As many of the Maoist-oriented groups formed in the United States New Communist Movement of the 1970s were shrinking or collapsing, the Freedom Road Socialist Organization was formed in 1985 to try to solidify some of these groups into a single organization that would have some longevity.
The component groups of the FRSO saw ultraleftism as the main error of the New Communist Movement and attempted to reverse what they saw as that movement's excessive divisiveness and sectarianism. FRSO was founded by a merger of two organizations - the Proletarian Unity League and the Revolutionary Workers Headquarters in 1985, and then a subsequent fusing with the Organization for Revolutionary Unity in 1986. Freedom Road later absorbed other groups too, including the Amílcar Cabral-Paul Robeson Collective in 1988 and the Socialist Organizing Network in 1994.
Freedom Road supports self-determination, up to and including independence, for African Americans in the Black Belt Region of the U.S. South and Chicanos in the U.S. Southwest. Much of the theory regarding this comes from the African American Communist Harry Haywood, as laid out in resolutions at the Comintern in 1928 and 1930. Freedom Road's position on the national question is a defining feature of its politics.
In 1999, FRSO split into two competing organizations, each retaining the organization's name. Each of these groups considers itself to be the only legitimate Freedom Road Socialist Organization.
The 1980s Edit
In the 1980s, members of Freedom Road worked to build the Rainbow Coalition, and supported both of Jesse Jackson's campaigns for the presidency of the United States (1984 and 1988). FRSO also worked on the successful campaign to get African-American progressive Harold Washington elected as mayor of Chicago in 1983 and reelected in 1987. (work on the 1984 Jackson campaign and the 1983 Washington campaign were done by FRSO's predecessor organizations, since FRSO wasn't formed until 1985).
In the 1980s FRSO also played an important role in the U.S. student movement. Particularly FRSO played a role in leading the Progressive Student Network (PSN), a national, multi-issue, progressive student activist organization.
From the 1980s through the mid-1990s, Freedom Road published a magazine called Forward Motion, which previously had been published by the Proletarian Unity League, one of FRSO's predecessor organizations.
FRSO played a role in the anti-war movement that emerged in 1990 in opposition to the Gulf War. FRSO also helped build the reproductive rights / abortion rights movement in this period, including the massive 1989 demonstration in Washington DC.
In response to the fall of Eastern European governments, the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, and the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, two distinct positions began to emerge within Freedom Road on how to assess the socialist countries. One position saw the events of 1989-1991 as indicative of a deep crisis in Marxism that required rethinking of basic tenets of Marxism-Leninism. The other position continued to assess the experience of socialist countries as essentially positive, and saw their defeats as the result of revisionism, not as a crisis of Marxism itself. This side continued to identify itself as Marxist-Leninist. This internal division solidified throughout the 1990s until the organization split in 1999.
The 1990s Edit
In 1994, the Socialist Organizing Network (SON) merged into FRSO. SON was formed out of the disollution of the League of Revolutionary Struggle in the late 1980s, and included those who had been in LRS that still considered themselves Marxists (most of the LRS leadership had rejected Marxism when they decided to disband the LRS).
The merger between FRSO and SON technically marked the creation of a new organization, as at the time it was seen as a merger of two equal organizations into something new, rather than SON being incorporated in FRSO. Therefore for a brief time the merged organization was called "Freedom Road / Socialist Organizing Network", including both organizations' names, with the possibility existing that the merged organization would adopt an entirely new name. A new name never came to fruition, so the name reverted back to "Freedom Road Socialist Organization". But the 1994 FRSO Congress, at which the FRSO/SON merger was formalized, was referred to as the First Congress of FRSO/SON.
Socialist Organizing Network's publication Moving Forward was published by FRSO for a short period after the merger.
FRSO continued to sporadically publish Forward Motion during the 1990s.
In 1998, FRSO's Chicago District and Minnesota / Madison District began to publish a Midwest regional newspaper called Fight Back!.
The 1999 Split Edit
In 1999, FRSO split into two groups, each retaining the organization's name. For a time after the split the two identically-named groups were identified by their respective publication's name — Freedom Road Magazine (which was started by the left refoundationist group shortly after the split) and Fight Back! Newspaper (hence "Freedom Road Socialist Organization [Freedom Road]" and "Freedom Road Socialist Organization [Fight Back!]"). The parenthetical terms are not used by either group to describe itself - both groups consider themselves to be the only legitimate Freedom Road Socialist Organization.
For the remainder of this article, the two groups will be identified by their website address in order to remain objective, as neither group accepts any of the parenthetical qualifications of their name. So Freedom Road Socialist Organization [Freedom Road] is now referred to as FRSO (freedomroad.org), and Freedom Road Socialist Organization [Fight Back] is now referred to as FRSO (frso.org).
The two groups split principally over the proposal by a section of FRSO's membership in 1999 that FRSO adopt a Left Refoundation strategy. The Left Refoundation strategy was advocated by those who saw Marxism as in deep crisis. The aim of the statement and strategy was to further elaborate a response to the "crisis of socialism". It called for the construction of "a new type of political party" to unite with advanced sections of the masses, stressing collaboration across the left over strict adherence to Marxism-Leninism. The FRSO (freedomroad.org) group were the proponents of the Left Refoundation statement and strategy while the FRSO (frso.org) group rejected it, characterizing it as an abandonment of Marxism-Leninism.
Freedom Road Socialist Organization - the 'freedomroad.org' group Edit
Freedom Road (freedomroad.org) continues to uphold the line FRSO adopted in 1991 (prior to the split) encapsulated by its organizational document, "On the Crisis of Socialism", that claims that there is a deep crisis in Marxism. The document stressed an interpretation of Marxism-Leninism as a scientific ideology of socialist revolution rather than as an orthodoxy or dogma. The document restated FRSO's support of the dictatorship of the proletariat while clarifying its line against the interpretation of this concept as a "massive repressive state apparatus over and above the people." This interpretation, the group argues, has lead to a counter-revolutionary tendencies taking hold in the Soviet bloc states and in China after capitalist restoration. According to an article in its magazine ("Toward a Critical Reassessment of Maoism") this is a problem it also sees in "Stalinian Marxism" or Stalinism. The "Crisis of Socialism" statement has an overall negative assessment of the socialist countries in the 20th century.
FRSO (freedomroad.org) continues to uphold FRSO's pre-split line supporting full self-determination for the Black and Chicano/a nations in the South's Black Belt Region and Southwest (Aztlan) respectively. Its theoretical materials stress the "intersections" of these struggles, with each other and with the struggles of feminism, LGBT liberation, and the labor movement; that is, oppressors and forms of oppression and goals that they hold in common. FRSO (freedomroad.org) argues that such "intersections" highlight the necessity of building a united front of the movements of the multi-national working class and those of oppressed communities and nationalities, toward the aim of revolution. It has summed up this line as "Organizing All the Oppressed To End All Our Oppressions."
FRSO (freedomroad.org) Post-Split CongressesEdit
FRSO (freedomroad.org) held organizational Congresses in 2000 and in 2003. The 2003 Congress produced the document FRSO/OSCL's Strategy for a New Historical Period. This document states that, "The main task of socialists in this period is to win a significant minority of the US population to oppose the program of planetary military control, or empire, which Bush and company are implementing. We must win a subset of this significant minority to be fully anti-imperialist. Anti-empire and then anti-imperialist practice — both of which include opposition to white supremacy within the US — is the key link for building a socialist movement in the US." 1
In 2006, FRSO (freedomroad.org) began to officially call itself "Freedom Road Socialist Organization / Organización Socialista del Camino para la Libertad", using both the English and Spanish names together. In an abbreviated manner the group refers to itself to as "FRSO/OSCL" or "Freedom Road/El Camino".
FRSO (freedomroad.org) PublicationsEdit
FRSO (freedomroad.org) began publishing Freedom Road Magazine in 2001. They ceased publication of it in 2003 after publishing three issues. At that time they declared they would focus more on web-based publications and flyers and pamphlets. They have not published a regular newspaper or magazine since 2003.
Freedom Road Socialist Organization - the 'frso.org' group Edit
The Freedom Road group that publishes Fight Back! Newspaper is associated with the website frso.org. FRSO (frso.org) continues to explicitly uphold Marxism-Leninism and is organized according to democratic centralism and upholds an anti-revisionist line. FRSO (frso.org) actively maintains friendly relations with many Marxist-Leninist parties and organizations around the world.
FRSO (frso.org) continues to uphold FRSO's pre-split line on the African-American and Chicano national questions, supporting self-determination for the African-American nation in the Black Belt South and the Chicano nation in the Southwest.
FRSO (frso.org) bases itself on the strategy of forming a strategic alliance between the oppressed nationalities and the multi-national working class. FRSO intends to build toward the creation of a single, multinational, revolutionary Marxist-Leninist Communist party in the U.S.
Unlike the Left Refoundationist group, FRSO (frso.org) continues to uphold Josef Stalin as one of the "principal theorists" of Marxism-Leninism, along with Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin, and Mao Zedong. FRSO (frso.org) recognizes Cuba, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and China to be socialist countries. It is also close to the Workers Party of Belgium (WPB) and a participant in the WPB's annual International Communist Seminar -- one of two U.S.-based groups to attend in 2006, along with Workers World Party. They support national liberation movements such as those led by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Communist Party of the Philippines, and the FARC-EP. FRSO's solidarity with the national liberation movements in Colombia and Palestine have been a defining feature of the organization in the period since the split in FRSO.
FRSO (frso.org) Post-Split CongressesEdit
FRSO (frso.org) held organizational Congresses in 2001 and 2004. At the 2001 Congress, FRSO (frso.org) adopted a new version of their main Unity Statement, since the pre-split version did not explicitly mention Marxist-Leninism. At the 2004 Congress, FRSO (frso.org) produced a new statement on the National Questions in the U.S., which they said, "represents a concluding step in placing our organization on a Marxist-Leninist basis."2
According to their website, "The members of Freedom Road are very active in movements fighting for justice, particularly in labor, oppressed nationality, anti-war and anti-imperialist, and student movements."3
FRSO (frso.org) PublicationsEdit
FRSO (frso.org) publishes Fight Back Newspaper, which as of 2006 is published 5 times yearly, and includes a Spanish-language section called Lucha y Resiste.
FRSO (frso.org) has also published various pamphlets and flyers.
Freedom Road Socialist Organization (frso.org)Edit
- Freedom Road Socialist Organization - Home page.
- Public Statement on the Future of FRSO, June 1999 - Views and analysis of 1999 split.
- Unity Statement of Freedom Road Socialist Organization - Statement on organization's line. Dated 2001
- Statement on National Oppression, National Liberation, and Socialist Revolution - Line statement on the national question, from 2004 (post-split).
- Freedom Road Socialist Organization: 20 Years of Struggle - Summation of organization's activities.
- Fight Back Newspaper
Freedom Road Socialist Organization (freedomroad.org)Edit
- Freedom Road Socialist Organization - Home page.
- "Freedom Road Socialist Organization Loses Two Districts in Split" - Views and analysis of 1999 split.
- Freedom Road Magazine - Articles from (now defunct) magazine.
- Unity Statement on National Oppression, National Liberation and Socialist Revolution -Line statement on the national question, from 1991 (pre-split).
- "Meeting the Challenge of Crisis and Opportunity: Left Refoundation and Party Building" - Analysis and statement of views by organization's Party Building Commission. Dated 1 January 2000.
- "The Crisis within the Left: Theory, Program, Organization" - Analysis and statement of views. Dated 31 December 2004.