Some Thoughts On The Panther Solidarity Organization, What It Is And What It Isn't: Programmatic Unity vs. Political-Ideological Unity (April 2022)
The Party unites programmatically with people whose politics are different from ours as long as the contradictions aren’t antagonistic, with the hope of winning them to a deeper political understanding or of gaining partial demands that lay the groundwork for more revolutionary gains.
Recently there has been discussion on what exactly the Panther Solidarity Organization (PSO) is and if the members and/or participants need to be united around a singular political-ideological line. Comrades have also asked if developing and working around a definite plan of action (POA) within the local collectives would be considered the same as unity around a specific political or ideological line. To, hopefully, provide clarity to the comrades in the various collectives as well as those who are yet to join us, I want to use the following paragraphs to explain what is required of comrades in the PSO concerning political or ideological unity.
Unity Of Line Versus Unity Of Practice
Comrade Mao once said:
"The correctness or otherwise of the ideological and political line decides everything. When the Party’s line is correct, then everything will come its way. If it has no followers, then it can have followers; if it has no guns, then it can have guns; if it has no political power, then it can have political power. If its line is not correct, even what it has it may lose. The line is a net rope. When it is pulled, the whole net opens out."
In this quote, Mao was speaking specifically of the revolutionary party. The PSO is not a revolutionary party. It is a mass organization and as such has no singular political-ideological line, as only programmatic unity – in our case, unity with the Revolutionary Intercommunal Black Panther Party's (RIBPP) 10 Point Program –is needed to be a part of or participate in the mass work. The RIBPP leads and gives guidance to the PSO. We have a clear and definite line. That line is the theory of Revolutionary Intercommunalism illuminated by Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM). The PSO is a manifestation of the RIBPP's political line but as a mass org, PSO’s members cannot be compelled to accept our line. Instead, we must win them to the correctness of our line through political education, practice, participation, and real-life examples.
The goals and requirements for membership and expected behavior of members during the recruitment process and after admittance into the revolutionary party differ widely from those of the mass organization. Party members must be of one mind and move in lockstep with one another politically and ideologically. This is a part of the Democratic Centralism our party adheres to. Proper planning and preparation are valued in both the party as well as the mass org. However, it is in the mass org where the people will begin to embrace these values and, with each passing success, be filled with the revolutionary consciousness and confidence that has been stolen from them by this system. The various PSO collectives and the National Secretariat, when it has been established, should absolutely work from a plan of action that will accurately reflect the current conditions. A plan of action is distinctly different from a political line. Having and working according to a plan doesn't require political or ideological unity.
We can all plan to go skating this weekend. We can lay out the time, the location, and who all will be attending. Those responsible for the planning of this outing could be communists, anarchists, Democrats, Republicans, Christians, Muslims, etc. And we can still have a very successful event. And that is because this plan only requires programmatic unity, meaning that we only have to agree on the overall idea of skating this weekend and how we will logistically carry this out. We do not have to be of one mind politically or ideologically for this to happen. It is much the same with the PSO and our 10 Point Program. One does not have to be Maoist or even a communist to participate. One simply needs to be in unity with the ideas that people should have food, shelter, education, and be allowed to be free of police brutality and terror, etc.
A comrade asked in reference to this analogy, "But doesn’t everyone have a reason for doing that [skating] event? And for not going to the park or the movies instead? And then wouldn't those reasons influence what they do or don't do in the future? It seems that the belief that people should have food, shelter, education, and be free of police brutality and terror is political and that those beliefs inform what they are all are doing." They went on to say that "PSO may not have to have full ideological and political unity on the level of a Party, but don't we have to have something, even if it's a lot less comprehensive?"
Yes! And that "something" is unity with the 10 Points. Which was designed to meet the people exactly where they are at, and are things that almost everyone in the oppressed communities can agree on despite one's political or ideological views. Those 10 points and people wanting to have access to those things are very much political ideas (as is every other issue in society, as politics is defined as simply concentrated economics or the very human desire to have food, shelter, clothing, or resources with which to procure these things for ourselves and our families/communities). But something being political in nature and people's stances being political - as every stance is political, even the decision to be apolitical - does not mean that we all must share the same political or ideological line or even need to, in order to effect change on a programmatic level, which again, is what the PSO is about.
Let's take the skating scenario a bit further. All of the people involved would definitely have their own reasons for agreeing to go skating as opposed to engaging in some other activity. And yes, their reasons would be political as is everything. But those politics or motives could very well differ from the others in the group who agreed to go skating. So while everyone who is involved in the planning and execution of this outing is political and their decisions to be a part of this skating group are political, they would not all need to be unified around the same political ideology to come up with a successful plan.
Some people may have chosen skating for exercise because they value physical fitness over the other options, some may have chosen to go because they enjoy the nachos served in the skating rink's food court; and others may be going because they were bored and this seemed like something easy and fun to do; and still others may have beef with the rink's owner because they take issue with the condition of the rink, and believe that the rink should be run by and for the community, and hope to win support from the other skaters for a political action at the rink. That last group would be the party. We will many times unite programmatically with people whose politics are different from ours as long as the contradictions aren’t antagonistic, with the hope of winning the other groups to a deeper political understanding or of gaining partial demands that will lay the groundwork for later more complete or revolutionary gains. We will lay plans with these groups that in many cases will be successful but this is not the same as adhering to a cohesive political and ideological line.
There is much more to know and understand about the PSO which is beyond the scope of this short piece. I only wanted to touch briefly on this point as I believe its clarification is important. Often, potential allies or supporters in this struggle are inadvertently turned away because they may feel as if they aren't ready or don't measure up. This can be confusing stuff for those who are new to political organizing. And space and time should be made for comrades to ask these and other questions that are made in good faith. We want to create a culture of transparency and mutual learning. This will build camaraderie and strengthen us for the struggles that are to come! PSO is for the people!
Dare to Struggle Dare to Win!
All Power To The People!
In Revolutionary Love and Struggle,