"Knowing what to do next"

ScottH9999 at SPAMaol.com ScottH9999 at SPAMaol.com
Sat Apr 14 18:09:11 MDT 2001

I won't try to give a full reply to Barry Stoller, because for one thing I
want to see what more people have to say. But he seems to be arguing that:

1) The mass line is no big deal. It is just common sense. Everybody (all
Marxists anyway) have always tried to do these things.

2) The mass line is not original with Mao, and is not Maoist. "Lenin,
Trotsky, Stalin, et al have said as much."

3) Political disputes between Stalin and Trotsky, or (apparently) between ANY
two other revolutionary leaders, are really nothing more than "power
struggles" over personal leadership, which is waged in ideological terms.

Starting with the last of these first, I find this position to be the sort of
thing you might hear some bourgeois professor of political science say.I find
it absolutely incredible that anyone who publishes what they call
"Proletarian news & Leninist debate" would say something like this.

With regard to point 2), I will simply call Barry's bluff. If you think
Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin, or Marx and Engels, or ANYBODY ELSE, came up with
the explicit theory of the mass line before Mao, then please provide the
quotes or citations. In working on my mass line manuscript over the decades I
have read a whole lot of all these authors (except Trotsky), and where I have
found suggestions of one or another small aspect of the mass line in their
writings, I have happily quoted them. But NOWHERE in their writings, that I
am aware of, will you find the full theory of the mass line explicitly
presented. Nowhere will you find the three main steps of the mass line
process listed, for example. If I am wrong about this, then please prove it
to me.

And with regard to point 1), do you REALLY believe that all the political
parties and groups out there are seriously trying to implement the mass
line?? From personal experience in the Maoist movement in the U.S., where you
would think it might be given some attention--given Mao's constant harping on
the theme--I can tell you that the mass line is not only NOT being used, it
is seldom even mentioned. On those rare occasions when it is mentioned, it is
usually easy to tell from the context that the writers have a very different
conception of the mass line than Mao did.

>From some of the things Louis Proyect and others have had to say about the
Trotskyist organizations, it seems that nothing like the mass line is being
used there either. If the mass line is just "common sense", then it is clear
that common sense is extremely uncommon. Instead, what we have, in this
country at least, is a whole lot of dogmatic sectarian parties and groups,
who think they "know it all", and feel they have nothing of significance to
learn from the masses. That is the sad truth of the matter.

--Scott Harrison

In a message dated 4/14/01 1:26:21 PM Pacific Daylight Time,
bstoller at utopia2000.org writes:

>  Scott Harrison: [T]he mass line means A) gathering the ideas of the
>  masses  themselves about how to promote and advance the mass struggle;
>  B) processing these ideas (i.e. selecting from among them) by
>  determining, with the aid of existing Marxist theory, a comparison with
>  similar situations in the past, and a careful analysis of the actual
>  objective situation, which of these ideas of the masses are actually
>  most likely to advance the current mass movement toward revolution; and
>  C) returning these ideas to the masses and leading the mass struggle on
>  this basis. If mistakes are made, if the mass struggle does not for some
>  reason advance toward revolution, the method is used again.
>  If I may be so bold, there is nothing especially 'Maoist' about the
>  above. Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, et al have said as much. Common sense.
>  The devil, as expected, is in the details---namely, the SPECIFIC
>  'processing [of] these ideas (i.e. selecting from among them) by
>  determining, with the aid of existing Marxist theory, a comparison with
>  similar situations in the past,' etc., and EXACTLY how the 'determining'
>  is conducted. Or, WHO is authorized to conduct the determination.
>  Further, if I may say so, there is nothing especially constructive about
>  communicating great general ideas under the rubric of the
>  above-mentioned 'great men of history'---namely, Stalin v. Trotsky, Mao
>  v. Stalin, Mao v. Trotsky, and so on. These 'ideological differences'
>  waged under their names were primarily POWER STRUGGLES between
>  INDIVIDUALS contending for leadership. These struggles, needless to say,
>  are resolved. Let us communicate the wisdom of the above-stated 'mass
>  line' without the baggage of our 'great men' who, for so long, have
>  divided Marxists, even Leninists.
>  ...........................
>  Barry Stoller
>  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/downwithcapitalism
>  Proletarian news & Leninist debate

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