers. They are among the very few worthwhile comments on the mass line that have yet been published in the United States.

However, the articles also have some serious weaknesses. Moreover, the RCP has changed its views on some of the things in these articles, such as the idea that the “center of gravity” of revolutionary work should be in struggles around wages, benefits, working conditions, and other work-place issues. They seem also to have lost their enthusiasm for the whole idea of the mass line, though they still mention it from time to time. Consequently this 1976 pamphlet has long been out of print, and the Party has never since produced anything of significance on the mass line.

I have argued for many years that the mass line is a key component of Maoism, and perhaps even its most characteristic feature. Because there are so few materials available on the mass line I believe it is important to make this short pamphlet available again, despite whatever shortcomings it has. Readers, will however need to keep in mind that this pamphlet is a product of its time.

Who wrote these articles? The third one is explicitly credited to Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Central Committee of the RCP, but the first two articles are not attributed to any individual in the pamphlet itself nor in the original newspaper articles. However, Avakian apparently wrote those as well. This, at any rate is the claim (or grudging admission?) of the “Revolutionary Workers Headquarters” group that split from the RCP in early 1978, and which later merged into the Freedom Road Sociality Organization. In September 1978, the RCP reprinted articles from both sides of the struggle in the volume Revolution and Counter-Revolution: The Revisionist Coup in China and the Struggle in the Revolutionary Communist Party USA. (See page 411 for the RWH comment about the authorship of these mass line articles.)


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