Opinion: On Incendiary News and its Milieu: Against Dogmato-Revisionist Bogeymen, Sectarianism and Opportunism

Note: This article and others submitted to People’s Voice News are in no way representative of the views of any particular FTP branch unless the article is described as being written by a particular FTP branch collectively or is signed by FTP branches.

Comrade Toussaint

The bogeyman of “postmodernism” has been raised by dogmato-revisionists the world over to justify all sorts of reactionary behavior and lines. Dogmatism, as Mao said, has no force, and we and others have seen the “Gonzaloite” wing of the ICM fall further and further down the rabbit-hole of dogmato-sectarianism, labeling all and sundry as “postmodernist”, even other Maoist formations and individuals. The recent revelation that the now closed Incendiary News publication banned language that it arbitrarily termed “postmodernist” is not a shock to anyone who has charted the development of the Gonzaloite milieu for the past few years. Incendiary News tried, and failed, to give justification for the vast array of provocations, such as the LaRoucheite style attack on an antifascist event in Kansas City and the pointless and stupid disruption of an anti-imperialist event in Austin. Incendiary’s purpose, and the purpose of the milieu as a whole, was to promote and work up splits, offer boilerplate Gonzaloite analysis that was most often neither original nor correct, conduct intra-milieu propaganda, encourage the development of stereotyped “Party” language, and sow confusion in the revolutionary movement in Trotskyite fashion, as the Communist Party of the Philippines pointed out in response to yet another factionalization attempt directed at their Party.

Postmodernism is, indeed, a negative factor in the development of the United States revolutionary movement. Why? Not because it “divides” the already divided proletariat, but because it refuses to grasp class as the key link, and because it was developed mainly by petit-bourgeois European theoreticians divorced from the class struggle. However, the Gonzaloites, in typical fashion, are fighting a strawman. Within their milieu, they’ve turned Marxist terms such as “revisionism”, “eclecticism”, and “economism” into simple and cheap slurs. Postmodernism has not conducted a single lynching, nor did it vandalize Black churches in DC. The ideology that is killing Black people in the streets is white supremacy, not postmodernism. We have seen dogmato-revisionists and, ironically, their modern revisionist counterparts of the most reactionary type, raise this specter to blow off criticism on several occasions and disregard/disrespect the analysis of colonized people, and this time is no different. Both dogmato-revisionists and modern revisionists of Caleb Maupin type decry “identity politics” and “postmodernism”, as does the reactionary talking head Jordan Peterson.

The decision of the Incendiary News Editorial Board to ban words such as “white privilege, oppressed genders, gender identity, misogynoir (hatred of Black women), ableist, neurotypical, sex worker, and heteronormative” is evidence of a vulgar, reactionary, class reductionist line. Those who managed Incendiary sought to flatten real contradictions that are harming and killing the proletariat and semi/proletariat, and as a result, have promoted white chauvinist, misogynistic, anti-Black, and ableist lines. If one is a true revolutionary news organ, it will not ban language that oppressed people use to describe their oppression while posturing as serving and concerned about Marxism. Identity politics, as it was originally developed, was the fruit of the New African liberation struggle of the 1960s and ’70s, the work of Black queer women who had organized themselves in the Combahee River Collective. These women were veterans of the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Power Movement, and, in many instances, the New Communist Movement. These were not academics sitting in ivory towers, these were organizers and servants of the people. They were critiquing and responding to similar lines as those of Incendiary, which had been promoted by the Revolutionary Communist Party during this period, along with other NCM formations. The Combahee River Collective statement is a weapon in the proletarian feminist struggle and an essential work of New Afrikan proletarian feminism. It is common for male Communists of settler origin (we are not speculating on the ethnic/national background of Incendiary editors, nor those of Tribune, but we also aren’t stupid) to idly write off the theoretical contributions of Black, Brown, and nonmale people, calling for the “return to the great teachers” while ignoring the development of the movements of the people and the theory that comes from them. Some of this milieu have even labeled all feminism “bourgeois”, which we find amazing in light of the contributions of nonmale Maoist theoreticians such as Anuradha Ghandy to the treasury of Marxist theory. This narrowmindedness can never build a true Party, at best it will build  a mirror image of the RCP, a chauvinist sect trafficking in the people’s struggles. While we acknowledge that identity politics has been distorted by bourgeois aspirants and petit bourgeois university students to sow discord within the ranks of the struggle for national liberation and socialism and divide the colonized proletariat against itself on national lines, pitting Puerto Rican against New Afrikan, New Afrikan against Chicano, etc., we reject the chauvinist position which centers the settler working class. This desire to always promote unity of class at the expense of colonized workers is a hallmark of right opportunism, and as Mao teaches us, things transform into their opposites and left opportunism transforms into right opportunism inevitably. On the question of the settler working class, this is what has happened. This is a Trotskyite type right opportunist move that is unbecoming of whose who write in flowery fashion of the “May Uprisings” yet spit in the face of the New Afrikan proletariat/semi-proletariat, many of which are trans, sex workers, and victims of misogynoir.

The complement to the former Incendiary News is the theoretical journal, Struggle Sessions, which has produced several articles claiming to combat postmodernism but which in reality are sectarian diatribes which seek to promote splits and further their narrow-minded, dogmatic line of thought. Very little new theory based on concrete sequences of mass work done by the milieu has been produced, mainly because the main “work” done by the milieu is: self-promotion, forming generated organisms (usually around protest movements, which conduct a couple bombastic actions which get a few people arrested and then collapse), seeking to promote factionalism and splits in organizations at home and abroad, and conducting adventurist stunts which do nothing to advance the movement, unless we can consider providing meme fodder is advancing the movement.

The most notorious example of this was the response to the splitting off of two MCPOC branches, the Omaha branch and rightist elements in the Philadelphia branch, and the formation of the MRP, which proceeded to collapse a couple weeks after its inception. In this piece, titled, in typical bombastic and arrogant fashion, “A Single Will”, Struggle Sessions did no investigation and did not contact the MCPOC before putting out its piece for information regarding the split, as it appears that promoting those who were “demarcating themselves from the falsified Maoists” was the goal of their engagement. It goes on to claim that the MRP faction “was more advanced than the falsified Maoists”, which is entirely subjective and not based on anything besides a mutual dislike of the MCP-OC, in the case of SS it leads to them consistently publishing scurrilous and disjointed “criticisms”, in the case of the so-called MRP, it led to factionalism, the unprincipled and secretive defection of two MCP branches, and the subsequent exposure of the leader of the splittists as a white chauvinist and opportunist trafficking in the New Afrikan liberation struggle for his own ends. This chauvinist, which the Omaha branch followed out of the formation for reasons that remain unknown, proceeded to resign as head of the Marilyn Buck Brigade, a mass organization of the United Panther Movement, before he could be expelled from there as well. The liquidationist clique which enabled this individual has been exposed, led by the manipulator, liar and racist Tom Watts. The only mistake was allowing such a person to run amok for so long. This clique left of their own free will and accord, otherwise they were bound for expulsion for white chauvinism and factionalism. “The best” as Struggle Sessions described it has proceeded to delve further into opportunism, while “the worst” and “the falsified Maoists”, using this milieu’s language, continue to creatively apply Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, unite more and more people in their desire for revolution and Communism, and develop our ideology/practice for the concrete conditions of the United States, giving special stress to the struggle of oppressed nationalities and genders in practice as well as in words. If Struggle Sessions had an actual interest in the development and unity of all Maoists in the US (it doesn’t), it would engage in a comradely fashion and not a sectarian, negative, quarrel seeking one. In Trotskyite fashion, it seeks disunity among revolutionaries and proceeds from the formula “struggle-struggle-struggle”. Maoists use the formula “unity-struggle-unity”, which means that we proceed from the basis that we desire unity, that struggle is to advance to a greater unity. The Struggle Sessions and Incendiary milieu, while lambasting the bogeyman of postmodernism for promoting disunity among the proletariat, in hypocritical fashion engage in splittism and seek to promote unprincipled factionalism within the revolutionary movement instead of genuine line struggle. This meddling they have also extended to the Communist Party of the Philippines, which correctly rejected and exposed their crypto-Trotskyite stunts.

This was also apparent in SS’s response to the comrades of FTP-Boston and their “open letter” to the FTP movement in general, which took correct criticisms of previous erroneous styles of work (which are being rectified through struggle, summing up, and analysis in every FTP branch) and tried to use this summing up and criticism opportunistically by seeking to break the unity of FTP chapters which has developed through struggle and mutual bonds of solidarity. FTP branches remain united and firm in our path of developing the solid foundation for the declaration of a Maoist Party. The Maoist Party is built through long and thorough mass work, not through consistent tiresome repetition of the same slogans and posturing about armed struggle, which is a long way from initiation, and repeating the words of Chairman Gonzalo, whose people’s war failed due to the same left opportunism that Struggle Sessions and its milieu pathetically reenact, even giving their ephemeral “mass organizations” the same or similar names as the generated organisms of the Communist Party of Peru. They even went so far as to ludicrously claim that our formations are guided by one individual, showing again their desire for splittism as opposed to principled struggle. In any movement, it is wise to beware of those who consistently seek quarrels and splits while speaking little of the need for unity, unless it is under their umbrella. It is also wise to reject those who foolishly seek to emulate the past in entirely different material conditions and contexts. For example, while FTP chapters are inspired by and learn from the Black Panther Party, we do not seek to rebuild the Rainbow Coalition, nor do we pursue rightist electoralism. We are more united than ever before in our work and will only build stronger in the future. This is the pinnacle of audacity and opportunism. We seek real engagement in the interests of party building as and with principled Maoists interested in applying Maoism to the concrete conditions of the United States, not with representatives of the “infallible thought of Presidente Gonzalo” or whatever the Gonzaloite verse du jour is and who are most known in the movement for sowing quarrels and unprincipled meddling.

The milieu’s line is that “there can only be one Communist Party”, which presumably means whatever they manage to cobble together. This is yet another example of dogmato-sectarianism. Any armed struggle situation in an imperialist country that is massive, like the United States, will naturally have several dozen armed left-wing factions that will, of course, need to develop some type of tactical unity. In India, for example, after the collapse of the initial Maoist formation organized by Com. Charu Majumdar, there were three decades when there was more than one Maoist party conducting armed struggle. The struggle for unity culminated in the merger of the Maoist Communist Centre and the People’s War Group, the largest of the formations, to form the CPI-Maoist in 2004. Which was the “true” Communist Party? The true vanguard, as Kevin Rashid Johnson teaches, is developed through real struggle with the people and the acceptance by them of a Party’s vanguard status. This is why FTP branches work alongside and struggle with the people to lay the foundations of future Party cadre and unfold mass struggles. The Gonzaloites routinely refer to us as “economists”, ignoring the fact that FTP branches have been key in organizing and sharpening combative class struggle in many cities, yet it is noted that almost every “combative” mass organization that the Gonzaloites have launched, has folded, in many cases after arousing the ire of the masses through their transparent opportunism and trafficking in the people’s struggles. We also note the fact that continued displays of wanton stupidity such as the DSA antifascist stunt in Kansas City in 2019 have aroused the ire of progressive people the country over and turned Maoism into a nasty word for many who otherwise would embrace it. They have even sought to set FTP chapters against one another by sending emails to an FTP branch impersonating a working class New Afrikan person claiming that a reportback from a protest was “wrong” and that “Nobody wants to see FTP in the streets anymore”. Yet, every time that FTP shows up to a demonstration in any city, it is well received because organizers know that our members can be counted on to be principled and trustworthy. Members of this clique have also engaged in juvenile harassment techniques such as leaving dead rats on an FTP member’s porch in response to a statement this member made about the Communist Party of Peru. Stooping to digital blackface to carry out personal quarrels as opposed to struggling in a principled fashion and seeking tactical unity as Maoists particularly in an upsurge of the people’s struggle is an exposure of the mindset of this milieu, as is engaging in ridiculous, juvenile delinquent style behavior against other Communists. Many who were disgusted by such actions have turned to FTP and now organize with us, because the people seek unity and preparation for revolution, not petty silliness. They support and propagandize these actions in a manner that fails to arouse anything but disgust and contempt from the working class that even knows, or cares, that they exist in the first place. FTP works and struggles with the people and arouses their support. Cadre are forged and steeled in class struggle, not through paper and polemics and certainly not through leaving dead rats on people’s porches.

Struggle Sessions launched the year 2021 after the issuance of their scurrilous “Open Letter” with another diatribe discussing how “Civil War is Not On the Horizon”, which notably argues for Trump being a liberal. We wonder what kind of liberal keeps copies of Hitler’s speeches, has a fascist mass base, and encourages open violence from his supporters. Once again, we see dogmatism hindering the development of a concrete analysis of the concrete situation. It is known to activists at home and abroad, from the Philippines to Portland, that Trump is a fascist. Of course, Biden is also a fascist. We unite with George Jackson’s thesis that the USA is already a fascist country, but it can not be denied except through willful ignorance or wanton deception that Trump has served as a lodestar for the most reactionary (fascist) elements of the right. He has consolidated this mass base over the past 10 years, beginning with his birtherism conspiracy against Barack Obama, and it has borne fruit and shed blood. We encourage comrades to not make the same mistakes that the German Communists in the 1920s did and ignore the continued growth of fascist reaction in the United States. It is also foolish to deny that there are contradictions within the bourgeoisie – while these are not yet antagonistic, when one wing of the American state calls on their base through not so subtle dog whistles to assault another wing, that is a sign of a shift. Fascism is noted by its ability to adapt itself and change its stripes. Trump’s base is going nowhere, and it grows ever more militant. Burying our heads in the sand, prescribing a “study of the greats”, and lambasting those who warn of a continued degeneration in the situation that could possibly lead to civil conflict this decade is the epitome of foolishness.

Mao wrote in “Oppose Stereotyped Party Writing”:

The second indictment against stereotyped Party writing is that it strikes a pose in order to intimidate people. Some stereotyped Party writing is not only long and empty, but also pretentious with the deliberate intention of intimidating people; it carries the worst kind of poison. Writing long-winded and empty articles may be set down to immaturity, but striking a pose to overawe people is not merely immature but downright knavish. Lu Hsun once said in criticism of such people, “Hurling insults and threats is certainly not fighting.”What is scientific never fears criticism, for science is truth and fears no refutation. But those who write subjectivist and sectarian articles and speeches in the form of Party stereotypes fear refutation, are very cowardly, and therefore rely on pretentiousness to overawe others, believing that they can thereby silence people and “win the day”. Such pretentiousness cannot reflect truth but is an obstacle to truth. Truth does not strike a pose to overawe people but talks and acts honestly and sincerely. Two terms used to appear in the articles and speeches of many comrades, one being “ruthless struggle” and the other “merciless blows”.

“Striking a pose” is the best descriptor of the writing style and practical work of the Incendiary milieu. Among the pages of empty verbiage– much of which consists of quotes used as if the authors are citing the Bible– we see self-righteousness bordering on the religious, self-satisfaction bordering on delusion, and sectarian pettiness such as complaining about Maoists using the internet to propagandize and calling those who do so “self-promoters” while also engaging in online self-promotion. This milieu denounces “postmodernism” as divisive to the working class and proletariat, while ignoring the fact that the working class and proletariat is already divided. Maoist philosophy teaches us that one-divides-into-two, yet here we have two into one.

There has never been any lasting class unity between settler workers and oppressed nationality workers in the United States. Moments of temporary unity, such as the 1877 General Strike, are the exception, not the rule. Political economist and theoretician J. Sakai, who this milieu fears and despises like poison, has pointed this out many times in many works that he has produced. The colonizer proletariat has consistently chosen, consciously, the path of class treason against their colonized class siblings, just as in other settler colonial countries such as Israel and South Africa (Azania). This has also been pointed out by theoreticians such as Walter Rodney, Huey P. Newton, Lenin, and Engels. Were the dogmato-revisionists truly interested in this historical and politico-economic truth, instead of constructing fantasy castles in the air to the detriment of the Communist Movement, and themselves, there would be no point of contention. Can this division be overcome? Yes, through struggle and looking what exists in the face. This shows the folly of banning the term “white privilege”. Settler workers have privileges over and above the colonized proletariat. Everyone knows that white workers are paid more, receive better and less dangerous jobs, and a variety of other material benefits from imperialism that have provided a material basis for their class treason and collaboration with the overwhelmingly white capitalist-imperialist bourgeoisie. Of course, as the United States loses its place in the world to social-imperialist China, it will be harder and harder for Yankee imperialism and its corporations to provide these benefits and privileges to settler workers. As their material conditions sink ever further and they slide into the ranks of the semi/lumpen proletariat, they will either provide a mass base for fascism, or for Communism. History has shown that in settler colonial countries, colonizer workers are more apt to lean towards fascism. Nowhere in the history of any settler-colonial formation has the ruin of that country led the masses of colonizer workers to Communism. This blame lies solely on the Communists who are also settlers for failing to carry out their tasks, or making excuses for/ignoring the chauvinism of their own proletariat. There is, for political purposes, no real or lasting unity between colonized and colonizer workers. If there was, there would be a thriving, multinational Communist movement in this country, and a real Party. For this Party and unity to be built requires looking the truth in the face and not deluding ourselves. Mass work and organizing must be done among settler workers to prevent them providing a mass base for fascism as they become lumpenized, as Huey P. Newton predicted. Black Panther Party theoretician George Jackson described settler racism as the major impediment to the construction of a united proletarian movement in the United States, and categorically denied the existence of racism among colonized people. This includes the phony bogeyman of “identity politics”, which is a stand-in for “Black racism” or “anti-whiteness” to the dogmato-revisionists. Black people advocating for self-determination are not “identity politicians”, they are correctly taking to task the opportunism and class treason of settlers and their “left”. Settler privilege and racism are real phenomena, and we must not ban language used by many to describe these real and deadly phenomenon simply for fear of “dividing the proletariat”, as the proletariat is already divided. Our task is to bring them together on a class basis, but this cannot be done by lying and policing language in supposedly Maoist organs. Banning “postmodernist” words in a commandist fashion, words which describe real phenomena, does not make the contradictions go away, and is an extreme disservice to the revolutionary movement of which this milieu so arrogantly claims to be the sole representatives. It seeks to haphazardly smash two-into-one and sweeps contradictions under the rug, instead of struggling against them. They follow in this vein once again in the piece “On The Revisionist Response to the Capitol Riots”, where they stupidly claim that “They will trick and confuse the people into thinking that class and politics have nothing to do with this, and that the police simply act according to race.” We challenge them to tell that to George Floyd. Everyone knows that the police suppress and target Black and Brown communities explicitly and purposefully. The FBI does not have a category for “Black Identity Extremists” as a joke. They seek to use such convoluted and simpleminded logic to once again center colonizers and flatten the national/racial question as something that is merely subsidiary to the class struggle in the United States, and not something that is deeply interwoven within the class makeup and the class struggle of this country itself. Of course, we can expect as much from those who claim that common sense that even colonized liberals can grasp is bourgeois postmodernism. W.E.B Du Bois remarked in Marxism and the Negro Question:

Unskilled and common white labor is too frightened at Negro competition to attempt united action. It only begs a dole. The reformist program of Socialism meets no response from the white proletariat because it offers no escape to wealth and no effective bar to black labor, and a mud-sill of black labor is essential to white labor’s standard of living. The shrill cry of a few Communists is not even listened to, because and solely because it seeks to break down barriers between black and white. There is not at present the slightest indication that Marxian revolution based on a united class-conscious proletariat is anywhere on the American far horizon. Rather race antagonism and labor group rivalry is still undisturbed by world catastrophe. In the hearts of black laborers alone, therefore, lie those ideals of democracy in politics and industry which may in time make the workers of the world effective dictators of civilization.

Likewise, there was no reason for banning the terms “cisgender” and “misogynoir”. Cisgender is a Latin derived term used to describe someone who is, simply, not transgender. Misogynoir is a term used to describe practices, languages and behavior that are antithetical and opposed to the well being and continued existence of Black women. Both of these terms are correct terms that describe actual things and Maoists should not be opposed to using them. As Mao said, the truth fears no criticism, and we should not fear “postmodernism” to the extent that we are banning words from our publications simply because they weren’t used by Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, or Mao. Ableism is a term describing the real oppression of people with a wide array of mental and physical disabilities. People who have disabilities are stigmatized by society, incarcerated, tortured, beaten to death in the streets, and subject to all kinds of abuse which sharpens if they are colonized or working class. Likewise, sex workers are a reality, prostitution is one of the oldest professions in history, being even older than the concepts of proletariat and bourgeoisie, and we simply cannot cite Kollontai’s proscriptions and injunctions against prostitution (in a society that was in the middle of a vicious civil war — again, context) in a puritan, moralistic fashion in the year 2021. “Oppressed gender” was also banned, again, as “postmodernist”, yet in the recent documents from the first Congress of the TKP/ML, a Maoist formation that the Incendiary milieu upholds as waging people’s war, we see the term used. This leads us to believe that these decisions on the part of Incendiary were taken arbitrarily without study or real struggle.

The dogmato-revisionists may call us eclecticists, yet it is known that those who fail to adapt to changing times will be left behind by the actual movement and development of society. We are dialectical materialists, and we realize that all is subject to change. We must study the changes, take the good, and throw out the bad. Dogmatism is to remain frozen in the past, and it was dogmatism that played a greater role than eclecticism in destroying the New Communist Movement. This is why FTP not only study “the greats” that Struggle Sessions and Incendiary seem intent on turning into a Christian fundamentalist style religious canon (lambasting other theoreticians as “revisionists” and “postmodernists” as they previously have abused Frantz Fanon) but also New Afrikan theoreticians such as Malcolm X. The dogmato-revisionists, when they engage with these theoreticians, do so in a lopsided way, republishing a Chinese poem written in honor of military theoretician R.F. Williams but refusing to study seriously his critiques of the settler working class that can be found in the pages of his newsletter, the Crusader. They traffic in the image of Fred Hampton, following the Trotskyites in taking his “It’s A Class Struggle” speech out of context, but refuse to heed his injunction against adventurism delivered to Weather Underground during their ill-advised “Days of Rage” debacle in 1969 which served no purpose except to get several dozen cadre arrested.

Most concerning is the development of an ostensibly New Afrikan newsletter, called “The Struggle”, which claims to be independently led by New Afrikan/Afrikan revolutionaries that just so happen to share the same lines of the Incendiary milieu, and use the same stereotyped language. This raising of more and more online papers carrying the exact same line, yet supposedly independent, is deception of the masses and the movement and we encourage this milieu to look hard at the fruit of their efforts now and in the future. Furthermore, trafficking in the struggles and revolutionary history of Black people while banning terms such as misogynoir, which literally refers to the phenomenon of oppression of Black women, is rank hypocrisy. Continued silencing of working class, oppressed people as “postmodernists”, and a variety of other weird behaviors and positions will lead this group ever further into isolation and irrelevance, the 21st century mirror image of the rotting Avakianite zombies from the last great Party building movement. We call on former Incendiary writers who remain active to provide a thorough criticism and repudiation of these trends and give real bite to their proclamations for unity of the proletariat by ceasing their futile and ridiculous antics which serve only to make the Maoist movement in the West look like a Godard movie or a Monty Python sketch. In short, we repudiate and categorically reject left phrasemongering and posturing covering for right opportunism, transmisogyny, misogynoir, white chauvinism, ableism, and flat-out erroneous line.

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