KERSPLEBEDEB: What is kites? Who produces it?
Kenny Lake: kites published its first issue in January 2020, aiming to fill the need for communist theory and strategy for revolution in North America, and to do so in a way that wasn’t full of the same old dogmatism. Two organizations, Revolutionary Initiative (RI) in Canada and the Organization of Communist Revolutionaries in the US, took the initiative to start it. An editorial committee, consisting of comrades in the US and Canada, was formed in 2019 to take responsibility for producing kites. We published our second issue in October 2020 and our third is being released now in February 2021.
Amil K.: I’d like to elaborate on what kites is by discussing dogmatism versus the practice of developing revolutionary theory.
To start us off, I think dogmatism is a trap. I see Left dogma serving much of the same function as the “opiate” of religious dogma: it can be a real salve to the conscience for any and all trying to cope with the daily assaults and alienation of bourgeois society. And that’s what makes it a trap. It’s a safe and predictable retreat. I think this is where the tendency towards “book worship” springs from. The problem, however, is that deep within that comfort zone of “theory” disconnected from practical activity the dogmatist is still wading in the nihilistic rot of bourgeois society, with no real faith that proletarian revolution is possible.
Let me take one piece of Maoist dogma for example: “the masses are the makers of history.” In an overarching historical sense, this little aphorism of Mao’s is certainly correct. But taken alone and removed from the living practice of revolutionary theory, the shell of this idea can be made to oppose the essence it was intended to contain: as if the masses will figure it out because that’s just what they do, and we (supposed communists? revolutionaries?) will be at the ready when that day comes. So you see, dogmatism can actually stifle revolutionary theory. The political agency of the masses that this credo is intended to convey is replaced with some mechanical conception of history that leaves us waiting for a proletarian revolution that never comes because it hasn’t been organized.
Real revolutionary theory, by contrast, can never be a refuge for the timid or lazy. Living, breathing revolutionary theory consists of engaging with the world around us in a very active and scientific way, full of inquiry and curiosity and experimentation, constantly checking our assumptions, and remaining courageous in the face of the mistakes we’re bound to make. Like any scientific endeavour, we have to expect experimental dead ends or erroneous detours or botched experiments as the price we pay for revolutionary knowledge. Marx put it eloquently in Capital when he said, “There is no royal road to science.” However, as that passage concludes, “only those who do not dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous summits.” These “luminous summits” are not some final destination we get to and then we’re done. Rather, it’s the discovery of a real communist faith in the masses and their ability to really fight that comes through persistent revolutionary practice, and by extension, a faith that the proletarian revolution we’re working for is not only necessary, but really possible. Such a faith in proletarian revolution is much, much harder to attain than the brittle assurances provided by dogmatism, but it makes us far more resilient revolutionaries in the long run as we confront the many trials, errors, setbacks, defeats, and hardships that revolutionary struggles guarantees.
I say all this without the slightest diminution of the work that comrades need to put in to learning the lessons that preceding proletarian revolutions have left to us. We need to train a whole army of revolutionaries who are well versed in all that, as well as the materialist conception of society and history that has been guiding proletarian revolutionary movements since the time of Marx and Engels. Obviously no one is going to develop an understanding of political economy through “lived experience” alone, so we clearly all have a lot of homework to do. But if we’re to advance a theory of how to make revolution today in this collapsing bourgeois civilization of ours, we’re going to need to get off our asses, get out into the world, and begin building the political instruments necessary for revolution.
Briefly, a second thing about dogmatism: it provides all the right kind of ammunition needed for the giant ego contest that is social-media Leftism. The more you “know,” the hotter your takes, the more “on point” your quotes, the more clout you build. But where does any of this ever lead, except asking your social media followers to Venmo a friend who can’t pay their rent or to buy some Lefty merch you’ve created? This is all just a reflection of the generalized narcissism that social media ingrains into our everyday lives, and it’s a huge drag on the regroupement of proletarian revolutionaries today. Every other groupuscule out here thinks they’re going to be the next big thing. But underneath all the posturing and the arrogance that dogma equips us with, there’s just a whole lot of illusions of grandeur and no real capacity to contend with the forces of capitalism-imperialism.
In a sharp break from all this, we see kites as a project of theoretical and political collaboration that’s long past due for proletarian revolutionaries in North America – strong emphasis on collaboration. We need to approach our historical mission with all the humility that’s required of people preparing to face the task of overthrowing the greatest empire in world history. The function of kites is contained in its name: to become the contraband that clarifies and carries revolutionary theory between every major city center, decaying exurb, rez, hood, and town that will need to be organized and prepared to combat and defeat capitalism-imperialism.
KERSPLEBEDEB: Could you briefly explain the two organizations behind kites and where they came from? How did the two groups begin working together?
Kenny Lake: The Organization of Communist Revolutionaries was officially formed in 2018 by a few comrades in the US with years or decades of prior experience in communist organizing and mass struggle. Its politics are best understood by reading its Manifesto and Membership Constitution, both available at ocrev.org.
For comrades on both sides of the US-Canada border, finding serious revolutionaries in North America with a desire to dig into the difficult challenges of making revolution in theory and practice has been tough to say the least. Internet posturing, postmodernist nonsense, and the dead ends of crusty Leftist organizations and “the movement is everything, the final goal is nothing” abound. So we recognized in each other a revolutionary seriousness, an intellectual rigor, a sense of humor, and that Maoist love for the masses in our souls. What is perhaps most important to our relationship is the ability to be deeply critical and struggle sharply over questions of line and strategy without any pettiness or ego-driven attempts to prove “who’s right.” It’s a relationship based on having monumental challenges before us and knowing we need a strong collectivity to meet them.
To sound like a total hypocrite for a second, how that relationship literally started was through the internet. Comrades in the US who at the time lacked an organization stumbled upon Revolutionary Initiative’s website and journal, Uprising, were impressed with the seriousness and humility of the comrades in Canada and sensed that they were living up to Mao’s insistence on integrating with the masses, and got in touch. The first “collaboration” was two articles from back in 2013–14: Amil K.’s “Towards the War of Position: Gramsci in Continuity and Rupture with Marxism-Leninism” sparked a response from Kenny Lake titled “Gramsci and Gonzalo: Considerations on Conquering Combat Positions within the Inner Wall of Hegemony” (both articles were published in Uprising and are available on revolutionary-initiative.com). But unlike today’s Twitter communists, we didn’t build a relationship by friending each other on social media, which, as should be well-known, is wide open to the surveillance and intelligence gathering of the bourgeoisie’s repressive state apparatuses.
Establishing kites deepened our relationship and was a way of combining our strengths. Our relationship has also been and will continue to be deepened by collective practice. An example of this was when, in 2018, a communist-led social investigation team spent some time in Baltimore conducting social investigation in proletarian neighborhoods to learn what had and hadn’t changed since the 2015 rebellion. We hope there can be more social investigation forays into hot spots of struggle in the future, and that such social investigation can produce revolutionary journalism and analysis that puts the voices of the masses front and center.
Amil K.: Revolutionary Initiative was founded sometime in 2006, and it emerged out of the anti-imperialist currents that were sparked off by the imperialist invasions, occupations, and assaults on Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, Gaza, and Lebanon. If I were being honest, the wave of anti-imperialist governments that came to power in Latin America also inspired a lot of comrades in that period. However, whatever the origins of our deepest indignations and inspirations, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that the most definitive force behind our constitution as a revolutionary organization were the living ties to active people’s wars and vibrant Leninist or Maoist organizations in the Philippines, Turkey, Peru, Nepal, Colombia, and India. These weren’t just some abstract things we read about in A World to Win. Having a few elders and a few more contemporaries of proletarian revolution from around the world who nudged us along the way was exactly the sort of inspiration we needed to take the leap and commit ourselves to the immense task of being initiators of proletarian revolution in this evil colonial and imperialist entity we know as Canada.
With anti-imperialism in our hearts and a little crash-coursing in Marxism-Leninism-Maoism with the help of a few veteran comrades from around the world, we immersed in the proletariat in search of a fighting people. The vast majority of our work over the years has been focused on building and advancing class struggle organizations in proletarian neighborhoods – predominantly but not exclusively of the immigrant working class. The choice of where to center the gravity of our organization arose not so much out of a totalizing class analysis of Canadian society and a determination that immigrant proletarian neighbourhoods were the most important place for us to be, but rather that was just the section of the proletariat that was most accessible to us in RI at the time and over the years. For what it’s worth, after a good fifteen years or so of trial and error and renewed attempts, the work led or initiated by RI cadre (or those trained or led by RI cadre) has given rise to some very significant advances of proletarian struggle in the regions where we were strongest. That said, this alone isn’t enough for proletarian revolution. This alone would only amount to syndicalism. That’s why kites was created.
Also, Kenny Lake is forgetting a detail about how we met. It was actually through trusted mutual contacts one or two degrees removed from each of us that the relationship was brokered. Internet communication played a part, but as the comrade already mentioned above, there are some real challenges to getting to know people through the Internet that comrades need to think through.
KERSPLEBEDEB: How would you describe the politics, ideology, or political line of the journal?
Kenny Lake: Since putting out kites, the most common queries we’ve received are those that ask which preexisting ideological and political box we fit into, e.g., “are you Marxist-Leninist-Maoist?” We have purposely refused to fit ourselves into any of these boxes because that approach only encourages dogmatism, intellectual laziness, and the postmodernist and Leftist methods of ideology by declaration. The editorial that opens kites #1 is quite clear on where we stand on the cardinal questions of communist revolution, i.e., the need for revolutionary civil war to overthrow the bourgeoisie, the need for a dictatorship of the proletariat to establish and continue the socialist transition to communism, and the need for a communist vanguard party to lead that whole process. But a declaration of principles, even important ones, does little to answer the challenging questions of how to make revolution in the real world. So we’ll continue to refuse to fit ourselves into any preexisting box and force people to read our shit if they want to understand our politics.
As for Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, the positive side of that appellation is that it identifies with the greatest achievements of the international communist movement, practically and theoretically: the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China and Mao’s theoretical breakthroughs, especially concerning class struggle in the socialist transition period. Furthermore, Marxism-Leninism-Maoism identifies with the revolutionary people’s wars that were continued or initiated after the restoration of capitalism in China, and with the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, which worked to regroup, ideologically, politically, and organizationally, the world’s remaining revolutionary communists after the loss in China, but unfortunately collapsed in the mid-2000s.
The negative side of the appellation Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is that nearly everyone in North America who dons it is a dogmatic idiot (that probably applies to Europe too, with the exception of Filipino exiles). Furthermore, it can bolster a long-standing tendency in the international communist movement to deify our leaders, even great ones, rather than learn deeply and critically from their practical achievements and theoretical breakthroughs and apply those lessons to our own times and places. It can become a closed system that fails to learn from experiences and theories other than those that it enshrines.
Everyone on the kites Editorial Committee has had years of training in Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, both in theory and practice, and we have deep reverence for the communist leaders, parties, and movements that have come before us. As much as the principles of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism are crucial to any future revolutionary advances, we do not consider Marxism-Leninism-Maoism in itself, especially if treated as a closed system or a dogma, to be sufficient for figuring out how we make revolution in the present. This is both a matter of substantial changes in the conditions we are dealing with today, and a question of intellectual approach.
Amil K.: You can leaf through past issues of Uprising to get some sense of the history of RI’s relationship to communist, specifically Marxist-Leninist-Maoist, ideas. I’ll affirm what Kenny Lake said about our mutual ideological origins. It’s worth adding though that our organization has also learned a tremendous amount by reading deeply into other revolutionary theorists that often don’t make the cut of MLM study guides, like Antonio Gramsci, Amilcar Cabral, and the many theorists and practitioners who come out of the height of the Black liberation struggle of the 1960s and ’70s (which Kersplebedeb has done a fantastic job of publishing, promoting and curating – so thanks for that!). All that said, I don’t want to overestimate the influence of long-dead revolutionaries on our thinking and practice. As I suggested above, I honestly don’t know if RI, and by extension kites, would exist were it not for the decisive influence of living revolutionary movements and IRL revolutionaries on our thought and practice. Being actively connected to communist revolutionaries in Turkey, Kurdistan, the Philippines, Peru, Colombia, India, Italy, and the Black liberation struggles throughout North America has played a significant role in the development of our thinking, practice, and fighting spirit. I won’t say that the lessons or inspiration they’ve imparted have all been equal, but I will say that members of RI over the years have learned how to be revolutionaries, how to give our lives to the people, and how to struggle for communism not by contending with what we’re reading in old revolutionary tracts, but in debate and exchange with real-life revolutionaries who share our aspirations for destroying imperialism, establishing socialism, and taking humanity that one giant step closer to the communist future we’re fighting for.
Ideology aside, the most succinct way to put RI’s “political line” over the years is to say that we’ve long believed that an essential task and a fundamental prerequisite to advancing proletarian revolution is to organize a new generation of proletarian combativity and class struggle in our otherwise rather desolate political landscape. Other tasks, like developing revolutionary theory or consolidating a wider vanguard organization has, rightly or wrongly, always tended to be of secondary importance to the mass work of building up proletarian struggles. But starting in 2018-19 we sought to correct this overall balance of work, and one of the initiatives to come out of this shift was the creation of kites. So, if I had to put RI into some MLM box, I’d say it’s the one that’s clearly labelled with the position that resurgence of a communist revolutionary movement will only come by way of the painstaking cultivation of a new generation of proletarian struggles (and not the perfection of MLM syntheses at a distance from the proletariat and its struggles). This is the political spirit that RI brings to kites, and I believe it’s the reason OCR comrades reached out to us to begin with.
KERSPLEBEDEB: What do you see the role of communist theory journals such as yours to be? To what extent is the journal a space for you to communicate your theory to others, and to what extent is it a means for developing your theory together, as an editorial collective, or more broadly among the Editorial Committee and the journal’s readership?
Kenny Lake: All of the above! The collectivity within and around the kites Editorial Committee has greatly strengthened our analysis, strategic thinking, and practical efforts, and kites gives us a form through which to concentrate our ideas and articulate them in writing. We have begun to receive feedback and contributions from comrades whom we have no organizational connection to, in North America and other parts of the world, and we look forward to more, including criticism.
We are most definitely using kites as a vehicle to intervene in the debates and resistance movements of today, as exemplified by the editorial “Defund, Abolish…but What about Overthrow?” published in kites #2, and to stretch a communist line beyond those we can reach through our mass work and personal and organizational connections. Unfortunately, there are few real communists in North America today, and the organizations that initiated kites are too small to have a deep and broad impact on their own and/or outside of their geographic areas. So we hope that kites, through a growing readership and new contributors, can guide communists and revolutionaries to sharpen our understanding of the challenges before us, build mass bases for revolution, and intervene practically in the crises and struggles that are raging today.
Amil K.: This journal needs to be able to learn from, impart lessons to, and ultimately build and lead increasingly impactful proletarian revolutionary struggles. At this moment in history, due to the scattered state of proletarian revolutionary forces and would-be communist revolutionaries, a site or literature through which to theorize, study, reflect, and struggle together in a politically serious way – not driven by public ego contests – is exactly the sort of thing we need more of. That’s what kites is trying to be, and this is what we’re inviting our readers to begin engaging with.
We also know we aren’t the only far-left collaborative publication out there. There are certainly other ones doing an interesting combination of on-the-ground research and reflection on proletarian struggles with a revolutionary outlook. To name a few that come to the top of my mind that I’ve perused and taken inspiration from over the last year, there’s IllWillEditions.com, UndercurrentMag.org, and HardCrackers.com. I don’t rate these projects because they’re close ideological kin and we all agree on the necessity of the dictatorship of the proletariat or the construction of the vanguard party. I rate them because they’re producing timely, compelling shit that’s a good mix of good research, timely intervention, and on-the-ground revolutionary proletarian journalism. This is exactly what any solid communist theory journal should be doing (rather than repackaging dogmatism!).
All that said, I think the thing that really distinguishes kites at this point in time is that, despite not being a democratic centralist organization, our Editorial Committee has established the will to really struggle through our analyses and conceptions. In other words, we’re prioritizing quality over quantity, and are not interested in publishing a wide range of eclectic, conflicting ideas that push in this direction and that direction. That said, we are calling on our readers to really engage with and challenge our content.
KERSPLEBEDEB: Your first issue was released in January 2020. The publication of your second was delayed until October 2020 due to the pandemic. What were the crises of 2020 like for the process of producing the journal? How have they affected how you view kites as a project?
Kenny Lake: The pandemic definitely made everything more difficult, including producing our journal. Crises also make practical advances in the accumulation of revolutionary forces both more possible and more complex, so that also meant some comrades had to devote more of their time to figuring out how to make practical advances through the multiple crises of the last year than to producing the journal.
Amil K.: The early period of the pandemic certainly threw some things into disarray for some time. The economic lockdown and travel restrictions were certainly factors, but not decisive ones. This past year has been one of the most intensive ever for those who’ve come out of RI or been trained or led by RI cadre, and that’s definitely had a bearing on how much time we’ve had for thoughtful research and writing. But at the same time, the qualitative leap forward in proletarian class struggle that we’ve been involved in since the onset of the pandemic, the lockdowns, and the latest explosion of resistance to police terror have also compelled us to write with even greater urgency. So while publication dates have been a shifting target for us, in practice, the crises unfolding and the widening of opportunities for political interventions have not surprisingly compelled us to write with greater urgency.
KERSPLEBEDEB: How do you understand the work of communist organizing and the role of communist organizations?
Kenny Lake: The kind of short answer to this question that an interview like this necessitates would not be helpful to anyone, and the best formulas for communist organizing can already be found in Mao’s Red Book, especially the chapter on the mass line. Through kites, we strive to dig into the challenges of building what we call the subjective forces for revolution: a communist vanguard party at the core of a revolutionary movement of class-conscious proletarians and their allies manifest in various forms of mass organization and struggle. We avoid offering simple answers or easy formulas, exactly because we understand that contradiction is central to everything, including to organizing the masses in struggle and in communist organization itself. But with that as a sort of disclaimer, kites has tackled and offered strategic guidance on some of the central challenges before revolutionaries in North America today.
The Manifesto of the Organization of Communist Revolutionaries (OCR), published in kites #2, contains a compelling outline of revolutionary strategy for the US. On the more practical end, in kites #3 the OCR has contributed manuals on the art of communist agitation and on the role and methods of summation in the revolutionary process. On communist organization, the OCR’s Membership Constitution can be found on its website, ocrev.org.
Understanding the terrain we are operating on, the potential social forces for revolution, and the potential openings for revolutionary advances must necessarily inform the strategies, tactics, and organizing methods of communists. To that end, José San Miguel’s “Theses on Capitalist Crisis and Class War,” published in kites #2, and my four-part series The Specter That Still Haunts: Locating a Revolutionary Class within Contemporary Capitalism-Imperialism are both crucial reads.
Learning from the history of prior revolutionary movements and mass struggles is likewise crucial to figuring out what we’re doing today. While revolutionary history lessons are threaded through most articles in kites, “From the Masses, To the Masses: A Summation of the October 22 Coalition’s Resistance to Police Brutality in the Late 1990s” offers a specific focus on a particular resistance movement and organization to learn from, and “When We Ride On Our Enemies,” part three of the aforementioned Specter series, analyzes the efforts of communists in Peru, the Philippines, and India to organize urban slum populations and masses dispossessed by the extractive industry in revolutionary people’s wars.
Finally, I’ve also written two articles that polemicize against the dogmatism and dead ends that are holding back the practice, strategic thinking, and training of a new generation of communist revolutionaries in North America. The titles of these articles speak for themselves: “Malcolm X Didn’t Dish Out Free Bean Pies: Distinguishing Charity and Social Work from Revolutionary Strategy,” which is being published in kites #3, and “On Infantile Internet Disorders and Real Questions of Revolutionary Strategy: A Response to the ‘Debate’ over the Universality of Protracted People’s War,” published in kites #1.
Amil K.: I’ll take the longer route in answering the question on the role of communist organizing and organizations. Communist revolutionaries, would-be proletarian revolutionaries, people in search of revolutionary ideas, people who need revolutionary ideas but don’t even know it yet – we’re in a horrible state of disarray at this point in history.
This state of disarray reflects the absence of an overall revolutionary program for the proletariat across North America (or in any great stretch of it for that matter). Abolitionism, for instance, is not a program. Saying that we want to eliminate once and for all the institutions that oppress Black and Indigenous people tells us nothing about how we’ll get there and how we’ll navigate all the enormous challenges along the way. For instance, what does “Land Back” actually mean? How do we plan to contend with the hundred million or so people that white nationalism is increasingly appealing to? Do we think a head-on confrontation and full-out elimination is viable, like the Algerians did with the pied noirs settlers in colonial Algeria? Are we fighting for socialist revolutions in the US and Canada as fixed, discrete geopolitical realities? What does this make of the Indigenous and Black national questions whose histories and present realities criss-cross and supersede the imperialist borders? Answering these questions is precisely the work that is required for the programmatic consolidation of a revolutionary movement. This is necessary so that a revolutionary people can be cultivated to fight for a clear and viable future.
We have some ways to go to arrive at such a program. But we need to fight for one like we’re fighting for our lives, which isn’t an exaggeration to say. Communist regroupement has occurred across the continent over the past fifteen years, but the proliferation of groupuscules has really hit a wall in recent years, especially during the pandemic. To answer your question, I think the role of communist organizing and communist organization is to establish the preconditions to overcome this state of disarray through real practical experience in proletarian struggles, through training and amassing resilient communist cadre, and through consolidating our theoretical acumen and eventually bringing forward a clear and compelling program for proletarian revolution.
There’s no shortcut to any of this, just painstaking work. What kites offers that is new is a platform to work through all this together. Many of us in RI used to think and act like a grand program would just fall out of the sky one day like lightning crashing. But we eventually came to see that’s not how its going to work. There are going to be many steps and phases toward the establishment of a robust revolutionary program for proletarian revolution in North America, and many forces will need to be consolidated to construct that program.
Also, a quick note on why our frame of reference in kites is North America (and why within this frame of reference we’ve said little about Mexico so far): we see it as our duty as communist revolutionaries in the imperialist countries to overthrow or break apart this bastion of capitalism-imperialism from within. Only the proletariat in these decaying imperialist social formations can do this. The external pressures of the international proletarian revolution across the rest of the world will only up the pressure on this state of internal decay, but external factors will not be a decisive force. However things go down with proletarian revolution in North America, we understand that this historical process will be riddled with connections from proletarian revolutions in the near and far neo-colonies alike, from the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America to South America and the rest of the world. But we place emphasis on imperialist North America because, as dialectical materialists, we give emphasis to the internal conditions that are necessary for the change of a thing. We’re decidedly not an organization that’s aiming to cheer on Maoist people’s wars from the sidelines. The imperialist powers of the US and Canada must be overthrown to spare us and the whole world from the catastrophic trajectory of things that José San Miguel sketches out in blunt, sober terms in “Theses on Capitalist Crisis and Class War.” The internal contradictions on this continent are trending in an increasingly explosive direction, and the role of communist revolutionary organization here is to ensure that these explosions are not in the interests or upon the initiative of capitalist-imperialist reconfigurations or fascist insurgency, but rather in the interest of a revolutionary socialist people.
So, circling back to your question of what communist organizing means: it’s about finding and closing ranks with new comrades for the battles here and the war to come. It’s about building a revolutionary people in increasing numbers and with increasing impact to materialize socialist revolution. To move with urgency, not hastiness. To find faultlines along which we can move the advanced masses into active confrontation with their real class enemies. To fight wisely, in the interest of self-preservation and revolutionary advance.
There’s not a single region in North America where proletarians aren’t in motion or at least seething with rage and discontent. The summer rebellion against police violence was the most extraordinary example of this in 2020. But we can now add to the ranks of the seethingly disconnected a vast section of the petty-bourgeoisie that is being wiped out by economic lockdown to the benefit of monopoly capitalism. However, we know this petty-bourgeoisie is thoroughly imbued with far-right, conspiracy-laden, anti-communist and libertarian ideologies. The 6 January 2021 putsch attempt on Capitol Hill is certainly the most extraordinary event in this fascist accumulation of forces. I’m not saying that the ranks of these social forces are in any sense at all immediate prospects for socialist revolution. But I am making the observation that this is yet another sign of political decomposition in and of bourgeois society.
Throw a rock in any direction in 2020 and you should be able to find people who, with the correct ideological, political, and organizational leadership, can be moved to fight the bourgeoisie if they had a correct consciousness of their class position and trajectory in capitalist-imperialist society. We lack the organized forces that are capable of making those sorts of interventions, not the people who are out there who can be organized. This is what makes us staunch vanguardists.
The missing ingredient, as Kenny Lake and others in kites have written about in a number of places, is the subjective factor – a clear, sober, scientific understanding of the world, a viable program to advance proletarian revolution, the means and skill to popularize all this, and an implacable organizational will to pursue it. That will can’t be faked. It comes from conviction that has been forged and refined through repeated practice and consolidated into solid organizational process and structure.
We plan for kites to accelerate this process. As you’ll see from kites #3 onwards, we will be publishing materials that are of a more practical nature and which bring forward the best methods of work from our own experiences over the years. OCR has initiated this process by publishing some of its internal organizational materials with kites, like “Drawing Blood: A Guide to Communist Agitation” and “Looking Back to Face Forward: The Role of Summation in the Revolutionary Process.” The readers of kites can also expect materials like this coming out of RI’s historical experience.
KERSPLEBEDEB: What are your theories of capitalism, class, and crisis?
Kenny Lake: These cannot be elaborated in the space of a short interview, so here’s a couple ways we differ from much of what else is out there and a couple reading suggestions. Our class analysis is worlds apart from the crusty, played-out notion of a “working class” that labors in highly socialized conditions in large factories as the leading force of revolution, which may have been more accurate in imperialist countries of the 1930s but has for some odd reason stubbornly persisted among many “Marxists” down to today. Our theory of who the proletariat is, theoretically and practically, can be found in my four-part series, The Specter That Still Haunts: Locating a Revolutionary Class within Contemporary Capitalism-Imperialism, which started in kites #1. But if you need a short litmus test for determining class in the US, proletarians are those people who face up their twenties.
In regards to crisis, we reject the notion of a grand crisis leading to capitalism’s inevitable collapse, and instead look at crises as potential opportunities for revolutionary advances if there are communists with a mass base organized and capable of taking advantage of them. On the flip side, capitalist crises can also potentially plunge humanity into dystopian disaster. José San Miguel’s “Theses on Capitalist Crisis and Class War,” published in kites #2, articulates this conception and analyzes the developing crises of capitalism-imperialism that must frame any conception of revolutionary strategy.
Amil K.: If there was one thing RI most certainly got right from the jump, it was the fact that the imperialist system was in “strategic decline” and that future job prospects for professional revolutionaries would be promising. We saw this from the early 2000s onwards, as US imperialism sunk deeper into an endless, genocidal war in Iraq and throughout the Middle East more broadly. We saw all this as the deepening of crisis for imperialism. Of course, we didn’t quite know the pace at which things would develop, but we were certain that communism was both possible and necessary. So we prepared ourselves. We immersed ourselves among the people. We made many interventions. We advanced and retreated. We found ourselves at impasses or dead ends here and there, but we constantly reforged our unity to take yet another revolutionary initiative. There’s so much more to sum up and evaluate, but that will have to be for another time. All this is to say that none of this would have been possible without committing ourselves to vanguard communist organization.
KERSPLEBEDEB: There has been a large growth in Maoist and communist discussion and debate over the internet in the last decade. As Kenny Lake noted in an article regarding the applicability of protracted people’s war in your first issue, sometimes these discussions are of such a low quality that we might question whether the term “debate” is merited, whether a development of ideas is even happening. How do you see the discussions between Maoists and/or other communists on the internet? Is it an important space in which to engage? How could it be improved? How can communists distinguish between productive disagreement or necessary critique and getting bogged down in unhelpful internet feuds?
Kenny Lake: We don’t see a large growth in Maoist or communist discussion and debate on the internet. Instead, what we see is a large growth of playing pretend, social media posturing, and dogmatic drivel. It’s no coincidence that this growth took place after the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement collapsed, and after the people’s wars in Peru and then Nepal were defeated and/or betrayed. As the organizations, number, level of struggle, and impact of real communists making or seeking to make revolution dwindled, it became more possible for dogmatic idiots and those trying to make themselves look cool to don the banner of Maoism or communism.
So fuck no, it’s not really a space worth engaging. It can’t be improved; it has to be rejected. But here’s why it can’t be completely ignored: (1) there are likely a few people with a serious desire for revolutionary change who get ensnared by it whom we should try to rescue, and (2) since it’s assertive online, it’s become the representation of Maoism and communism to a lot of people, and we need to show that something better can exist. Our approach has been to, where necessary, use a belligerent and sardonic rejection of pretend internet Maoism as a springboard for discussing real questions of revolutionary strategy. That’s why my piece “On Infantile Internet Disorders…” wastes little time refuting the church of PPW universalism and instead digs into more relevant questions of the history of Maoism and the challenges before revolutionaries today.
There are, of course, some better people out there seriously engaging revolutionary theory and the challenges of today, and doing so in podcasts and writing. We take their work seriously and look forward to fostering a broader atmosphere of healthy debate and discussion with them. With the articles that kites publishes, we hope that the connection to practice, strategic seriousness, intellectual rigor, refusal to fit within preconceived boxes, and sense of humor found in them can provide a different model that others can emulate, in contrast to the silliness and ego that people encounter in internet Maoism. That’s our contribution, but besides that, there’s several other ways people can transcend the silliness.
One, internet Maoism rests on being disconnected from the masses and from political struggle, so by actually talking to and integrating with proletarian masses and getting deeply involved in ongoing political struggles, comrades will confront the real challenges and contradictions of revolution, and dumb internet debates will lose their appeal. Two, dumb internet “communist” debates rest on a very narrow intellectual foundation and on self-contained circles, so if you engage with a broad range of ideas and people, dumb internet debates will prove to be dogmatic and out of touch. That’s another reason not to only read Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. Three, you have to read and debate theory in a living, dynamic way, rather than as a catechism, and apply it to the real world. To sum up and repeat what we’ve been saying in kites: get a copy of Mao’s Red Book, go to the masses, jump into the thick of the class struggle, and make lots of mistakes but persist in figuring out how to advance. It’s a long, difficult journey, but anyone willing embark on it is our comrade and we look forward to figuring out how to make revolution alongside you.
Amil K.: I think that covers it all. Thanks for the opportunity for this interview, and thanks to you comrades for all you do at Kersplebedeb.