Recently, the New Communist Party (Organizing Committee) NCP(OC) released a declaration named Self-Criticism and Summation on Patriarchy, which is apparently part of their previously declared Anti-Patriarchy Rectification Campaign. We republished the Anti-Patriarchy Rectification Campaign here, as well as the connected On Standards of Feminist Conduct by the Center for Marxist-Leninist-Maoist Studies. We stand in unity in the spirit and words of these last two documents, and consider them to be significant contributions regardless of their shortcomings in theory, a result of the lack of real summation of proletarian feminism at the level of theory (something we will address in unity with the topic of the lack of a Party soon).
As we approach the emergence of a split from the NCP(OC), the New Communist Party (Liaison Committee), we must place this document in that context. The NCP(LC) is a split from the NCP(OC): the rump leadership and membership are the ones publishing this material, not the organization who started the rectification process, and none of the comrades who lead the NCP(LC) were the target of this rectification in any harsh way. They were not expelled, contrary to what the purposeful obscurity of the “Self Criticism and Summation” seems to imply.
Accountability is anti-patriarchal, and lack of accountability is patriarchy
We took at their own words the allegations of the form of liberalism going on. Yet, this benefit of the doubt was also accompanied with a process of investigation on these matters, to confirm these allegations, to study how they were true or not, and how it was carried out in practice. We will not go into details here, not out of an unwillingness to do so, but a lack of space and time at the moment.
We are dealing with the concrete consequences of the NCP(OC)’s leadership refusal to pursue democratic centralism and instead institute a dictatorship of the leadership of a commandist nature – as evidenced by this and other documents they have released recently.
These expulsions show an unwillingness to adopt a perspective of collective responsibility around patriarchal behavior and the line struggle for the supremacy of proletarian feminist line over more traditional approaches to patriarchy. They were also accompanied with the spreading of rumors, rather than direct political denunciations of those involved that would subject them to a process of accountability by the political spaces they occupy. The fake clandestinity pursued by the NCP(OC), one that is central to the reasons for the NCP(LC) to split, leads paradoxically for them to depend on innuendo and rumor-mongering when dealing with these matters. While certainly one should always have a respect for confidential processes, these more often than not result in a lack of accountability that is utilized in patriarchal ways.
For a document that proclaims itself to be a self-criticism, it actually fails to be self-critical. In fact, it presents the typical view – formed, in an ironic twist, by patriarchy – of gas lighting and reality distortion. This what patriarchy consistently does: it lies and misrepresents people, it tells them the temperature is perfect when in fact it is too cold because the gaslight is set lower.
While the words presented ring true, they are simply form that is contradicted in practice – and more so, the same allegation is made by the NCP(OC), yet we are supposed to take them on their word, with no evidence presented, no process of accountability, with a fake clandestinity meant to protect leadership from criticism and keep members in an informational diet.
For example, in the first “self-criticism” this claim is made:
“First self-criticism: The NCP (OC) was founded on the basis of a male chauvinist and misogynist liberalism toward patriarchy in practice.
Drafted principally by women and queer members of the NCP (OC), resolutions against patriarchy and on the queer struggle were adopted by the First Congress without substantive discussion—in other words, as formal gestures that had little to do with the practice of the organization.”
This is true – but this is also true of all other documents approved in that congress, and furthermore, the congress itself was formed to the exclusion of Maoist forces (Such as those that went on to form Maosoleum, or the MLMRSG) in the USA. This is not the practice a real Organizing Committee should form. So this self-criticism finds a problem in how the Resolution Against Patriarchy was approved, but doesn’t make the same self-criticism of how other documents which were also approved with a lack of discussion, of how the First Congress composition itself was flawed, and how other processes since the Congress were carried out.
It is fundamentally seeking to frame the NCP(LC) as being a continuation of this practice, when in fact, it makes the same self-criticism, and then also extends it to all the other spheres of the organization. NCP(OC) is using this self-criticism to hide the lack of self-criticism in other matters. That is gender opportunism, using feminism as shield to avoid dealing with other matters.
It fails because we unite with this first self-criticism, and unlike NCP(OC) are collectively figuring out the actual root of this limitation, as well as doing a complete self-criticism in the whole of the experience, not just on gender, but on class, on the nature of the Party, on the position towards imperialism, and other related matters to the anti-patriarchal struggle.
We see, tacked on to the end by the NCP(OC) an actual addressing on the of this situation, which requires a step by step examination:
“The preparatory period for the First Congress of the NCP (OC) was not a preparatory period of communist militants. Likewise, the Congress itself was not a congress of communist militants.”
This is extremely surprising, taking into account that the existing leadership of the NCP(OC) was elected in this congress. So we can conclude, if we trust the NCP(OC)’s present assessment of the First Congress, that the NCP(OC) is not currently led by communist militants, no? Most likely, what they mean by this is that anyone who doesn’t agree with this unaccountable, cultish, “leadership”, is not a communist militant. The echoes of all the failures of the past, of the New Communist Movement imploding, of the self-destruction of the Black Panther Party, of the emergence of the Revolutionary Communist Party as a cult centered around the figure of Bob Avakian, of the demoralization of revolutionary communist forces into social democrats etc, are all here. When you have decided that you are the sole arbiter of who is and who isn’t a communist militant, when you have absolutely no social force behind you whatsoever is not only self-delusional, it is actually patriarchal: one of the oldest tricks in the patriarchal handbook is the process of denying people’s validity, as is done here.
“Both the preparatory period and the Congress were thoroughly defined by the political backgrounds of founding members in anarchism and social-democratic revisionism, despite a ceremonial adherence to “Marxism-Leninism-Maoism” (“MLM”) and an empirical assessment of the “contributions” of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao.”
A clear opportunism in the theoretical sphere expressed itself in decisions to come to a superficial unity on fundamental questions in Maoism, including the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, the universality of people’s war, and the party concept. This is reflected in the organization’s Principles of Unity, a pronounced practicalist deviation among its members, and the absence of concrete analysis, which led to the severing of theory and practice, as only concrete analysis can mediate theory and practice.”
Which examples, where? These claims are false. While the current leadership of the NCP(OC) was busy purging people and wallowing in their petty power, we at Maosoleum took the task of examining these questions in front of the masses. We provided militants with guidance when the present leadership of the NCP(OC) remained quiet. When MLMs in the USA sought guidance on Syria, we provided it, when they sought guidance on questions of the Mass Line, on National questions, and on a number of other questions, we provided them. The NPC(OC) refused frontal line struggle and instead engaged in a consistent and unprincipled line of rumor mongering and personalistic attacks – some of which were of a patriarchal nature. That is the track record. The present leadership of the NCP(OC) wants to argue they present the correct line, when in fact, they are the opportunist line.
“Upholding MLM” or claiming “Maoism” in the current US context is worthless without an analysis of the situation and an organized practice extending from such an analysis.”
Tautologies are tautological. Yes – we agree – but who has this correct analysis and you has this organized practice? Who is the determinant? The NCP(OC) calls itself an Organizing Committee, but it acts like a monolithic Party, and talks like one too. It claims Maoism, while adopting the self-aggrandizing tones of the Trotskyists and their toy Bolshevism. It claims others are worthless, but what does it say about its own worth?
This arrogant perspective that considers the matters of line and how to build the Party a settled question which the task is solely one of gathering soldiers around a leadership is Gonzaloite commandism. A process of a Liaison Committee is what was needed, and the adventurist/commandist perspective still expressed even in the name NCP(OC) is actually an impediment to the development of women’s leadership, by creating an environment of macho secrecy that creates an unsafe space and obscures transformation of militants and cadre alike.
“A key link in this organized practice today is the development of women as leaders and militants guided by a proletarian political line, the central criterion by which every organization and every individual must be judged.”
To the exclusion of all other matters? So we play oppression olympics, the ones where even the winners lose.
Tokenization cannot be mistaken for development. Leaders are not born, they are trained, and patriarchy doesn’t train proletarian women for leadership even at the level it trains proletarian men. We need to develop women as leaders, not parachute them in and setting them up to fail, or to delusionally claim that the incompetence and inability in leadership is compensated by the fact they are women. Or worse, become Svengali figures for men with skill and charisma to project their own leadership into women, while behind the scenes manipulating the rightful impulses towards leadership of women to impose line. This has been the history of this line.
“Did the revisionist 1977 congress of the Chinese Communist Party not hail Mao Zedong as the “greatest Marxist of our time,” affirm his “immortal contributions,” and announce the importance of his “systematic theory of continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat”?”
Of course, and the NCP(OC)’s “Self-Criticism and Summation on Patriarchy”, a document of much less historical significance and much less historical reach also announces itself to be “proletarian feminist” while rejecting proletarianism and class perspectives, proclaims itself “self-critical” while in fact being a criticism of people who left it (not that were thrown out righteous or not, but who left as a political split).
“Once we recognize that the advance of revisionism, even the restoration of capitalism itself, can take place under a red banner proclaiming Mao’s contributions, it becomes clear that one’s subjective identification as a Maoist and declarations of support for certain historical sequences and ongoing Maoist revolutions in other countries constitute only the most meager and ultimately vanishing basis for revolutionary work.
Just as one can say “continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat” when one in fact means capitalist restoration, one can say “Maoism” and “proletarian feminism” when one means in actuality the oppression of women.”
This is all true, and it is a sad irony that this “self-criticism” is an example of both. The NCP(OC) in their petty bourgeois chauvinist position, in their anti-proletarian feminist position, and in its embrace of bourgeois and petty bourgeois cultural feminism and radical liberal prefiguration, liquidates the struggle of Maoism and proletarian feminism into a “shining road” of class treason and patriarchal women’s emancipation. We explain this more fully (albeit not exhaustively) ahead.
Proletarian feminism in command
The second self-criticism is not a self-criticism at all, but an admission of the actual liquidation of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and Proletarian Feminism as applied to the concrete conditions in the USA:
“The contradiction between men and women has an antagonistic aspect and a non-antagonistic aspect. The assessment upheld by many in the US that this contradiction among the people is “non-antagonistic, except in individual cases of abuse” is a class reductionist and liquidationist position.
In the absence of a leading party guided by a revolutionary proletarian feminist line and in the absence of a revolutionary proletarian feminist movement, the antagonistic aspect here is dominant.”
At a time where even radical feminism is moving away from such positions, from rejecting gender essentialism, from examining patriarchy as a system that does not exist in isolation, we have the NCP(OC) turning back the clock 40 years, and while using the label “proletarian feminism” actual re-inserts the cultural feminist narrative on antagonism, a patriarchal women’s emancipation that ignores the history of struggle against patriarchy that has happened in the USA in the last 40 years, ignoring the social basis of gender, the struggles of radical feminists (as opposed to cultural feminists), the struggles for queer and trans liberation, and the significant gains made by petty bourgeois women at the expense of proletarian women.
Again, we see the thread of tautological platitudes connected haphazardly and without logic to unsubstantiated theoretical formulations divorced from practice, and accusations of liquidation when actually doing the liquidating.
Basically this is a patriarchal negation of non-white existence, of genderqueer existence, of queer existence, and of patriarchy as a system of oppression based on ideological need to organize labor rather take the cultural feminist view of patriarchy as a system of sex oppression in which its principal contradiction is that between women and men, biologically defined. This is unfortunately a line in the International Communist Movement and within MLM, but framing this line as a self-criticism of patriarchal practice is a trite attempt to dress up patriarchal chauvinism, hetereosexism, and homophobia as somehow becoming “feminism”. Paying lip-service to the language of queerness by using the term “cis-men” and then negating the fundamental scientific and political struggles that lead to the understanding of what a “cis-man” is, becomes a language ploy to obscure actual reactionary hetereosexist theoretical, practical, and analytical perspectives which are actually in need of self-criticism and rectification. It is again a masking of the actual dynamics at work in the decimation of the NCP(OC), of using gender as a shield to avoid dealing with gender correctly, and with all other matters worthy of criticism.
To this we must defend and uphold a proletarian feminism that struggles against patriarchy, that defines women as much more than the sex, and that understand that patriarchy is not a system of oppression parallel to that of class society, it is not some sort of “special” oppression, but an integral part of how class society functions and has functioned – as an inseparable part of the primary contradiction. The NCP(OC) pays lip-service to these tasks, and then proposes and “self-criticizes” an opposite path. Sort of exactly what they bring up as a criticism of the rest of us. This lack of self-reflection is in itself patriarchal – gas lighting elevated to political speech.
Prefiguration is not a communist practice—Oppose gender whateverism!
In this document the allegation is made that one of the root cause of the founding members patriarchal practices and expulsion is their origin in social-democratic and anarchist formations. Yet, the leadership that threw them out also shares this history. Are they not also formed in the same deviations? What makes them above reproach in this sense? Nothing.
And here lies the flip side of the coin: prefiguration. Social democratic and anarchist formations are imbued with a sense that it is possible, in the now, to free oneself of all the ideological constructions of capitalism, that somehow the individual can be freed, by sheer will and correct leadership, from the ideological and systemic oppressions of class society.
This is false, and history has proven it false. It also stands in the more than 160 years of Marxism theory, practice, and analysis. And this is repeated by the NCP(OC) at the same time they pretend to be negating this. The phantom of radical liberal prefiguration permeates the entirety of this document, but it is most strong in its call for prefiguration.
Prefiguration is trying to live today as if we lived under communism – a futile thing that has more in common with the religious mysticism of Gandhi than with the proletarian feminism of Ghandy.
This is not just a form of liberalism, but it is the form of liberalism that contaminates and liquidates the theoretical proposition that the emancipation of workers will be the task of workers themselves. The task of turning women into leaders and the task of making men follow women’s leadership is not an overnight task that gets resolved simply by expelling any man who doesn’t follow a woman’s leadership, and by tokenizing women who are unprepared for leadership (of men, in particular) and setting them up to fail, and then refusing to criticize the token, because doing so would be patriarchal!
The NCP(OC) brushes this aside with a tautological platitude:
“The notion that the masses of women are dominated by male chauvinist ideas just like men, and therefore, it is implied, are oppressors themselves indistinguishable from men. While women also take up patriarchal ideology, there is no relationship of symmetry here.”
Without getting into the straw-man argument (no one argues that women and other oppressed by patriarchy are indistinguishable from men – and to be clear anyone who does is wrong), lets examine the theoretical and analytic poverty expressed in that quote.
Women are treated as some sort of homogenous mass of people, unaffected by structural divisions: oppressed nationality women, working class women, immigrant women, trans women, woman-spectrum genderqueers, etc, are all treated as one single entity, with no intersectional approach. And in the context of proletarian feminism, no focus on the primary contradiction in class society, the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeois.
That is not the Maoist and proletarian feminist approach:
“The Maoist perspective on the women’s question in India also identifies patriarchy as an institution that has been the cause of women’s oppression throughout class society. But it does not identify it as a separate system with its own laws of motion. The understanding is that patriarchy takes different content and forms in different societies depending on their level of development and the specific history and condition of that particular society; that it has been and is being used by the ruling classes to serve their interests. Hence there is no separate enemy for patriarchy. The same ruling classes, whether imperialists, capitalists, feudals and the State they control, are the enemies of women because they uphold and perpetuate the patriarchal family, gender discrimination and the patriarchal ideology within that society. They get the support of ordinary men undoubtedly who imbibe the patriarchal ideas, which are the ideas of the ruling classes and oppress women. But the position of ordinary men and those of the ruling classes cannot be compared.” -Anuradha Ghandy “Philosophical Trends in the Feminist Movement”
The NCP(OC) claims that a false symmetry is made between the patriarchal formation of women and the patriarchal formation of men is being made. They provide no evidence of this claim.
However, they do engage in a false symmetry, that of comparing “the position of ordinary men and those of the ruling classes”. This self-criticism is not self-criticism, but an embrace of a petty bourgeois cultural feminism that sees proletarian men (“ordinary men”) as antagonists in the same way as ruling class men. This is their line, and we oppose it and stand with Ghandy in this opposition, not out of dogmatic adherence, but out of agreement with the basic method of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and not its liquidation as a proletarian revolutionary science.
The NCP(OC) puts itself outside of proletarian feminism to embrace a rejection of it, but tries to call it “proletarian feminism”. Avanti spins in her unfortunately early grave, betrayed by those who claim to uphold her.
The correct line on handling the contradiction between proletarian patriarchy and proletarian feminism inside of communist cadre formations is principally a question of practice itself, but we can make concrete proposals:
- Women caucuses that engage not just on “feminist” issues, but become leadership schools in which women develop free of men’s interference (but with men’s cooperation) to both deal with their own patriarchal upbringing and to develop the skills and self-confidence required to become successful leaders.
- Avoid tokenization but recognize the primary task of male leadership is to develop women who can replace them – ensure affirmative actions such as “shadow leaderships” (ie women who are invited to be present in leadership processes while still developing) as well as power-sharing and dual leaderships when necessary.
- Recognize that petty bourgeois chauvinism, national chauvinism, hetereosexism and hetereosexual chauvinism, educational chauvinism, and other forms of chauvinism exist alongside and in intersection with gender chauvinism.
The NCP(OC) instead takes a line of tokenization, of punishment instead of transformation (we must note, however, that punishment is indeed necessary and that transformative justice in small sects such as ours is an exercise in folly), and lack of intersectional analysis in which gender, and specifically the woman-man binary, is the principal contradiction. This is made explicit in their proclamation:
“Hard lines must be drawn here: if the NCP (OC), prior to the multiple expulsions, had succeeded in growing beyond its initial numbers and becoming a political force—which would mean the recruitment of more cis men, the only people who in any likelihood would join—it would have to be smashed by working-class women. The organization would have functioned as yet another instrument of the bourgeois class enemy opposed to working-class women.”
This is gender whateverism: whatever a woman leader says. That is not feminism, that is petty bourgeois individualism of a woman elevated to organizational form. If the NCP(OC) were an organization that claimed a different ideological perspective, we wouldn’t even bother. Yet they claim to be an Organizing Committee for an MLM formation – this is a serious claim that is laid false with this perspective. The NCP(OC) actually damages the struggle for proletarian feminism by setting back the process of developing a collective anti-patriarchal leadership – because their gender whateverist line actually alienates proletarian women as it is also a patriarchal practice. Not to mention, the NCP(OC) is still dominated by cis-men, which makes it ironic indeed.
A question of line and a question of practice
The NCP(OC) has been decimated and rendered invalid as a real Organizing Committee, and instead has alienated and isolated itself from the masses, including the masses of women, queers, and other people directly oppressed by patriarchy, not principally because it incorrectly handles the contradictions among the people, but because it has assumed a line of whateverism and commandism in its internal functioning, refuse to make self-criticism in good faith, and uses the communist struggle against patriarchy as an opportunist shield to avoid dealing with all other questions, including the patriarchal behavior on the part of its leadership on the basis of alleged allegiance to proletarian feminism.
Patriarchal behavior that endangers the security and the ability of women and queer cadre to develop as leaders cannot be tolerated within communist organizations. In this we agree. Yet, this principle must exist and go hand in hand with political accountability of the leadership via democratic participation of the membership, via the correct understanding of the dialectical unity of democracy and centralism, and by the understanding that the semi-formal nature of an Organizing Committee – in which by definition matters would be more open to struggle than in a Party. Patriarchal leadership in the hands of a woman is indeed symmetrical – for communists – with patriarchal leadership in the hands of a man.
It is in the realm of this practice where the NCP(OC), while paying lip-service to proletarian feminism, actually fails. In trying to frame this line struggle as one over patriarchy and feminism, we have shown ways in which the NCP(OC) actually does a disservice to the development of independent women’s leadership, to proletarian feminism, and the goal of full proletarian command of the communist organization.
We have seen members and leaders of the NCP(OC) refer to other trends, such as Maoists (Third Worldists) “M(TW)s” as charlatans and as a liquidationists, because they take an incorrect view on the contradictions among the people. The NCP(OC) in this document and in its actual internal and external practice is no better, with their focus being on gender as their wedge. In claiming to give gender and anti-patriarchal struggle its due, they actually are doing the opposite, much in the same way that M(TW)s claim to advance Third World struggles, but actually advocate a line that weakens this struggle.
We believe that line struggle is necessary and healthy and part of the process towards the construction of a unified headquarters. However, for this to be a process in which actual unity and trust is built, there needs to an honest accounting of contradictions, an honest representation of line differences, and the understanding that democratic struggle is primary over centralism at this present juncture. The quantitative takes precedence over the qualitative because the quantitative does acquire a qualitative nature in itself.
NCP(OC) wants to operate as The Party. It is not The Party. And today it has more members in the leadership than out of the leadership because of this incorrect self-image leading to this. It is a question of practice, and solely of practice. As we have shown, in words there is really no fundamental differences. And this is why the patriarchal lack of accountability is the method of this leadership: the narcissism of the petty difference is a patriarchal behavior hard to escape.
Empty and delusional triumphalism in a matter of central importance to the communist struggle such as the anti-patriarchal struggle is not only incorrect, but it is an attack on actual proletarian feminism, it is in fact, patriarchal. We need to reject patriarchal women’s emancipation, and struggle for proletarian feminism, for the reforms necessary under capitalism that weaken patriarchy, for the reforms necessary under socialism to overcome patriarchy, and for permanent cultural revolution until the overthrow of patriarchy. We need to make our organizations safer spaces for women and queers in a continuous process of rectification based on good faith transformation of cadre and the masses, the development and ruthless separation of those guilty of gendered violence, partner violence, and rape, and the theoretical, practical, and analytical elevation of gender contradictions as part of the primary contradiction.
NCP(OC) stands against this in deeds, when it claims to stand for this in words. They can rectify and self-criticize – but their patriarchal misrepresentation of the issues at hands speaks to them not yet taking the first step necessary in this process: recognizing their own gender whateverism, commandism, and identity politics based on the logic of patriarchal women’s emancipation and not the attack on patriarchy itself.
This is not to say that the call for a rectification set out by the NCP(OC) and the Standards of Feminist Conduct by the CMLMS are incorrect in principle and spirit. They are not. The NCP(LC) needs to embrace these. Yet it needs to also engage in the correct self-criticism that makes the struggle of patriarchy not just a matter of individual struggle, but also a matter of collective struggle in which the leadership is not only not immune, but should be the harshest in their self-criticism. And it also need to sum-up the experience of the NCP(OC) in the harshest light possible, including its own role in the development of these deviations, so as to keep them from happening again.
We are hopeful this process of unity can start again with the correct lessons and summations, and not the self-serving, self-justifying platitudes of a clique bound on clique rule. And we are also hopeful that they themselves can see their error and rectify. We need to unite all those that can be united – yet this requires a willingness to reconnect with concrete reality, and not just be another paper sect mired in self-righteous play-acting instead of organizing for revolution.
And certainly, utilizing the righteous struggle against patriarchy as a shield from criticism, and utilizing the necessary method of criticism/self-criticism to make a mockery of it, is an antagonistic perspective that we cannot be liberal in overlooking. The NCP(OC) has much more rectification to make than this fake, opportunist, one – to walk a truly shining path of liberation, instead of a fake shining road of liquidation.