Sum up, surge forward – Editorial Intro to Uprising #6

Introduction to

Issue #6 of Uprising: The Theoretical Journal of Revolutionary Initiative


Issue #6 of Uprising has been a long time in the making and it emerges with little editorial foresight. Yet, it is perhaps the most significant issue we’ve published to date — if not for our readers, then certainly for the members of our organization. The contents of Uprising Issue #6 reflect aspects of a deep process of summation and reconfiguration that our organization has been undergoing for the past year. What all the contributions in this issue have in common is a tight dialectical relationship between theoretical advance and our practice. While this issue is far from a sum-up of everything we’ve done or all that we’ve learned, we share some points of self-criticism and reaffirm some basic principles with clearer strategic foresight.

As the spiral on our front page tries to illustrate, the dialectic of organizational growth is not a process of simple repetition on a larger scale. As we proceed to higher levels of development, further growth requires shedding the weaknesses or errors in previous methods, solving the fresh challenges that come with an expanded scale of work, and adapting to changed external conditions. But breaking with our incorrect or no-longer-useful methods can be difficult, especially when those worked for a time at a certain level of development. It is not easy to know where you are on the spiral until it has become painfully clear that you are in a moment of crisis. This was the state of our organization as of late 2013.   Our theoretical contributions on dual-power, hegemony, and women’s liberation were sign posts for a future vision, but have we required a significant reevaluation of our past work and a reconceptualization of our methods to move forward. Another routine annual summation would not suffice. The various internal processes of critical assessment we have undergone would already contain within them the seeds of strategic reconceptualization, as the articles in Issue #6 attest to.

The first article in this issue, “Two Problematic Tendencies, and Two-Three Problematic Practices in R.I.” is from Comrade Jameel and was originally written late 2013 for internal circulation in RI. Its purpose was to identify and struggle against incorrect or insufficient methods of work that had emerged over the years in our founding region of R.I. In this piece, Comrade Jameel criticizes the associated tendencies of ideologism and spontaneism – two aspects of a unified practice that relied heavily on ideological interventions from a distance to spark organization (ideologism) absent the protracted step-by-step mass organizing and face-to-face engagement that is required to actually build mass organizing (spontaneism). These tendencies expressed themselves, as Jameel points out, in a practice that was too defined by the “politics of commentary,” “seminar politics,” and organizing rallies and protests. Whatever the utility of such tactics, Jameel’s article is a polemic and criticism of the unconscious elevation of these tactics to the level of strategy on the part fellow comrades in his region. Jameel’s article called for: a deeper theorization of our practice, plans for cadre building, an end to the diversions of “ambulance-chasing,” and “an intensification of the proletarian character and composition of R.I. through mass work.” At the time of Jameel’s internal document, many members of his region had long been concerned with the need for R.I. to proceed to the “lower and deeper” sections of the proletariat.

A major strategic consideration motivating Jameel’s intervention in the organizational context in which it was produced concerned the relationship between urban proletarian struggles and Indigenous peoples’ struggles in Canada:

If we do not have people in urban areas organized and capable of taking concrete actions, no amount of seminars, rallies and commentaries in and around a limited group of people is going to help the cause of national liberation in a sustained and profound way. It is also only when we have folks organized in urban areas on a mass scale that we can then start to send them out for international exchanges or visits with Onkwehonwe peoples. Otherwise, it will just be a bunch of us already-converted folks and some new students we take with us, but not the lower and deeper sections of the proletariat (Uprising Issue #6. p.11).

If Comrade Jameel’s article identifies the problems, Comrade Stella’s article “What is the Mass Line?” begins to point us towards solutions — at least at the level of abstraction. While these two pieces are not in direct conversation with one another, and though Stella’s article speaks to her own participation in mass struggles that precede R.I., in many ways Stella’s article anticipates if not motivates many of the changes that were coming for R.I. The tendency to view mass struggle or its emergence in overly spontaneist terms that Jameel criticizes is addressed by Stella’s point that:

The step-by-step process of the mass line means learning what issues are impacting the working class and engaging in systematic investigation, education, and struggle… We cannot know the answer if we haven’t engaged in collective process (dialogue and struggle) and collective process takes time… The first step is taken by integrating with the people in an open and humble fashion with an intention to exchange ideas… If there are sparks of struggle, we are drawn there – this is what social investigation is for. But finding the spark of struggle is just the beginning. This is the time that the deep social investigation begins, the results of which can be shared and disseminated through popular publications, handouts, and electronic media, raising class consciousness step-by-step: moving people along a trajectory of class consciousness towards an increasingly revolutionary perspective and challenging the ideas of the people that represent bourgeois individualism, or propagate racism and sexism among the people (Uprising Issue #6, p,14).

In contrast to the mass line practice, Stella warns of the influence of bourgeois / petty-bourgeois styles of learning and teaching, cautioning comrades against “building a great wall” between ourselves and the people by importing these methods of education into our work. Rather, we must absorb the knowledge and experiences of the oppressed and exploited, and disseminate the most advanced ideas among them.

Comrade Amil’s article “The Pedagogy of Party Building” is part of the theoretical scaffolding to a major internal assessment and reconfiguration of leadership and cadre development that has been taking place within R.I. over the past six months.

An aspect of the internal crisis that R.I. confronted in 2014 was a crisis of leadership. While our internal debates on women’s liberation infused energy into the organization with a new layer of initiative and leadership from women in the organization, as important as these have been for our internal transformation they are not sufficient to account for the changes our organization has undergone since late 2014. In our moment of uncertainty and crisis we became most innovative. We were confronted with the immediate necessity to theorize our past practice and the immediate problems facing us. The investigation of these concrete problems propelled the organization forward in many ways, and a part of this transformation has included the beginnings of a new cadre-building process that is informed by decades of collective experience of the cadre in our organization. Comrade Amil’s article discusses these transformations within a wider discussion of the importance of a pedagogical praxis in our party building. Amil explores the ideas of Paolo Freire in relation to his ongoing theoretical work of exploring Gramsci in relation to Mao.

Comrade Pierce’s piece concerns a related but distinct component of our practice: our internationalism. While reaffirming foundational principles of R.I.’s proletarian internationalism — especially, the strategic necessity of viewing the accumulation of revolutionary forces in Canada within the larger framework of the international proletarian revolution — Pierce revisits these in light of a few years of practice to criticize certain deviations: namely,

…mistakes in the work put into building relationships at the international level. Time and energy was put into building relationships and solidarity with essentially social democratic forces that would have been better used in strengthening long term alliances with other revolutionary organizations (p.39, below).

On the basis of our past practices, Comrade Pierce offers clear criteria for a strategic approach to our internationalism, namely, what forces we relate to and why. Pierce’s document sharpens our position that we view the accumulation of revolutionary forces in Canada as not only a struggle for socialism and national liberation (an end to internal colonialism) here, but a struggle against imperialism on a global scale.


Where to Now: Surge Forward?

To pull from the Great Soviet Encyclopedia quote inside our front cover:

Development does not repeat the paths already taken but seeks out new ones that conform to changed external and internal conditions. The more complex the process of development, the more relative is the repetition of certain features or properties encountered in previous stages… With each new turn, or twist, of the spiral, an even more significant path is left behind.

We are at a turning point in our organization, coming close to the end of a period of consolidation, and upon a new phase of expansion. We are continuing the project commenced by R.I. nine years ago, even while we make a break with some of our past practices. We remain committed to building a revolutionary organization of the oppressed and exploited in the territories claimed by Canada in order to abolish Canada as we know it, and replace it with a socialist and multi-national society that destroys the foundations of internal colonialism. The precise form of such a post-revolutionary society cannot be anticipated in its exact form, but to the extent that it can we must develop a program for such a society with all revolutionary forces, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, that can be united to destroy Canadian imperialism and internal colonialism.

We know that we need a clear program for advancing revolutionary struggle, and so this objective is at the very top of our list of things to accomplish in the coming 1-2 years. We especially need to theorize revolutionary feminism and revolutionary anti-colonialism and national liberation as part of our vision for socialism. We are moving ahead with the development of this program hand-in-hand with developing the cadre-level of our organization and deepening our base amongst the proletarian and nationally-oppressed masses.

As for the additional theoretical tasks we believe require research, internal education, elaboration, and struggle to get us to a draft Program, these include:

  • An outline of the recent transformations within and current state of the imperialist world system;
  • An elaboration of the dynamics of capital accumulation in Canada, Canadian imperialism’s place in the imperialist world system, and the relationship of these to revolutionary struggle in Canada and across the world;
  • A comprehensive class analysis of Canadian society (which will be a prerequisite for a revolutionary strategy), with a specific elaboration on the differences between the super-exploited and exploited versus non-exploited (worker elite) strata. We must also draw out the necessary political conclusions from our ongoing theoretical work on reproductive labour and women’s exploitation;
  • Providing materialist explanations of oppressed nations, national minorities, and internal colonialism in Canada and the role of migration and gender in producing super-exploited strata of the proletariat;
  • An analysis of the specific forms of national oppression in Canada, particularly Indigenous and Afrikan peoples, and how do these differ from the forms of oppression faced by other national minorities. Elaborate the place of national liberation in the socialist revolution.
  • An analysis of how hegemony and domination are exercised by the Canadian bourgeoisie in the current context, the role played by the coercive apparatuses of the State in dominating certain sections of the population while other institutions (philanthro-capitalist institutions, unions, multiculturalism, citizenship, religious institutions) produce a consensual order for much of the rest of the population.

We will be undertaking these theoretical tasks while sharpening of our praxis of mass organizing, developing the methods for carving out popular power “from the hood to the rez,” and growing our organization across the territories claimed by Canadian imperialism on Turtle Island. As we collect our experiences like apples in an orchard, we must use learn how to use them and take action.   If not, like apples, they will perish and will be lost. Insights into our past are as precious as the fruit from a tree, and understanding history, and our history, gives us new resolve and energy to tackle the obstacles ahead. We will face our responsibilities and tasks with all due humility and seriousness while working with other genuinely revolutionary forces in unity and struggle for the correct line and practice.

Uprising Editors

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