Freedom Road Looks Back After 25 Years

Mao ZedongWhen I was asked to write something giving a “veteran’s” perspective on what attracted me to FRSO, my initial impulse was to decline. I’ve never been a particularly good writer; there are plenty of comrades who can share more insightful lessons than me. And, after all, isn’t “veteran” just a euphemism for old?

But FRSO has been my political home for almost 25 years—a place that has allowed me to grow both personally and politically, and hopefully make some contributions to the revolutionary struggle in this imperialist heartland. So I will offer a few observations about how I came to join FRSO and what it has meant.

My political roots were in both the Chicano liberation struggle and the New Communist movement of the 1960’s and 70’s. I was energized by the fledgling Chicano movement and the struggle against the US aggression against the Vietnamese people. During those heady days, I found great inspiration in the Cuban revolution, Mao and the Chinese revolution and the Black Panther Party.

I began to consider myself a revolutionary when I was 15 or 16 (one problem with being a “veteran” is that you forget stuff). This pushed me to join the Revolutionary Union, which recast itself as the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) in 1975. I was a pretty die-hard cadre, but by 1980, even I could see that the line of the RCP was a dead-end—to put it kindly.

For the first time since high school I found myself without an organization and the collectivity I knew was vital for political activity. I became active in the Central America solidarity movement, and through that I connected up with a small group of communists—the Organization of Revolutionary Unity (ORU; almost as long of a name as there were members). Here was a circle that had a sharp critique of the RCP that helped me make sense of years with that organization. More importantly, they embraced the notion that the Left had to grow up, begin to discard the sectarian baggage so many of us carried, and build unity with other revolutionary forces.

By the mid-80’s we were engaged in unity talks with recently formed FRSO. I had yet to understand that there was a difference between dogmatism and being principled, so I was less than excited at the prospect of merging with FRSO. I was, however, deeply impressed with FRSO’s theory and practice around national oppression and it’s view of the centrality of the struggle against white supremacy.
chicano movement
I was apprehensive about joining; how could I be in the same group with people I had reviled as “Mensheviks” (one of the founding groups of FRSO was the Revolutionary Workers Headquarters which split from the RCP—and which I had opposed)?  I quickly learned that the dreaded “Mensheviks” were people I would be proud to call comrades. In fact, the kind of open and challenging discussions I would encounter in FRSO helped me to get rid of a lot of the ideological baggage I had carried for years.

It was liberating! FRSO members were actually encouraged to think things through themselves-not wait (or expect) a small handful of leaders to hand down a “line” to be faithfully followed. Marxist thinkers like Gramsci, who some of us had dismissed with only a cursory look, were given their due, as were important feminist thinkers. This openness to learning from Marxists who weren’t canonized by the 3rd International, as well as feminists and theoreticians of various national liberation movements, wasn’t to promote some kind of ethos of self-cultivation, but to develop a revolutionary praxis.

This openness to new ideas, a willingness to take a hard look at the success and failures of the socialist experience, while remaining grounded in revolutionary Marxism has allowed FRSO to develop important theoretical and practical initiatives—from developing a deeper understanding of the intersectionality of different forms of oppression to a more developed look at the historic (and current) role of white supremacy and the national movements of the oppressed nationalities, to the need and possibilities to re-found the Left in the US and develop a revolutionary current.

Being a part of an organization that has accomplished so much with relatively few forces is inspirational. Even an old dog can learn new tricks.

Doug Mónica became active around 1965 as the farm workers’ movement began to surge and the anti-war movement started to grow. He has worked in foundries, trucking, the post office, and currently is at a university. Doug still thinks Mao is cool.
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