A Special Section of the Winter 2003 issue of Forward Motion magazine, published by the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, was devoted to a discussion of the issues raised in Revolution in the Air.
Below is the introduction by the editors of Forward Motion. Links to specific articles in the package are embedded as they are mentioned. Below the introduction there are links to the exchange with Max Elbaum that followed the issue’s publication, and to an earlier exchange between Max and Freedom Road Social Organization Member Dennis O’Neil.
Introduction to the Special Section on Revolution in the Air:
Only months after its release, Max Elbaum’s study of the US New Communist Movement of the 1970s, Revolution in the Air: Sixties Radicals Turn to Lenin, Mao and Che (Verso, 2002), has become required reading for veterans of that movement and up-and-coming young activists alike.
For the old-timers, it seems almost miraculous to have someone writing of their experience—from the inside! (Although one veterano commented, “I was totally into it for the first 90 pages, couldn’t put it down, then I thought, ‘Wait a minute, I know how this turns out!’ Then I was bummed.”) For new revolutionaries, it shows how much the Marxism of that period drew from revolutionary movements of the Third World. Further, its defense of revolutionary organization promises lessons they can use for organization-building within today’s struggles.
Since the Freedom Road Socialist Organization is itself a descendent of many of the groups that arose within that movement, we want to both hail Max’s accomplishment and to raise some points of omission and of difference we feel are important.
This special section features a review by Chris Day from the point of view of a new generation. Then Khalil Hassan challenges head-on Elbaum’s view that Maoist ideology was the key to the movement’s failures, and presents a deep and thoughtful look at the strengths and shortcomings of Maoist theory and practice. One topic that we think calls for more attention is the experience of activists of color within the New Communist Movement; the article by Bill Gallegos focuses on that experience and on the politics of the national question, where our tradition has some real differences with the one out of which Max came. Finally, two long-time organizers from Atlanta interview each other on what it felt like to be a cadre in one of the organizations at the center of the movement.
Exchange on Maoism, Khalil Hassan and Max Elbaum:
In two subsequent issues of Forward Motion, Max Elbaum responded to Khalil Hassan’s critique with an essay titled What Maoism Actually Stood For, and then Khalil responded to Max here with a final comment closing out this exchange.
Earlier Exchange on Maoism on the Freedom Road website between Dennis O’Neil and Max Elbaum:
In 2000, Freedom Road Socialist Organization published a “family tree” of the New Communist Movement and an essay by Dennis O’Neil on lessons drawn from that history. Max Elbaum was invited to respond and did so here. Dennis replied to Max’s comment here and generously gave Max the final word in their exchange here.