“Thoroughgoing materialists are fearless; we hope that all our fellow fighters will courageously shoulder their responsibilities and overcome all difficulties, fearing no setbacks or gibes, nor hesitating to criticize us Communists and give us their suggestions. ‘[She] who is not afraid of death by a thousand cuts dares to unhorse the emperor’ - this is the indomitable spirit needed in our struggle to build socialism and communism.” - Mao Zedong’s speech at the Chinese Communist Party’s National Conference on Propaganda Work (March 12, 1957).
One of the most essential principles of communist organizing is that of criticism/self-criticism. Mastery of this principle will aid in our ability to be fit leaders for the masses of marginalized and oppressed people. It will promote understanding with regard to the politics and loyalty to, and unity within, our party. To this end, each party cadre must have a complete theoretical and practical understanding of this concept. Take for instance what Comrade Mao Zedong had to say about this process:
“...dust will accumulate if a room is not cleaned regularly, our faces will get dirty if they are not washed regularly. Our comrades' minds and our Party’s work may also collect dust and need sweeping and washing…”
We must thoroughly and regularly inspect, examine, and then clean away those things that are in the way of achieving our revolutionary goals and make space for those that will further our aim. In addition to the criticism/self-criticism that takes place within our party, we must open ourselves up to receiving criticisms from outside of the party, especially those criticisms that come directly from the people we serve. Even those we believe to be erroneous. Opening ourselves up to criticism will ultimately win the trust and confidence of the people. The trust and confidence of the people will be necessary to build relationships and carry out the tasks we will take on while working towards a socialist and ultimately communist future.
Additionally, the correct practice of criticism/self-criticism will raise our political consciousness, strengthen our revolutionary morality, and uncover and correct the mistakes that will undoubtedly be made along the way of building our party and uniting and empowering the various elements within oppressed communities.
Criticism/Self-Criticism Runs Counter To The Values Of Bourgeois Society
To offer honest criticisms of one’s self and one's comrades is not an easy task, but one that is necessary to struggle with until it becomes second nature. Initially, this is uncomfortable because this process runs counter to everything that we have ever been taught to expect and value in capitalist society. While our party cadres represent the emerging forces of the new society that we will ultimately create, we must continue to struggle with the old and dying reactionary forces that dominate this culture.
This dying yet still dominant culture is steeped in liberalism and subjectivity with one of its core tenets being unprincipled peacekeeping. We experience liberalism and subjectivity in our personal, familial, and professional lives. This is because people generally want to be liked and fear being ostracized from the group or mainstream. And it’s not surprising given that our entire culture is predicated upon fitting in and getting along. Most of us have heard and may have even used the phrase “If you can’t say anything nice then it is better to not say anything at all.” To not say anything that isn’t nice, in this sense, means anything that could potentially disrupt the unprincipled peace that comes as a result of liberalism.
Criticism Should Not Be Weaponized
While we don’t subscribe to the idea that things that can’t be said nicely should not be said at all, we also don’t believe in weaponizing the process of criticism and self-criticism, as is the habit of some formations. Communists don’t hurl criticisms to purposefully hurt or wound other comrades. There is a way to get to the root of a matter without being mean-spirited or demoralizing the comrade who is on the receiving end of the critique. Again, this process is for the purpose of discovering and correcting errors, with the ultimate goal being unity and forward progression.
We must also remember that we should not generally answer criticism with criticism. This is usually a form of deflection and seeks to muddy the waters or confuse the actual issue at hand. It is perfectly alright to not immediately, or at all unite with any criticism that proves to be flawed or that we may not understand. But as previously stated, it is our responsibility to consider it. Ask questions and take time to reflect on what has been said by our comrades, and why? The objective is to attack the action, inaction, flawed behavior, or belief and not the comrade. The goal should always be to further the work and build clarity of thought and unity in action.
Promoting A Culture Of Healthy Criticism/Self-Criticism
Keeping these things in the forefront of our minds as we struggle together and proceeding in good faith, while assuming good faith on the part of our comrades, will go a long way in helping to promote a culture in which healthy and principled criticism can flourish. We should also be encouraging all party cadres, regardless of rank or position, to engage in discussions of Party policy and important questions while giving equal weight to their input. This will also promote a culture in which comrades gain political insight and the revolutionary confidence to offer and accept critiques.
Dare To Struggle, Dare To Win!
New Afrikan Women Can And Must Lead!
Shupavu wa Kirima, General Secretary, RIBPP