Real Communists Organize – An Interview With Christopher Winston
In this episode of Wine, Women, and Revolution, Heather interviews Christopher Winston co-founder of the Maoist Communist Party Organizing Committee, and organizer with For The People. He discusses why every needs to be a communist to save the world and ensure a future. He also talks about his journey to Maoism and gives advice on organizing.
Chris Winston 0:00
Intro Music. Marx said that the point of philosophy is to change the world. And if your philosophy if you have the correct philosophy, yet you don’t apply it and you don’t organize. It might as well be a useless philosophy. And a lot of people are not ready for that.
Heather Warburton 0:22
This is Wine Women and Revolution, with your host Heather Warburton coming at you here on New Jersey Revolution Radio.
Hi, and welcome to Wine, Women, and Revolution. I’m your host, Heather Warburton coming at you here on New Jersey Revolution Radio, you can find us online at www.njrevolutionradio.com, follow us on all the social medias and get us wherever you get your podcasts from. Today, we’re going to be talking about something that’s very important to me and near to my heart. And that’s community organizing. And there’s a lot of different styles of community organizing, and they come from various different backgrounds and organizations. And my guest today is someone who I’ve only learned about fairly recently, but I’m really kind of in awe the organizing he’s been doing. So I’d like to welcome to the show Christopher Winston.
Chris Winston 1:15
How are you Heather?
Heather Warburton 1:19
So let’s give a little bit of your background here. You’re one of the founders of the Maoist Communist Party, and one of the senior organizers for the group For The People, right?
Chris Winston 1:31
Yeah, I’d like to say we don’t necessarily have senior organizers. But yeah, I’m one of the peoples who’s running around getting on everybody’s nerves for the longest period. So I guess I can be called called senior something.
Heather Warburton 1:43
Getting on people’s nerves kind of also equals doing really good work as far as I can see from For The People. So I want to kind of start with I like to call it people’s origin stories, because I kind of view all the activists that I talked to as superheroes. So, have you always been someone that’s politically engaged? Or was there a certain something that really kind of sparked you to get politically active?
Chris Winston 2:05
As you may well know, I’m from St. Louis. And the incident that politicized a lot of people here was the police murder of Michael Brown an 18 year old black youth by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, and the subsequent failure to indict him on the part of prosecutor Bob McCulloch, who has now been thrown out of office. But in terms of myself, personally, nobody’s born a revolutionary. People are the product of their environment. And the environment in which I grew up was North St. Louis and North County, which are pretty heavily black working class / poor neighborhoods. So I’m mostly from a pretty religious family. And growing up, I was told that God will provide as long as you pray and can trust him. And just looking at the objective conditions of the New Afrikan People after 500 years of praying, fervently, it sort of puts a lie to that. So what made me a revolutionary communist, my upbringing, my environment in which I was raised, and reading.
Heather Warburton 3:24
And I would suggest your organizing style is very much right there in the title of your group” For The People.” That’s kind of where you focus on your organizing. Can you tell me a little bit about how For The People developed, what kind of resources or influence you drew from when setting up this organization?
Chris Winston 3:48
Sure. It was launched by a few of us in St. Louis. And nationwide as a mass organization of the Maoist Communist Party Organizing Committee, we’re not a party, we’re an organizing committee. Basically, we’re working towards building a party where we’re not so presumptuous to call ourselves The Communist Party yet. But um, and basically, our job is to practice the mass line method of leadership, which is basically saying that the correct ideas are already among the people. You don’t have to go and sequester yourself in a library or debate about inane things with five or six other people with whom we already agree. One of Mao’s major contributions was the realization that people already know what’s good for them. People already know what it’s going to take to challenge the system of affairs that is driving people into horrible conditions.
But our job as Communists is to go among the people, talk to them, get to know them, serve them, work with them. So we can identify these correct ideas, analyze it through the revolutionary theory, Marxism-Leninism Maoism and bring it back to the people in the form of a line, or a program or a slogan, or something else that is done with the intent of popularizing the correct ideas of the masses. And that’s the purpose of FTP and of myriad of the cities that we already exist in. There are a myriad of different organizing things that need to be done because people are struggling. And when once people realize that they don’t have to struggle, and they don’t have to struggle alone. That’s really hard, and for a lot of people. So we are very busy people, between fundraising and trying to investigate various situations that are going on. During research, lot of stuff like that, we’re kept pretty busy.
Heather Warburton 6:12
How many different cities is For The People in?
Chris Winston 6:16
Lets see. Atlantic City New Jersey, Asbury Park, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, San Diego, St. Louis, of course. Omaha, Wilmington, Pueblo, Colorado. And that’s pretty much it, so 9.
Heather Warburton 6:37
And I would assume each city has its own unique struggles and organizational style that’s needed. That comes out of the people of that city, I would assume you know, your specific city, you’ve had your own unique challenges. And I’ve had somebody on from For The People Atlantic City, they’re an amazing group to. But let’s talk a little bit about the challenges and your specific city. What have been some of your organizing victories, and some of your organizing, I guess, missteps as it were, because I think people can learn a lot from both.
Chris Winston 7:06
In terms of victories, we helped lead a pretty successful demonstration against the Richland Heights Police Department a couple of Fridays ago.
Heather Warburton 7:21
Chris Winston 7:22
Yeah. And we currently have one community garden, we’re working on expanding it. We’re also investigating and planning to unveil the foundations of a tenant union, by the end of this year. In terms of defeats, a lot of people really don’t understand that when you join an organization like FTP, you’re really making a commitment. And this isn’t just a sort of fair weather thing, like a student organization that you can just jump in and jump out of when you join FTP, you are basically saying, Okay, I’m sick of this, this bullshit, let’s do something about it. And we’ve had quite a few people that couldn’t handle that sort of that sort of opportunity, you can’t be a hobbyist leftist, meaning you can’t just share guillotine means on Facebook, or you can’t just go “This is horrible” and write and complain.
Marx said that the point of philosophy is to change the world. And if your philosophy if you have the correct philosophy, yet you don’t apply it, you don’t organize, it might as well be a useless philosophy. And a lot of people are not ready for that. They thought that there was something that the FTP was something that they could just join, and then jump off the railroad when the train started getting a little rocky, and where it’s sort of understandable. United States is the first bourgeois country in existence, meaning that the revolution was a bourgeois revolution. We never had a feudal phase or a peasant phase. So part of the ideological makeup of this country is, everybody’s an individual, I do what I want, forget everybody else. And a lot of people have that mindset, yet they call themselves communists. And it always manifests when they try to when they try to organize. So it’s really been a sort of struggle trying to get some liberalism out of our comrades, and build real revolutionary proletarian people.
Heather Warburton 9:41
What would you suggest to someone who’s very interested in what you’re talking about, but maybe does still have some of that liberalism and needs to do a little more study a little more reflection, what would you suggest they either do or read or to prepare themselves to join a real Revolutionary Organization?
Chris Winston 10:03
Well, Mao literally wrote a book, not a book, an article called Combat Liberalism, so that’s good. And some of the work of Kevin Rashid Johnson is very good in terms of regarded particularly he discusses radicalizing people who are lumpen, or people that are in prison and various types of other so called occupations that may make a living but are not attached to what we would consider the mainstream economy. He discusses revolutionising these people and turning them into proletariat revolutionaries, to turn the prisons into schools of liberation. So he two books Panther Vision and Defying The Tomb. If you want to learn about Maoism as interpreted through the lens of a revolutionary New Afrikan prisoner, I recommend those. It also has a lot of transforming oneself transforming others in the interest of a Communist project.
Heather Warburton 11:06
I guess that does lead me to a question of how did you arrive at Maoism?
Chris Winston 11:13
It’s a pretty boring story. But it’s kind of funny depending on what your humor is like. I started out as a sort of a FDCK (first day Communist kid) meaning I had, I couldn’t tell the difference between revisionism and revolution. Thought the CP USA was dope. I thought that you can make revolution, basically it was a lot of eclectic nonsense, like a lot of new communist have. Then I was a Trotskyist, because I really, really didn’t like some of the excesses that happened during Stalin’s period in the USSR. And then I first I met actual Trots who are irritating as hell. And then second of all, I realized that Mao made the same critiques, while also dividing one into two. Meaning that he realized that Stalin had good points he had bad points. And I came to the realization that you can’t engage in that sort of black and white thinking, Oh, Stalin was all good. Trotsky was all good, this and that, that’s childish and amateurish. Also in terms of practical day to day work, The Black Panther Party was heavily inspired by Maoism. Well, Maoism as it as it exists today didn’t exist back then they were heavily influenced by Mao Zedong thought. And the fact that all of the existing armed revolution is being waged today are being waged by Maoist parties, and the Philippines and India, Turkey. So if you have an ideology that is unfolding arm struggle, as a black person in America that finds his people being shot and killed every day and people getting away with it, Maoism seems pretty dope.
Heather Warburton 13:13
And would you say that Maoism is really kind of a further refinement and a further evolution of Marxist Leninist thought?
Chris Winston 13:22
Yeah, I’m not like some dogmatist that would call it the immortal science because one of the things that Mao taught was that nothing is immortal. But yes, Marxism Lenninism Maoism is the theoretical summation of 150 years of class struggle led by Communists. So yeah, it is a new and higher stage of what we will call Marxism.
Heather Warburton 13:51
And would you say it’s still an evolving process, that we learn more as we organize?
Chris Winston 13:58
Yes, as as things happen, as situations change, and as revolutions are launched, or as revolution is built through bends in the road, we are constantly refining our understanding and our practice of Maoism. And if you’re a good Maoist, you will realize that nothing is immortal. Nothing is set in stone. And your task is not just to argue about theory, or know more theories than the next person. Your job is to apply theory to your own day to day existence. Because if Maoism is the weapon that we know it is, it’s going to be basically the equivalent of a Warhammer kept behind a glass box at a museum. If we don’t use it. Weapons are made for killing. Revolutionary theory is made for revolution. So yes, it is a new and constantly of developing body of theory.
Heather Warburton 14:59
I think he said that really beautifully. I just wanted to really thank you for that. That was excellent. So what does the future going forward look like for FTP?
Chris Winston 15:09
I can only speak on St. Louis. But um, basically our main things right now that we’re focusing on, are developing our tenants union, and continuing to conduct political education, and also ensuring that our revolutionary political line continues to grow and adapt itself as the situation changes. Nationally, we have nine chapters already. By this time next year. Hopefully we’ll have doubled or tripled it. FTP is a very popular organizing style because it’s not too dogmatic, like you don’t have to kowtow to any individual or any network. Within reason, of course, you’re still a project led by the MCP OC. But we’re not going to come stand over your head saying that, oh, you’re wrong, you shouldn’t do this, if it actually matches with the objective conditions in your area. And one of the things that we found out is allowing people a limited degree of autonomy, rather than trying to manage everything in a top down bureaucratic manner, works quite well. Of course, you can have too much autonomy. And people will go and do all sorts. And try to change what FTP is essentially about, what it is for. So you have to keep an eye on that as well. I think we’ve reached a pretty decent balance of autonomy and centralization.
Heather Warburton 17:00
So I guess now I wanted to ask you, you know, some may say that the struggle is never over. But what is what are you struggling for? What is the society you ultimately want to see, as we progress through the journey?
Chris Winston 17:16
An end to capitalism and imperialism. Whatever our dreams may be, and whatever our ideology is, whether we be communist, or anarchists, or what have you, until the worldwide system of capitalism and imperialism, of which the US is a headquarters, until that’s destroyed, our dreams are just that, to build the world that we seek, we have to destroy capitalism / imperialism. So that is a process that’s going to take hundreds of years. In terms of the world that I personally would like to see, I guess, there’s no such thing as Utopia. But a society in which I don’t have to walk down the street worry about getting shot in the back or being sent to prison for nothing or something that I didn’t do. That’s not too much to ask for.
Heather Warburton 18:06
No, you would think it really isn’t. But society is pretty screwed off nowadays. I suppose. This is a question I ask a lot of people is, Do you consider yourself an optimist? Can you be revolutionary without being an optimist?
Chris Winston 18:24
Oh, I look at it this way. If we are revolutionaries, and our goal is to topple the most powerful empire in the history of forever, you kind of have to be an optimist. Because if you’re pessimistic, you’re going to be one of those people that Oh, you can’t fight the government, we have to do so and so. if I wasn’t an optimist, I wouldn’t be a communist, I’d be a Democrat.
Heather Warburton 18:50
Okay, fair point. And I love the way you said that. Um, so, you know, some may say, we only have a very short period of time left on this planet before we force ourselves to go extinct through catastrophic climate change and climate genocide, really. Do you think we get to a point where we actually get to keep living on this planet? Or what’s the path look like for a future, an actual future?
Chris Winston 19:28
Climate change is definitely a really, really heinous threat. And we all know who’s responsible for it.
Heather Warburton 19:35
Yes, we do
Chris Winston 19:35
The industrialists in the first world. But a lot of this doomsaying and naysaying and stuff like that it’s used in a counter revolutionary kind of way. We’re all going to burn to death and drown or freeze to death. So why bother organizing. Everything that I’ve read states is basically like, impossible, we should have been addressing climate change in the 70s, and 60s. But humans are an adaptable species. We are also a very, very intelligent species. That’s how we got to the stage where we can destroy ourselves. But part of Marxism is the notion, the line, that humans are capable of influencing and knowing nature. Now, of course, it doesn’t mean that we’re going to be able to build some kind of machine that can get the earth back into equilibrium. But it does mean that whatever the planetary heat level is, however much the ocean dries, there will still be human beings left on the face of the earth.
Heather Warburton 20:45
That you would say human nature is to evolve and to change.
Chris Winston 20:51
Yeah, every the nature of everything is to evolve and change, its dialectics. Nothing stays the same forever.
Heather Warburton 21:00
So we’re running up right around the 20 minute mark. So I wanted to give you a chance to leave everyone that’s listening with your words of advice, or a parting message that you think would be really helpful for people to hear, you know, at this point in time and our collective growth.
Chris Winston 21:23
Sure, no matter how bad you think things are, no matter what type of shit you have to be going through, there is a framework and there is there’s an opportunity to become what we want to be as a species and what we must become, because like you said, Earth is in the midst of a pretty heavy shift right now. And it is essential that all the methods of producing electricity, and all the methods of producing anything, need to be under control of the masses of people. You cannot trust a handful of people to not destroy the Earth, they only care about money. So to get to this world, and to ensure that there’s a humanity left, however, the earth may find itself its essential that you become a communist and start organizing. You don’t have to found an FTP. But do something don’t just sit on the internet all day and rage and read these articles. And sit around and feel like you’re hopeless. You’re not hopeless. So pretty much it become a communist start organizing. Real communists organize.
Heather Warburton 22:38
I love your closing, you probably have the most uplifting closing words I think I’ve ever had on the show.
Chris Winston 22:46
Well, thank you.
Heather Warburton 22:47
So that’s, I really want to thank you for that, that I’ve had a lot of doom and gloom on my show. And I think yours actually, you know, might be the most inspiring closing words I’ve heard. So really, right on thank you so much for that.
Chris Winston 23:03
Heather Warburton 23:04
To my listeners. Thank you so much for joining us here today. I this may be a little outside of what you’re used to talking about. And that’s exactly why I wanted you to hear it. That there’s so much we can change and create in this world. Nothing you have right now has to stay that way. That’s why I always close off my show with saying the Future Is Yours to create, go out there and create it. Because it really truly is. Anything can change and you’re the one that can start that change. We appreciate that you listen so much that we would not be here without you. We are here to be the voice of the activist community. And that is why we have to keep asking for donations. We take no corporate money because we can’t be the voice of people if we’re taking corporate money. So if you can go on to our website, www.njrevolutionradio.com and click on that Donate button. Even if it’s only a couple of dollars really it helps add up quickly. And remember if the Future Is Yours to create, go out there and create it