Freedom Road Socialist Organization
|International affiliation||International Communist Seminar (defunct)|
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the United States
The Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO) is a Marxist–Leninist organization formed in 1985, as many of the Maoist-oriented groups formed in the United States New Communist Movement of the 1970s were shrinking or collapsing. The FRSO tried to consolidate some of these groups into a single, lasting organization.
The FRSO's component groups saw ultraleftism as the New Communist Movement's main error and attempted to reverse what they saw as that movement's excessive divisiveness and sectarianism. The FRSO was founded when the Proletarian Unity League and the Revolutionary Workers Headquarters merged in 1985 and then fused with the Organization for Revolutionary Unity in 1986. It later absorbed other groups too, including the Amílcar Cabral-Paul Robeson Collective in 1988 and the Socialist Organizing Network in 1994.
The FRSO supports self-determination up to and including independence for African Americans in the Black Belt Region of the South, Chicanos in the Southwest and the Hawaiian nation in the Pacific Ocean. Much of the theory behind this comes from Harry Haywood's resolutions at the Comintern in 1928 and 1930. The FRSO's position on the national question is a defining feature of its politics.
In the 1980s, members of the FRSO and its predecessor organizations worked to build the Rainbow Coalition, and supported Jesse Jackson for president in 1984 and 1988. They also worked on African-American progressive Harold Washington's successful campaigns for mayor of Chicago in 1983 and 1987.
In the 1980s, the FRSO also played an important role in the U.S. student movement, leading the Progressive Student Network (PSN), a national, multi-issue, progressive student activist organization.
From the 1980s through the mid-1990s, the FRSO published Forward Motion, a magazine formerly published by the Proletarian Unity League.
The FRSO played a role in the anti-war movement that emerged in 1990 in opposition to the Gulf War. It also helped build the reproductive rights/abortion rights movement in this period, including the massive 1989 demonstration in Washington, D.C.
In response to the fall of Eastern European governments, the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, and the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, two distinct positions began to emerge within the FRSO on how to assess socialist countries. One saw the events of 1989–1991 as indicative of a deep crisis in socialism that required what they called "left refoundation". The other continued to assess the experience of socialist countries as essentially positive, and saw their defeats as the result of revisionism, not as a crisis of Marxism itself. This side continued to identify itself as Marxist–Leninist. At the organization's 1991 Congress, the group's highest decision-making body, a document giving the FRSO's official position, "On the Crisis of Socialism", was adopted. It was reaffirmed at the 1997 Congress. The internal division continued throughout the 1990s until the organization split in 1999.
In 1994 the Socialist Organizing Network (SON) merged into the FRSO. The SON was formed out of the dissolution of the League of Revolutionary Struggle in the late 1980s, and included those who had been in LRS who still considered themselves Marxists (most of the leadership had rejected Marxism when they disbanded the LRS).
The merger between the FRSO and the SON technically marked the creation of a new organization, as at the time it was seen as a merger of two equal organizations into something new, rather than the FRSO's incorporation of the SON. The merged organization was briefly called "Freedom Road/Socialist Organizing Network", including both organizations' names, with the possibility that it would adopt an entirely new name. A new name never came to fruition, so the name reverted to "Freedom Road Socialist Organization". But the 1994 FRSO Congress, at which the FRSO/SON merger was formalized, was called the First Congress of FRSO/SON.
The FRSO published the SON's periodical Moving Forward for a short period after the merger. It continued to sporadically publish Forward Motion during the 1990s. In 1998, the FRSO's Chicago District and Minnesota/Madison District began to publish a Midwest regional newspaper, Fight Back! News.
In 1999, the FRSO split into two groups, each retaining the name and considering itself the only legitimate FRSO. The two groups split principally over the proposal by a section of FRSO's membership in 1999 that the FRSO adopt a Left Refoundation strategy. The Left Refoundation strategy was advocated by those who saw Marxism as in deep crisis. It aimed to further elaborate a response to the "crisis of socialism" and called for the construction of "a new type of political party" to unite with advanced sections of the masses, stressing collaboration across the left over strict adherence to Marxism–Leninism.
By no later than 2006, the "Left Refoundation group" had officially changed its name to "FRSO/OSCL," combining the English and Spanish initials.
The FRSO continues to explicitly uphold Marxism–Leninism. It operates according to democratic centralism, and has an anti-revisionist political line toward the world communist movement. The FRSO actively maintains friendly relations with many Marxist–Leninist parties and organizations around the world, and annually participated in the International Communist Seminar.
The FRSO has a unique strategy for revolution in the United States: "to build the strategic alliance between the multinational working class and the oppressed nations under the leadership of the proletariat and its party." It aims to create a multinational, revolutionary Marxist–Leninist Communist party in the U.S.
The FRSO continues to support self-determination for the African-American nation in the Black Belt South, the Chicano nation in the Southwest and the Hawaiian nation in the Pacific Ocean. According to the FRSO, "a single, unified, multinational communist party is needed to build the strategic alliance" in place of the pre-split unity document's "support and encourage[ment of] the independent organization of oppressed nationality revolutionaries and progressives, where they have determined it to be necessary," support that extends even to the formation of communist parties of a single nationality.
FRSO upholds Joseph Stalin as one of the "principal theorists" of Marxism–Leninism, along with Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin, and Mao Zedong. The FRSO recognizes Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and China as socialist countries. It also maintains close relations with the Workers Party of Belgium (WPB), participating annually in the WPB's International Communist Seminar. It was one of two U.S.-based groups to attend in 2006, along with the Workers World Party. The FRSO supports national liberation movements in Palestine, the Philippines and Colombia, and stands in solidarity with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Communist Party of the Philippines, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP). Its continued solidarity with the national liberation movements in Colombia and Palestine in particular remain a defining feature of the organization since the 1999 split.
The FRSO is active in the labor movement, the oppressed nationalities movements, the immigrant rights movement, and the student movement. It actively participates in the new Students for a Democratic Society.
FRSO has held post-split organizational Congresses in 2001, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2014, and 2018.
At the 2001 Congress, FRSO adopted a new version of its main Unity Statement, since the pre-split version did not explicitly mention Marxism–Leninism.
At the 2004 Congress, FRSO produced a new statement on the National Questions in the U.S., which it said "represents a concluding step in placing our organization on a Marxist–Leninist basis."
At the 2007 Congress, FRSO released the document "Class in the U.S. and Our Strategy for Revolution." It stated that this document would be the first piece of a larger organizational political program, the other parts of which were still in development. FRSO has historically not had an organizational program, though it is more common for communist parties and organizations to have one. At the 2007 Congress, FRSO also released the document "The Movement Against the War in Iraq: A New Period and Our Tasks."
FRSO held its Sixth Congress in 2010. It produced a statement from the organization, a main political report, and seven resolutions on different areas of struggle, including the immigrant rights movement. The Sixth Congress statement emphasized unprecedented growth and gains in advancing the struggle in the labor movement, the student movement, the oppressed nationalities movements, and the immigrant rights movement.
2010 FBI raids on the FRSO
On September 24, 2010, over 70 FBI agents simultaneously raided homes and served subpoenas to prominent antiwar and international solidarity activists in Minneapolis, Chicago, and Grand Rapids, Michigan. The agents seized computers, books, written material, cell phones, family portraits, clothing and other items deemed political. FBI agents also visited and attempted to question activists in Milwaukee; Durham, North Carolina; and San Jose, California. The search warrants and subpoenas indicated that the FBI was looking for evidence related to the "material support of terrorism".
In the process of raiding an activist's home, FBI agents accidentally left behind a file of secret FBI documents showing that the raids were aimed at people who were or were suspected of being members of the FRSO. The documents revealed a series of questions agents asked activists about their involvement in the FRSO and their international solidarity work related to Colombia and Palestine.
On January 12, 2011, members of the newly formed Committee to Stop FBI Repression held a press conference in Minnesota revealing that the FBI had placed an informant inside the FRSO to gather information before the raids.
A federal judge unsealed the FBI's extensive documents collected during its nearly three-year surveillance of the FRSO on February 26, 2014. The documents revealed that the FBI placed an informant around and eventually inside the FRSO during and after the 2008 protests at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul. The informant, Karen Sullivan, attempted to craft a case that the FRSO was materially supporting the FARC and the PFLP with its antiwar and international solidarity activism.
To date, no charges have been brought against members of the FRSO or non-FRSO-aligned defendants.
The FRSO publishes Fight Back! News in print and online and includes a Spanish-language section, Lucha y Resiste.
The FRSO has published various pamphlets and flyers, including many topical pamphlets on different areas of struggle. In 2009, the FRSO published The Immigrant Rights Movement and the Struggle for Full Equality, a pamphlet giving a class analysis of the immigrant rights movement and looking at it in relation to the Chicano national liberation struggle.
- "Unity Statement of Freedom Road Socialist Organization". frso.org. Retrieved May 21, 2013.
- "1999 Declaration of the International Communist Seminar". FRSO.org. Retrieved 2013-04-25.
- "Workers, communist parties declare solidarity with FRSO in fight against repression". Fight Back! News. 2011-05-31. Retrieved 2013-04-25.
- "FRSO Program: Class in the U.S. and Our Strategy for Revolution". FRSO. Retrieved 2013-04-25.
- "Statement on National Oppression, National Liberation and Socialist Revolution". FRSO. Retrieved 2013-04-25.
- "SDS: Study and struggle, unite and fight!". Retrieved 2008-09-25.
- "FRSO's 4th Congress: Building on Success, Preparing for the Future". FRSO. Retrieved 2013-04-25.
- "The Movement Against War in Iraq: A New Period and Our Tasks". FRSO. Retrieved 2013-04-25.
- "Documents from the Sixth FRSO Congress, 2010". FRSO. Retrieved 2013-04-25.
- "6th Congress of Freedom Road Socialist Organization". FRSO. Retrieved 2013-04-25.
- "Timeline of Events 2010". Committee to Stop FBI Repression. Retrieved 2013-04-25.
- "FBI Interview Questions for FRSO" (PDF). Committee to Stop FBI Repression. Retrieved 2013-04-25.
- "Anti-War and International Solidarity Activists Denounce FBI Infiltration". Committee to Stop FBI Repression. Archived from the original on 2013-06-28. Retrieved 2013-04-25.
- Karnowski, Steve (February 27, 2014). "Documents Shed Light on 2010 Minnesota FBI Raids". AP. Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2014-06-27.
- "Where We Stand". Fight Back! News. Retrieved 2013-04-25.
- "FRSO Literature". FRSO. Archived from the original on 2013-11-04. Retrieved 2013-04-25.
- "The Immigrant Rights Movement and the Struggle for Full Equality". FRSO. Retrieved 2013-04-25.