New Communist Movement
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The New Communist Movement (NCM) was a Marxist-Leninist political movement of the 1970s and 1980s in the United States. The term refers to a specific trend in the U.S. New Left which sought inspiration in the experience of the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Chinese Revolution, and the Cuban Revolution, but wanted to do so independently of already-existing U.S. communist parties.
In the 1960s, student activists gathered into the Students for a Democratic Society. The SDS grew to over 100,000 members before splitting in 1969. One of these splits, Revolutionary Youth Movement II, quickly splintered into a large number of small Maoist groups. These groups collectively became known as the New Communist Movement.
Developments in the 1970s and 1980s
As one of its last initiatives, SDS had begun to leave its campus base and organize in working-class neighborhoods. Some former members subsequently developed local organizations that continued the trend, and they attempted to find theoretical backing for their work in the writings of Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin. Maoism was then highly regarded as more actively revolutionary than the brand of communism supported by the post-Stalin Soviet Union (see New Left: New Left in the United States). As a result, most NCM organizations referred to their ideology as Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought.
Similar to the New Left's general direction in the late 1960s, these new organizations rejected the post-1956 Communist Party USA as revisionist, or anti-revolutionary, and also rejected Trotskyism and the Socialist Workers Party for its theoretical opposition to Maoism.
The groups, formed of ex-students, attempted to establish links with the working class through finding work in factories and heavy industry, but they also tended toward Third-worldism, supporting National Liberation Fronts of various kinds, including the Black Panther Party (then on the decline) the Cuban Revolution, and the National Front for the Liberation of Vietnam. The New Communist Movement organizations supported national self-determination for most ethnic groups, especially blacks and those of Latino origin, in the United States. These organizations addressed problems of sexism and racism, partly by voicing adamant support for self-determination and identity politics, and felt that they were dealing with problems they were of the opinion had not been addressed in the groups of the 1960s. However, different NCM groups came to this similar conclusion via quite different routes.
In its early years, NCM organisations formed a loose-knit tendency in United States leftist politics, but never coalesced into a single organization. As time went on, the organizations became extremely competitive and increasingly dennounced one another. Points of distinction were frequently founded on the attitude taken toward the successors of Mao and international disputes between the Soviet Union and China regarding such developments as the Angolan Civil War. The Revolutionary Union organized the founding congress of the Revolutionary Communist Party USA in 1975.
The October League organized the founding congress of the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) in 1977. During this period a few other new communist movement organizations also formed new communist party.
Unlike the majority of NCM groups, the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement (DRUM), which evolved into the League of Revolutionary Black Workers (LRBW), was formed by factory workers rather than student activists. The AFL-CIO leadership supported the Vietnam War and sought to avoid strikes, but union workers saw through this and independently organized a series of wildcat strikes. Radical Marxist and other African-American auto workers subsequently formed DRUM. From 1968 to 1971 DRUM and the league acted as a dual union, with black leadership, within the United Auto Workers.
The New Communist Movement as a whole became smaller in the 1980s. Some organizations dissolved in the early 1980s, such as the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist). The Revolutionary Communist Party USA remains as an original product of the New Left. The Revolutionary Workers Headquarters and Proletarian Unity League joined forces to form the Freedom Road Socialist Organization in 1985, and various other new communist movement collectives and organizations later merged into FRSO. Subsequently, in 1999, FRSO split into two organizations, both of which continue to use the name Freedom Road Socialist Organization.
In 2003 Max Elbaum (a former member of the non-NCM group Line of March) published Revolution in the Air, a history of the New Communist Movement.
- Provisional Organizing Committee for a Communist Party
- Bay Area Revolutionary Union
- Black Panther Party
- Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement
- Revolutionary Youth Movement II
- Students for a Democratic Society
NCM organizations of the 1970s and 1980s
- Committee for a Proletarian Party
- Communist Organization, Bay Area
- Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist)
- Communist Workers Party
- Georgia Communist League
- Guardian (US)
- League of Revolutionary Struggle
- Marxist-Leninist Party, USA
- October League
- Organization for Revolutionary Unity
- Proletarian Unity League
- Revolutionary Communist Party
- Revolutionary Union
- Revolutionary Workers Headquarters
- Revolutionary Workers Organization
- Sojourner Truth Organization
- Venceremos Organization
Current organizations descended from NCM
- Freedom Road Socialist Organization
- League of Revolutionaries for a New America
- Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
Notable theorists and leaders
- Inventory of the Black Panther Party. Harlem Branch Collection, 1970, n.d.: Collection # Sc MG 80. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library.
- New Mass Party Movements, 1970‑1976 portion of Detroit Revolutionary Movements Collection at the Walter P. Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs at Wayne State University.
- Revolutionary Communist Party Collection: Tamiment 090. Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives at New York University.
- An interview with Max Elbaum by Chris Crass. Onward: Magazine of Anarchist News, Opinion, Theory and Strategy of Today. Fall 2002
- American Leninism in the 1970s. by Jim O’Brien. Radical America 11–12:27–64, 1977.
- PDF version (warning: large document)
- The New Left/Maoist Tree. the NCM/New Left/Maoist tree charts the development of various Maoist movements. Justin Denton, Direct Action Tendency of Socialist Party, USA.
- Freedom Road Socialist Organization (www.frso.org)
- League of Revolutionaries for a New America
- Revolutionary Communist Party – link to their newspaper, Revolution. They have no official organizational website
- Bush, Rod When the Revolution Came. Radical History Review. Issue 90, Fall 2004, pp. 102–111
- Avakian, Bob. From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist, A Memoir. 449 pages Publisher: Insight Press (2005) ISBN 0-9760236-2-8
- Committee on Internal Security. America's Maoists: The Revolutionary Union; The Venceremos Organization. 202 pages. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1972. index. Trade Paperback. Photos & facsimile documents.
- Georgakas Dan and Marvin Surkin. Detroit, I Do Mind Dying: A Study in Urban Revolution. 254 pages Publisher: South End Press; Revised edition (August 1, 1998) ISBN 0-89608-571-6.
- Haywood, Harry. Black Bolshevik: Autobiography of an Afro-American Communist. Liberator Press, Chicago: 1978. 700 pages. ISBN 0-930720-53-9
- Mitchell, Roxanne and Frank Weiss. Two, Three, Many Parties of a New Type? Against the Ultra-Left Line. Publisher: United Labor Press (1977).
- Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist). Class struggle, journal of Communist thought. Spring, 1975 no. 1 to Winter 1979, no. 11. Communist Party (M-L), Chicago. 1971-79
- Kilpatrick, Admiral. A Veteran Communist Speaks... On the Struggle Against Revisionism 41p. Communist League. Chicago. 1974.
- National Network Of Marxist-Leninist Clubs. (Irwin Silber). Rectification Vs. Fusion: The Struggle Over Party Building Line. 55p. National Network of Marxist-Leninist Clubs. San Francisco. 1979.
- October League (Marxist-Leninist). Statement of political unity of the Georgia Communist League (M-L) and the October League (M-L). 20p. Statement of unity adopted at joint unity congress of the Georgia Communist League (Marxist-Leninist) and the October League (Marxist-Leninist). Los Angeles. 1973.
- Proletarian Unity League. On the October League's call for a new communist party. A response. United Labor Press. New York. 1976.
- Sojourner Truth Organization. The New Face of Fascism and the Klan. Special issue of Urgent Tasks. No. 14. Fall/Winter 1982. Chicago. STO, 1982. Contains three speeches to the National Anti-Klan Network Conference, Atlanta, June 19, 1982. Also: Lance Hill’s “Huey Long: Bayou Fascist?”; exchange on Anti semitism & Nazi ideology between Lenny Zeskind and Noel Ignatin.
Critical responses to the NCM
- Goldfield, Michael and Melvin Rothenberg. The myth of capitalism reborn: a Marxist critique of theories of capitalist restoration in the USSR. 118p. Soviet Union Study Project, distributed by Line of March Publications, San Francisco. 1980.
- Elbaum, Max. Revolution in the Air: Sixties Radicals turn to Lenin, Mao and Che. 320 pages Publisher: Verso (June, 2002) ISBN 1-85984-617-3.