Debating leaving group, looking for advice

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Captain Function's picture
Captain Function
Joined: 24-05-15
Oct 23 2015 00:04
Debating leaving group, looking for advice

So I'm part of a socialist organization that's engaged in solidarity network-type work. It's a solid group that does good work, isn't structured in a hierarchical way, and is pretty much the only organization in town that is actually orientated towards direct action and class struggle.

The problem is that core members in the group are Leninists and Maoists. This hasn't really caused any serious problems yet (i.e. there haven't been any public arguments about these views, and it hasn't effected our organizing), but I can easily imagine that it would in the future. For one, our office and Facebook page is littered with photos and quotes from Mao, Che, Lenin, and Chavez which is probably very off-putting to people we're trying to recruit or working with.

This has also resulted in us not having a clear definition of what socialism is and what the org's views are on the past and present "socialist" states. Maybe that's not super important, but if someone was interested in joining and started asking questions about those topics, they would get an answer that was either very vague or one that I strongly disagree with. There's also a general consensus that the group should participate in local elections at some point in the future, a position I also disagree with.

So, I like what the group does, but I have massive political disagreements with some of the core members. Has anyone here faced a similar situation? Any advice on what to do? I've debated trying to start a specifically libertarian socialist organization, or trying to start an IWW local, but I have no idea how to do either.

Pennoid's picture
Joined: 18-02-12
Oct 23 2015 03:28

It will come up. They cannot avoid letting it come up, and ultimately political questions are important, in the mid to long term.

It's very difficult to work on your own, and if the left-groups around you are toxic (like FRSO-Fight back) it can be pretty damaging.

If you know one or two or three leftcom, anarchist councilists, or just not maoist members, maybe start a reading group? It's a good way to help people find their political footing. There is strong chance the maoists will see this as competition and try and squash it. But all in all, if you guys can read through some classic marxist, anarchists texts and have open discussion, it will be a good bit of inoculation against the maoists.

As for concrete organizing of a chapter of some group, well that's tough because there you have to have unity in politics, which I think comes with regular interaction, discussion and work; so a solidarity network or iww gmb make sense, but they must have some regular activity (reading/writing).

I use to think that 'politics' in the sense of mid-term long-term should take a back seat to 'struggling for gains today' but now I realize that's totally bogus. IT doesn't have to be a strict and tight unity, but around certain points. For example, the mirage of electoral politics as a road to the working class taking power. Or the problem of internationalism being a concrete, and practical one.

Jamal's picture
Joined: 14-04-15
Oct 23 2015 15:20
Captain Function wrote:
I like what the group does

What does the group does?

Joined: 31-12-10
Oct 23 2015 20:00

Do you know people who you have more in common with, politically? If so, I would start by talking to them about starting your own group. I've never lived in a town that had more active Maoists than anarchists, so I would think you might be able to find somebody who has more in common with you politically (I'm assuming you live in the US? That would maybe be different for another country).

If you don't know of any local contacts, I would start casting a wider geographic net. For example, I've had good luck in the past approaching relatively nearby (like, an hour or so away) IWW GMBs and asking if they knew of any IWW members, ex-members, or sympathizers in my town. You could also try to e-mail IWW general headquarters and they might be able to point you in the direction of local contacts, if the IWW was something you wanted to do.

All that is, of course, only relevant if you're set on leaving the group. Personally, I've had really terrible experiences working with Maoists, but those have all been members of FRSO-Fight Back. I'd say that the important questions are how closely the work that you're doing (like Jamal, I'm curious what that is) matches with you own political perspective and how much that intersection is threatened by the different political outlook of the other members. Personally, there'd have to be an extremely compelling reason for me to put energy into a group that was actively working in local elections.

jondwhite's picture
Joined: 23-10-12
Oct 23 2015 21:05

You could just avoid mentioning Kronstadt/Tianamen as it is just historical but if at some point you find yourself on the wrong side of the leadership (say for example on recruiting new members) their true colours may be revealed. I know you said it is non-hierarchical but that might just be your perception of it which they are happy to not challenge.

klas batalo's picture
klas batalo
Joined: 5-07-09
Oct 24 2015 00:23

sounds like you are in philly? or are you in louisville or lexington?

no matter what its gonna come up, and you are gonna need to know if these are the types of marxists and workers organization you want to build.

i just mention the above because they are the groups i know who are broad left but marxist oriented doing solnets

Captain Function's picture
Captain Function
Joined: 24-05-15
Oct 24 2015 03:53

Hey all, thanks for the suggestions so far.

- The group has mentioned doing a book club. I suggested Strike!, which would be a good book to challenge some of the ideas that are floating around in the group.

- The org is mainly involved in small campaigns around problems that individual workers and tenants are facing. For example, we're currently working with someone who was discriminated in their workplace for their sexuality, and we recently prevented a woman from being evicted. We're also planning to launch some kind of informal service workers union. That's definitely the type of stuff I want to do, I just wish I had a bit more in common politically with the people I'm doing it with.

- We're not currently participating in local elections, but there's broad agreement that we should in the future.

- It would be very difficult for me to start a new, more libertarian organization. The less Leninist members of the current group wouldn't want to split it, and I have very little practical experience and knowledge of how to setup and run such an organization.

- There is an IWW chapter in a city about an hour away from me. I'm not sure how active they are though.

Khawaga's picture
Joined: 7-08-06
Oct 24 2015 04:21

I dunno, Captain. If you are doing good things for people, why let ideology get in the way of doing something that is actually helping people? If I were you I'd stay in the group and just argue your politics, and argue against things like participating in elections that will necessarily take way from the good work that you're doing now. If ideology comes in the way of things, let them be the reason for it. And you could try to bring more like-minded people into the group as well. You can always leave later.

I've been in groups that have been pretty likeminded in politics, but never really done anything even remotely close to what you have done. I'd take the doing things over ideological cohesion any day.

plasmatelly's picture
Joined: 16-05-11
Oct 24 2015 07:13

Captain Function - are you from America? I ask because you mention Maoists - and in the U.K I've never yet met one. Just wondering, but I keep hearing people in the U.S talking about Maoists, and it seems pretty fucking fishy that there wasn't any Maoists portrayed in Friends.

Serge Forward's picture
Serge Forward
Joined: 14-01-04
Oct 24 2015 07:45

As it's doing some good stuff, stay with the group, put forward your views and argue for doing sensible stuff rather than sinking the group's energies into an electoral vanity project. If it does go all electoral, then most of the good stuff will disappear anyway so you can bin it off then. In the meantime, develop ideas with non maoist comrades and any prospective allies so you'll have something to salvage if it all goes tits up.

Reddebrek's picture
Joined: 4-01-12
Nov 8 2015 03:14
plasmatelly wrote:
Captain Function - are you from America? I ask because you mention Maoists - and in the U.K I've never yet met one. Just wondering, but I keep hearing people in the U.S talking about Maoists, and it seems pretty fucking fishy that there wasn't any Maoists portrayed in Friends.

Most UK Maoists for whatever reason seem skittish about adopting the label, they tend to be organised in groups that are heavily ML and proudly "antirevisionist" I'm pretty sure they're mostly in the CPGB-ML.

For the OP, I'd echo the above sentiment, but you should probably try and reach out to others, because I think this will be a problem that'll get worse overtime. Especially if they give an election campaign a major push.

Just curious but is the group a one off or part of a wider network?