Boldly Uphold the Revolutionary Use of Stilted Language from “Peking Review” Circa 1974!

by Scott McLemee on February 14, 2007

It is February 14, and that can only mean one thing—the arrival of this year’s batch of Valentine’s Day slogans from the Freedom Road Socialist Organization:

Proletarians And Oppressed Peoples,

1. Progressive And Revolutionary People Everywhere, Resolutely Uphold The Militant Bolshevik Spirit And Revolutionary Romanticism Embodied In Comrade Valentine!

2. Decisively Smash Retrograde And Joyless Ultra-Left Lines Which Disparage Proletarian Love And Desire!!

3. Warmly Celebrate The 20th Anniversary Of ACT-UP, A Militant Organization Which Attacked The Bourgeois State and Big Capital On Behalf Of LGBTQ People And All AIDS-Affected Oppressed Communities Worldwide In 1987 And Has Remained On The Offensive For Two Decades! ! !



Just to be clear about it, there are now two groups calling themselves the Freedom Road Socialist Organization. The other, rather more stodgy one being known as “FRSO (Fight Back)” in honor of its parenthetically indicated newspaper. And no, I’m not playing some variation on that Monty Python bit about the enmity between the Judean People’s Front and the People’s Front of Judea. This is for real, if “real” is the word one wants.

The splinter of FRSO using the rising sun logo on its website has also made available an impressive family tree of the American Maoist movement.

It is large and yet not complete. It scares me that I notice the omissions.

(Crossposted from Quick Study)

{ 23 comments }

1

harry b 02.14.07 at 3:04 pm

Unless I’m missing something, a massive, massive, lacuna is the absence of PL, no? Can it be that PL is entirely unrelated to the others? Even if so, why include Weather but not PL? And where are the Guardian folks? And…bloody hell Scott, I’ve got work to do.

2

Scott McLemee 02.14.07 at 3:19 pm

Right. They really don’t like PL, nor do they recognize the Guardian/Line of March cohort (the latter sometimes being renamed March in Line by detractors).

The chart also leaves out both (completely different) organizations calling themselves the CPUSA (M-L) — not to be confused with the Klonskyite CP(M-L), of course, which they do list. And it ignores several “paleo-Stalinist” groups that eventually broke with China and pledged allegiance to the Party of Labor of Albania, that “bright red bastion of proletarian internationalism.”

3

Luis Villa 02.14.07 at 4:02 pm

Though I can’t remember the exact names, the real world versions of the People’s Front of Judea/Judean People’s Front bit goes back at least as far as the early Russian anarchist-revolutionaries at the tail end of the 1800s.

And I have to admit I’ve never heard of the FRSO, or their slogan commission, so I have to ask- knowing self-parody, or are they actually serious? I have to assume the first, but I just wanted to check…

4

harry b 02.14.07 at 4:10 pm

Klonsky came to a conference on education reform I co-organised in October. Seeing him speak (from the floor) was wierd.

I can see why they wouldn’t like PL. By my time, they were extremely hard to talk to. The funny thing, though, is that I know a LOT of ex-PLers (a lot of philosophers, in particular, went through it, not unrelated, I presume, to Hilary Putnam’s legendary membership), and many speak very fondly of their time in the organisation, much more fondly than I would have imagined before getting to know them (I’m not going to out anyone).

5

harry b 02.14.07 at 4:13 pm

The nicest person on the left in Madison when I got here (15 years back) was a FRSOer (he still is, for all I know). Knowing self-parody is my guess.

6

Scott McLemee 02.14.07 at 4:50 pm

Yes, definitely knowing self-parody. They do this every year. Considering how bad most of the Maoist groups were about gender and sexuality, back in the day, I think it’s also at least somewhat self-critical.

7

abb1 02.14.07 at 5:13 pm

This is rather weak, I must say. I’ve seen much better dazibaos.

8

Frowner 02.14.07 at 5:15 pm

Hey, I actually know some of the FRSO/Fight Back people, and they’re rather all right as individuals although they and I are no longer, politically, on speaking terms. For Maoists, they’re very light-hearted. They also march in the Pride parade every year, and one of them was the only activist to actually offer to bring me groceries one time when I was smitten with a horrible case of the flu.

They are, alas, the only Marx-ish organization I’m familiar with which actually, consciously, tries to establish “front” organizations. And they are just about the hardest-working group on the left, at least around here–if it’s dull and boring and requires petitions and finicky stuff, they’ll do it. This accounts for a lot of their influence, actually.

9

shallowpate 02.14.07 at 5:17 pm

Thanks for reminding me of this, Scott.

Freedomroad.org gets my vote for the best-looking left sect site. When I see it, I can’t help but hum that tune from “The Wizard of Oz.” “Oh, we’re off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Mao!”

A more important question is: Which sect attracts the best-looking cadre?

10

bi 02.14.07 at 5:30 pm

It’ll look a lot less stilted if they ditch the All-Initial-Caps.

11

Henry (not the famous one) 02.14.07 at 6:37 pm

When I worked for the Farmworkers long long ago, one of the organizers referred to the PL (or was it the OL?) as the CP-USA (LSMFT). Ah, the Joy of Sects.

12

Miracle Max 02.14.07 at 6:42 pm

They forgot Eldridge De Paris.

13

Otto Pohl 02.14.07 at 7:45 pm

That family tree is pretty impressive. I would like to see one for Trotskyite movements as well. How few members can a splinter communist party have and still qualify to be listed on one of these charts? I think I encountered the world’s smallest one in London once. It consisted of three native Yiddish speaking South African Trotskyites and that was the entire organization.

14

Jacob Christensen 02.14.07 at 9:30 pm

@Otto: How many factions were there in that organisation?

15

Bill Gardner 02.14.07 at 9:53 pm

“That family tree is pretty impressive.”

I imagine, however, that if you divided the total of distinct persons represented by the number of boxes in the graph, the ratio would be very small.

Back in the day, I was a member of a small group of would-be American social democrats called the New American Movement. It vanished long ago. John Judis of The New Republic was a leading member. I watched a group of friends split off from NAM and join the world of the tree. It was like watching them sail off the edge of the earth.

16

Judy Loup 02.15.07 at 8:02 am

Single, Light-Hearted Maoist Female, Looking For A Long Term Relationship, Seeks Single Light-Hearted Progressive And Revolutionary Militant Bolshevik Male For Revolutionary Romanticism And Proletarian Love And Desire. I Enjoy Long Walks On The Beach, Candlelight Dinners Spent Planning our Attacks Against The Bourgeois State And Big Capital On Behalf Of LGBTQ People And All AIDS-Affected Oppressed Communities Worldwide and Quiet Evenings In Front Of The Fireplace (If We Are Meant to Be And The Pillowtalk Turns To The Crisis in Socialism, Who Knows Where It Might Lead?). Seeking Non-Smoker (this is negotiable). Please! If You Are Not Already Decisively Smashing Retrograde And Joyless Ultra-Left Lines Which Disparage Our Proletarian Love And Desire, Then You Are Wasting My Time And Yours. Also (!!!) No Fems, No Freaks, No Fatties (!!!).

17

duncan 02.15.07 at 2:04 pm

Jacob: I’m guessing 4.

18

John Emerson 02.15.07 at 2:28 pm

Not all the groups are factions. Some are local groups which later merge into national groups.

Here is the relevant Wiki. Front Page magazine has the RCP down as a PL spinoff. Horowitz’s memory has been addled by drugs, I suppose. So is mine, and it’s a mistake I might have made, possibly just because certain ex-PL ended up in the RCP.The ADL also counts the RCP as a PL spinoff.

19

John Emerson 02.15.07 at 2:30 pm

OMG — NAM. As I remember them, they made an opening toward the feely-touchy. The Freedom Socialists sort of did too.

20

Bill Gardner 02.15.07 at 3:33 pm

“OMG —NAM. As I remember them, they made an opening toward the feely-touchy.”

Mostly we just held meetings. Feely-touchy would have been a better use of the time…

To be fair, we spent considerable time picketing in support of the UFW, UMW, and various other strikes. (For Americans under 30, a strike is when the workers collectively leave their jobs in protest or to gain leverage in negotiation.)

21

Scott McLemee 02.15.07 at 5:23 pm

Calling RCP a spinoff from PL is an example of Horowitz’s usual passion for accuracy.

He wrote at one point that RCP members refer to the leader of the RCP as “Chairman Bob.” Chances are pretty good D’Ho been reading my site, where that expression has appeared from time to time, with obvious sardonic intent. No true-believing RCP member would ever commit such lese majestie.

22

shallowpate 02.16.07 at 6:09 am

I love this junk!

One thing I’ve never been clear on is the exact relationship between the Prairie Fire Organizing Committee and Weatherman (or the Weather Underground — not sure about the chronology). Clearly PFOC was inspired by one or the other of the latter. But my hunch is that the story is more interesting than mere inspiration.

PFOC is still around. I wonder how much organizational continuity there is between now and the beginning.

23

jb 02.19.07 at 9:04 am

@shallowpate

PFOC served as the above-ground organizational apparatus that formed the compliment to the WUO during its failed attempt at “inversion”: resurfacing to form a vanguard party of the revolutionary left. It took its name from the publication “Prairie Fire,” drafted and produced underground by the WUO, which was to serve as the manifesto for this party.

Alas (or, of course), this came to naught, with the one national organizing convention (’75) disrupted by factional cleaveage along both feminist and national liberation lines–the first having (rightfully) dogged WUO since its inception and the second due to an apparent (and striking) about-face concerning the leadership role of a revolutionary white left.

After the convention, a SF bay area splinter group parlayed a deft adherence to these critiques into an assumption of the WUO’s revoltutionary mantle and, shortly thereafter, neutralization by infiltrators, while the remaining underground cadres of the WUO began to slowly emerge.

The PFOC (which has a website, for you to google) has since largely focused on issues of Puerto Rican independence, almost exactly where the WUO left off prior to the inversion debacle.

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