RCP Constitution: Control, Cult of Personality & Revealing Silences

Nando replied to a series of questions about the RCP's newly published Constitution. Because of the length and substance of those comments, we are reposting them here. Nando uses the remarks by a poster called "Questions" as a jumping off point.

By Mike Ely

Why RCP Discarded Term "Marxism-Leninism-Maoism" in this Document

"Questions" writes: so long as it takes this correct line as the foundation of its internal life and its work among the masses." [bold added for emphasis] This is whistling past the graveyard. It is meant to comfort a party that is staring straight at its own impotence, and that has been losing ground steadily. It is a call to faltering party to cling to its own new orthodoxy as its only hope.

This passage is (as JB Connors pointed out) a window into their preoccupations. And it is no mystery why:

Make a list of the RCP's projects over the last few years, which are clearly conceived as a kind of interconnected series of initiatives for leaping to a new stage:

* repolarize politics between proletarian revolution and Christian fascism (this whole scenario was aging and outdated from the moment the idea of "CFs as stage managers of revolution" was raised.)

* Develop the Engage project to rather heavy public intellectuals around Bob Avakian as a historic thinker. (This project is clearly stillborn, and the plans to take it into a public arena were abandoned. Is there a single non-party activist among the public intellectuals for this project? No.)

* Develop a defense of science under the party's leadership (nowhere. stillborn.)

* Use the "mass initiatives" like NION and WCW to repolarize society and act as a mainstream force contending for power and influence. (WCW has gone from mass demonstrations to small guerilla theater involving orange jumpsuits, and is scrambling for its existance outside the backbone of party forces.)

* Promote the newspaper in a radically elevated way. (Instead they have cut back, and the paper is no longer weekly.)

* Create the RC4 tour as a way to develop leaps in inroads for Avakian and his views within the Black community (stillborn, disasterous and abandoned.)

* Promote the RCP as a radical defender of evolution and science using the publication of their Evolution book. (Book published, little notice taken.)

And so on.... the balance sheet of their very hyped plan over the last years is not good.

And they have (typically) moved on to their next plan, without (obviously) linger too long (or materialist) over any summation among cadre or the public.

And then add to all this the intense and ongoing struggle within the party (which produced the impetus to write the 9 Letters.)

Guidelines for a Permanent Purge

One of the startling reflections of continuing struggle is the degree to which this Constitution codifies a rolling purge and clampdown. Those of us who were long among the party supporters can see the changes in the previous constitution, procedures and rules (that we once lived by.

There is the emergence of a whole system of constantly demanding write-ups of every thought (especially dissident thought) within the party and its periphery. There is a heavy new emphasis on "chronic" or "repeated" violators of party discipline. Including elaborate details of how to force them out of the party, when they don't want to leave.

Those who consistently oppose "leadership of the party" and who intend to fight for a different course within that party -- are now put in a category with "actual counterrevolutionaries" and "agents."

These are the rules for an institutionalized state of purge -- for a heavy club of discipline and an active use of expulsion for many degrees of internal opposition.

It is an example of why it is wrong to think that the struggle for a new revolutionary and communist path can be successfully carried out within the RCP. And IN THAT CONTEXT the promise is made that if this party clings to its current line, however small it becomes, it "will still be able to advance toward revolution."

Aside from the fact that this is a metaphysical promise marked with inevitablism -- it avoids the fact that this line is wrong, and will not advance toward revolution.

Dig in.

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People in this conversation

  • Guest (shocking)

    Are you honestly surprised at a cult of personality in a Maoist party?

  • Nando writes: <i>Those of us who were long among the party supporters can see the changes in the previous constitution, procedures and rules (that we once lived by.)</i>

    The RCP always had its legalisms, which were applied selectively (if at all). Of those members I know who left throughout the 1990s, they were basically exiled to non-productive and socially isolated "work" so as not to go through any procedures related to getting thrown out. Instead of explicit and direct hearings or struggle, people were left to wither on the vine... until they got fed up and left of their own accord. Nice way to avoid your own accountability structures. <i>"You weren't thrown out, you left!"</i>

    Same thing with Party Congresses and so on. If you look at the 1981 Constitution, it called for a Party Congress every five years, at least. As far as I know, which is to say from any public proclamation – they never happened. This removed even the hint of accountability to the membership, with a permanent self-selecting Central Committee, itself governed by Avakian – whose Chairmanship is apparently glued to his ass despite the apparent truth that he has never led this party beyond the confines of an ideological grouplet.

    There's a tendency of those in such groups to think things have changed more than they have when the line that has crossed others finally crosses them. "It wasn't like this before..."

    Really?

  • Guest (cassiusghost)

    Nando,

    Thank you for the dissection. It must be rigorous and done plainly in sunlight for others to understand it, and you have came very close to doing it in this one piece. Again, thank you.

    As I said in the original post my footwork and research in contacting older former members and supporters across the country about this development has been very disheartening. I can only hope that they will be peeking at Kasama, despite their outcry against anything associated with the RCP - even from people who have stayed so long within the organization, like Mike Ely.

    Finally some fresh clean air is coming out of this endeavor and none too soon. I do mean what I say when it comes to a legal writ that MAY soon be coming Kasama's way - accusing it of violating "fair use" copyright infringement issues. When all else fails, they will "lawyer up" and probably write the brief.

    While they never went quite that far with me and my comrades, it was none too subtly indicated that would be the next step after "censure" - another tactic is the use of shunning, going from one group to another and telling them to disassociate from you, alleging "agent-provacatuer" to them. It didn't work because after all they came into my area, among many revs and progs who knew me then, and for years since, as a friend and colleague.

    The pain was all mine, since I was really only one of a small few who respected the RCP. These latest developments in the "new" constitution really only codify what has been going on for years and years before and Kasama should keep its site as open as possible to people looking for a place to be, learn and work for revolution.

    I saw a lot during the few short years working hard with the RCP, comrades with terminally ill lovers being struggled with to abandon them, comrades urged to divorce, comrades urged to sever familial ties, comrades told that their struggles were nothing unless the "got down" with the RCP in a "real" way.

    All in the eighties ... so long ago and to see it now formalized, codified into a "constitution" in a way it is ironic and makes one feel moronic, naive or just so stupidly immature to have fallen for it in the first place.

    I have only one more flag to hoist on these folks, who determines what activity or who is, "hostile to the proletarian revolution"?

    In a sad fashion, unless good deeds and words are made clear, Mike Ely may very well become a Danton in the fictional never never world of Avakianist "revolution." I hope the Avakianists will rely more on lawyers than on brute force, in that case. I have read and heard of similar attempts to stifle this kind of struggle before.

    It's good to know others are defending this effort and Ely is not alone. I'm too old to help much, but will cheer you on and try as I might to make some contribution, toward regrouping and reconceiving. Sharp, sharp work - keep at it.

  • Guest (nando)

    Redflags writes:

    <blockquote>"There’s a tendency of those in such groups to think things have changed more than they have when the line that has crossed others finally crosses them. “It wasn’t like this before…”</blockquote>

    I suspect you miss read my point, and perhaps the error for that confusion is not yours.

    A constitution of party (or anything really) is a body of statutes and basic principles.

    It is revealing to track what was changed -- because it uncovers the concerns and purposes of those rewriting the statutes.

    In doing that, i don't mean to imply that the PREVIOUS statutes were legitimate, correct or honestly applied. In the case of the RCP they weren't. all the mechanisms for accountability and election were never implemented.

    Just one simple example among many: There were (as you note) not Congresses held as regular gatherings to sum up, approve and change the direction of the organization (and to select and control leadership). That never happened.

    No one has (or should) naively proclaim the "good old days of the RCP" as if there was one point where all was right, and from which things slid.

    This party had an arc, a process, that had its initiating logic and its turning point. There were some error embedded in its initial conception -- which we can and should sum up now. There were other errors made along the way (as well as more positive decisions and innovations).

    I was dissecting the statutes because the change of law indicates the announced norm, not because statutes or laws are ever actually the way things work.

    as the <a href="/http://mikeely.wordpress.com/letter-9/" rel="nofollow">9th Letter</a> says:

    <blockquote>"We don’t need a remake of the RCP, but better. The theoretical knife must cut deeper than that. There needs to be negation, affirmation, and then a real leap beyond what has gone before. We need a movement of all-the-way revolutionaries that lives in this 21st century. Not some reshuffling of old cadre, but the beginning reshuffling of a whole society.</blockquote>

  • Guest (saoirse)

    as redflags mentioned in both the previous and the new constitutions the party congress is the highest decision making body. But did they happen? As a traveller in the movements and events around the party it was my understanding that the party ceased having congresses after avakian went into exile. As I understood it the party was essentially militarize as apart of the defensive posture taken after the Deng Xiaoping protest and subsequent criminal indictments.

  • I can't comment on whether there were party congresses. we have decided not to lightly discuss major political events and organizational matters that are INTERNAL to the RCP. But only discuss matters that directly pertain to ideological and political line.

    We believe that the internal workings and methods of revolutionary organizations need to be protected, and we want to promote a culture among revolutionaries that is principled in that regard.

    So while i appreciate the importance of your question, I can't provide you a detailed factual answer about how many congresses the RCP has had, how they were conducted or what happened at them.

    However, I can say (without telling tales out of school) that the previous party constitution was not followed, that the process of democratic accountability within that party did not even get lip-service (both in regard to the supposed role of congresses, but also in regard to the supposed election or recall or oversight of leading people.)

  • Guest (saoirse)

    thanks Mike. I apologize for not acknowleging the stance of the site which I actually did know and going there. I do appreciate your response.

  • Guest (Jimmy Higgins)

    I'm sure everyone has been somewhat taken aback by the bizarre bit about:
    <blockquote>Party members actively report to their units, and to leadership, what they are learning and thinking.</blockquote>.

    In fact, I suggest we can find a precedent for this from back in the RU days, before the RCP was even declared. One of the riffs Avakian liked, really liked, to run in speaking against anti-communist ideas went something like:
    <blockquote>They always talk about Communist brainswashing. Well, I say what's so bad about brainwashing. If your brain is dirty, shouldn't it be washed?</blockquote>

    It's a cute trope, and there's a grain of truth in it, but there're also reasons why most of the people I discussed it with at the time said it made them uneasy. I don't believe that their unease was mainly a reflectio0n of anti-communism.

    Incidentally, can anyone here suggest when that riff ceased to be a part of Avakian's armory, or the RCP's? The last time I can recall hearing it would've been maybe 1974...

  • Guest (Jay Andrew Allen)

    Nando wrote:

    <blockquote>Evolutionary biologists don’t call themselves Darwinian-Mendelean-Gouldites.</blockquote>

    As an aside, Creationists <strong>do</strong> use the term "Darwinism" in an attempt to slight the science, and make the theory of evolution appear as doctrinal and fact-less as...well, as Creationism.

    Great analysis.

  • Guest (Al)

    Nando wrote: "The Programme process (and in some ways the struggle that erupted during that process, especially over the question of homosexuality) collided with a determination to enshrine Avakian and his new synthesis as the central tenet of this party."

    I think I really missed something. I recall the RCP issuing a paper on a new position on homosexuality, which was much better than the previous position, which seemed ridiculous. When i read comments on the website where the draft program was being discussed, I only remember seeing some posts by people who seemed to obviously be outside the party, saying essentially that the paper didn't go far enough because it didn't apologize fully for the past position. Other than that, there didn't seem to be a lot of "struggle that erupted" over the proposed new position on homosexuality. Were there some people who were against the change and still supported the old position? If that's the case, they sure didn't post anything on the website.
    What were the two (or more) positions in contention on the homosexuality issue in the "struggle that erupted." Right now, to me at least, this really seems cryptic, and doesn't explain much, just adds to my mystification.

  • Guest (MotherM)

    Here's an obscure question that I always wondered about. Why did the RCP spell "Program" with the British spelling of "Programme"? Is there some point to this? Weird.

  • In answer to Al:

    It is hard to imagine anyone defending the old position of the RCP. And it is easy to imagine that the essential and explosive issue involved was how it was possible that a revolutionary organization could have so stubbornly held to such an outrageous and backward position for so very long.

    I will discuss this in terms of material that is public and already available:

    If you read Avakian's discussion in the "<a HREF="http://www.amazon.com/Marxism-Call-Future-Conversations-Politics/dp/0812695798" rel="nofollow">Conversations</A>" book, you can see there was an argument was made (by avakian, in this interview with Bill Martin) that the party's previous open hostility toward homosexuals was not rooted in any real hostility towards homosexuals. It was, you see, simply a logical derivative of a kind of reductionism that had been inherited from the old communist movement fifty years ago.

    So, you see, there are no issues of patriarchy, male chauvinism or backwardness to uncover. There was no need to discuss the political losses sufferred by the revolution -- when a party like this labels homosexuals inherently reactionary -- amid the great oppression and resistance of the 1980s AIDS crisis. There was not need to uncover who was responsible for that position and to hold them accountable to the party and the people. No, this party had held this position for over thirty years because of a rather abstract methodological problem that had now been uncovered and resolved with Avakian in the lead.

    It does not take a lot of imagination to see how explosive and infuriating such a smug coverup might be.

  • On the question of programme/program:

    Lenin's collected works were printed using British english. So in the essays on the Social Democratic and Bolshevik programmatic discussions the word is spelled (british-style) as "Programme."

    When the RCP started writing its programs, it simply adopted the spelling used by Lenin's works.

    Later in the RCP's history, Avakian argued that there was "programme" meaning a sweeping strategic approach to the revolutionary struggle, and "program" meaning the formation of transitional demands within intense crisis.

    Outside of the RCP's self invented world, such distinctions have no basis or existence.

    Similarly Avakian's recent demand for "<em>Germanic </em>appreciation" of his body of work has no specific meaning that I can uncover in either German or English other than the invention that Avakian himself gave it.)

  • Guest (Jimmy Higgins)

    With some firsthand knowledge of the writing of the original Draft Programme produced as part of the process of transforming the RU into the RCP, let me second Mike's account.

    The funny spelling was to distinguish the effort from the lesser "programs" other left groups and parties published. Within RU ranks, a number of comrades objected that this was reminiscent of some guy born and raised in Pumpkin Squat, Nebraska affecting a British accent to present himself as an intellectual.

    We lost, obviously.

  • Guest (Eddy)

    <BLOCKQUOTE> I’m sure everyone has been somewhat taken aback by the bizarre bit about:

    <BLOCKQUOTE>Party members actively report to their units, and to leadership, what they are learning and thinking.
    </BLOCKQUOTE>

    </BLOCKQUOTE>


    well, yes and no.

    Years ago, working with the BPP, we made daily telephone reports to the State Chapter Office and also submitted weekly written reports. Those reports mainly focused on practical matters, such as the extent of newspaper and literature distribution (which was our main work.)

    It would appear that the current intent in the RCP is to closely monitor dissidence within their organization. It doesn't read as if it is intended to encourage a lively internal dialogue about pressing theory or practice. (In my experience, that kind of communication has primarily become monologue.)

    Active internal dialogue and communication is obviously essential within any organization; otherwise, how does it comprise an organization?

  • Guest (JS)

    Maybe someone has already said this, but I'm curious.

    If the RCP is moving away from 'Marxism-Leninism-Maoism' then what does one make of the recent <a href="/http://revcom.us/a/140/cover140-en.html" rel="nofollow">Mao issue</a> of the paper and <a href="/http://revcom.us/a/140/Mao_true-story-en.html" rel="nofollow">Li Onesto's article on Mao</a>. As I recall, this kind of thing would usually be written by Bob or Ray Lotta. So, on the one hand, you have a move toward the terminology of 'communism' in place of 'Maoism' and on the other hand, the paper that coincides with this move has a giant color picture of Mao on it and a big two-part story on his contributions. What's up with that?

  • Guest (Nando)

    JS wrote:
    <blockquote>"If the RCP is moving away from ‘Marxism-Leninism-Maoism’ then what does one make of the recent Mao issue of the paper and Li Onesto’s article on Mao. As I recall, this kind of thing would usually be written by Bob or Ray Lotta. So, on the one hand, you have a move toward the terminology of ‘communism’ in place of ‘Maoism’ and on the other hand, the paper that coincides with this move has a giant color picture of Mao on it and a big two-part story on his contributions. What’s up with that?"</blockquote>

    The RCP is moving away from using the <em>terminology</em> "Marxism-Leninism-Maoism" -- the label they hang on their ideology. That is because they was to emphasize that the synthesis they are applying comes from Bob Avakian.

    And as part of that, they have started to articulate more and more criticisms of Mao (to justify their claim that Avakian is a leap, and even an "epistemological break" from Mao, even the best of previous communists.) These criticisms include criticisms of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (on the handling of intellectuals, for example) and philosophical criticisms of his famous work "On Practice." avakian's reenvisioning of the socialist transition to communism is remarkably missing key Maoist concepts: Avakian rarely talks about capitalist roaders in the party (in his discussion of solid core and elasticity), or "never forget class struggle," or even the idea of wavelike and successive revolutionary advances involving mass storms.

    these new distances taken from mao are in addition to much earlier criticisms of Mao for nationalism -- that were first articulated in the early 1980s as part of Avakian's development of his theory of revolution as a world process.

    This does not mean that the RCP is changing their overall position on the content and verdicts of MLM, or that they are no longer putting forward Mao.

    In fact, if you look at their new Constitution, they describe the leaps and development of the communist theory they uphold -- moving through the milestones of Marx, Lenin and Mao, then on to Avakian.

    In other words, I don't see a contradiction between them increasingly moving away from the TERMINOLOGY of "Marxism-Leninism-Maoism" and at the same time continuing to prominently put forward Mao and the Chinese revolution.

    They might time this series on Mao for the Beijing Olympics, where there is interest in the history of China. But they may also be making a prominent cover on Mao now (as their new Constitution comes out) to deflect concerns (in various quarters) that the dropping of MLM (as a term) reflects a retreat from Maoism toward something else.

  • Guest (Linda D.)

    Want to add something about the RCP's supposed crit./self crit. on their totally reactionary line on homosexuality. And I have brought this up before. When I read the "New Program(me)" which was supposedly being debated, immediately zoomed in on this part. And while I think that there were some attempts at "rectifying" their former line, if you read between the lines, the New Programme still upheld Li Oneste's original article in Revolution mag. ("in the main") AND was still calling homosexuality a "phenomena." Of course, they had to add, that this "phenomena" was still under investigation.

  • Guest (Linda D.)

    And I was wondering the exact same thing that JS was wondering about re the article by Li Oneste re Mao.

  • Guest (lol)

    "Here’s an obscure question that I always wondered about. Why did the RCP spell “Program” with the British spelling of “Programme”? Is there some point to this? Weird."

    Why does half the stuff published in the RCP paper sound like it's a shitty translation of Chinese language?

    I think they just kind of make a caricature of whatever they think "revolutionary" writing is supposed to sound like.

    Too bad the stuff they are copying, both Lenin and Mao, was not written in English originally so instead of copying Lenin and Mao they are copying some anonymous translators.

    But that's what happens when your operation is more style over substance...

  • Eddy wrote:

    <blockquote>"Years ago, working with the BPP, we made daily telephone reports to the State Chapter Office and also submitted weekly written reports. Those reports mainly focused on practical matters, such as the extent of newspaper and literature distribution (which was our main work.) It would appear that the current intent in the RCP is to closely monitor dissidence within their organization. It doesn’t read as if it is intended to encourage a lively internal dialogue about pressing theory or practice. (In my experience, that kind of communication has primarily become monologue.)Active internal dialogue and communication is obviously essential within any organization; otherwise, how does it comprise an organization?"</blockquote>

    What you write is true, Eddy, and important. There needs to be internal dialogue in an organization. Leadership in an organization needs to hear (often and regularly) what people at all levels of the organization are experiencing, and also hear what their ideas are.

    But, i think <a href="/http://mikeely.wordpress.com/2008/08/11/new-constitution-of-the-rcp-stamped-by-avakians-synthesis/#comment-5772" rel="nofollow">zero hour</a> got into something important when he wrote:

    <blockquote>"I think we should consider how a static and ahistorical conception of democratic centralism reflects and reinforces a tendency to restrict critical questioning, theoretical development, and creative organizing at all levels of organization. As RCP frames it, democratic centralism isn’t just an organizing principle it reflects an epistemological approach. The premise is that ideas among the masses, from localized experiences are scattered and incoherent and can only be synthesized at higher levels of organization. ... Visually it can be represented as a wheel with all spokes pointing to and emanating from the center. But spokes don’t intersect with each other. When RCP insists that one writes down their thoughts to be channeled upward, it reproduces an atomizing logic, not unlike voting in bourgeois elections in which the individual is supposed to interact with the organization as an isolated entity."</blockquote>

    There are layers of problems here:

    First, zerohour's point of atomization is profoundly true. And his comparison to voting is brilliant. There is no discussion or debate in any real way -- no cross fertilization, no airing of opposing view. In this view of "democratic centralism" party members are forbidden to discuss key opinions, summations and activities with anyone outside their immediate leadership and direct unit (not spouses, not the masses, not comrades they do work with, etc.) And so the only dialog is up and down.

    Second, in practice, because of the particular unpopularity and disastrous implications of the New Synthesis there is a major need for clampdowns and rectification constantly around the RCP. So the reporting up of a new or different idea doesn't meet "gee, that's interesting lets explore that more," but "this is wrong, it violates chapter and verse of BA's synthesis." And since <a href="/http://mikeely.wordpress.com/letter-7/" rel="nofollow">whateverism</a>" is enshrined, the starting assumption is that if you disagree with Avakian, you are wrong, he is right, and you need to rectify yourself.

    Third, there is atomization of a different kind. The intense "hunt and peck" method of dealing with internal ideas makes it very very hard to develop a coherent oppositional concept -- in the face of the synthesis imposed by leadership. Without going into inappropriate details, let me just say that throughout the last years of my membership in the RCP i had deep questions about many many aspects of the New Synthesis (I thought the Christian Right were junior partners in the ruling class coalition, not its cutting edge; I thought that it was disturbing that there was never summation of one campaign's failure before the next one was announced; I thought that the cult of personality was reaching absurd proportions and that making it a key public effort was bizarre, i thought that the history of the party's position on homosexuality was disturbing and the way its reversal of position was handled was disturbing in other ways.) But....but... it was literally impossible to formulate a COHERENT opposiong view while remaining in the framework of the RCP. There was little time for reflection. Any consultation and comparing of ideas with others (including people who had left, or other forces on the left) was forbidden. Any independent project of study and writing was made impossible by the pace of hyperactivism. And everything one did or thought was micro-managed -- so that the whole process of line struggle was atomized, and the only coherency was the highly baroque and elaborate central line.

    fourth: with that as a context, i have to say that the requirement of steady reports by each individual of their "thinking" (especially the beginnings of questions) is a process of "nip it in the bud" and is (in many ways) highly intrusive and controling in a way not justified by revolutionary politics (but highly justified by the necessities of holding together a troubled and declining sect).

    The RCP has always justified its particular form of democratic centralism on the basis of a hyped mania for security and a mistaken argument about epistemology.... but in reality, these rules of organization were often serving purposes of internal control. All of this has become exaggerated in new ways -- taken to extremes in large part because of the wobbly nature of the whole party regime.

    Iris raises questions about "democratic centralism" after digging into these statutes and experiences. And i agree, we need to dig into that, and also add "which democratic centralism?" DC is one of those communist terms that has gotten itself exhausted -- turned from a discription, into a formula, into an icon... until the living dynamics of revolutionary organization are left behind.

    Leaving aside what we call our organizational principles in the future, revolution needs organized and disciplined cores acting in unity. and it needs critical thinkers able to analyze independently, identify problems in line and policy, and able to swim and succeed in the midst of great storms of mass debate. And we need to identify forms of organization that surve those purposes... and we need to develop an organized way of acting collectively, concretely over time.

    And i believe in our times (given technology, the nature of the state, the nature of public debate, the experiences of a century of revolution, and much more) it is inconceivable that we will want to simply adopt some old organizational formula (assuming it is "universal" forever) -- without a deep, critical and creative effort to look at all this afresh. I think that when we are done, our organizational unity, discipline and cohesion will be cemented in new ways that will look different from communist parties of the past.

  • On so-called brain-washing

    <a>Jimmy Higgins wrote:</a>

    <blockquote>"I suggest we can find a precedent for this from back in the RU days, before the RCP was even declared. One of the riffs Avakian liked, really liked, to run in speaking against anti-communist ideas went something like:

    <blockquote>"They always talk about Communist brainswashing. Well, I say what’s so bad about brainwashing. If your brain is dirty, shouldn’t it be washed?</blockquote>

    It’s a cute trope, and there’s a grain of truth in it, but there’re also reasons why most of the people I discussed it with at the time said it made them uneasy. I don’t believe that their unease was mainly a reflectio0n of anti-communism."</blockquote>

    I have to say, I have a very different view from JH on this.

    In any great revolution there is both radical rupture of property relations AND a radical rupture in the realm of ideas. The revolution in ideas arises in great turmoil, and makes it possible for turmoil to produce a new social order.

    In a great "event," the thinking of millions of people changes. and this is not just some gentle process.

    Just take civil rights in the U.S.: to make raw white supremacy socially unacceptable, a lot of people had to GET UP IN THE FACE of reactionaries. They had to challenge ideas, and demand changes in thinking and behavior. (and the whole backlash against "political correctness" is the attempt by those forces to reverse verdicts and get off the defensive.) And all that was not even a real revolution!

    In china, after the successful seizure of power and the wrenching years of agrarian revolution, there was a whole world of deeply embedded ideas to uproot. And literally millions of deeply reactionary people who NEEDED to be transformed (in their thinking and behavior.)

    And so the peasants and communists had a saying "after work you wash your hands, in the revolution you wash your brain." This was not some sinister thing but a truth, and something that people really set out to do: wash the old society off their brains.

    It was part of a mass recognision that everyone needed to reexamine their previous training, and that each of us should be open to the criticism of others (and of the revolution overall).

    Is that wrong? No. It is part of making the "radical rupture" in the realm of ideas a reality.

    the Chinese revolutionaries were very very successful in transforming (and redeeming) people. In the case of U.S. prisoners of war (during the Korean war) the U.S. government was so shocked by the sincere "going over" of many of their soldiers to the revolution that they invented the bugaboo of "brainwashing" (implying that the Chinese were using some ugly technique that combined torture, brutality, hypnosis, ego-breaking and perhaps drugs to remake the human mind. That whole narrative was (and is) a lie... and it was their way of explaining how seemingly patriotic (and politically unconscious) Americans might suddenly become partisans of "Chicom" revolution.

    There were problems: the party leader Liu Shiaochi wrote his book "How to be a good communist" that promoted a passive and inward looking process of "self-cultivation" (leaving out the importance of actual class struggle and storms of transformation in making the change of ideas possible.)

    But (anyway) the best depiction of the process of "washing your brain" is the book "<a href="/http://www.etext.org/Politics/MIM/ma/radio/rickett.html" rel="nofollow">Prisoners of Liberation</a>" by Adele and Allyn Rickett. This remarkable book describes the experiences of two conserviative Americans arrested in China after the revolution for espionage -- and it records in great detail their experience in a revolutionary prison, and how (through a complex process of study and struggle) they became sincere and enthusiastic supporters of the revolution, and look back on their own past with horror. (And when they came back to the U.S. they were, predictably, treated as someone who had gone insane.... and fought to find ways to get their story out.)

    Needless to say, these experiences are complicated (as life and revolution always are). And the struggle over ideas was often waged intensely with proven reactionaries, spies and invading U.S. soldiers (and in their cases in the coersive context of prison). But it has remarkable effects in transforming people --- and was a much better approach than, say, the guillotine of the French Revolution.

  • Guest (Iris)

    Mike, where does Avakian use the term "Germanic"? I can't find it. I think he means "germane", as in pertinent or relevant appreciation, perhaps?

  • Guest (Quorri)

    Zerohour said:
    "Visually it can be represented as a wheel with all spokes pointing to and emanating from the center. But spokes don’t intersect with each other."

    Reminds me of how bosses and workplaces always try to discourage talking amongst the workers about wages and treatment, etc. If they can keep us from talking to each other, and only talking to them, we'll never see the big picture and be able to really criticize it or fight against it effectively.... Divide and conquer.

    Mike E said:
    "In any great revolution there is both radical rupture of property relations AND a radical rupture in the realm of ideas. The revolution in ideas arises in great turmoil, and makes it possible for turmoil to produce a new social order."
    This brain-scrubbing that goes on in a revolution, the kind that can transform people like Adele and Allyn Rickett so thoroughly, is super important AND is totally different from actual brain washing. The first seeks to TRANSFORM ways of thinking, manners of relating to people and the world and society around you, and the very way we experience life from the inside out, as a genuine process.... the second seeks to cover up what is already there, not transform it, and cover it up in a way that doesn't come from someone's true understanding or grasping of the new material, but from straight up conditioning and training.... very different.

  • Iris:

    Avakian and the RCP argue that there needs to be "Germanic appreciation" of Bob Avakian -- which means (to them) not just a "gee, i appreciate you" kind of thing, but a deep, soul-stirring appreciation of the full world-historic importance of the man and his work based on a deep engagement. They don't mean "germane."

  • quorri i agree with you except for the assumptions in your use of the term "actual brainwashing."

    Historically, the chinese developed the term "brain washing" for washing reactionary ideas in your thinking.

    Only later did the anti-communist mythology about "wooo, scary, brainwashing" (a la Manchurian candidate) develop (as a distortion, a lie and a slander of the Chinese revolution and its methods.)

    If you want to know what the ACTUAL brain-washing was like, read Rickett.

  • Guest (Quorri)

    Thanks Mike :)

    I guess there's a distinction between brain-washing and indoctrination. Indoctrination is the intended control over someone's thoughts and, therefore, actions often promoted through a denial of the ability to question freely, emotional control like anger and punishment for questioning, and a limited access to knowledge or other ways of thinking. Beside straight up lying (there are probably some more tactics, too). So, I guess what I was talking about was brain-washing vs. indoctrination.....

  • Guest (BobH)

    The discussion on this blog just keep getting better and better IMHO, but I think it's a particularly interesting question to discuss what kind of horizontal communications can be developed to address the well-known abuses and dead-end stagnation that have come to be associated with D.C. I for one would rather be apolitical than in the mental chokehold of runaway D.C.

    It seems to me, looking at this rather abstractly from a computer science model, that the classical cell structure with the top-down communication flow (reports go up, directives go down) is essentially a tree model. This could be replaced with a network model (a graph, to be pedantic). Given the reality of a widely-used network (the internet) and the ease of encryption + authentication, it should be possible to adapt security culture to create a system of "horizontal reporting", whereby a cell's practice can be "sanitized" (described as anonymously and non-locally as possible while still being analytically useful), allowing all nodes on the network to read and analyze reports of practice. Everybody can analyze and comment on local practice to some extent. The job of the center is to collate the best ideas, stimulate further ideas by propagating criticism/suggestions based on these ideas, etc. Voting becomes highly feasible in this model. Weighted voting (where a person's level of experience/practice is accounted for) is possible too. The key thing seems to be the ability to share practice/experience without revealing identity.

    I know that this is pretty abstract, but it would seem relatively simple to experiment with models like this on a small scale, find out what works, and develop a modern communication model.

    To look at the inverse of this, it's interesting to read some of the reporting (I think the NY Times had a big article about this, don't have the cite) on how hard intelligence agencies have had to struggle to keep up with the internet. The fact that they are super compartmentalized meant it was a huge struggle to create a secure wiki so experts could share information with each other but with security levels intact. That's worth looking at, I believe. The fact that our side is often times even more rigid and brittle than reaction says a lot about what we need to fix.

  • Guest (Iris)

    I had never heard that 'brain washing' had roots in communist China. Sweet, how interesting.

    This interview is fascinating:

    www.etext.org/Politics/MIM/ma/radio/rickett.html

  • Guest (land)

    For Kasama I think we do need something more in line with "communist future". And this is also more in line with something new.

    But where does this put us in the ICM. Most likely everyone in Kasama will not be a Maoist but as an organization how do we bring in Maoism. I do not want to let Maoist go. Because I am a Maoist. I am not a communist future although that is where we need to go.

    Have to think about this more.

    Just started reading the Constitution. Where is the section on the paper. In the last constitution it was in Article 3.

    Will be continued.

  • Guest (Linda D.)

    Land--I have been reading the whole "schmeer" posted on Rev. mag. --

    http://rwor.org/Constitution/constitution.html

    I would like to hear what people think about some other parts, besides D.C. E.G. "United Front"--and "diverting the struggle", and other parts that speaking to "professional revolutionaries" (based on WITBD? but not specifically putting it as such).

    I think just these two aspects are things we need to have some debate about.

    Will keep reading, and try and be more specific next time as to the "constitution's" actually wording on the above.

  • Guest (ShineThePath)

    Mike,

    Just particular to the concept of "Brain-washing." Actually if I were to hear this, I would agree with Jimmy, and I'd flinch. Whats the problem here? I acknowledge one and the samer time the necessity for Communists to handle contradictions and elevate consciousness, but the notion of a "brain washing" is asbolutely incorrect is tacitly a part of the whole sale misanthropic posture of the RCP towards the masses, and the relation Avakian sees his work to them.

    To "wash" someone's brain implies no contingency on the part of those who are getting their brain "washed," and should harken "Manchurian Candidate" suspicion. A living revolutionary enviroment is not actually about "washing brains," its aboute dynamic struggle for direction, to carry these struggles amongst the masses and having faith with them to grab on to new ways of thinking. It should also provide us with the possibility to wash our own brains? Just a thought, that maybe often than not we're "childish and ignorant" as Mao would have put it.

    I have fundamentally no problem with the concept here of bringing forward thoughts and summing up thoughts to political leadership. This itself is not the problem, but fundamentally what is lacking throughout this constitution is in fact a place for a Mass Line relationship to lower cadre, one that learns from their experiences and their criticisms. What we have rather is in fact a "brain washing" method. It proceeds from a rigid absolutist position upon theory, that the lower cadre are not a part of. The constitution might as well read "you have notions which differ from the political line that we push, therefore you're going to come under scrutiny." Where is also in fact anywhere here a place for a battle of summation, for internal democracy and life within the supposed Vanguard of the masses?

  • Shinethepath:

    "To “wash” someone’s brain implies no contingency on the part of those who are getting their brain “washed,” and should harken “Manchurian Candidate” suspicion."

    I'm not quite sure what you thin happened in the chinese revolution. But my point was that people talked about washng their own brains (the way farmers wash their hands). It was a popular expression for raising your consciousness. (It was not that different from people struggling over racist or sexist ideas in the U.S.)

    It was the anticommunists who portrayed it as a sinsiter thing where a personality was broken by someone else *doing* the brainwashing (like the kinds of experiments carried out by the CIA trying to develop their own ways to "flip people.")

    You write:

    "A living revolutionary enviroment is not actually about “washing brains,” its aboute dynamic struggle for direction, to carry these struggles amongst the masses and having faith with them to grab on to new ways of thinking. It should also provide us with the possibility to wash our own brains? Just a thought, that maybe often than not we’re “childish and ignorant” as Mao would have put it."

    I'm not quite sure what that means. Revolution does involve ideological struggle and ideological transformation (of all people, including revolutionaries, the oppressed and the overthrown/defeated reactionaries). does this happen just by us having "faith in them to grab on to new ways of thinking"? Well, methods have to be developed. there have to be new normative standards in society. There has to be struggle over passive acceptance of old ideas. There has to be ways in which people collectively help each other transform (within families, or revolutionary units, or broadly in society).

    My point here is that we should not lightly accept the various "anti-totalitarian" mythologies that have become so deeply embedded in the culture. And it is revealing to study how the chinese people (in one of the worlds greatest revolution) struggled with each other to wash the stains of a thousand years of oppression from their minds, and then to study how the western media and military started to portray those transformations as horrific offenses against humanity.

  • Guest (ShineThePath)

    Mike,

    I think we should take into account that a phrase that sounds fine in the relation of transforming the semi-feudal conditions of relations and thinking in China is different than what is commonly thought of "brain washing" here. When you speak about Brain Washing in this country you're not speaking about people actively struggling and liberating their minds, but rather a quite formalistic and rigid indoctrination. This doesn't spring up immediately for me any thoughts of liberation and isn't going to produce a flourishing society ultimately.

    I think we have to keep this mind, the way you speak does matter in our methodology. In China it may have a different sense, but in this country it has another.

    Just another example is Bob Avakian telling Tom Snyder (no counter-revolutionary reactionary for what is known) that basically he'll censor his show or on Pacifica radio, speaking about literally developing a cult of personality (culture of appreciation). What really was the point of this? Rather then showing that Communists are not the stereotyped totalitarians, he rather reconfirms it...I think the statement on "brain washing" is similiar. In this sense, there is a particular line here, a line of misanthropic ultra-leftism. I think it is quite a part of Avakian's own confession of wanting to "blame the masses." It is either this or just a real blatant trying to draw shock. Either way it just shows how out of touch Avakian is or how utterly impoverished his method is.

    Mike, you write: "Well, methods have to be developed. there have to be new normative standards in society. There has to be struggle over passive acceptance of old ideas. There has to be ways in which people collectively help each other transform (within families, or revolutionary units, or broadly in society)."

    I agree here, and I don't think this is fundamentally contrary to what I am saying; however there must be a certain element of understanding that the cultural transformation of people is a protracted process. Emerging from the womb of the old society means getting out of its yolk, and there are plenty of examples where Communists just patently extend themselves beyond the consciousness of the masses and set up formal standards while not actually going to the masses and struggling these questions out. Lets just look at Hoxha's insistence that Albania was an Atheist country (while hardly several decades out of outright Feudalism and Italian colonialism in a nation influenced by Islam) or the Soviet Union in Central Asia.

  • STP writes:

    <blockquote>"I think we should take into account that a phrase that sounds fine in the relation of transforming the semi-feudal conditions of relations and thinking in China is different than what is commonly thought of “brain washing” here. When you speak about Brain Washing in this country you’re not speaking about people actively struggling and liberating their minds, but rather a quite formalistic and rigid indoctrination. This doesn’t spring up immediately for me any thoughts of liberation and isn’t going to produce a flourishing society ultimately."</blockquote>

    You are right of course that the imperialist mythology of "brainwashing" is the way that term is understood in the u.s. (including apparently among leftists). I am not arguing we should advocate "brainwashing" (since that would be terribly understood by 99.9% of the people.)

    I don't think we should mechanically lift our vocabulary or forms of struggle from the past.

    In our context, the process that the chinese called "washing your brain" we have often called "consciousness raising."

    My point was merely that we should not casually accept or echo standard anti-communist sentiments. And that we should help people keep a sharply critical suspicion of what we are told about the world and history (by the U.S. media and military) using their fake history of "brain-washing" as an example.

  • Guest (Eddy)

    Mike wrote:

    <BLOCKQUOTE>The RCP has always justified its particular form of democratic centralism on the basis of a hyped mania for security and a mistaken argument about epistemology…. but in reality, these rules of organization were often serving purposes of internal control.</BLOCKQUOTE>

    Of course, in any party or organization, positions of authority may be misused and that misuse cause serious harm to the organization internally and to the people it proposes to represent externally. (Which points to the fact that effect processes for checking that abuse OUGHT to be an important part of the formal structure for a MLM organization.)

    That, however, does not obviate the fact that a serious party organization will be subject to violent suppression, infiltrators, provocateurs, etc. (History has too many examples of that type of attack, but surely readers of these blogs are aware of COINTELPRO and the assassination campaign waged against the Black Panther Party.) It is not useful to describe concern for internal security as 'hyped' when the full nature of the problem is necessarily secret. We do not (cannot) know the full extent of the state's operations.

    Secondly, human organizations ARE structured in response to theories of knowing and communication, and so in that regard do reflect the epistemology of those who form them.

    The centralized organization that Lenin described was proposed to serve both purposes: of protecting the revolutionary forces from state repression; and of serving a dialogical knowledge process, from practice to theory and back to practice. What is distinct from the problem being discussed here is that Lenin never suggested that only the center was capable of developing theory or that the membership only served the purpose of 'doing'.

    As I recall, many years ago, the RCP itself criticized the notion of party members being 'Jimmy Higgins' -- simple minded foot soldiers of central party bosses.

  • Eddy -

    You say, "It is not useful to describe concern for internal security as ‘hyped’ when the full nature of the problem is necessarily secret. We do not (cannot) know the full extent of the state’s operations."

    I don't think Mike meant to imply that any concern for internal security is in itself hyped, but that the way in which the rcp deploys this concern is in fact hyped and serves another purpose, that of internal control.

    But I have a question about your reasoning here. It looks as if you're saying you're saying that we should never question the use of internal security measures because "the full nature of the problem is necessarily secret," and "we do not (cannot) know the full extent of the state’s operations."

    It looks as if you're implying that any measure taken under the name of internal security is justifiable and unquestionable because we can never know what undercover means the state might be taking against us. This can't be right! Arguing from what we don't know is a very tricky business, to begin with. But in any event there are security measures that make sense and others that don't, and this can and should be a matter of rational discussion, in general terms.

    On another matter, you note correctly that "many years ago, the RCP itself criticized the notion of party members being ‘Jimmy Higgins’ — simple minded foot soldiers of central party bosses." Exactly. That was in the late '70s and '80s. What we've seen in recent years is how decisively, and how far, the rcp has moved from that idea.

  • Guest (Jimmy Higgins)

    I suppose I should repeat here my intention (back off, Road to Hell Paving Company coming through) to write a piece someday in defense of my namesake, "Jimmy Higgins."

    In the meantime, however, let me just say that I am perfectly willing to cop to "simple-minded," but, as I think even Bob Avakian would acknowledge, I've never done too well as a "foot soldier of central party bosses."

    And for a taste of the "real" Jimmy Higgins, <a>one of the first things I ever posted</a> at <b><i>Fire on the Mountain</i></a> touched on the long career of JH. There's a link there to Round One of this debate which took place at the old <b><i>Red Flags</i></b> blog, something of a percursor to <b><i>Kasama</i></b>.

  • On that note, I just read the recently re-published biography of Eugene Debs, The Bending Cross. In it, the idea of Jimmy Higgins as the legion of rank-and-file militants who build and sustain the working class fight is discussed. Whenever the energy and commitment of the common people <i>leading</i> is discussed, the name Jimmy Higgins appears.

    That there was a particular bent to it in old-style CP vernacular is quite possible, but as they took the term "communist party" and made it mean "democratic party flunky", I guess you can make any term mean anything.

  • Part of the controversy around Jimmy Higgins was the question of class instinct.... as oppose to class consciousness. This view (of a visceral us-them consciousness guiding the best of the workers) was quite influential in both the old SP and the old CP.

    So the issue is not "tireless worker following orders" -- but a kind of workerist view of consciousness.

    Obviously there is great value in tireless work. There is a need to identify and uphold worker militants (including finding ways of freeing them to develop as communist intellectuals). And there is also a need to "follow orders of party leaders" -- since no coherent movement or revolution is possible without orders, leaders, centers, and so on.

    My impression is closer to what Redflags touched on: that there was a PARTICULAR model of "worker militant" promoted by the CP, whose loyalty "to the cause" made little distinctions between his trade union and the CP, and who ran on a supposedly natural "class instinct" with great enthusiasm and discipline. It is a model that we should not take up -- and underestimates the leaps needed toward communist consciousness and politics, and glorifies a particular kind of intense activism that (in a quite American style) emphasizes "do it" task-fulfillment over "eyes to the horizon" conscious leading of broader people (mass line).

    Understanding that machinery needs cogs does not mean that we communists should glorify willing cogs as a model for the oppressed.

  • Guest (Jimmy Higgins)

    And since I have a bunch of other stuff I should be doing, lemme kick in again on the "brainwashing" kerfluffle I kicked off (posts 8, 24, 26, 27, 29, 32, 34 in this thread).

    Yes, I've read and been inspired by the Ricketts' book. Yes, I know it is an analogy whose first use is attributed to Chinese peasants. Yes, I realize that ideological struggle and ideological remolding are necessary and desirable parts of making revolution both before and after the seizure of power. Speaking personally, they have helped make me a better revolutionary.

    That stipulated, there are three problems with the brainwashing concept that occur to me upon quick reflection. In ascending order of importance:

    As Mike points out, 99% of the US population has a very bad impression of the idea of brainwashing. The term should be dumped, not upheld. Hell, Nando suggests we deep-six the formulation "M-L-M," in part because it's <blockquote>the kind of communist jargon that seems inherently alien and odd to everyone else.</blockquote>Upholding brainwashing hardly seems an improvement.

    Second, it's a formulation in which neither agency nor goal is obvious. Yes, we wash our hands, but we also wash dishes and floors. Many of us have other people wash our hair, at least when we get it cut, and our hands at manicurists. The metaphor suggests either a self-help approach (You'd better free your mind instead) or somebody else straightening out one's thinking from above. And what is the end goal--a really clean brain? This smacks of the "blank piece of paper" about which both Mike and I have expressed deep reservations.

    Finally, it ignores or negates the fascinating and ongoing developments in the actual realm of brain science and cognition theory. I don't track this stuff anywhere near as closely as I'd like, and am put off by how much of it is sponsored by corporations looking to improve the marketing of products, including presidential candidates. Still, we need to consider, to cite one example, recent work on neuroplasticity, how the actual physical structure and functioning of the brain can be changed by experience and in directed ways, including by thinking in certain ways. Ideas, it seems, can become a material force, albeit on a small scale, even before they are grasped by the masses.

    In closing, let me ask this. Let's say brainwashing is an unalloyed good with an unfortunate name. What, then, are we to make of the <a href="/http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/02/us/02detain.html?_r=1&amp;ref=us&amp;oref=slogin" rel="nofollow">recent reports</a>, including testimony at a Senate hearing, that interrogators at Guantanamo were trained using techniques laid out in a 1957 Air Force publication based on debriefings of returning US troops who had been held by the PLA during the Korean War?

  • Jimmy writes:

    <blockquote>"Upholding brainwashing hardly seems an improvement."</blockquote>

    Well it depends on what you mean. If you mean we shouldn't uphold the experimental methods of organized ideological transformation in post-revolution china.... well I don't think we should decide our stand based on what the broad masses of people think about the term.

    As for using the term TODAY to describe ideological transformation (or consciousness raising), your signifying here is a bit of a red herring. Who here has upheld brainwashing as a term or as a way to discuss ideological transformation today? Nobody.

    <b>as for whether this discussion has any relevance to the issues in the RCP's Constitution:</b>

    You quote an offhand remark by avakian in a speech to a gathering of communists thirty years ago, and imply that someone (including he) wants to run around and tell the broad masses of people to get themselves brainwashed.

    No one (including Avakian) is proposing that, and it confuses the discussion somewhat to act like anyone is.

    And yes (rather obviously) there is not much to be gained by trying to rehabilitate a fifty year old Chinese term (from the korea war) and inject it into American politics.

    I think your attempt to connect Avakian's off-hand (and deliberately provocative) aside to his parties statutes thirty-five years later is a stretch -- it is kinda anecdotal thinking at its worst. Why not deal with their actual elaborated line on organization then and now, and sketch the actual development of their line -- rather than try to connect a distant quip with a modern document in a rather (uh) speculative and overreaching way?

    * * * * *

    Meanwhile: there is some value (as has been said in this thread) in understanding, HISTORICALLY, how a vicious, unfounded and distorted description of "washing brains" (done during the McCarthy period of the Korean War) was turned into an unchallenged verdict within U.S. culture.

    Just because anti-communist verdicts have been accepted in this culture doesn't mean that WE should then simply adopt them, and repeat them, and go around talking about "totalitarian this" and "brainwashing that." Why should we accept the language of McCarthyism (on brainwashing, or front organizations, or totalitarianism, or whatever) and use it uncritically?

    And (frankly) there is WAY too much uncritical acceptance of socially-fashionable anticommunism among leftists these days (including among self-described communists). and we should point that out.

    * * * * *

    <b>to unite with one theme in your post: </b>

    I do think that the Chinese approach toward ideological transformation in the forties and fifties had some problems -- that were later identified (during the cultural revolution) as "self-cultivation."

    I.e. it promoted a focus on self-transformation that (for some political forces in the party) implied that the larger questions of POWER had already been solved and so the spearhead needed to be pointed at the ideas in people's heads. This was a point of view associated with Liu Shaochi (whose book "How to be a good communist" was a manual of such self-cultivation), but there were others prominent in the chinese party who advocating "pointing the spearhead down." There was something Confucian about it, undialectical, and politically passive.

    Politically, it was (to make an analogy) similar to the people who think the main cause of racism is bad ideas in the heads of ordinary white people -- and so points the spearhead of struggle at the masses of white people (both their ideas and their relative privilege), instead of the class society, its material underpinnings, the larger structures of national oppression that serve those underpinnings and so on.

    And there is an element in the RCP's current "Never underestimate the importance of ideology" that (precisely) overestimates the importance of preaching ideas at people (as if they will respond to a call to "fire your ideas, hire mine.") And you get that both in the resurrection of repeated self-criticism and self-flagellation over micro-errors in ideology (where every fuckup is assumed to be a MAJOR reflection of line.) And also in the attempt to counter-preach on religion -- to demand that people abandon god, using the same methods that the preachers use in demanding that we find Jesus.

    So yes, I think that we don't want to advocate Lennon's "you wanna change the world, well you better free your mind instead." There needs to be ideological transformation in society -- in the norms and verdicts of larger society -- but that happens in the course of larger revolutionary changes, and the struggle between (and within) individuals rises and falls in that context.

    * * * * *

    We should not use old jargon that is inherently alien and odd.

    BUT! But we should also have a real spirit of DARE TO GO AGAINST THE TIDE. How could we prepare and advance revolution in the U.S. (or anywhere) if on key things we were not willing to defy the existing public opinion. To me these are two very different things... one having to do with the terminology we use (the common language we seek to develop with broader and broader numbers of pepole). the other has to do with substance: what we are actually about, what our goals are, what our verdicts and understanding of history and reality are.

    If we don't make a real distinction between these things, we will end up tailing some deadly shit (in the name of getting close to the people).

  • Guest (Linda D.)

    Was just having a discussion with a compañera on K. about D.C. And while I personally would like to move onto other line questions--e.g. "united front" strategy, "diverting the struggle", professional revolutionaries, etc., that I think are contained within the "new constitution" and things I think we should also be debating, am gonna bite the bait around D.C. It is obviously a pivotal issue to many.

    And while I haven't been a member of the rcp for eons, don't feel like discounting my experience because I think some of the errors with d.c., even during the supposed tossing of "Jimmy Higgins mentality" were happening way back when, and have come to fruition these days, full force.

    To me, in theory at least, I can understand the need for a communist org. to have d.c., altho these days, am not so sure.

    Eddy said:

    "The centralized organization that Lenin described was proposed to serve both purposes: of protecting the revolutionary forces from state repression; and of serving a dialogical knowledge process, from practice to theory and back to practice. What is distinct from the problem being discussed here is that Lenin never suggested that only the center was capable of developing theory or that the membership only served the purpose of ‘doing’."

    But what I think is another key component is to assess what is primary at different junctures: democracy or centralism. During the RU days and before the formation of the RCP, democracy was more or less dominant. Slowly but surely centralism became entrenched and dominant and the result is the bastardization of even the idea of d.c., especially in today's, and the rcp's microscopic world. Much of the justifications are for "security reasons", as well as Stalin's "iron fist" schpeel--but I think the underlying theme is to "purify" the party, and while the rcp hasn't gone to the extent of the Stalinist purges, in their own feeble way, are on that road.

    To make matters worse, the emphasis on centralism, has little to do with the objective situation, and ends up being a very subjective way of thinking. And to make matters even worse, this has little if anything to do with unleashing the people and tapping into their potential, let alone the cadre. Instead of "all roads point to Rome," all roads for the rcp point to Bob Avakian. The rcp's view of d.c. these days is so warped, but also has a lot to do with them proclaiming that they are the vanguard, their leadership above criticism, etc. Often times think, probably metaphysically, that they are going to self-implode.

    One commentor--sorry but I can't find your quote--in my opinion was pretty brave to say (and I am paraphrasing) that basically at this point they had such an aversion to d.c., they would rather join some social democratic or "liberal" org. Well, to be honest, my knee-jerk reaction to that was, "I hear that, bro or sis..." But in thinking about it for longer than just some initial reaction, and after having been under the tutelage of the rcp's version of Centralism for 16 years, I don't think there is something inherently wrong with d.c. and that the need for a well-disciplined, unified org. is a necessity in making revolution, etc. We are dealing with a super enemy and can't be polyanna or naive; on the other hand, we are not in a rev. situation--unfortunately--and such stiff and rigid centralism being dominant and further refined by the rcp's constitution, is a gross exaggeration of the current situation; also flies in the face of their ability to even form a united front. It is how d.c. is carried out in practice, which necessitates an analysis of time, place and condition, etc. And within the d.c. organization, any and all abuses must be tackled and rectified. There is also an inherent contradiction between "leadership and led"--but how you attempt to break that down is a similar struggle, in my mind, as to how you deal with d.c. at any given time.

    The rcp has been on "war footing" (and "war communism") for years--a lot of that concocted in their own little heads, and more so the heads of their leadership. These days I kind of look at their "war footing" as more a War of the Roses, if you get my gist. By all appearances, the rcp's leadership's war is against their cadre, and ultimately the masses, and not with the class that is oppressing and exploiting us all.

  • Guest (Eddy)

    John wrote:

    <BLOCKQUOTE>It looks as if you’re implying that any measure taken under the name of internal security is justifiable and unquestionable because we can never know what undercover means the state might be taking against us. This can’t be right! Arguing from what we don’t know is a very tricky business, to begin with. But in any event there are security measures that make sense and others that don’t, and this can and should be a matter of rational discussion, in general terms.</BLOCKQUOTE>

    Point taken.

    What I was trying to write was that we can't anticipate everything that the state is doing to suppress us, but just because it proceeds unseen should not be taken to mean that they aren't acting or preparing constantly. (One result of some of the recent bickering among the ruling class was the 'one time' revelation of the annual appropriation for the non-DoD state security apparatus; in excess of $40+ billions.) This is an especially important consideration for those 'newly awakening' to revolutionary political activity.

    I was trying to make the point that to downplay (not by Mike, per se, but by anyone) the need for effective organizational security is really to play into the hands of the enemy. The lesson is not to be completely subjective ('paranoid') about the political police so as to be immobilized, nor is it to suppress critical thinking and debate using the excuse that we are engaged in a antagonistic struggle with the ruling class and its state apparatus. Both are no-win situations.

    And I also agree that effective security is not the same as making everything a 'secret' (such as the ruling class does).

    In the early 70s, the CCP revolutionaries used to say 'strategically we despise the enemy, tactically we take them very seriously.'

  • Guest (Nando)

    Al wrote:

    "I only remember seeing some posts by people who seemed to obviously be outside the party, saying essentially that the paper didn’t go far enough because it didn’t apologize fully for the past position. Other than that, there didn’t seem to be a lot of “struggle that erupted” over the proposed new position on homosexuality."</blockquote>

    The comments you saw were posted on the RCP's program discussion site called 2changetheworld.

    While there was lively discusson there, you need to understand that NONE OF IT involved party members, and only rarely involved members of the RCYB youth group.

    Party members were forbidden to post there, and in many cases were strongly discouraged from even going to the site to read this discussion. Many (perhaps most) members only saw the debate in the form of printed digests (that were both unreadable in that form, and also excerpted).

    As you can see in the constitution statutes there is virtually no provisions for cross discussion within this party. But what is perhaps more revealing: the explicit view of "theory of knowledge" (i.e. epistemology) implies there is NO VALUE in cross discussion.

    There has not been an open discussion bulletin since the party was formed -- not even around the program. And when an experiment was launched (to have a public, threaded, 2change online discussion around their recent draft program) that discussion was closed to party members -- and was also quickly shut down after only a brief period of life.

    We need to conduct political life very differently from that -- and one way to start is to deepen our THEORETICAL critique of the notion that a militarized "chain of knowledge, chain of command" corresponds to the Marxist theory of knowledge, and that cross discussion among communists can only be factional, divisive, and an obstacle to "where correct ideas come from." Now that they have a theory of a "leader of special caliber" there are even further narrowings in the role seen for others, in coming up with ideas and criticisms.

    Differences with the dominant line are now quickly connected with opposing "the cardinal question" -- i.e. any serious disagreement now puts you in an enemy camp. The spectrum of allowable difference has shrunk to a singularity. And, again, that is why there is so much attention to expulsion in the constitution.

  • Guest (Linda D.)

    Nando--"The comments you saw were posted on the RCP’s program discussion site called 2changetheworld.

    "While there was lively discusson there, you need to understand that NONE OF IT involved party members, and only rarely involved members of the RCYB youth group."

    "As you can see in the constitution statutes there is virtually no provisions for cross discussion within this party. But what is perhaps more revealing: the explicit view of “theory of knowledge” (i.e. epistemology) implies there is NO VALUE in cross discussion."

    A question: not knowing anything about "2change" and only having read the "new program(me)" on the Rev. site when it was supposedly up for discussion-- so who was the RCP talking with (or rather to) with "2change" if no party members nor RCYB were involved? And how was this 2change "vehicle" supposed to work? Even if there was lively discussion within that "format" how was this discussion supposed to affect the rcp's programme, etc.?

  • Guest (Nando)

    <blockquote>"A question: not knowing anything about “2change” and only having read the “new program(me)” on the Rev. site when it was supposedly up for discussion– so who was the RCP talking with (or rather to) with “2change” if no party members nor RCYB were involved? And how was this 2change “vehicle” supposed to work? Even if there was lively discussion within that “format” how was this discussion supposed to affect the rcp’s programme, etc.?"</blockquote>

    It depends who you ask. Clearly different forces within the RCP had different thoughts and expectations. This program process was a precursor to the split that has now defined the party.

    Some saw the 2change site strictly as an external tool for promoting the draft programme as a "major question in society."

    But by that they meant, using this site as a place to post highly edited and approved "position papers." I guess they expected someone else ("out there") to respond with appreciative counter "position papers."

    I.e. They were completely stuck in a 1950s paradym (of information and debate) -- one marked by the "fetish of the word" (that thinks that micro-control over words is a prerequisite for micro-control over people.)

    So they produced a very small number of very long documents for posting. And when those docs were posted, no one responded. Again, "not clear of the concept" -- a real incomprehension of the new ways things are now debated and circulated in a world of social networking where a collective, rolling vetting becomes possible.

    Through some eyes lively threads and debates look odd, superficial and vaguely wrong. Such debates are not appreciative of central guidance and not fascinated enough with the textual micro-details. It is all too instantaneous, informal, nimble. Hard to control or micro-manage.

    * * * *

    It was obvious to anyone watching the 2change site from the outside that party members and most close supporters were not participating -- for example, there were hardly any Brigaders engaged. Right there the character and potential of such debate was sharply stunted.

    It is hard to organize debate in exceptional times if a party's culture is modeled in normal times on an amen-chorus. And any superficial appearance of uniformity has shown itself as deceptive, now that long-festering fissures have exploded into a major 2-line struggle.


    And then, in and around that, in opposition, others in the organization were producing a few long extended "position papers" for posting. And looking on with incomprehension and suspicion as the project developed in ways nimble, quick, unrehearsed, crackling with occasional drama and constant rude questions.

    The 2 change site was killed off by the RCP as soon as possible. Simply turned off like a switch. Despite the fact that it was growing until the moment of death. I believe there has been a deep-seated and disturbing distrust of uncontrolled discussion (despite all kinds of claims to the contrary).

  • Guest (zerohour)

    "The 2 change site was killed off by the RCP as soon as possible. Simply turned off like a switch. Despite the fact that it was growing until the moment of death. I believe there has been a deep-seated and disturbing distrust of uncontrolled discussion (despite all kinds of claims to the contrary)."

    Many saw the site as a way of directly engaging and debating with RCP that had not been available in the past. For many RCP supporters, it was a signified a spirit of openness, experimentation and accessibility that had previously been lacking.

    Although many RCP cadre may not have been participating, the broader pool of RCP supporters [including myself] were in the mix with socialists of different trends, anarchists, etc., For anyone who remembers this site, and looks at others like revleft, redflags or another world is possible, it is a sad reminder of how RCP wasted an opportunity to further catalyze broader discussions about revolutionary communist politics.

  • Zerohour is right that the 2changetheworld site "signaled a new openness" – that's certainly how I took it, and I began to participate in RCP circles again after a long, if friendly distance. I participated in some depth, though not to the extent I wanted because even then – there was this "feed the oracle" feeling. When a question would get engaged, sooner or later the "answer" would show up – and as often as not, the RCP minders were just out and out wrong with what they were saying. I could feel their frustration at even having to deal with questions that didn't just get answered 'cause they said so.

    Part of the trick is that these kinds of water-tight kingdoms will have great trouble existing anymore. Think about how the Christian Right is livid that they don't control the cultural commons, or the Anonymous group's conflict with Scientology. Our mode of production is changing – and the digital communications revolution is a fact. Bemoaning it, or seeking to moderate it is a fool's errand.

    If the RCP had been able to bring in younger leaders after their founding generation, they would organizationally know this intuitively. But instead, there has been no significant leadership development aside from the ever-diminishing circle of elders... now personalized in the form of BA. An individual from time to time, but only insofar as they could squeeze their feet to fit outmoded shoes.

    The issue isn't just insularity as such – it's that we aren't about conservation. The process of encapsulation that became entrenched through the long, dark years of the 1980s wasn't shed when conditions started to change in the mid-90s (think California and NYC youth movements) or with Seattle and Chiapas and the European anti-globalization resistance. Nope. Instead there was an increasingly intense and even strange focus on conservation.

    The last RCP event I attended, on the even of the New Synthesis event, ended with a proclamation that the (conceptual, hypothetical) loss of the precious chairman would be like having our "heart ripped from our chest." At that point, I was like "ooookay."

    Any focus on the people becomes a matter of connecting them to the great leader, and their inadequacy until this happens. Any discussion of the great leader begins by putting any serious (which is to say critical) discussion of the content of that leadership off the table. It's an impossible task they set for themselves – and related to why they can't recruit, retain or even develop leaders of the people.

    In or out of power –≠a focus on conservation (and not expansion) is a recipe for political suicide. It kills what it is that communists essentially are, making what should be audacious, instead timid. What should be wild, instead fearful.

    There are still comrades who know this is true but are caught in that fear.

    Dylan said this one best, "he not busy being born is busy dying."

  • Guest (land)

    Constitution had some interesting points.
    First I was glad to see that a section on "Our collectivity is our strength."

    The remarks on collective discussion and wrangling being the "juice" of party life.

    For some reason I had the idea that particularly recently after the publication of the New Synthesis by Bob Avakian that it was not a good thing to "understand and change the world" if it meant
    disagreeing with "the line." So it is good to see that the Party made the statement that "this collectivity makes possible a much deeper and more far-seeing analysis of reality." I suppose it is something you can hold them to if it is printed in the constitution.

    * * * * *

    I did have a question about the basic stand and orientation of internationalism. There has been a certain silence around the revolutionary situation in Nepal.

    * * * * *

    I did have one more comment. There is reference to a slogan "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution.

    I like Fight the Power although it is a little back in the day.

    I was wondering what in particular the Transform the People would refer to. Does it mean that unless people are transformed they are not significant. Or maybe it means that unless they are transformed they can not be a part of Revolution. In another section when it talks about the development of a revolutionary situation it does say that n ot all the people are going to be Communists. That must mean they are not transformed. But then where do they fit into the revolutionary picture. Also in relation to internationalism if they do not know about the revolutionary situation in Nepal will they be transformed?

    * * * * *

    One more comment. The beginning of the Constitution describes a very horrible picture of today's planet and then says "but it does not have to be this way." Very true.

    But there is no real analysis of what time it is. I think this is kind of a big thing to leave out.

    People do want to know if revolution is a real possibility. And just saying things are bad which they already know is not going to answer any questions.

    * * * * *

    Last thing. There is something that is off about the statement that no matter how small the numbers people will still make revolution if they have the correct line.

    Mao did say with a correct line an army will come.

    It would be good to have more collective discussion on this point.

    Later.

  • Guest (Iris)

    I thought 'transform the people' meant without transformation of thoughts and aims, people can't succeed at making in revolution.

    If they are in that order--'Fight the power, tranform the people for revolution', what does that mean about their view of practice? So through fighting the power, that is how the people are transformed??

  • Guest (land)

    Post #50 was a Mock.

    I wrote it that way because I thought from my initial reading the Constitution was dishonest in that there was a huge difference between what is on paper and what is experience including my own and many others who have written posts on Kasama.

    Mike Ely asked the question "what is a Mock"? If anyone has a good explanation send it on but from this experience I think it is not the best form for Kasama

  • Guest (Linda D.)

    I just revisited this post after giving it a rest for a while and in a re-read and after reading the rcp's "new constitution" 2x, have come to a few new conclusions--which may or may not be "purely correct", but hey...

    In talking about MLM vs. adopting a newer formulation, etc. think it was nando who said:

    "There is an implicit theory of creation (and of epistemology) embedded in both the terms and the graphics. And we should not adopt it, or extend it, without a critical discussion."

    And I agree. And this is a very basic, and difficult concept to grasp--especially for people who are still revolutionary-minded but more on the periphery of all these "theoretical" struggles.

    And if you continue to try and follow the rcp -- at least in their press -- to understand the whys? and wherefores? you end up coming to your own, simplified and micro-conclusions; then you pretty much lay in wait for the next "change" to be handed down from on high in the rcp.

    I think some of the answers above to these "new" formulations are SOMEWHAT speculative--which is understandable given a lot of the past practice of the rcp--on the other hand, Nando says:

    "Now, I want to inject that i personally (like our recent commentator “another note“) don’t think it would be wrong to adopt a new name for communist theory and ideology."

    And then he, IMPORTANTLY explains why. He is not handing this down as some dictum, but opening up the discussion, and I suspect some debate. To me this approach has everything to do with the development of revolutionary theory and practice. And I might add, makes a lot more sense to a broader and progressive section of the people who are not hanging on every single word or nuance of the rcp.

    Many of the comments about D.C., and how that has been instituted by the rcp are true, at least true for me when I compare those comments to my own experience, as well as the experience of many former rcp members and supporters who are still comrades, and who still think about radical and revolutionary rupture, etc. But the rcp's latest and overt clampdown to me is part and parcel with their real designs of squelching any meaningful debate, honest questions, or line struggle. There is no transparency, not even to its remaining members--"go against the tide" has become a vacuous slogan (and justification for expulsion). There is no encouragement to deepen people's understanding of "communist theory" or develop same. And while the rcp pays lip service to building a "united front"--good luck. How could they possibly form a united front, except with people who are accepting the latest dictum to come from BA or his tight-knit and waning circle of think-alikes? That's not a united front.

    And the clampdown, and dictatorial rules and regulations only reiterate their NON-revolutionary methods and ideology. It's parochial.

    I think what is most important for us, and given all the various political views expressed on K. is to go forward, keep that sense of open debate, continue with our practice of unity-struggle-unity. There have been charges by the rcp and some of its front-men/women that K. is for the most part "agnostic"--be it charges of economism, liberalism, etc. Contrary to that, I would say that K. is at minimum anti-robotism. Have said this before, but will say it again--In studying practically all posts and comments on K. for the last several months, I have learned so much, have been challenged to rethink many ingrained ideas and knee-jerk reactions to some very profound questions. So...as Mike said--"...don’t think it would be wrong to adopt a new name for communist theory and ideology." Well, let's get into that deeper; would bet that K.'s developing theoretical project will help us a lot. But whatever struggle we have over say just the question of MLM vs. comm. theory, we should continue to conduct that struggle in an ambiance that welcomes debate, and encourages the contributions within our ranks, as well as those on the sidelines. Am not trying to say we have should have endless debate over every single question--but it is the atmosphere that has already been created on K., that is a healthy one, and one that gives us a real opportunity to move ahead on our common path to revolution.

  • Guest (land)

    For Linda:

    I cannot find the post but you asked the question what did people think of the part in Consitution on the United Front led by the Proletariat.
    I think you included the solid core.

    I need to read this part over but I have always thought there was something mechanical about the formulation UF led by the Prol. Like the formulation in the programme around self determination and the Black Belt.

    There have been some 10/22 demos and the LA Rebellion in certain ways where you could say the proletariat leads. But mainly it is just a slogan that stays words.

    It would be interesting to have some comments on this.
    Have not thought this through but is this why partisan bases have not been built and it is not for lack of trying.

    What in reality this means is the leadership of the prol is the leadership of the party.

    You asked a good question. Will have to think more on this.

  • Guest (Jose M.)

    land:

    I dont think we should take a fetish of the class composition of proletarians, and equate that with the ideology of the proletariat.

    Was the chinese revolution not proletarian simply because the peasantry was the main force? or was the proletariat really leading because its ideology and class interests were at the fore of the struggle.

    Mao said: "politics is a concentrated expression of economics." If i am not mistaken, he said it sometime after the seizure of power. That means, that the proletariat was the leading force of society because the superstructure (theories, politics, line, policies) were made within the framework of the proletariat. This is also why the trotskyist notion of "degenerated workers state" is impossible; how can a socialist base coexist with a capitalist superstructure, especially for the nearly 80 yrs the trots say the russian revolution "degenerated"?!

    either way, what you brought up, and what i addressed here i believe to be very important topics to dig in to.