Early Steps Toward Revolutionary Organization: A Proposal
Adopted by the Single Spark Collective upon its formal creation, May 1, 2006
[The “Network of Maoist Revolutionaries” referred to in this proposal
was the tentative original name suggested for the new collective.]
Greetings, brother and sister revolutionaries and friends! We are a very
small group of veteran Maoist revolutionaries who are attempting to address a very big problem: How can the
few of us help promote the organization of revolutionaries in the U.S., and the creation of revolutionary
circles, collectives and other pre-party groups which might eventually come together to create a new, and
effective, revolutionary communist party in this country?
Our general point of view, which we will elaborate on just a bit in the
material below, is that the existing revolutionary organizations in this country all have very serious
weaknesses, of one kind or another, which they seem completely unable to overcome. These fatal weaknesses
are keeping each of these groups (whether they now call themselves a party or not) from becoming a
full-fledged, genuine revolutionary communist party that is capable of leading the American working class
and masses in social revolution. If this much is in fact true, then it clearly follows that at least one
new revolutionary organization must be constructed which does not have these fatal flaws. That is
in itself no small or easy task. And there are numerous important preliminary tasks for all of us concerned
here to accomplish, before we can get to the point of creating even one new and solid pre-party
Despite the relatively small size of our overall revolutionary movement,
there are at present a great many individual and unaffiliated revolutionaries in this country. In fact,
there are many more of us than there are those affiliated with existing revolutionary organizations. The
organizations of revolutionaries which now exist are all quite small, and many of them are actually very
tiny. That will continue to be the case for some time, and of course any new organizations will also have
to start out very small. One reason for this is that, while there are a great many unaffiliated
revolutionaries around, their ideas are all over the map. There are many anarchists or
anarchist-influenced people, for example, who—while they do have their strengths—cannot typically be said
to have a strength in the areas of revolutionary organization and strategy. Still, among these many
unaffiliated revolutionaries are many who are doing some serious thinking, investigating Marxism and
searching for a path forward. And among these more serious people is a steady stream of those who are
attracted to the general point of view of Maoism. We think the central focus of the path forward should be
in trying to promote the cooperation, mutual support and organization of precisely these people.
But how exactly can that be done? We have given this some considerable
thought, and even tried a few things out, such as participating in study groups, conferences, extensive
practical political work with existing organizations (despite their flaws), and so forth. While these and
other activities are certainly worthwhile, so far they haven’t done much to promote more collectivity and
organization in the direction of constructing the new revolutionary party that we so desperately need.
Initial collectivity and organization in this effort can only be built
by people who see the need for it, and only those whose political understanding has already
developed to some considerable degree will be able to see the need for it. In other words, some theoretical
development comes first, and this then makes possible some initial organization and practical activity.
These things in turn lead to a deeper political understanding on many questions, and to further theoretical
development. And with this further theoretical development comes an understanding of the need for yet higher
forms of organization and collectivity. What we are talking about here is a spiral development, which—once
begun—can eventually lead to the outcome we seek, a new effective, revolutionary communist party.
But since we are back at the very beginning of the process we have to
focus on how to get this virtuous spiral started. Clearly we must look around for others who see the same
need that we do, who have the same final goal that we do (social revolution), and who see at least some
need to promote the initial collectivity and organization that might hopefully lead to greater things much
further down the road. We must, in other words, search out such people, seize upon their initial ideological
strengths and early collectivist impulses in order to get this process of organizational development
Sometimes it is not necessary to search out such folks; they search out
you! Those of us who frequently and publicly put forward revolutionary ideas have this happen on a fairly
regular basis. The question is: How can those of us who come forward, and first make ourselves known to
each other, proceed from there?
The Immediate Proposal
Our proposal is a fairly simple one, namely to get this process started
of promoting organization and collective activity of presently unorganized revolutionaries by first seeking
to build up a semi-formal network of some of these people. We propose to call this the “Network of Maoist
We need, however, to clarify a number of things about what we envision
here, what the purpose of this NMR would be, what it would do, how it would function, and so forth. Of
course most of what we say here is open to further discussion and change. This is just the initial
First of all, about the name. Even to have a name at all is
already a step toward formal organization. As long as there is no name, there is no real organization that
people can relate to. On the other hand, initially at least, and while the first group of people involved
are still getting to know and trust each other, we think it is best to view the NMR as only a
semi-formal organization, or—in other words—as sort of a half-way house between no organization and
a solid organization. By no stretch of the imagination are we proposing to immediately establish a tightly
organized democratic-centralist organization, with an elaborate program and definite leadership core.
Hopefully the time will someday come for a much larger group of people to establish an organization like
that, but that time is not yet here.
A second point about the name is the appellation “Maoist” which is
included in it. There are many sincere revolutionaries out there, including those who respect and
appreciate many of the contributions of Mao to revolutionary theory and practice, who nevertheless feel
uncomfortable about calling themselves “Maoists”. (In part this discomfort comes from the antics of certain
established groups who call themselves “Maoists”.) We hope that this NMR will be able to relate to many
such people, work together with them on various practical struggles and political projects and campaigns,
and through extensive discussion gradually resolve the theoretical misgivings and differences between us
over the question of “Marxism-Leninism-Maoism” and on other points. But given the tremendous diversity of
views among unaffiliated revolutionaries today, we feel that it is necessary to have at least some fairly
basic political unity among those who initially come together to set up the NMR. And we feel that if the
necessary points of this basic political unity had to be characterized with a single word, none better than
“Maoist” can be found.
Still, in addition to the general principles of unity implied by the name
“Network of Maoist Revolutionaries”, we also need to specify more precisely what those basic principles of
unity are. For this purpose we have prepared an initial “What We Believe” statement. [This referred to the
initial version of the statement of principles which was adopted on the founding of the Single Spark
Collective. —Ed.] (Of course, like everything the NMR does or says as a group, these principles of unity
will be open to democratic discussion and amendment. But we view this current document as a good initial
What sorts of things do we envision the NMR as doing? Here is a beginning
Building up contacts and getting to know each other, and also new people as they come forward.
Since we are scattered around the country, much of this will have to be done via email, phone,
snail-mail, etc. But getting to know each other face-to-face will also be important. (The security
issues involved in all this will have to be discussed later. Many of the initial people have to be
those who are willing to stick their necks out a bit. We should always assume the government reads
our email, for example.)
Mutual discussion of many issues of revolutionary strategy, tactics, and MLM theory in general,
and coming to more collective unity on these matters (while still allowing for differences of
opinion). We envision both many individual discussions between a few members, and also some major
group discussions on especially important issues (such as when we prepare group statements and
documents). We expect there will be—and even welcome—many different ideas and opinions
within the NMR. Each of us will have our own various ideas and conceptions beyond the principles
of unity which we all share. And each of us will have the obligation to allow others to hold to
their own ideas as well, even while we hope to gradually thrash out the more important and
immediate questions and achieve higher levels of unity.
The encouragement of each other’s participation in practical revolutionary work among the masses,
in particular mass struggles (such as against the Iraq War or other imperialist adventures), and so
forth. We hope to create a network of people who see the importance of both theoretical
study/discussion and involvement in mass struggles, and who both seek advice and help from each
other regarding practical work and who are prepared to give such help and advice to others.
Through a web site and by other means, begin to popularize and defend our general group views
and positions to the revolutionary movement at large. Begin to build a dialogue with other forces.
Answer questions and reply to criticisms that other folks may raise about our collective views and
efforts. On appropriate occasions prepare group leaflets and even pamphlets.
Where possible for an initially small group of people who are mostly spread out geographically,
the initialization of our own practical work among the masses. This may be by just a few individuals
in a particular locality, or more of a national effort by the group.
We believe that if we start to do even these few beginning sorts of things,
and gradually learn to do them better, others will be attracted to what we are doing and seek to join in. As
we gain experience and numbers, we will be able to do things better and begin to attract even more
How do we envision the NMR as functioning? Here are a few points:
We are determined to promote, and even insist on, democratic processes and decision making.
After the initial establishment of the NMR, new applicants for membership will be accepted after
general democratic consultation by the existing members. If, as hoped, the organization eventually
becomes too large for that, we will have to develop some other procedure. (Perhaps regional
committees, or some such thing.)
Leadership will have to be informal, at least at first. Those who step forward and provide
leadership in particular areas will be the de facto leaders of those specific efforts. Eventually,
if we become large enough, and solid enough as a group, we will need to select formal leaders
through genuinely democratic elections. But we see the function of leadership in the NMR as more
a matter of coordination, and definitely not a matter of issuing orders or promoting personal
aggrandizement. There will be no Great Leader, top guru, “leader for life”, or any such thing.
Even from early on in our existence there will have to be some division of labor. One, or a
few people, will need to manage a web site, for example, while others concentrate on other tasks.
This necessary initial division of labor will hopefully lead eventually to various committees in
charge of different areas of work, etc.
Precisely how the NMR actually functions will have to be something that develops as
things proceed. It will be up to all the people involved in the effort to determine and further
adjust this from time to time.
Such, in brief is the initial proposal for establishing a Network of Maoist
Revolutionaries! This initial step toward revolutionary organization is at the same time both modest and bold.
It is modest in that it is only the first step of many that will need to be taken before we arrive at the new
and effective revolutionary Maoist party that is our common goal. But there is always boldness in being
willing to take any important first step, even if it is taken somewhat cautiously and carefully! The level
of participation and dedication that we will be asking of each other and ourselves within the NMR is not that
of a full-fledged MLM party. Nobody will be pushed against their will to take on unwanted responsibilities.
But we will be asking of every participant that they contribute to this effort seriously and as best they can,
and be willing to take on part of the responsibility for making the NMR a success.
Other Revolutionary Groups
But why work to create any sort of new revolutionary organization when a
number of revolutionary groups already exist, some of which even view themselves as Maoist? Yes, they all
have some serious problems, but—given the difficulties involved in creating an alternative—why not instead
simply work to help these groups overcome their various problems, either as a member or from the
In response to this we reply:
First, several of us have tried to do this over a period of many years now. Eventually
you just have to admit that this approach of individual criticism (from the inside or outside)
does not seem to work. These existing organizations are very set in their ways, and quite certain
that their revolutionary strategies and approaches to the masses are correct—despite their
obvious lack of progress in increasing their own numbers or building the overall revolutionary
movement in this country.
Second, even while attempting step-by-step to construct a more effective revolutionary
organization, we hope to continue our comradely criticisms and other efforts to help these other
revolutionary groups overcome the problems that are crippling them. We will actually be in a
better position to do this if we do so collectively as an organization.
Third, it just might be that the most effective way to criticize and change these existing
groups (or at least awaken some of their members to the presently unrecognized errors that these
groups are making) is to construct a better example of how to go about building the
American revolutionary movement.
What errors, precisely, do we see these existing revolutionary groups as
making? Among the organizations that view themselves as Maoist, or at least are strongly influenced by Mao,
there seem to be two main trends: one which could be characterized as a “left”-sectarian trend, and the other
which could be called right-opportunism. But unfortunately, labels like these tend to be viewed as simple
name-calling, and so from now on we will try to avoid them and instead get down to more specific and concrete
Some of the most fundamental and very worst problems that existing
revolutionary groups in the U.S. have are in connection with how they relate to the masses and the struggles
of the masses. Let’s first review the attitude of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Mao toward the basic relationship
of communists with the masses, starting with the Communist Manifesto:
The Communists fight for the attainment of the immediate aims, for the enforcement of
the momentary interests of the working class; but in the movement of the present, they
also represent and take care of the future of that movement.1
Lenin described this as “the fundamental Marxist principle on the tactics
of the political struggle”.2 And in the draft version of a party programme that
Lenin prepared for his party, he said:
The Party’s activity must consist in promoting the worker’s class struggle. The Party’s
task is not to concoct some fashionable means of helping the workers, but to join up with
the workers’ movement, to bring light into it, to assist the workers in the struggle they
themselves have already begun to wage. The Party’s task is to uphold the interests of the
workers and to represent those of the entire working class movement.3
And the Communist Party of China, under the leadership of Mao, stated:
While actively leading immediate struggles, Communists in the capitalist countries should
link them with the struggle for long-range and general interests, educate the masses in a
Marxist-Leninist revolutionary spirit, ceaselessly raise their political consciousness and
undertake the historical task of the proletarian revolution. If they fail to do so, if they
regard the immediate movement as everything, determine their conduct from case to case,
adapt themselves to the events of the day and sacrifice the basic interests of the proletariat,
that is out-and-out social democracy.4
Summarizing these passages we see that there are two critically important
principles here: 1) Communists must join up with the existing day-to-day struggles of the masses, and 2) In
the course of that they must bring the light of revolution to the masses (that is, explain to the masses in
careful detail just why proletarian revolution is necessary). To fail to do either thing not
only departs from long-established MLM wisdom, but inevitably leads to abject failure in our efforts to
bring about a social revolution.
But when you look at the theory and practice of the various existing MLM
groups in the U.S. it is easy to see that some of them reject the first principle, while the others reject
the second principle. None of them (that we know of) truly upholds both principles.
The Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, for example explicitly rejected
the first principle in its 1981 Programme.5 Despite the fact that they recently
came out with a new “Draft Programme,” which replaces the 1981 Programme, their actual practice is still to
avoid participation with the masses in most of their actual struggles. They still consider that it
is “economism” or “revisionism” to join up with the masses in their day-to-day struggles! They do try
to bring a limited stock of revolutionary ideas to the masses by selling their newspaper, but because they
are not working together with the workers and masses in the masses’ own struggles few people pay any serious
attention to them. Some might protest that the RCP does go out among the masses, talk with them and even
attempt to organize them for certain initiatives, such as their current World Can’t Wait campaign. This is
true, and to the extent that it builds opposition to the imperialists, it is a good thing. But the approach
of the RCP is not to join with and learn from the masses while leading them. The RCP goes to the masses more
like a preacher who harangues them, and is only willing to work with the masses on the terms it sets, not
to take the masses as they are and build their understanding and organizing capacity.6
The rather strange sect which calls itself the “Maoist Internationalist
Movement” goes even further; they view the “Amerikkkans” (as they call them) as “bought off” and even
“exploiters”—including, evidently, the American working class—and accuse any group that seeks to join up
with and aid the American masses in their day-to-day struggles against the ruling class as being
The opposite error is being made by the two groups which both call themselves
the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (since their split in 1999). Although these organizations emerged
from the Maoist tradition, neither today claims to be Maoist. The members of these two small groups do make
a serious effort to join up with the masses in their day-to-day struggles. But they seem to have forgotten
the main reason why revolutionaries need to do so, namely to be in a good position to bring
revolutionary ideas to the masses. (We do sincerely seek to help the masses win their struggles over
short-term reforms, but our main goal is to change the consciousness of the masses with regard to their
long-term interests, which all ultimately depend on making social revolution.) Because the FRSOs engage in
very little revolutionary agitation and propaganda with the masses they work with on a daily basis, it seems
they must now be considered merely reformist organizations in practice, despite the personal revolutionary
views of many of their members.
These existing MLM organizations (or, perhaps more accurately, these
existing MLM-influenced organizations) have a variety of other major faults as well—some of them
extremely serious. The RCP, for example, has been promoting ever more insistently the unseemly (and
antiscientific) cult of personality they have created around their leader, Bob Avakian. This seems to be
turning their whole organization into a cult, in the worst sense of the word. One of the FRSOs apparently
toyed for a while with the notion of merging with several revisionist and Trotskyist groups, as part of a
“left-refoundation” scheme. The other FRSO group has supported Soviet-style parties in Third World countries
and even the old revisionist Soviet Union itself.
All these existing groups seem to have great difficulties in summing up
their work in a scientific manner, and coming to recognize and correct the longstanding errors in their
approaches to building a revolutionary movement.
In addition to these specific criticisms, many of us (and no doubt you
too!) have other individual criticisms of the existing revolutionary groups. Possibly in some cases we are
wrong or partly wrong in our criticisms. But clearly, there is enough that is seriously wrong with the
existing groups that efforts toward building a new revolutionary organization in this country are fully
warranted and justified.
It is also true that most of these existing groups do have some strengths
too, and do some worthwhile things. The RCP, for example, has a string of bookstores making revolutionary
works available to people, and also—despite its general distaste for participation in mass struggles—has
played a role in building mass struggle in two important areas (against police murders and against the U.S.
imperialist war and occupation of Iraq).
Insofar as the RCP, the FRSOs and other revolutionary and even
non-revolutionary groups are actually involved in working with the masses to promote their genuine
interests, we in the NMR hope to be able to work together with them in a friendly way. In the case of the
RCP this may only be in a few areas, since they are only interested in participating with the masses in
their existing struggles in a very few areas. There may be more of a scope to work with the FRSO groups in
these practical mass struggles, partly because they are open to a much broader range of mass work, but
also because both FRSOs hold what might be termed a “pluralistic” view about revolutionary organizations,
whereas the RCP denies that any communist forces exist outside their own party.
This is not the place to get into a thorough and balanced appraisal of
the lines and practice of any of these groups. (This will probably be an important task of the NMR as a
whole to accomplish, as part of examining, summing up and criticizing the various proposed paths toward
revolution in a calm and rational way.) But we do have to clearly recognize that, despite some genuinely
positive things they do, these existing organizations really do have crippling defects that necessitate
the construction of a new revolutionary organization and—ultimately—a new, effective, Maoist party in this
The immediate proposal to begin to construct a Network of Maoist
Revolutionaries depends for its success on the participation of a wider group of people than just the few
of us first proposing it. Beyond that, the continued success and development of this NMR depends upon a
steady stream (even if only a trickle at first) of new people continuing to come forward and joining in
with the effort. Your participation is very much needed!
Many of you will also have important ideas for everyone involved to
consider, as well as questions requiring further clarification of the proposal, and later the functioning
of the NMR. We urge everyone who even merely suspects that this proposal may be a promising one to
contact us and help us get the ball rolling. We need your questions, your ideas, your criticisms, your
input, and your participation!
Please contact us at: [email address on Single Spark web site].
1 Marx and Engels, “Manifesto of the Communist Party” (1848), MECW 6:518-9.
2 Lenin, Karl Marx (Peking: FLP, 1970), p. 43. This long and careful article was
originally written by Lenin for an encyclopedia in 1914, and was first published as a pamphlet
in 1918. It should also be noted that Lenin uses the word “tactics” here where we would use
the word “strategy”.
3 Lenin, “Draft and Explanation of a Programme for the Social-Democratic Party”, LCW 2:112.
4 Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement (The
letter of June 14, 1963, of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in reply to
the letter of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union of March 30, 1963),
(Peking: FLP, 1963), p. 19.
5 New Programme and New Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
(Chicago: RCP Publications, 1981), pp. 41-44. A brief excerpt: “This concept is fundamentally
wrong and has prevented serious preparation for revolution. Its basic starting point is getting
into the struggles of the people, particularly around their daily needs.”
6 The version of this proposal adopted at the founding of the Single Spark Collective on
May 1, 2006, included at this point a link to the website of the “World Can’t Wait” where a
video was posted showing protesters being arrested and yelling and screaming at, and belittling,
the masses around them who did not join their protest or subject themselves to arrest as well.
The RCP seemed to be putting forward this sort of tirade directed at the masses as some sort of
model practice! [As of 2008, the video is no longer available on WCW website, however.]
7 For a long MIM diatribe on this theme see the comments by “mim3” which are posted at:
Single Spark Documents Page on MASSLINE.ORG
Single Spark Home Page on MASSLINE.ORG
MASSLINE.ORG Home Page