Statement on the History of the Tampa Maoist Collective and its Dissolving: If You Don’t Dare to Struggle, You Don’t Deserve to Win.

Recent Edits (April 5th):

The original Title of this document was “The Tampa Maoist Collective Year Summation.” This has been changed to “Statement on the History of the Tampa Maoist Collective and its Dissolving.”  We believe that this new title more accurately reflects the content of the document and the present situation.

At the End of this document, it initially announced the building of TBRC (Tampa Bay Revolutionary Collective).  “We will re-constitute ourselves as the Tampa Bay Revolutionary Collective and will put out a Founding Statement in the weeks to come, which will cover the way we will continue rectifying these liberal errors.”  This was an error as we are not ready to announce a collective. This document was made to bring clarity to TMC’s situation and explain its dissolving.

Currently, there is no maoist collective in Tampa, and arguably there never was. However, there is a group of maoists that are attempting to build a genuine maoist collective in the bay area.  This group of maoists, once properly consituted, will put out a founding statement.  This website is run by these maoists.  The best descriptor for us is Tampa maoists/maoists in Tampa or tentatively the “Suncoast Reds.”

~End of Edits~

Clarifying Our Formation

         In January 2017, Maoists split from the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FightBack!) and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), rejecting their revisionist and anti-proletarian feminist practice.  We recognized the theoretical and practical limits of Marxism-Leninism and refused to join/stay in a rape-apologist organization with an incorrect political line for the sake of productivity in a “socialist” party.  We wanted to advance as communists, build US MLM, and build a Maoist collective in Tampa. Despite this, we carried over their mechanical methods of investigation and work, and the former organization’s tendency to ignore contradictions, misapply dialectical materialism, and never struggle for unity.  This contributed to our inability to effectively criticize and rectify our mistakes, leading to patterns of unfinished work, and at times no work at all. Why, in a year of our efforts, have we not been able to execute our political tasks? How were we not able to complete simple tasks and move on to bigger ones?

         We find that our main errors have been: lack of collective leadership and democratic centralism, lack of discipline, inability to treat mental illness when it interfered with one’s ability to complete tasks, productivism: doing things for the sake of doing them, and an inability to struggle.  This lead to unprincipled unity, liberal behavior, and festering contradictions that impeded our ability to conduct red-work. We will discuss the way these contradictions manifested in practice.

Lack of Collective Leadership and Democratic Centralism

          Democratic Centralism did not exist within TMC.  It was attempted but not executed. We had an unequal distribution of theory and labor in our organization. We relied too heavily on the few individuals already familiar with Maoism to make decisions for our political direction.  The internal functions of TMC reflected a consensus-based method that was more tacit than active. As stated elsewhere in our summation, many members lacked confidence and did not take an active role in politics. Collective leadership was never established within TMC.  Not every person was motivated to take on the hard work that is necessary to build and sustain a collective or didn’t do so consistently. We all need to be effective leaders and capable of coming to political/theoretical decisions/conclusions ourselves, no one else can do this for us.

           People did not take on appropriate responsibility and execute it.  At one point, a member of the collective voiced their desire to take leadership and control the direction of the collective as a way to fix this.  However, there was a counterproposal, where each comrade would share responsibility through Chair positions. Chair positions were democratically established for everyone.  Yet this solution failed because the collective was not at this stage of development. Subjectively, and on the surface it was, but in content, it was not. People did not take these roles seriously and abdicated their responsibility. This mechanical method of sharing responsibility also operates on a premise of spontaneity, that if we just throw people into positions they’ll get it together at the moment.  Throughout TMC’s existence, members had not even settled the more basic tasks. They were then thrust into positions of large responsibility for various functions of the collective. With no method to enforce discipline and no build up, this effort failed. The De-facto “leading” cadre, in coordination with the chair effort, tried to exercise a tacit policy of “we won’t speak, or do these things, ‘on principle’ so ya’ll can step up and do it.”  This is a mechanical approach to the issue. This is not an effective way to address the issue. Practice has proven this more than anything. Things kept on not getting done until the organization ceased activity.

           Furthermore, Collective decisions were rarely upheld and implemented in practice.  We failed to understand and apply Democratic Centralism. Once a collective decision is made, we must uphold it. We cannot allow individual members to break discipline- to break DC.  Ultimately, DC doesn’t function without democracy and it doesn’t function without everyone following through on an action. These are the two basic elements of DC. We can debate actions but we will follow through.  If we don’t have DC, we aren’t a collective that functions – and that was a contradiction throughout the whole TMC period. Due to a diversity of schedules and living in different places, not everyone was able to attend a given meeting.  However, we made the ultra-democratic error of not holding meetings without everyone present. This was argued for out of necessity due to having so few members still a part of the collective.

          A similar error regarding DC was that we did not understand that we are all leaders of the collective.  We cannot look to one person to fix our problems or think for us. In any future project, we must address the questions of democratic centralism and collective leadership.  Everyone should be debating and leading in turn. There is no room for laziness, or thinking someone else will take care of it. There was no lack of good ideas within TMC but a lack of discipline and organization.  

Lack of Discipline

           Accountability and discipline were not implemented in TMC the way it should be in a Maoist collective.  Comrades would take up or be assigned tasks and would either not complete them or would take too long to complete them with the quality of the work not reflecting the amount of time taken.  Criticisms or self-criticisms were largely a formality and the rectification process was almost nonexistent. On many accounts, multiple cadre had not completed the readings assigned for study.  A more specific example of this lack of discipline is when a comrade volunteered to create a pamphlet we would use as propaganda, what we now refer to as “the pamphlet incident”. This comrade took well over a month to put this together and ultimately provided an incomplete end result.  While as a collective we recognized this comrade’s errors rooted in lack of discipline, the way we handled situations such as these following was incorrect. In this specific case, the comrade promised to make sure to complete future tasks and there was hardly any collective struggle involving this comrade.   This lead to other, more disciplined comrades to pick up and correct the work. Despite this, the failure to properly struggle with our collective lack of discipline was incorrect.

           As TMC, we attempted to rectify this and build a structure.  In doing this, we created chairs and splitting up labor accordingly.  This ultimately failed, as we had not properly addressed our collective lack of discipline.  In theory, the concept of chairs and the division of labor could have worked, but in practice, it did not because we still had not established the importance of accountability.  We carried over liberal behavior from our previous work in revisionist organizations and did not take our work as Maoists as seriously as we should. In our previous work we found ourselves to be much more “productive”, but upon the foundation of TMC, we realized that real work and struggle is much harder than we had previously understood.  We expected our previous methods and practice to be adequate, but this was a shallow understanding of what we have a much better understanding of now.

Inability to Treat Mental Illness When it Interfered With One’s Ability to Complete Tasks

           Mental illness is something that all of our cadre deal with on a daily basis.  Despite this, as TMC we failed at handling mental illness when it affected our work and ability to complete tasks.  We first realized this after a cadre member left due to their mental health. We accepted this comrade’s split but did not struggle with them, nor did we follow up with how this comrade was doing.  After their departure, we decided collectively that we should make mental health a priority within the collective.

           We learned once again that things were easier said than done.  We took a very mechanical attitude towards our mental health and regularly used it as an excuse when it was convenient.  In many cases, we would use our mental illness(es) as a way to excuse our lack of political activity. While we attempted to prioritize mental health, we didn’t actually take concrete steps to do so.

           Using Dialectical Materialism, we understand ‘mental illness’ is not essential or inherent to anyone’s being.  It can be understood as concepts and descriptors for certain sets of behaviors that occur under specific conditions (biological and not), in certain historical contexts.  We realize behaviors can be changed- by altering the patterns of thinking that guide our behavior through ideological struggle and material change in one’s life. Obviously, this doesn’t happen overnight.

            A common unhealthy behavior is self-isolation.  Comrades cannot leave their room for days, cannot bring themselves to leave their homes, or even send a message to notify the collective of the state of their mental health- we must allow ourselves to support each other and encourage each other to engage in healthy coping mechanisms.  When we self-isolate, we physically and ideologically alienate ourselves from each other. We don’t communicate effectively, don’t complete tasks, and further detach ourselves from the collective with thoughts that are not rooted in reality. This leads to unprincipled unity and degeneration.  And because comrades are not communicating, we cannot struggle for principled unity and contradictions go unsolved. This is detrimental to any cadre organization. Self-isolation leads to alienation among members, disunity, and a failure to complete pressing political tasks.

          As communists struggling with mental illness, we cannot become reclusive and shield ourselves from human contact.  We cannot let ourselves become anti-people. We must remember why we are here and who we are serving: the people. We cannot lose our revolutionary love for humanity.  We must take care of ourselves because we have a world to win.

         Those struggling with mental illness may understand this phenomenon: you have red work you took on the responsibility of completing.  You know the task is easier said than done. When the next day comes, you have a hard time waking up. Getting through the day is difficult, to say the least.  When you get home and your mood spirals, you feel a lot worse than you did an hour ago- and for some inexplicable reason, the task at hand seems impossible to complete.

         When you are in a low and cannot bring yourself to get out of bed, or where ever you feel stuck, there are a few dialectical possibilities of what you can do at that point.  You can: go down the route of doing nothing, sleeping, or anything else that indulges your mental illness other than the red work you have to do- or you can do the red work and initiate some struggle against your mental illness.

         We must realize that in the final instance, we have the agency to physically get up and do what we need to do.  When red work crosses our minds in the situation above, we CAN choose to be productive. This has taken us a long time to realize.  Making the initial leap out of an episode is the hardest step on the path to recovery. Making material change in our lives is difficult but it’s necessary.  We must encourage each other to treat our mental illnesses, and not self-isolate, for the sake of comrades’ lives and our work.

Productivism: Doing Things for the Sake of Doing them- in the Name of “Productivity”

         We liquidated the class struggle in favor of “doing something productive.”  This liberal conception of productivity in lieu of struggle is harmful. It reflects the 9th error of liberalism “To work half-heartedly without a definite plan or direction; to work perfunctorily and muddle along–’So long as one remains a monk, one goes on tolling the bell’” -Chairman Mao.  Productivism is a toxic rightist trend that has been prevalent in “communist” spaces for a long time. It relies on a subjective and petty-bourgeois understanding. It mistakes the part for the whole, in that it ignores internal contradictions and focuses on the external. This often results in the all too prevalent Red Anarchist or Red Liberal.  We would often perform this or that for the sake of “doing something” or to not become a (red) “book club.” Working off of the idea that the only way to combat this was practice, we put ourselves wherever we would fit, and did “what we thought we should be doing.” Examples of this are demonstrated by the following ideas, “Other collectives are doing STP, why don’t we STP too!” or “Anti-fascist work is important, let’s do some of that!”  Overall, we achieved nothing. We never launched STP outside of a facebook and never conducted social-investigation. We participated in anti-fascist events but never led anything and often weren’t able to achieve anything. We were tailing anarchist anti-fascist work. “Tailism in any type of work is also wrong, because in falling below the level of political consciousness of the masses and violating the principle of leading the masses forward it reflects the disease of dilatoriness.” -Chairman Mao.  As the group degenerated and collapsed, a few of us took up individualist practice with local anarchists for a time.

Unprincipled Unity

            The basis of TMC’s unity was unprincipled because our split from a revisionist organization was the only point of unity between all members.  Despite our common recognition of the need for a split from ML revisionist practice, we still struggled to engage in Maoist methods of work. Half of us did not believe we had the sufficient theoretical understanding to be cadre in a Maoist organization.  (Specifically, understanding Dialectical Materialism, Maoist methods of work, tenants of Maoist theory, and the historical application of such.) In the early days, though this was a constant problem, it was not a lack of good ideas, but a lack of self-confidence that led some members to speak and others not to.  This led to those newer to red meetings remaining quiet, and to prevent silence and be productive, others spoke even when they did not want to. However, we liquidated the struggle for ideological consolidation and principled unity. As a result, we continued to use the methods we had previously known and apply them to our practice as “Maoists.”  Mechanical meetings, mechanical investigation, and liberal do-nothingness ensued. We had unprincipled unity and did/wrote things performatively. Ultimately, we were unable to conduct successful investigation, practice, and failed at organizing our community.

           In addition to this, we tried uniting with other Maoist collectives throughout the US.  This was an error because we were not consolidated nor unified amongst ourselves. At the most basic level, we put the cart before the horse by not taking our time to struggle and consolidate ourselves internally.  Insecurities from being a new collective led to making opposite errors in our practice.

           For example, in the very beginning, as a response to mechanical, bureaucratic and commandist SDS and FRSO meetings, we tried to make our meetings flow more “organically”, with open conversation rather than a strict agenda to follow with. We ended up with little to no structure, making them almost anarchic in character and inefficient.  This opposite error was our attempt at countering anything we had learned from the organizations that we had previously been working with. We did not properly analyze the mistakes within SDS and FRSO before attempting to organize as Maoists.

Losing Numbers

           Two crucial members left, one principled, the other not.  This was because of defeatism and self-isolation. These former comrades did not want to struggle with us over this.  Any issues we had in the collective were simply not struggled with. Essentially, our online posturing, unprincipled unity, lack of practice and discipline led to some comrades realizing we were going nowhere.  Instead of struggling to rectify this, they left. These comrades were incredibly theoretically knowledgeable. This event shows that, when a theory is not material, it is not a real force, it does not inspire, and it does not lead.  Aversion to struggle while knowing so much theory, and achieving so little can only lead to this defeatist behavior.

           The first member to leave did so on the basis of showing very little interest in the work and ultimately believing that was “doomed to fail.”  Their decision on leaving was something that they were very set on and did not wish to be struggled with. They never followed up to ask former comrades how things were going with the collective after they left.  Despite all of this, they were able to come forward and formally announce their decision to leave the organization. Looking back on this comrade’s split, we recognize their defeatist attitude.

           After the initial split of our first comrade, another comrade left. The decision for this member to leave was ultimately not communicated effectively.  This former cadre member announced they would be on a short hiatus from organizing due to their mental health. We all accepted this and wished this comrade the best, as a number of cadre did and still remain struggling with persistent mental illness.  We find it of great importance to recognize that TMC did not properly handle the issue of mental illness as a collective issue. What the remaining cadre thought to be a hiatus turned into self-isolation from this former comrade. During this period of self-isolation, they presented liberal behavior in their online conduct in regards to TMC and the remaining cadre members through “leftbook” chats and groups.  The remaining members were not aware that this former comrade had decided they would not continue organizing within TMC and were left with many questions. While we initially wished this person well, when provided with documentation of the things this comrade said, many of us were left hurt and confused. The extent of their mental illness was not communicated to the collective. Reading that this former comrade wished for many of us to “actually kill [our]selves” created hostility that was not there previously.  Ultimately, the remaining cadre members received no direct criticism or indication that this person would no longer continue with TMC and their reasons for doing so.

The Revolutionary Youth Organization (RYO) and Student Organizing

           RYO was a failure.  We experienced the limits of “student organizing,” the student movement and movementism.  We ended up leaving a student organization, just to build another one riddled with the same errors we made before.  We never put in enough effort to build a correct student movement as it took too much time. In practice, it meant focussing on the petty bourgeois intellectuals instead of the proletariat.  Through our cadre’s experience in the student movement in various student groups over the past few years, we have decided to stop engaging in these futile distractions. In the absence of the political work among the masses, it cannot be executed properly.

TMC Falls Apart

           Throughout the month of August new internal contradictions began to manifest and old contradictions could no longer be ignored.  The liberal attitude the collective took toward handling contradictions led to the further decay of unity among members. There was also very liberal organization internally.  Due to a diversity of schedules and living in different places, not everyone was able to attend a given meeting. However, we made the ultra-democratic error of not holding meetings without everyone present.  This was argued for out of necessity due to having so few members still a part of the collective.

           In practice, due to the lack of unity, lack of cadre development, and inability to meet regularly the organization fell apart.  Eventually, all meetings ceased but a few of us continued to get together at community events. This later became tailing Anarchist Anti-Fascist work in the area.  We never took up any mass work outside of supporting efforts in the community on an individual basis.

          After a month of not speaking, a few members called for a final meeting to decide the fate of TMC.  After this was unable to happen we decided to vote to end the project. However, we felt this would necessitate a final meeting to discuss the liberal behavior, reflect, summate, and close out the project.  This occurred after a few weeks of scheduling and without everyone previously involved. This meeting was cut-short and the members that had shown up were not able to meet again for a long time.

The Present Situation

         The few remaining members that wanted to close out the project recognized their liberal errors and began struggling to rectify them.  After about two months of struggling and consolidating our politics and political line, we concluded that we could begin organizing again.  (Although we had not gotten to the point at which we could summate and publish our experience and errors.)

         We got together and decided to create the STP Facebook page instead of seizing the old one.  Mainly, because we were not the old STP. (This resulted in unprincipled criticism from comrades online and the direct association of the TBRC and the Brooklyn Revolutionary Collective.  We are not under the direction of BRC, have no formal relations, and operate autonomously. We have based the STP logo off of theirs because we agree with the design concept. The publication of the Serve The People did inspire a former member to reach out to us and express their interest to organize again.  We have since met with this comrade and brought them into the organization. We have hidden the facebook page and will re-publish once we are ready to formally begin our mass work.

         We want to note that for a long while, we did not have access to former Tampa Maoist Collective emails, websites, and web pages, apart from the TMC Gmail account and TMC facebook page.  Any and all attempts to contact the authors of this document were not received. At the end of January RGA reached out to us, and we did not receive this until March 3rd. We are now in possession of all of TMC’s former accounts and will begin updating them ASAP.  We felt this summation was more pressing and have put our recent focus toward publishing it and forming our political direction.

         In light of the errors of TMC and the collective decision to end the Tampa Maoist Collective, a few former cadre and non-TMC Maoists have decided to build a genuine Maoist project in Tampa Bay.  Learning from our previous errors, we do not intend to rush our documents, no matter how popular the request is (on social media). We will also begin updating the Facebook pages and Web sites. We will organize patiently and strategically and will continue to struggle through liberal errors.  We welcome principled criticism and feedback on our summation. We seek to build unity with the existing Maoist collectives and will make efforts to reach out.

Summate and Rectify Errors!

Build the Collectives, Struggle for Unity, and Build the Party!

Long Live Marxism- Leninism- Maoism!

 

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