Follow Up on the Action against Kansas City DSA: a Criticism and Self-Criticism

By The Incendiary Editorial Board

“Some comrades, disregarding the subjective and objective conditions, suffer from the malady of revolutionary impetuosity; they will not take pains to do minute and detailed work among the masses, but, riddled with illusions, want only to do big things.”- Chairman Mao Zedong

On October 18, 2019, Incendiary published an article by Daniel Reed titled “KANSAS CITY: Anti-Revisionist Confrontation of DSA Event Ends in Bloodshed.” It has since come to our attention that there might be several inaccuracies or omissions in the article. It is the responsibility of our paper to only publish the facts, and to relay these honestly. Before the facts had made themselves clear, we took to an ideological defense against the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). While we stand by the content of the article, “The DSA is a Grease Trap,” we should not have sought to ideologically defend the action. Incendiary openly denounces the class collaborationist line of all Social-Democratic parties, and we do so as proletarian revolutionaries. However, the action against the Kansas City DSA branch is to be considered a negative example for the following reasons:

The October 18 article states that, “Upon entry, a speech was read by one of the revolutionaries detailing the rotten nature of DSA’s practices locally and nationally, as well as how the struggle against fascism must include confronting social-fascism, as revisionism is the enemy of genuine socialism.”

This speech was done prior to the event’s official start time, meaning it was delivered only to a small handful of committed DSA leaders, opportunists, and anti-Communists. It is pointless to give a speech to such a small and committed audience. While it is correct to expose reformists, reactionaries, and opportunist leaders, this should not ever be an end in and of itself, and it must always be done before the masses. The comrades in Kansas City did not make substantial efforts to reach the masses, before, during, or after the disruption and altercation.

When retracting mistakes, it is equally important to confront misinformation and lies with the facts. The man injured in the Kansas City DSA confrontation has presented himself as a hapless victim of excessive force; this is totally false. Our previous article did not do enough to clarify this. Carl, the man injured in the altercation, was defending his event, and the minimum force was used with considerable restraint to carry out the objective of confronting the event. When Carl chose to foolishly attack the disrupters (who outnumbered the entire event), he was prevented from harming anyone and he was at no point ganged up on, as DSA supporters claim. Due to his advanced age and poor health, even the most restrained response resulted in injury. It was not the purpose or intent of the revolutionaries to cause injury. According to sources, the objective was to put the DSA branch on notice that their counter-revolutionary dealings would not be ignored, as the DSA had been working against revolutionaries in the city.

Revolutionaries must be held to the highest standard, and because of this it can only be concluded that the action, as well as the injuries caused, were mistakes. This, however, should not be confused as a defense of the individual who was injured, his politics and practice are unacceptable and must be condemned. There is always risk associated with the use of force, especially when force is used against an older person. In this case the risk outweighed the relative gain in neutralizing an opponent; in fact the comrades are fortunate that no major damage was done.

Since the publication of the article in question, a post on an online message board titled “A Brawl in the Union Hall” claims to offer an insider’s account from someone who participated in the action against the DSA. Incendiary condemns the disinformation and falsehood contained in this online post.

According to activist sources in Kansas City, the individual who posted the item in question has only been in the movement for “months not years,” and has “pressed foolish and reckless ideas which attempt to place many people at risk.” These ideas include attempts to convince others to take up violent adventurist actions modeled after the Weather Underground and similar organizations. It was when these dangerous and anarchistic fantasies were denounced and not supported by the movement that the man became angry, pessimistic, and dejected, which led him to publish lies on the internet to add further damage by putting a spin on the genuine mistakes.

His departure from the movement is not as he claims: due to placing criticisms which were ignored. On the contrary, he withheld criticism, and according to sources “his defection had nothing to do with the action.”

Activists who witnessed the altercation state that the writer of the falsified post made up things that never transpired. Specifically, his claim that one activist, “said something to the effect of: if Carl died from his wounds, we would’ve scored a historic victory against social fascism and ‘the movement’ would see us through,” is a conversation which activists on the ground insist never took place. By fabricating such information, the blogger attempts to frame the action as bloodthirsty, instead of what it was, a regrettable, tactical mistake.

The action against DSA came at a time when there has been very little success in the mass movement in KC, and this means mainly one thing: mass support has not been considered enough, neither in regard to the specific action nor in general. When revolutionaries confront opportunists, it must be in front the masses, to win leadership over mass struggles and should never be disconnected from the people. It is precisely the fact that the altercation was divorced from work among the people that caused it to be so regrettable.

Opportunists see these mistakes as cause to celebrate and jump for joy, always wagging their fingers from a position of near or total inactivity. Revolutionaries on the other hand own up to their practical and theoretical mistakes and see them as a good opportunity to learn to do better. Genuine revolutionaries do not abandon the project of revolution or become dispirited in front of failures. While this failure could have been avoided, the only thing left is to learn from it.

To recover from these types of mistakes, the comrades of Kansas City should pay close attention to the mass line and rectify their mass work. Sources confirm that the revolutionaries in Kansas City have entered into a general period of reorganization; beyond this, they have assured Incendiary that the people responsible for the action have been recalled and are no longer active in the movement in any capacity.

The comrades identify two main mistakes: the floundering mass work and a purely military viewpoint. The first is due to mistakes from leaders, as well as faulty analysis, and the second is due mainly to the first. Recognition of mistakes and self-criticism are positive developments which will help rectify all revolutionary work in Kansas City, as well as articles produced by Incendiary.

Incendiary must also issue a correction that it was not a projector that was damaged as originally reported, but a laptop.

Incendiary wishes to apologize to our readers and supporters for failing in due diligence. Instead of maintaining our own standards, the paper took to rushing to prepare a defense, took comrades in good faith, who considered such a glaring failure to be a success. While they have much maturing to do, it must be stated that the comrades are well-meaning and committed to overcoming mistakes.

Because of the highly public nature of the altercation, the way it was handled opportunistically on all sides (including our own), and especially due to the fact that this mistake has been lauded as a success by some, and used to denounce the movement in all cities by others, criticism has to be issued publicly.

It is the sincere hope and belief of the Incendiary Editorial Board that the comrades in Kansas City can study Mao more thoroughly, learn to analyze their subjective and objective conditions and fully overcome the error of revolutionary impetuosity, then return to the masses as the most honest, humble and self-critical children of the proletariat that they can be. Incendiary stands in unshakable unity and solidarity with the revolutionary movement in Kansas City and eagerly looks ahead to their reinvigorated work.