I don’t believe gangs are viable revolutionary vehicles, but in my experience, studying them is valuable for figuring out how to have a revolution survive the state’s counterinsurgency. This applies to the lessons they can teach us both on which destructive traits to avoid, and on which positive organizational traits cadres can take example from.
In my quest to find out how to navigate the obstacles which revolutionary organizers face in the imperial center, I’ve encountered a communist former gang member who’s come to this conclusion. He’s argued that gangs are fundamentally military governments which seek to gain access to the black markets, and therefore active or semi-active gang members shouldn’t be allowed into organizing. But he’s also recommended that cadres take on many aspects of the ways gangs operate: having members learn endangered languages so that law enforcement can’t intercept their communications; creating point systems so that members are incentivized to take on challenges; establishing ranks so that members function in a quasi-military system before the conditions necessitate that they become more disciplined; getting uniform pieces of clothing, such as bandanas or colored shirts, so that members can discreetly identify each other.
Should the state’s repression intensify to the point where all active communists must go underground, or should cadre members be prompted by their conditions to carry out the kinds of clandestine activities detailed in Che Guevara’s guerrilla works, these measures will prove necessary. We live in a surveillance state that’s made every aspect of our communications, save for the ones we engage in without any electronic devices present, monitored. Therefore should anyone discuss underground matters, they must do so after putting everyone’s devices in the fridge, or going into a private outside area with no devices present. At a certain point, all within the movement may need to radically change their way of operating, ceasing any online presence and making all organizing secret. In the environment where such measures will be necessary, those kinds of gang-inspired regimentation systems will become indispensable for continuing our work.
If one has studied the history of anti-communist repression, they know the warning signs that will appear beforehand should our conditions become that dire: widespread incitement for paramilitaries and vigilantes to kill communists; developments indicating a coup, or a drastic power consolidation perpetrated by a ruling fascist party or military junta; already existing widespread violence against political dissidents with the sanction of the state. These things were what led up to the implementation of the Jakarta Method, the program for counterrevolutionary terror that Indonesia’s military regime carried out after the country’s 1965 CIA coup. At least a million people were killed during the extermination campaign, wiping Indonesia’s communist party from existence despite it having been among the globe’s largest communist organizations. Then the U.S. empire carried out numerous other coups throughout the globe, and replicated the Jakarta Method under dictatorships like the Pinochet regime. In Latin America, this violence was collectively called Operation Condor, wherein thirty thousand were disappeared, sixty thousand were killed, and four-hundred thousand were imprisoned.
If they could do this to such powerful Global South anti-imperialist parties and movements, what will they be able to do to the (currently) disorganized left in the United States? We already see aspects of those warning signs for a political extermination campaign. The rise of fascist U.S. paramilitaries, the January 6th attack and the state’s use of it to target social movements, the normalization of far-right rhetoric that glorifies past political extermination campaigns, and the legalization of right-wing vigilantism with Kyle Rittenhouse’s exoneration all indicate a growing risk of that level of violence. What we must do is learn from previous repression to find out how to sufficiently strengthen our organizations, enough that they can survive the purge and defeat the state.
The biggest lesson we can take away from the Jakarta Method is that when a communist party doesn’t have an arms program among its members prior to when the state intensifies its repression, it will far more likely meet the fate of Indonesia’s communist party. That party declined to arm its members, then was left defenseless. Today’s communists have the opportunity to avoid this mistake. Leading U.S. communist organizations like the PSL judge the current conditions to not necessitate the formation of a people’s army, and they may be right for the time being. But the members of any cadre can get the tools and training for this kind of defense, so long as they don’t act in adventurist fashion or violate their party’s democratic centralism. Which is where security culture comes in.
In organizing, you will encounter wreckers, people who seek to sabotage you before you can carry out the delicate dual tasks of gathering support from the masses and forming a trained inner circle. Whether or not these wreckers are actual paid agents shouldn’t matter to you; if you’ve picked up on the red flags that they’re a wrecker, you need to eject them from your party, and cut them off from your personal relationship network should they seek to influence you on a more individual level. Their goal is to manipulate others into splitting up the given party, engaging in reckless actions that will only bring down the state’s fist and alienate the masses, and embracing ahistorical ideas which go against scientific socialism.
“Gangs are essential revolutionary vehicles” is one of these ideas that I’ve encountered in my struggles with wreckers, but there are countless others. Invariably, their purpose is to convince you that there’s a theoretical basis for the undisciplined, organizationally divisive, and dangerous actions that wreckers push. And naturally the ideological poison that wreckers sell has an ultra-leftist nature, whether this manifests in fetishizing gangs, arguing it’s okay for men to pay for sex, or viewing hard drugs as an acceptable lifestyle choice rather than as a disease. According to my ex-gangster friend, the actions that go along with these ideas include letting people into organizing spaces when they’re addicted to drugs; letting men with ulterior sexual motives use an organization as their vehicle for sleeping with women; enabling men who engage in abusive and misogynistic actions, like buying sex; and letting otherwise harmful conduct slide for the sake of peace and friendship, as Mao warned against doing in Combat Liberalism.
Such harmful actions include any violence, or threat of violence, that’s done on behalf of the party but that isn’t approved by democratic centralism. Ultra-leftist wreckers will claim that such whimsical risk-taking is the sign of a “real revolutionary,” but a competent cadre will give no ground to this argument and purge the offender for jeopardizing party work. During the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, the state’s counterinsurgency effort involved sending agent provocateurs into protests, manufacturing violence within the demonstrations, and carrying out a media campaign to paint the protests as blanketly violent while portraying the police as genuinely sympathetic to the cause. We can’t control what the media says or whether a fed suddenly invades a demonstration, but we can ban bad actors from our organizing spaces, direct people in our demonstrations to not be violent or go into traffic, and do other things that make it impossible for the media to factually discredit us. An anarchist group in my area led a crowd into traffic during 2020, and had people protest without direction, to the consequence that the police had an excuse to target freedom fighters who the anarchists had roped into their adventurism. The group then deservedly lost its influence. We must employ the mechanisms for not acting like those kinds of wrecker-type radical liberals.
These disciplinary protocols go along with the requirements my friend has recommended, which include not just those clandestine measures I mentioned, but mandatory workouts (to the best of people’s varying physical abilities) and mandatory drug testing should you suspect anyone of being high on hard substances. If this sounds excessive, note that according to composite research on how wreckers operate, infiltrators frequently try to manipulate party members by impairing their judgement through sharing recreational narcotics. If someone starts offering you hard drugs, that eliminates virtually all doubt that they’re a fed.
By implementing these measures, a cadre can preemptively defend against the attacks from the state. The feds seek to weaken our organizations by driving wedges between organizers using made up rumors; by ruining the reputations of our organizations through infiltrating them and having the wreckers commit outrageous acts; and by gathering intelligence on us through having the wreckers gain our trust. The state has created entire honeypot organizations disguised as actual Marxist groups for intelligence-gathering alone. For example, see Jonestown’s People’s Temple. To avoid trusting the wrong people, we need to stay vigilant. We need to look into the backgrounds and associations of the people we encounter, and make sure they’re not like the “Marxist” Jim Jones with his childhood CIA mentor and his Latin American anti-communist speaking tours.
To beat this counterinsurgency, we need to not treat our task like a game. We need to be constantly on watch, consistent in our principles, and prepared to defend ourselves through physical means if necessary. This requires a tight model of organizing, one that doesn’t let in just anybody and that doesn’t tolerate breaches of discipline. I’m a diagnosed autistic, so reading people’s intentions doesn’t come naturally to me. But I’m still capable of memorizing the red flags for movement wreckers that others have compiled, and confronting or ceasing contact with those who show that they’re not willing to stop displaying these red flags. Being autistic can even help me better retain and analyze this information. Learn the state’s playbook, and the manipulations it presents you with can be overcome. These manipulations can be summarized as attempts to get you to engage in or condone violent actions that endanger the organization; attempts to get you to turn against fellow movement members despite the wrecker’s case against them lacking substance or factual basis; and otherwise persuading you to act against what scientific socialism calls for you to do.
The Black Panther Party was the most successful communist party in U.S. history so far, and this was because it built a substantial relationship with the masses. The Panthers provided armed defense for their communities, as well as material aid and programs for protecting mothers against abuse at schools. They had the mass backing necessary to bring a party to victory, but they were still destroyed, because the state managed to infiltrate them to a fatal degree. It’s impossible to immediately discern whether every person you meet is a wrecker, but it is possible to pick up on the signs when they present themselves. And to keep yourself or someone else out of any leadership position, or even out of the organization itself, if you’re vulnerable to manipulation or notice this vulnerability in another person.
If one is unable to get out of a toxic relationship, for instance, they can be manipulated by a wrecker perhaps even more easily than by their friend or romantic partner. And if one has a neurological condition that impairs their social radar, like I do, one needs to thoroughly learn about the red flags, and consult others on whether they should trust the suspicious person in question. During my early experiences in organizing, there were times when I was totally clueless to red flags that were immediately obvious to the others in my cadre. I’ve failed to identify in-person 4Chan trolls and con artists posing as gangsters, and chaos has repeatedly befallen my cadre as a consequence. It’s taken experience, and a change in my character where I’ve eliminated the liberalism within myself, to become less vulnerable to those who try to deceive me.
These are the things we need to think about when facing an insurgency that’s not just violent, but insidious. COINTELPRO never ended, it only got better at concealing its activities. It sends individuals our way who are hard to identify as friend or foe, and who naive people will inevitably give the benefit of the doubt. Educate that naivete out of your mind, and you’ll be able to properly navigate the environment you’re in. What we’re facing is a state that already treats the class struggle like a literal war. And that therefore has a sophisticated network of spies to inform on organizations, spread strategic disinformation designed to sow division and discredit organizers, and provide the state with opportunities to assassinate or frame those organizers if they’re deemed enough of a threat.
When our revolutionary crisis intensifies, this counterinsurgency will become vastly more violent. The Jakarta Method will be brought to where we are. By that point, we’ll better have already gained the wisdom to continue our work underground, and to weed out spies. Because we’ll no longer be in a situation with enough leeway for us to be able to party with wreckers, take their drugs, entertain their manipulative ideas, and act like this doesn’t have an impact on our work. We’ll no longer be able to separate our Marxism from our liberalism. Still clinging to your liberalism by that point will ensure your prompt demise at the hands of the state.—————————————————————————
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