RCP Describes Avakian's Self-Coup Within the Party

by Mike Ely

The Revolutionary Communist Party has published its first public description of how its founding chairman Bob Avakian took over, transformed and purged the party in  the recent years. it is the  the first official history of a rectification and restructuring  process Avakian calls the RCP's "cultural revolution." This struggle is still ongoing within and around the RCP, continually forcing out former members and supporters, literally dis-membering the party.

For over a decade, Avakian had been (as he himself complained) essentially a minority-of-one demanding major changes in the party's line and operation. At the core of this controversy was Avakian's demand that he be aggressively promoted publicly and within the international communist movement as a "rare, unique, special and irreplacible" leader who is the "caliber of a Mao or a Lenin" -- i.e. someone fundamentally transforming communist theory and human history itself.

The promotion of Avakian himself, his views and his persona were to be elevated to a central task of the party's work. Meanwhile appreciation of him and his views was to be viewed as the "cardinal question" within the communist ranks (as the defining line between revisionism and the next wave of Marxism). Finally, his various theories were to be accepted as a special new body of work defining a "new stage" of communism itself.

These conceptions were opposed, one way or another, actively or passively, by the vast majority of the RCP and its leadership. That struggle came to climax with a self-coup by Avakian himself. Avakian's organizational victory and the consequences of that victory have slowly been tearing that party apart.

The following RCP text is the first public discussion of the self-coup that Avakian launched a few years ago to take over his own party -- reshaping its ideology and organization around his own cult of personality and around the series of ideas he calls his "new synthesis" of communism. This is an excerpt from a larger document that the RCP published on September 15, entitled: Communism: the Beginning of a New Stage.

This official party version of events is very partial and self-serving. However it opens the door to a much wider exploration of these events and lines -- and so a great deal more insight and truth will emerge.

Those of us who, in various ways, opposed the New Synthesis and the mushrooming Avakian cult of personality have consciously exercised a principled restraint in discussing internal matters -- not even mentioning the existence of the Avakian coup, the subsequent cultural revolution, or the waves of rectification and internal purge.

Clearly the RCP's own discussion of these matters lifts a great deal of that constraint. We are all still compelled to adhere to principle -- to remain on the high plane of two-line struggle (avoiding pettiness, empty anecdotes, personal attacks, and any organizational details with security implications.)

But clearly, the RCP's publication of its version of events and lines frees the rest of us to share our views and understandings of these same events -- and it even compels us to fill in the many yawning gaps of fact and politics built into the RCP's redacted version.

Just two initial examples:

This history does not discuss the ways this line struggle within the RCP is part of a much larger struggle among the Maoist forces of the world, or the way Avakian's internal self-coup was conditioned by the growing differences between the RCP and the most significant Maoist parties internationally, especially the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), the various wings of Turkey's TKPML, and the Communist Party of India (Maoist).

Similarly, this history does not mention the ways that the party's line on homosexuality was a  major "precipitating factor" in bringing the internal line struggles to a boil. As the party worked to finalize a new program, a great wave of anger and criticism erupted within the RCP over the party's previous position on homosexuality -- which had characterized same sex orientations as an ideological choice that was inherently anti-revolutionary, and had refused  party membership to openly gay men and lesbians. In many places, party members demanded a serious accounting of how such a reactionary position had been adopted, and especially why it has been so stubbornly upheld and enforced for decades.  This was treated as an open revolt against Avakian personally and harshly suppressed. A major critique or self-criticism by Avakian was not in the cards -- especially as he was fighting to be elevated to the status of "special caliber." This severe crisis and the divisions it revealed accelerated the plans for Avakian's coup and rectification.

There will certainly be a discussion here on Kasama of this whole process and the many issues involved. I urge readers to raise their questions and share insights.

In this initial post, we are simply offering the RCP's own version for discussion.

* * * * * *

The following is excerpted from a larger document published on the RCP's Revolution website on September 15, 2008.

VI. A Cultural Revolution Within the RCP

The influence of incorrect and even outright revisionist lines is hardly something to which our Party itself has been immune. In fact, the lines and tendencies we have criticized here have not only existed within our Party, but over a number of years, and until very recently, exerted a powerful pull and posed the real danger of our Party’s ceasing to be a revolutionary communist vanguard and instead degenerating into yet another motley collection of reformists, even if retaining, for a time at least, the label of communist.

 

Over the period of the 1980s and 1990s, a situation had developed within our Party in which, in effect, there were two parties, representing two fundamentally opposed roads. On the one hand, there was the “official” line of the Party, and the ongoing development of that line, as embodied particularly in the new synthesis Bob Avakian was bringing forward and, in the main, expressed in the Party’s newspaper (the Revolutionary Worker, now Revolution) and other documents and publications of the Party. But at the same time, in increasing opposition to the new synthesis and the revolutionary-communist line overall, were revisionist views and orientations which, while not generally expressed and argued for in a systematic way, were becoming predominant on all levels of the Party—views and orientations which varied in certain particulars but had in common that, objectively, they amounted to abandoning the outlook and aims of the communist revolution, accommodating to the system of imperialism and settling for, at most, reforms within this horrific system.

What were some of the main features of these revisionist lines, and main factors leading to their growth and increasing influence within our Party?

» The defeat in China and the end of the first stage of communist revolution—combined with decades of relative “stability” in the world’s most powerful imperialist country, after this defeat and the related ebbing of the great upsurge of the 1960s and into the early 1970s, in the U.S. as well as on a worldwide scale—not only had a disorienting and demoralizing effect on large numbers of people who had actively sought, and fought for, radical change in the world, as well as people more broadly, but this was also true among communists and within our Party. Communist parties are made up of people who come together on the basis of an advanced, scientific understanding of the necessity and possibility for revolution, aiming for a fundamentally different and far better future for humanity; but they exist and carry out their work within the present system—they are not, cannot be, and should not be separated, much less sealed off, from the rest of the world and the conditions it imposes and the pulls it exerts.

At the same time, and seizing on the defeats and setbacks for the communist revolution, there has been the relentless ideological assault on communism carried out by the defenders and apologists of the old order over the past several decades, and the effect of this has been to make the pull toward accommodation with imperialism, especially in a country like the U.S., all the more powerful.

Speaking to an important Party meeting several years ago—at which he directly confronted and sharply criticized the revisionist lines within the Party—Bob Avakian made the following observations:

“Let’s look again honestly at this. I talked about how we are still suffering from the effects of the loss of China. We should not underestimate this defeat in China, and everything it has brought forth, everything the imperialists have done on that basis, and have built on that. China, and everything it represented for the international proletariat and the world proletarian revolution—to lose that after the Cultural Revolution [in China], after millions and millions of people went through that upheaval, and yes, a significant process of remolding their world outlook—this is something we’re still coming to terms with, both in objective reality and in our own thinking.

“If you add to this the whole “death of communism” phenomenon, and the constant barrage of anti-communism and abuse and slander heaped from all directions and in all forms on the GPCR [the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China], on the Chinese revolution and socialism there, and in fact on all of the experience of socialist society and the dictatorship of the proletariat; if you think about the effect of all that, and you are a materialist and you apply dialectics, it is very difficult to think that we are immune from the effects of all that and that it only influences people outside the Party. Even in our thinking and our souls, if you want to use that term, in our heart of hearts, don’t we have questions about whether we were wrong about all this: Why did we lose? If we were so right, and if what we’re for is so correct, why did it end up this way? I don’t think there are very many comrades who can say they haven’t had those questions agonizing within them, probably more than once.

“We have an answer to those things, but you have to dig for that answer and you have to keep on digging—and you have to be scientific. You have to go to materialism and dialectics.”

The problem was that, while Bob Avakian and a few others in the Party had been “digging” in this way, applying the scientific outlook and method of dialectical materialism, most of the Party, on all levels, was not doing so—and instead was, to a large degree, “buying into” the slanders of communism and becoming swept up in what Lenin so incisively identified as the spontaneous striving to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie, ideologically and politically: retreating into the confines of bourgeois democracy and bourgeois right, tailing after the outlooks characterizing the reformist movements—including “identity politics” and the related relativism philosophically (the idea that there is no objective truth, or that objective truth cannot be determined with any degree of certainty, and that there are merely different groups or individuals with different “narratives,” all equally true, or untrue)—and replacing revolution with reform as the basic objective.

» The revisionism within our Party was characterized by long-standing features of revisionism in the communist movement that Lenin had also exposed—which were embodied in the notion that “the movement is everything, the final aim is nothing,” and the determinist orientation that what is necessary is what is possible, and what is possible is what is already being done. This involved “digging in” among the masses in the wrong sense—on a narrow basis and with a narrow conception of struggle, with revolution and communism left to the side or at most “tacked on,” in a meaningless and lifeless way, to reformist work, and gutted of any real meaning and connection to the ongoing activity of the Party—in effect burying revolution and communism. Party members were often very busy—but occupied, or preoccupied, with everything but revolution and communism.

In essence, this was a form of “economism.” Historically in the communist movement, economism has meant focusing the attention of the working class on its own immediate conditions and struggles as the “most widely applicable means” of winning them, some day, to socialism and communism—an approach which Lenin thoroughly exposed and refuted in his famous work What Is To Be Done?, where he showed that this approach will never lead to building a revolutionary movement aiming for communism but will only contribute to confining the movement, and the masses involved in it, within the framework of capitalism. In opposition to this, Lenin emphasized that, while it is important for communists to take part in and relate to significant struggles of the masses, and even to strive to lead many of these struggles, they must do so as communists, whose emphasis is on doing exposure of the features and nature of the capitalist system, through timely and compelling agitation and propaganda, setting before all our communist convictions and aims, and in this way linking the struggles and movements of the day with the goal of revolution and communism, diverting these struggles, and the masses of people, from the spontaneous striving to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie, and leading all this toward the revolutionary goal. Since the time of Lenin, economism has come to take on the broader meaning of applying the notion of “most widely applicable means” not only to economic struggles of workers but more generally to struggles among many different strata—making the essential focus of communist work organizing such struggles and in reality, if not always in words, treating the prospect of revolution and communism as something abstract and belonging to a far off realm in the indefinite future, with no living link to the present and the movements and struggles at any given time.

In essence, in place of the orientation of revolutionary work in a non-revolutionary situation, hastening while awaiting the development of a revolutionary situation, the economist recipe is: reformist work pending revolution—a revolution which will never come and is never actually built for with this approach. What all manifestations of economism have as a fundamental characteristic is tailing the masses, instead of acting as a vanguard to lead the masses—learning from them, yes, but leading while learning—raising their sights to the possibility and necessity of revolution and working and struggling with them to win them to take up the revolutionary and communist standpoint and fight for its emancipating goals.

» The economism and overall revisionism that was increasingly characterizing the actual work, life, and culture of our Party was also marked by the pragmatism and empiricism that has been so common in the communist movement (and which we have discussed above), as well as agnosticism about well-established principles of communism and even about the desirability as well as the possibility of revolution and communism. The ongoing theoretical work and real breakthroughs in communist theory that the Chairman of the Party, Bob Avakian, was carrying forward were not so much frontally opposed as largely ignored by most of the Party—or in some cases greeted with an equally uninterested “wow, heavy” and then put on the shelf to gather dust—because such theoretical work and the breakthroughs it produced, while crucial in relation to the goals of revolution and communism, were not of value and not “useful” to those mired in an economist and revisionist orientation.

» Related to the above, another key element of the “revisionist package” that had gained such currency within our Party was the approach not of treating communism as a real, revolutionary orientation—which must be consistently applied to change the world, and which masses of people can and must be won to take up consciously and actively fight for—but instead reducing communism to an “alternative lifestyle.” With this viewpoint, the Party was becoming just one more self-validating oppositional niche, more or less trendy. Sometimes this “alternative lifestyle” meant busily preoccupying yourself, and everyone else, dashing from one immediate struggle to the next; sometimes it took the form of smug, dogmatic satisfaction at (supposedly) being a communist, with your special knowledge of history and set of ethics (that you could never connect with anyone, if you even still ever tried); sometimes it just meant marking time, putting critical thinking in the freezer. The work of the Party was increasingly marked by the approach of feeding the masses pablum while maintaining, as the special province of the “initiated,” what has been described as “a temple of secret knowledge”—turning communism into a lifeless, essentially religious, dogma.

In opposition to the works of Bob Avakian and the Party’s newspaper and other publications and official documents, much of the public face of the Party—the bookstores associated with it, for instance—gave off the musty odor of relics of the past, or else the busy-ness of (non-revolutionary) “movement centers.” The variations in all this may have been many, but the source and result were the same: revisionism.

» Along with all this was a definite aversion to, and a studied avoidance of, carrying out ideological struggle with masses of people, particularly in opposition to religious conceptions and notions as well as other backward viewpoints which are, in fact, shackles, mental chains, on the masses of people. This went so far as to include even a reluctance, or refusal, to take on the anti-communist prejudices and preconceptions that are now so widespread but at the same time so superficial.

» Overall and most fundamentally, what this “revisionist package” represented was giving up on revolution: adopting—even if without saying so explicitly and in an open and aboveboard way—the attitude that “we’ve seen all the revolution we’re going to see.” At most, revolution was something for the distant future—or it was for others, somewhere else—perhaps it could succeed in the Third World but, with the revisionist viewpoint, that was seen as having very little in the way of a real, and living, relation to what our Party was doing or should do (other than, perhaps, to reduce itself to being vacuous “cheerleaders” of revolutionary struggles elsewhere). As for the Party and its culture, under the influence of this revisionism, liberalism ran rampant and a general attitude took hold that said in essence: “C’mon, let’s be realistic—what do you expect?—you can’t have a party in this country that is really a vanguard of revolution, that is actually worthy of the name Revolutionary Communist Party.”

The fundamentally antagonistic and increasingly acute contradiction between these two lines—the developing body of work and method and approach of Bob Avakian and the “official” line, documents, and publications of the Party, on the one hand, and the “revisionist package,” with the various features and the essential content we have outlined here—came fully to a head in the last few years: These opposing lines could no longer coexist within the Party, or such “coexistence” would lead to the triumph of revisionism and the end of the Party as any kind of a real revolutionary-communist vanguard.

The precipitating factor, leading to open and profound struggle over these fundamental differences, occurred in the context where the Party was preparing to carry out a campaign of building a culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization of Bob Avakian’s role as a communist leader, as concentrated in his body of work and method and approach. Building this culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization has now come to be recognized as one of the two mainstays of our Party’s all-around revolutionary work (the other mainstay is wielding our Party’s press—all this is discussed in our Party’s newConstitution). But at the time, only a few years ago, discussions about this within the Party revealed, more clearly than had been apparent before, that within the Party itself there was, as a recent internal Party document puts it, “an abysmal lack of appreciation for what had actually been the principal content of the Chair’s work—his re-envisioning of revolution and communism, the new synthesis.” As this internal document goes on to point out:

“The work of this new synthesis had been going on for 25 years at that point; but the revisionist line was turning away from that work, first in non-comprehension and then, as things developed, objective opposition.

“Something new was—and is—struggling to be born into the world; it’s fighting uphill against both conventional wisdom and the dogmatism, along with reformism, of the communists. But this was either opposed by comrades...or else this was ignored, or at most treated as “interesting.” And almost universally its content was not grasped (or eclectically opposed). In practice it was treated as irrelevant. The vulgar empiricism that “theory cannot run ahead of practice”...went essentially unchallenged in the ranks.

“Bob Avakian had been confronting and going deeply into the real problems that had led to all too many people being unable to distinguish Marxism from revisionism after ten years of the GPCR in China. This was ignored by many comrades, and some became downright uncomfortable with this. The fact that he had gone deeply into this and begun to develop answers to these extremely vexing questions: again, opposed—either outright, or through “ignore-ance.” This [revisionist opposition] amounted, objectively, to “buying into” the “death of communism”—in that it replaced living, developing communist leadership, actually grappling with (and forging answers to) the agonizing questions of “why we lost China” with frozen, dogmatic religious faith.”

At this point, the opposition between the revisionist and communist lines in our Party had not only become more fully expressed but had become clearly and sharply focused on the question of whether to grasp, and boldly take out to the masses of people, what is represented by the leadership of Bob Avakian and is concentrated in the new synthesis he is bringing forward—or whether to reject this and refuse to act on it. In these circumstances, the former represented advancing on the road of revolution and communism—because the role of Bob Avakian and his body of work and method and approach consists, above all, in the development of communism, as a living science and strategic revolutionary orientation—while the opposition to this within our Party represented, in a concentrated way, retreating into reformism and capitulation to imperialism, even if this was done while maintaining “communism” as some kind of religious catechism and/or an “alternative lifestyle.”

Fully recognizing the seriousness of the situation and the stakes, as well as the risks, involved—and able to rely at that point only on a very small core within the Party leadership—Bob Avakian boldly issued a call for a Cultural Revolution within the RCP. At the same time, he insisted that this must be a Cultural Revolution in the midst of a Long March—emphasizing through this metaphor that the radical transformation and revolutionary revitalization of the Party, which was the purpose and aim of this Cultural Revolution, must be carried out in the context of, and fundamentally to serve, the transformation of the larger objective world—the carrying out of work by the Party which would actually be guided by communist principles and objectives and would build a revolutionary, and not a reformist, movement. For the reasons that have been discussed here, the focal point and cardinal question of this Cultural Revolution was whether to base ourselves on and actively carry out the new synthesis and the overall body of work and method and approach of Bob Avakian, and the advance in communist theory and strategy that this concentrates, or whether to turn away from that and adopt instead one or another variation—or some eclectic stew—of revisionism.

In a talk earlier this year to a group of Party members, Bob Avakian spoke about his orientation at the start of this Cultural Revolution:

“As I saw and confronted things at the time, more or less 5 years ago, there were three basic choices when it became clear that, despite the continuing revolutionary-communist character of the Party’s “official” line, the Party was in fact “saturated with” and even characterized by revisionism. The three choices were:

“accept this Party as it was, and in essence give up on what the Party is supposed to be all about;

‘quit, and set out to start a new Party;

“or, launch the Cultural Revolution.

“I believed then, and still believe now, for reasons I’ve spoken to elsewhere and earlier today, that the latter course was the only correct course and the necessary course. This is for reasons having to do with how precious a party is, and how difficult it would be to create a new party if in fact prematurely and incorrectly this Party were given up on. But, yes, it is true, there is nothing holy about a party, and if it’s not going to be a revolutionary vanguard, then fuck it!—let’s do something else and get something else. But I believed then, and believe now, that we must not give up on this Party unless objectively and scientifically it is clearly indicated that there is no hope for actually transforming this Party into what it needs to be”

 

This Cultural Revolution was not a purge but a struggle—an ideological struggle whose purpose and method was not to target individuals but to compare and contrast the revolutionary line with the revisionist line and in this way to deepen the foundation of the Party, and its members, in the revolutionary line while exposing, criticizing, and rupturing with the revisionist line—to revive and give even greater impetus to the orientation of Party members, on all levels, as revolutionaries and communists, to ground this more firmly in a scientific communist method and approach, and to rescue and revitalize the Party as a whole as a real revolutionary-communist vanguard capable of and determined to take on its responsibilities as that, and nothing less. The course and nature of this Cultural Revolution, over the five or so years since its initiation, has been complex and at times intense. It has involved a number of twists and turns and has required repeated, and deepening, ideological struggles to bring about a basic rupture, on the part of members of the Party and the Party as a whole, with revisionism and a leap to becoming—once again, and on a more profound basis—communists and the communist vanguard we are required to be and are now determined to be. It has been marked by different stages, with a decisive advance taking place in its early stages, when the leadership of the Party collectively rallied, in fundamental terms, to the revolutionary line and the leadership of Bob Avakian in developing and fighting for that line, and on that basis deepened its determination and ability to carry this Cultural Revolution through to defeat revisionism and rescue and revitalize the Party as a revolutionary-communist vanguard.

As should be expected in a struggle of this magnitude and with these stakes, the process of the Cultural Revolution in our Party has been one which has involved a dividing out with those who were willing to make their peace with imperialism and its monstrous crimes, even if sometimes they would still call themselves communists, or would express the wish that a better world could be brought into being, so long as they did not have to take responsibility for the struggle, and face the sacrifices that would be required to actually make this a reality. Some people refused, or found themselves unable, to rupture with revisionism and so resigned (or were prevailed upon to resign) from the Party. For the most part, and with a few exceptions,17 those who have left the Party have done so on the basis of insisting that they do not believe that revolution is possible—at least not in this country, not in any meaningful time frame—while some have even acknowledged that they no longer regard revolution and communism as desirable. In reality, what this means is not that revolution is not possible, and communism not desirable, but that these people’s revolutionary will and communist orientation have degenerated and—unlike those who have come forward through the course of the Cultural Revolution in our Party, and once again and more deeply have committed themselves to the cause of communism—those who have turned their back on the Party and on revolution recognize that this revolution and its goal of communism will require, but they are not willing to undertake, “the hard work, the risky work, the often unpopular and ‘going against the tide’ work, to make this a reality.”[18] They no longer meet the basic criteria spelled out in our Party’s Constitution (Part II. Principles of Organization):

The Revolutionary Communist Party, USA is made up of people who have come together to help fulfill the greatest need before humanity: making revolution, as the first step toward communism. They have fully dedicated their lives to this—with great seriousness and great love; with great determination and great passion.[19]

In its principal aspect and most essentially, the outcome of the Cultural Revolution within our Party has been a real revitalization of the revolutionary and communist outlook, objectives, spirit, and culture of the Party—a Party facing squarely, and confronting scientifically, the complexities, the difficulties and the dangers, as well as the inspiration, of doing all it can to work for revolution in this country, and to contribute the most it can to this same cause throughout the world, all aiming for the final goal of communism. And the struggle continues, on a new basis, within the Party to further strengthen, and deepen, its revolutionary character and foundations, in the context of vigorously and creatively carrying out revolutionary work, based on what is in fact the revolutionary-communist line of this Party.

Over a whole period of time, our Party has suffered—while masses of people who have looked to the Party, and the masses of people more broadly whose objective interests lie with communist revolution, have also suffered—as a result of the revisionism which had gained increasing influence within our Party, being fed by, and in turn strengthening, the tendency to adopt an incorrect summation and approach to the situation where the first stage of communist revolution had ended with the restoration of capitalism in China, and imperialists, old and new, were on a rampage to seize on this situation to even more ruthlessly plunder the world and to wage an unrelenting ideological and political war in the attempt to demolish any remaining respect for the great things that had actually been accomplished in that first stage of socialism and to discredit the revolutionary science of communism which brought to light the possibility and gave guidance to the real-world struggle that made possible those great achievements. Through the course of the Cultural Revolution in our Party, we have emerged much stronger, and unified on a much higher level, ideologically and politically as well as organizationally, more firmly grounded in the science of communism, as it has been further developed through the new synthesis brought forward by Bob Avakian, and with the understanding of this as a living science which we must continue to apply and to further develop, in an ongoing way and through continuing struggle.

We have paid a price for sticking to communist principles and objectives and refusing to abandon the road of revolution for the well-worn ruts of reformism—which, it is claimed, is more “realistic” and will somehow “work”—when bitter experience has shown, over and over again, that this can only “work” to keep people contained within the killing confines of bourgeois rule and capitalist oppression. But having paid this price, we are now more prepared to take on the great responsibilities we must shoulder, more determined to rise to great needs before us—to actively work for revolution here, on the basis of the new synthesis brought forward by Bob Avakian, to make everything we do actively and meaningfully contribute to that revolutionary goal, and to fight for this same understanding and orientation in the communist movement in the world as a whole.

Fully aware of very real problems and risks that may be involved in doing so, we are making our experience—and what we have come to grasp, more deeply and firmly, through this experience—known to others, in the communist movement and more broadly, because of its profound lessons and its great importance for our whole cause. Our experience, particularly through the Cultural Revolution in our Party, has greatly raised our understanding of what it means for the masses of oppressed, here and around the world, and for the future of humanity, that such a Party has not been defeated and destroyed—that it has not only persevered but has achieved a real revitalization and strengthening, ideologically, politically and in terms of strategic revolutionary approach and communist orientation and a scientifically grounded determination to work tirelessly to make this understanding a powerful, living reality of masses of people consciously fighting for revolution, yes in this mightiest of all imperialist powers, in unity with people doing the same throughout the world. As our Chairman, Bob Avakian, has recently written:

It is in this way, it is on this scientific foundation and through the application of this scientific method and approach, that we can, and should, have a conquering spirit—and an orientation of (to borrow a phrase from a poem by Yeats) passionate intensity—for revolution and communism.20

Footnote:

[17] An exception to the general pattern with those who have left the Party on the basis of more or less openly giving up on revolution, is a motley group which has not been content simply to capitulate to imperialism but has set itself up as a small cabal of “parasitic critics” outside the Party, seeking to fabricate “grand rationalizations” for this capitulation by launching highly unprincipled attacks on our Party and its leadership—and in particular our Chairman Bob Avakian—by purveying gossip and innuendo, slander and crude distortion of our Party’s line and work, and even making crude appeals to anti-communism, all while still pretending, for now, to uphold revolution and communism (although this pretense, too, will very likely be abandoned before long). While objectively this represents a minor phenomenon, there are some things that characterize these “critics” which can serve as useful teachers by negative example.

 

First, the positions and viewpoints that they are now arguing for have the virtue (if it can be called that) of presenting, in a fairly thorough way, precisely the kinds of revisionist lines that were identified, dug out, discredited, and defeated through the course of the Cultural Revolution in our Party—lines whose features we have outlined here in discussing the “revisionist package” that emerged in opposition to the revolutionary line within our Party.

Second, the former Party members who resigned and started up this little cabal have provided a textbook example of the nature of political and ideological opportunism, including in the fact that they refused to carry out principled struggle over their differences while in the Party. Such conduct is in contradiction to and in violation of the fact that it is a basic principle of communist organization, and has all along been an explicit principle of our Party, that Party members have not only the right but the responsibility to raise differences with the line and policies of the Party, in an open and aboveboard way, through the appropriate Party channels. Moreover, during the course of the Cultural Revolution in our Party, all Party members were called on at one point to seriously reflect on their commitment to the Party, its communist principles and aims, and the content and objectives of the Cultural Revolution in the Party, and if—but only if—they were firm in this commitment, to rededicate to this. And it is noteworthy that a certain Mike Ely, who is now attempting to puff himself up as some kind of “big fish” in this little stagnant pond of “parasitic critics,” did in fact make such a rededication at that time—once again without raising any objections or differences concerning the line of the Party and the aims and the course of the Cultural Revolution within the Party. Given that it has now become very clear that he has had disagreements with the basic line of the Party—not only in the last few years, during the period when a Cultural Revolution has been carried out within the Party, but going back well before that—the question naturally poses itself: Why did such a person remain in the Party all that time, while refusing to raise substantive disagreement with or wage open and aboveboard struggle around important aspects of the Party’s line that he has clearly held basic differences with over a whole period of time? The obvious answer is that he remained in the Party, while at the same time concealing major differences, in the attempt to use the Party as a vehicle for his own, opportunist line. Evidently, as a result of the grip of revisionism in our ranks, he found it possiblefor many years to carry out his “alternative lifestyle” inside our Party, pretending unity and more or less doing whatever he wanted, given the rampant liberalism that was a part of the revisionist line and the culture it promoted within our Party. It was only as the Cultural Revolution continued to be carried forward, and as the ground for revisionism was increasingly cut away, that he found it more and more difficult to continue carrying out an opposing line while feigning agreement with the Party. So then, what did he do? He abruptly quit the Party, sought other avenues for the expression of his opportunism, and launched his unprincipled attacks on the Party and its leadership. Before quitting the Party, did he exhaust—or even seek to utilize—the means that exist within the Party for raising and struggling over differences in a principled way? Did he, before quitting, write up a paper expressing his differences and have it forwarded, through Party channels, to Party leadership? Did he request a meeting with Party leadership to voice and discuss these differences? No. Instead, he acted in complete violation of the principles of communism, and in fact in the opposite manner of anyone with any basic sense of integrity. This kind of conduct is not surprising on the part of such a person, not only because of his opportunist political and ideological line in general but also because, especially once the Cultural Revolution was launched and was gaining momentum within our Party, and the sights of Party members were being raised to crucial questions of ideological and political line, and to struggling out these lines with science and substance, had he attempted, while still in the Party, to employ the kind of “tabloid” methods he has used since quitting the Party—innuendo, gossip, “revelations of inside information,” and so on—this would not only have been immediately recognized, within the Party, as crude and ludicrous distortion, and blatant violation of communist principle, but it would have been identified as part of a more overall opportunism, and he would have been required to abandon those kinds of unprincipled methods and instead engage, in a serious way, with the crucial questions of line that have been at stake in this Cultural Revolution, and to defend, by principled and substantive means, the lines he has obviously held in opposition to the revolutionary line of the Party. And he would have failed miserably in attempting to do that, because once again these lines would have been clearly recognized as representative of the very “package” that the Party, and its members, were increasingly identifying as revisionist and waging ideological struggle against as such.

As we have said, in the course of a major class struggle—and that is what this Cultural Revolution in our Party has been: a crucial class struggle, in the ideological realm—things and people are bound to divide out. Our Party, having carried out this struggle on a principled basis, focusing on questions of ideological and political line and seeking to win as many as can be won to the revolutionary line, without compromising with revisionism, has greatly strengthened itself in its communist outlook and orientation and its ability to carry out its revolutionary responsibility; and on this basis we are well rid of opportunists like those in this small cabal of “parasitic critics.” And while the line of such opportunists is utterly bankrupt, our Party, and the revolutionary movement we are dedicated to building, and leading, will bestrengthened as people compare and contrast the objectively counter-revolutionary line of these opportunists and the role they are playing, with the revolutionary-communist line and work of our Party.

(In this connection, see “Stuck in the ‘Awful Capitalist Present’ or Forging a Path to the Communist Future?, A Response to Mike Ely’s Nine Letters,” by a writing group in the RCP, available online at revcom.us.)

[18] Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, II. Principles of Organization, Article 1 —Membership, p. 18; also available online at revcom.us.

[19] Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, II. Principles of Organization, p. 15; also available online at revcom.us.

[20] Bob Avakian, Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy, RCP Publications, Chicago, 2008; this work is also available online at revcom.us.

[21] Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, Conclusion, p. 24; also available online at revcom.us.

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  • Guest (Comments)

    This ultimately self-damning piece is of course read differently by party insiders and those who've been on the outside looking in. But what is the interested sometimes-RCP supporter/sympathizer to make of the fact that Avakian traces a two-line struggle (in a party that hadn't acknowledged the existence of such since the big split in the late '70s) to the 1980s and conflicting responses to the defeat of Maoists in China?

    Avakian seems to not only be saying most of the party was fucked up before the "Cultural Revolution" he initiated (requiring each member to commit to his cult) but that it'd been fucked up all the time he was in France (1981-???).

    <blockquote>"Over the period of the 1980s and 1990s, a situation had developed within our Party in which, in effect, there were two parties, representing two fundamentally opposed roads."</blockquote>

    The one road representing demoralization at world events and the propaganda barrage about the "death of communism," the other a scientific understanding pioneered by BA.

    <blockquote>"The precipitating factor, leading to open and profound struggle over these fundamental differences, occurred in the context where the Party was preparing to carry out a campaign of building a culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization of Bob Avakian’s role as a communist leader, as concentrated in his body of work and method and approach."</blockquote>

    It's great to have this out in the open, even though the wording is typically imprecise. The "precipitating factor...occurred in the context" of Avakian's promotion of his cult. Would it be more accurate to say that the factor causing the "open struggle" was the cult itself?

    The "internal party document" cited is revealing:

    <blockquote>“Something new was—and is—struggling to be born into the world; it’s fighting uphill against both conventional wisdom and the dogmatism, along with reformism, of the communists. But this was either opposed by comrades…or else this was ignored, or at most treated as “interesting.” And almost universally its content was not grasped (or eclectically opposed). In practice it was treated as irrelevant. The vulgar empiricism that “theory cannot run ahead of practice”…went essentially unchallenged in the ranks."</blockquote>

    In my exposure to RCP members, yes, universally the content was not grasped. I found myself much more capable of summarizing it than party people--and I did so from the point of view of someone who did indeed find it uninteresting. Party people treated the "new synthesis" as something heavy, or that has to be heavy because the leadership is making such a big deal out of it, but were unable to distill it. They were in the mode of recommending I listen to tapes and read more.

    If "in practice [Bob's "new synthesis"] was treated as irrelevant" perhaps it IS irrelevant. Or at least over-rated, promoted in the service of a cult.

  • Guest (Iris)

    "This involved “digging in” among the masses in the wrong sense—on a narrow basis and with a narrow conception of struggle, with revolution and communism left to the side or at most “tacked on,” in a meaningless and lifeless way, to reformist work, and gutted of any real meaning and connection to the ongoing activity of the Party—in effect burying revolution and communism. Party members were often very busy—but occupied, or preoccupied, with everything but revolution and communism."

    This seems pretty harsh--there is a seriously angry subtext here. Was there a significant section of the Party who were straight up 'trade unionist'? How much of the 'wrong line' was <i>specifically</i> about the cult of personality and EWITBD?

  • Guest (Iris)

    Sorry to multi-post, but Mike has been raising this alot: the need for a discussion about whether we really believe revolution is possible or not. The paper seems to say as much above.

    Mike (or whoever): how should this be discussed, how was this discussed in the party? In a comradely, supportive way, or not? i feel like this discussion needs to be had, not just because it is important and essential to then saying, "How?" and "When?", but also becuase everyone needs to <i>move forward together.</i>

  • <b>moderator's note: </b>we are not going to speculate about the whereabouts of revolutionaries, including Avakian. this is part of the decision affirmed above:

    <blockquote>"We are all still compelled to adhere to principle — to remain on the high plane of two-line struggle (avoiding pettiness, empty anedotes, personal attacks, and any organizational details with security implications.)"</blockquote>

    Speculation about whether Avakian is in the U.S. or not, and speculation about when he might have moved, are all irrelevent for our purposes and are precisely "organization details with security implications." Our moderator team will quietly remove such speculation when it appears.

  • Guest (Iris)

    "For the most part, and with a few exceptions,17 those who have left the Party have done so on the basis of insisting that they do not believe that revolution is possible—at least not in this country, not in any meaningful time frame—while some have even acknowledged that they no longer regard revolution and communism as desirable. "

    Is this true?

  • Guest (Iris)

    Sorry moderator. It was in "From Ike to Mao".

  • Guest (LS)

    Since the period Avakian is referring to is the 1980s-90s, it would seem logical to think that he is polemicizing against the bulk of mass work and mass formations the RCP was involved with in this period -- No Business as Usual, Refuse &amp; Resist, Free Mumia work, abortion rights organizing, Oct 22 Coalition, then into the 2000s - Not in Our Name and World Can't Wait. Does Avakian consider all this work to be the mass expression of the 'revisionist package', in opposition to the current campaigns of appreciation around Avakian, the 'Set the Record Straight' campaign, the mass anti-religion campaign, etc?

  • Guest (Comments)

    Mike in his intro says that at the time the new program was being discussed party members demanded "a serious accounting of how such a reactionary position" on homosexuality had been adopted and upheld for decades, and this "was treated as an open revolt against Avakian personally..."

    The natural question: Why would BA see that quest for an accounting as an attack on himself?

  • Let's break this into two issues, regarding the possibility of revolution.

    1) Socialist revolutions are not always possible everywhere and always, and when they aren't it has implications for the nature of work conducted. We can (and must) do <i>revolutionary work in non-revolutionary times</i>.

    The idea that an analysis arguing that revolution isn't possible is inherently reactionary or <i>counter</i>-revolutionary is frankly religious. There was not going to be a revolution in the 1980s in the United States and this fact had nothing to do with the will or ardor of self-proclaimed revolutionaries. We were in for decades of reaction – as it did go down.

    If someone said that in, say, 1983 – they would have been correct. The issue would then be what to do with that, but its truth was not a measure of the commitment of the person making the analysis. Moralizing the material possibility of revolution is revolution<i>ism</i>, not being a revolutionary.

    Some sold out, some gave up, others moved on to support revolutionary movements such as in Central America or South Africa from inside the belly of the beast.

    2) The RCP has a well-tried-and-untrue method of starting from the a priori position that the RCP is the vanguard party and Bob Avakian is a world-historic leader (blah blah blah). Everything flows back from this conception.

    Members of the RCP have believed this even where they weren't willing to go to the extreme of a cult of personality. When it became fully cartoonish and desperate - no doubt some have moved on or claimed they gave up.

    It's funny. I wasn't admitted into the RCP – yet my demand was exactly to do <i>explicitly</i> communist work and popularization. When I was banned from RCP events it wasn't for giving up or switching sides or ANY kind of accomodation with the government or system: it was because I argue plainly that revolution is possible, just not how Avakian is demanding. And this is where my anger comes in. Avakian wants those who don't tow his line to be defeated. It is why he and his followers are compelled to distort the nature of the Kasama project from top to bottom.

    The anti-materialist, anti-people, anti-cadre and essentially anti-<i>political</i> method that Avakian has enforced within the RCP has burned people and broken too many comrades' revolutionary will. It is a crime.

    It should be called out for what it is: wrecking activity cloaked in scientistic, religious language to impose what are his personal delusions of grandeur. There is a deeper ideological problem that has allowed him to get away with it, effectively wrecking the last great attempt to build a revolutionary party in the USA. But the leadership is his and the responsibility is his.

    If a member has submitted to this harsh regime of compliance with the cult of personality (in direct opposition to serving the people by building the capacities of the oppressed to build socialism in our time), when they are all worn out – no doubt many think "that's all there is" and give up.

    No!

    Do not let Avakian tell you that he's all there is and if you can't buy what he's selling then it is supposed to be you who is "demoralized". Avakian's method is demoralizing comrades and driving them out of not just the party, but has burned people right out of the movement. Reach out to friends and comrades and don't let them be lost.

    Why does it matter?

    Because not only is revolution possible, here in this country and in our lifetime – but we are witnessing the break up of all the old certainties<i> right now!</i> It's not just that the ways we've tried to make change aren't working, the ruling class can't rule in the old ways. <i>They</i> don't know how to bring it back together – and we have a rare opportunity. These are the time we were waiting for through long years of treading water. This is the time.

    The need for conscious, committed, trained, dedicated, principled communists to make their mark is crying. We need a movement of leaders, not followers. If we aren't on the field, then the realm of the possible actually shrinks.

    Yes, some people have been (intentionally and by design) demoralized to break opposition to Avakian's cult of personality – but getting beyond that (and now!) is <i>our</i> responsibility. And by "ours", I don't just mean Kasama. Comrades must organize themselves and not waste what we do know, our real capacities and experience.

    The world needs us to rise to this occassion and break through the old walls, self-limiting doctrines and fear of success. We need to be revolutionaries, not just revolutionists.

    All you lurkers reading this and not speaking... step up.

  • Guest (q)

    what exactly were the differences with the new synthesis? it seems the new synthesis is just a collection of criticisms of the intl communist movement with appreciation of avakian's work.

  • Guest (aehreh)

    The document states:

    "At this point, the opposition between the revisionist and communist lines in our Party had not only become more fully expressed but had become clearly and sharply focused on the question of whether to grasp, and boldly take out to the masses of people, what is represented by the leadership of Bob Avakian and is concentrated in the new synthesis he is bringing forward—or whether to reject this and refuse to act on it. In these circumstances, the former represented advancing on the road of revolution and communism—because the role of Bob Avakian and his body of work and method and approach consists, above all, in the development of communism, as a living science and strategic revolutionary orientation—while the opposition to this within our Party represented, in a concentrated way, retreating into reformism and capitulation to imperialism, even if this was done while maintaining “communism” as some kind of religious catechism and/or an 'alternative lifestyle.'"

    What I find so deeply troubling about the way the Party is now describing these events is that in my experience it was exactly these types of people who thought dogmatically, or who treated communism as a lifestyle, who were the most willing to accept the "New" turn towards Avakianism without interrogating it. In other words, it has been exactly the people who have not attempted to grapple deeply and critically with Avakian's works who began to use those works in a dogmatic way to perpetuate exactly the lines that are now being criticized. It is not for nothing that every person I knew who could be described as holding to the above "deviations" remain committed to the RCP, and I do not. The reason is that the WORDS of Avakian's synthesis have been systematically drained of any actual living meaning by the people who insist on their rote application, and once you get the force of the Party, with Avakian assumably responsible for this, reinforcing and rewarding THAT kind of appreciation of Avakian's works, you have turned them into their opposite.

  • Guest (aehreh)

    To put it another way, there is a third branch of the line struggle in the RCP (the determinative branch in my opinion), which did not openly oppose some of the theoretical initiatives that were being brought forward, and did not try to kill it with indifference, but rather were the loudest and the most "bold" comrades in arguing for it, and they did so exactly without understanding what was being called for, and shutting down the critical investigation of what was being called for (a necessary step in understanding it). These are the people that are running the RCP today. They systematically pushed out people who truly were revisionist in their outlook, but they also systematically pushed out people who demanded that a true "appreciation" required a critical method.

  • Guest (josetheredfox)

    Redflags:

    I'm stepping up here.

    While I don't always agree with all of your comments here, I must say that your last posting here was very honest, politically inspiring and just hit me in the right spot.

    Thanks for writing this. We need more of this.

    en la lucha, Jose

    ps: glad you weren't admitted into the party cuz the are other parties to have, if you know what i mean. ;) .

  • Guest (Joseph Winter)

    LOL, they realize they can't initiate a cultural revolution in the real world so they have one strictly for the party. I find that funny and sad at the same time.

  • Guest (Linda D.)

    There is so much here to read, digest, respond to, et al. I just printed out the entire "manifesto" plus am working on the post re Article 6, etc. Am trying to view this in a systematic way.

    But right off the bat--I will state that I agree with 99.9% of what Redflags said!!! (Comment Nº 9) Just part of what he said:

    "I argue plainly that revolution is possible, just not how Avakian is demanding. And this is where my anger comes in. Avakian wants those who don’t tow his line to be defeated. It is why he and his followers are compelled to distort the nature of the Kasama project from top to bottom.

    "The anti-materialist, anti-people, anti-cadre and essentially anti-political method that Avakian has enforced within the RCP has burned people and broken too many comrades’ revolutionary will. It is a crime."

    I, like Redflags, am angry!!! Just focusing in on "revolutionary will"--and how this is summed up by Bob Avakian, and subsequently the leadership of the RCP, is outrageous and unscientific. Essentially if you don't tow BA's line (whatever that may be at any given moment)--if you dare to ask questions, etc. your revolutionary will is called into question and you are dismissed as revisionist, agnostic, counter-rev., demoralized, etc. That is not just one person's experience, that is the collective experience from many HONEST cadre. (It seems to me that in this whole last historical period (am talking about the world and not the rcp), there are both contradictions in the objective situation as well as contradictions amongst the subjective forces. But someone in the subjective forces, who dares to go against the Avakian-tide--not to be disruptive but to actually try and unravel various contradictions--is thought to be parasitic at best.)

    But it is one thing to single out individuals as having lost their revolutionary will (which is not necessarily true at all) and subsequently labeled as revisionist, reformist, given up on revolution all together. That's a pretty piss poor analysis of the subjective forces. But to me, underlying this is the rcp's overall attack on revolution itself, and communism as the final goal. The reason I say that is--in the RCP's view--if you don't follow BA to the "letter", without any thoughtful hesitation and simply jump on his bandwagon and regurgitate all he has to say, you are not considered a revolutionary--AND ULTIMATELY what they are saying is that revolution ITSELF hinges on BA HIMSELF. Without him, and some blind followers, there won't be a revolution. This line is what is really DEFEATIST if you think about it.

  • Guest (Eddy)

    Perhaps I am missing something in the central argument of this 'manifesto', but wasn't Avakian the chairman of the central committee, the leading body of that party, for the entire time that alleged revisionism was dominant among the leadership of the RCP?

    <BLOCKQUOTE>while Bob Avakian and a few others in the Party had been “digging” in this way, applying the scientific outlook and method of dialectical materialism, most of the Party, on all levels, was not doing so</BLOCKQUOTE>

    What does he think 'leadership' means? If we accept his version of events, he (and others) continually failed to lead the organization in revolutionizing its practice.

    True or false, where is any recognition of THAT dialectic?

  • Guest (DW)

    I think LS hits the nail on the head in post #7 above re. Refuse &amp; Resist! et. al. The RCP seems to be polemicizing against the best elements of its own track record of the last 28 years, characterizing it all as a revisionist package of economism/movementism/reformism divorced from the goals of revolution and communism. I would argue that the opposing package of cult/synthesis-pushing and religion-bashing is all the more divorced from the masses and their day-to-day needs, desires, and burning questions.

    On another note, why "Cultural Revolution" and not "Rectification Movement" or "Rectification Campaign?" Isn't the former a bit grandiose? Or is that the reason for its use?

  • Guest (orinda)

    Agree with many of the posters here. Especially Redflags response and Aehreh's observation that "in my experience it was exactly these types of people who thought dogmatically, or who treated communism as a lifestyle, who were the most willing to accept the “New” turn towards Avakianism without interrogating it. In other words, it has been exactly the people who have not attempted to grapple deeply and critically with Avakian’s works who began to use those works in a dogmatic way to perpetuate exactly the lines that are now being criticized."

    I find it absurd that the RCP is calling this struggle a Cultural Revolution. What does it have to do with culture as it did in China? Yes, I've heard of "promoting a culture of appreciation of BA". Sorry, not what most people mean by culture. An atmosphere, perhaps.
    I also find it odd that apparently most people in and around the party were unaware that this 2-line struggle going on. I too was one of the people that would ask in group discussions why we couldn't talk more about communism. It never did any good that I could see. I'm glad I left when I did, I don't recognize the organization I admired so much when I first ran across it in the 80's.

  • Guest (rosa harris)

    When it came down in the party that there was going to be a Cultural Revolution in the party I was very excited. I had hopes that things would open up more and that we would be able to really get into theory. The people around the party locally had no interest in theoretical or philosophical discussions which I saw as a problem.

    I soon found out that despite all the talk, no one wanted to talk theory. It was all about accepting Bob Avakian, reading him and 'appreciating' him.

    This was deeply disappointing. Instead of more discussion there was less, except for whatever came down this week praising BA.

    In the end it felt like things were opened up in the party just to attack and drive out people... like the negative and untrue characterization of the 'hundred flowers'. Ideas I raised just as something to explore were treated almost like crimes rather than openings for discussions. It got dangerous to ask questions or to even make comments without being very careful that they would not be taken the wrong way.

    I never imagined how far it would go. I kept waiting for it to work out and thinking that this must just be local people putting it into practice wrong.

    It was a big disappointment.

  • Guest (Linda D.)

    I just finished reading the entire "Manifesto," reread The Above, including all comments. Needless to say I tried to take copious notes, or come up with actual questions. In reading the "Manifesto" over I have to say that I find it contradictory at best. Am going to try and write something that is more specific but here is my new starting point...I want to try and glean some lessons from all this, not just for "us" but in relation to what is the correct revolutionary path, and achieving the goal of communism--and how does that relate to our internationalist duties and for people worldwide.

    Personally I want to read more and more about Nepal (and others)--not to come up with some knee-jerk verdicts, but to try and understand more the complexities of making revolution, New Democracy, etc. (with Nepal as an example). Am struggling to put this in a larger context. In the introduction to this post, it was stated:

    "This history does not discuss the ways this line struggle within the RCP is part of a much larger struggle among the Maoist forces of the world, or the way Avakian’s internal self-coup was conditioned by the growing differences between the RCP and the most significant Maoist parties internationally, especially the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), the various wings of Turkey’s TKPML, and the Communist Party of India (Maoist)."

    But in the meantime, just have to respond to something DW said:

    "On another note, why “Cultural Revolution” and not “Rectification Movement” or “Rectification Campaign?” Isn’t the former a bit grandiose? Or is that the reason for its use?"

    When I first read "Cultural Revolution" in the RCP, I was blown away. To me not just "grandiose" but illusions of grandeur. It is a degradation of the Cultural Revolution in China for starters. And as someone pointed out to me today, and to paraphrase: "Wasn't the GPCR taken up by millions? and taken to the masses of Chinese people in their millions?" That the RCP leadership has now chosen this moment to make this internal struggle and "rectification" more public is fine, but why wasn't this in some ways inevitable struggle more open and debated? Like the RCP said, this is not the first time there has been struggle within the party, but prior to this, the debates, discussion and struggle with e.g. The Franklins, the Black Workers' Congress, The Mensheviks, the farrago, were discussed more openly with other progressive and revolutionary forces. Through genuine struggle people were won over to a more "correct line," and it wasn't the end of the RU or RCP, but in fact, the opposite occurred. The tone of this "manifesto" (which is longer than the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO BTW) is almost like things are now all neatly wrapped up, "we've strengthened our resolve and our party" and now it's really "all there for the taking." After the fact, and a fait accompli. And as I was thinking about this, thought in a way this is kind of a set-up, because if one has some honest questions and disagreements, they will automatically be labeled a revisionist, and viewed as part of that camp.

  • Guest (explain?)

    what or who were "the farrago."? Not familiar with that particular struggle, although I've read about the Franklins/Venceramos, BWC, and the Mensheviks (RWH), etc.

  • Guest (Iris)

  • Guest (bronterre)

    The RCP club or group in the city where I live is not large, but there is a Revolution Books. I've lived here for about fifteen years and the local RCP has not grown in that time; it's the same old (or at least getting older all the time) few members, putting in their time, running the store and doing Revolution sales at demos, etc. They're known locally as being "laid back" and "OK," meaning that they don't jump down your throat like Sparts or something, but that's about it. In my own experience, and talking to other people, there never seemed to be many signs of real energy and initiative coming from there.

    Even though I was not a Maoist, I valued Revolutionary Worker as a publication for many years because it focused on some things better than other left papers, including the publications of the tendency I was associated with -- things especially having to do with Black struggles, racist cop terror, death penalty, etc. I admired RW's coverage of the LA rebellion (that's when I first started reading it) and really hoped that they were building a base in the Cabrini Green housing project. (I have been considerably less impressed with the makeover newspaper, Revolution.) What I want to say is that from an outsider but not unsympathetic perspective, the RCP seemed to have some real contributions to make and some real problems as well, a kind of ossification that's an real political hazard in non-revolutionary and reactionary times. We know which tendency won out. Sad, but this Kasama project gives some cause for hope. So would people say that the RCP was indeed in need of a "Cultural Revolution" - just not the one that Avakian decided to undertake?

  • Guest (Iris)

    What 'Franklins/Venceremos'? I'm really interested in why the RCP would polemicize against NION or Free Mumia, or Oct 22. Is Avakian polemicizing against these projects? I thought he said WCW was the right thing to do in his latest article--how is WCW different than these past initiatives?

    Does anyone see anything wrong or economist with these past initiatives?

  • Guest (Iris)

    Bronterre:

    What has changed between RW and R? I have only 'been around' for R newspaper. I have read that R gives more weight to Avakian. Sometimes it seems a bit shrill.

  • Guest (bronterre)

    In answer to Iris's question:
    A lot more column-inches spent on Avakian-appreciation, that's mostly what I mean. And it's my impression that there are more articles intended to reach out and establish some unity with the liberal-progressive "left" (like on questions of religion, evolution, etc.). More broad campaigns like WCW and fewer focused base-building efforts such as the Cabrini Green coverage I mentioned. That's all I mean, and it's only a general impression, not based on any detailed survey of back issues or anything like that.

  • Guest (Dave)

    Someone asked why Avakian would see a demand for a "serious accounting" for the party's previous position on homosexuality as an attack on himself.

    Pay attention to the number of times in this passage that Avakian uses the phrase "alternative lifestyle" to dismiss his opponents, and you might find your answer.

    Seriously, I agree with Joseph's comment. I don't know if this whole "manifesto" is more funny or sad. Sad, I think.

  • Guest (A Voice from Hunan Province)

    How can there be a "Cultural Revolution" without the people and within only a self-proclaimed "vanguard" - let there be a true cultural revolution in the light of the sun, for all to see.

    How can the Avakianist cult members contain these lessons within their greenhouse and not let the debate spring out into the fields of the people?

    They can't because the people will mock them in derisive refrains from the failures of the world.

    The Avakianist cult, again, make arguments like lawyers arguing writ before the bench, or Christian missionaries in zealous defense of their interpretations of holy script.

    This is a "manifesto" of cheap charades, conducted by puppeteers seeking to hide once again, "the great man" behind the curtain.

    Is this the way to lead the people?

    In every way but in deeds, in holy script, in detailed writ, in a return to the dead and moribund while the ruling classes are being thrown into their own disarray?

    Look you, the world of the rulers in this country are weak.

    The "great man" counsels caution and loyalty when everywhere the ground is beginning to shake beneath his masters' feet.

    The "great man" is a coward, else this would be a real Cultural Revolution of the Proletariat - Bombarding the Headquarters!

    This is a tempest in a teapot - the real blood and the real 'long march' must begin, away from this monster leading us into another marsh of mirrors.

  • Guest (entdinglichung)

    "Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. Caussidiere for Danton, Louis Blanc for Robespierre, the Montagne of 1848 to 1851 for the Montagne of 1793 to 1795, the nephew for the uncle. And the same caricature occurs in the circumstances of the second edition of the Eighteenth Brumaire."

  • Guest (Iris)

    "Related to the above, another key element of the “revisionist package” that had gained such currency within our Party was the approach not of treating communism as a real, revolutionary orientation—which must be consistently applied to change the world, and which masses of people can and must be won to take up consciously and actively fight for—but instead reducing communism to an “alternative lifestyle.” With this viewpoint, the Party was becoming just one more self-validating oppositional niche, more or less trendy. Sometimes this “alternative lifestyle” meant busily preoccupying yourself, and everyone else, dashing from one immediate struggle to the next; sometimes it took the form of smug, dogmatic satisfaction at (supposedly) being a communist, with your special knowledge of history and set of ethics (that you could never connect with anyone, if you even still ever tried); sometimes it just meant marking time, putting critical thinking in the freezer. The work of the Party was increasingly marked by the approach of feeding the masses pablum while maintaining, as the special province of the “initiated,” what has been described as “a temple of secret knowledge”—turning communism into a lifeless, essentially religious, dogma."

    This is so harsh. Did the struggles in the RCP occur in a comradely way at all?
    Were people actually called out in this insulting way? The tone is so appalled, so filled with disgust. I would never speak this way to a non-revolutionary but very dedicated community activist--not even to a progressive Democrat!

    How does this shit happen? Avakian himself says he could only rely on a tiny core to back the synthesis up. Without asking about internal specifics--do insulting memos get sent down and some leadership enforces it? If it was a tiny core, how the hell does such a purge get enforced? Why 'save' a party if the tiny minority wants to enforce this?

    Another question, this may be a separate thread. I don't understand how this is taking place in a global context--can someone explain this?

  • Guest (Anon)

    Here's something that stuck out to me as contrary to what can or (for the most part, should) be declared by a single communist party from one specific country:

    "one the one hand, our party, whose basic line is concentrated in our new constitution, along with some others that are gravitating toward the NS; and, on the other hand, two opposing tendencies..."

    Perhaps it's my misunderstanding in this that leads me to question this qoute above, but what happened to the concrete conditions of that specific country playing the part of the leading line of the party's line?

    Also, with the above in mind...

    Here are two quotes that, to me, seem to be aimed largely at CPNM:

    "bourgeois democratic notions of legitimacy --bound up with the formal process of elections, with competing parties..."

    "going back to what are in essence 18th century theories of (bourgeois) dem, in the guise, or in the name, of "21st century communism"..."

    I've only just finished part 5 but those are some initial thoughts.


    1)

  • "Second, the former Party members who resigned and started up this little cabal have provided a textbook example of the nature of political and ideological opportunism, including in the fact that they refused to carry out principled struggle over their differences while in the Party. Such conduct is in contradiction to and in violation of the fact that it is a basic principle of communist organization, and has all along been an explicit principle of our Party, that Party members have not only the right but the responsibility to raise differences with the line and policies of the Party, in an open and aboveboard way, through the appropriate Party channels. Moreover, during the course of the Cultural Revolution in our Party, all Party members were called on at one point to seriously reflect on their commitment to the Party, its communist principles and aims, and the content and objectives of the Cultural Revolution in the Party, and if—but only if—they were firm in this commitment, to rededicate to this. And it is noteworthy that a certain Mike Ely, who is now attempting to puff himself up as some kind of “big fish” in this little stagnant pond of “parasitic critics,” did in fact make such a rededication at that time—once again without raising any objections or differences concerning the line of the Party and the aims and the course of the Cultural Revolution within the Party."

    "by purveying gossip and innuendo, slander"

    and,

    "while still in the Party, to employ the kind of “tabloid” methods he has used since quitting the Party—innuendo, gossip, “revelations of inside information,” and so on"

    This look a little weird to anyone else? So the RCP can claim the right to provide "inside info" while at the same time denouncing it?

  • Guest (N3wDay)

    I should be a little more clear. Of course they have the 'right' to reveal any internal discussion they want as long as it doesn't endanger anyone, but my point is that the claims they are making aren't falsifiable. Precisely the thing they were criticizing in the first place. This is of course assuming we don't hold either groups word above the others (which in the spirit of true investigation we shouldn't, unless of course one side admits fault in which case it's safe to assume they aren't lying).

  • N3wday:

    There are many things to say about the attacks on Kasama in their footnote 17 (many of which take a particularly personal form aimed at me.)

    We have, from the beginning, viewed such attacks as a conscious way of deflecting discussion away from the crucial questions of summation and line. The RCP cannot answer many of the arguments of the 9 Letters -- because the arguments made by the 9 Letters are factually and politically accurate.

    And so, from the beginning, we took a dual approach: to focus on line, not on the personal attacks. And to carefully NOT respond in kind. We have not engaged in snide and personal attacks, and we will not do so.

    And you are right, N3wday, it has been hypocritical that they have attacked us based on internal information, while accusing us of releasing internal information.

    We also felt, from the beginning that we would not drag the internal life of the RCP into public discussion -- and that this was actually not necessary in order to debate the central line questions involved.

    However, these charges in footnote 17 have now been repeated by the RCP for nine months -- first as a sordid scripted whispering campaign, now in print yet again. And now (after nine months) they have, themselves, opened up the discussion of their internal "cultural revolution" and avakian's coup.

    We are discussing exactly what to publish: internal critiques written by current members of kasama, discussions of the line differences that led to my removal as editor of Revolution and so on.

    Some time after that, in a meeting where I laid out the differences now gathered in Letter 2 of the 9 Letters, the discussion was cut off by the person there representing the party's national leadership with one simple comment: "We know what the line questions are. The train has left the station."

    So, in short, I believe it is now time to answer the personal attacks. And we will do so, in some detail. It will be interesting, and revealing.

    <strong>Just one note in passing:</strong>

    I confess I was amazed to hear Avakian's forces accuse me (or ANYONE!) of "puffing himself up as some kind of a big fish in a stagnant pond."

    Puffed up in a stagnant pond? Hmmmmm. Can you imagine? After years of Avakian carrying out the most self-puffery that anyone has ever seen.

    What is remarkable about that charge is not just that it is untrue (in regard to me or the Kasama Project), but that it reveals how Avakian (at some profound inner level) is utterly devoid of ANY sense of how he is perceived by the world. In his own mind, he is simply the pathbreaking thinker of our times and an irreplacable factor in humanity's future -- that is, to him, a fact as plain and incontestable as the fact that the earth revolves around the sun.

    Puffed up in a stagnant pond, indeed!

  • Guest (box)

    Was engaging in a same sex relationship considered an alternative lifestyle to p supporters? That explains the sudden, inexplicable label of identity politics stamped on certain foreheads. All starting to make sense now. Also, did anyone have the experience that raising questions and criticisms to higher levels resulted in anything but suspicion?

    Thanks redflags for the challenge to the lurkers. This whole experience can end up turning people off to any political activism.

  • Box:

    The RCP's 1988 document summed up same sex relationships as a conscious, ideological choice -- and insisted that as such, these relationships represented POLITICAL verdicts and programs. In particular it was argued that developing male-only relationships must inherently represent (in a "concentrated" form) misogynistic views toward women.

    On lesbian relations, it was explicitly said that they were an attempt to create a lifestyle (within capitalism) that avoided relations with men (and sought to avoid the oppression by men in intimate relations) and therefore (by mechanical and reductionist logic) such lesbian relationships concentrated a reformist approach to resolve oppression without revolution.

    Not only were gay relations considered "alternative lifestyles" -- but such lifestyles were (by their very nature) condemned as inherently non-revolutionary and reformist (at best) and openly reactionary (at worst).

    These views were held by the RCP from 1988 until the most recent change of line (about 2001).

    The 2001 document can be found <a href="/http://revcom.us/margorp/homosexuality.htm" rel="nofollow">here</a>, and it contains quotes and footnotes regarding the 1988 analysis.

  • Guest (Gary)

    I had to go back and read this (and other old posts) while collecting my thoughts about the latest developments in the “culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization around the leadership, the body of work and the method and approach of Bob Avakian”---that is, the personality cult.

    This bus tour---this missionary effort bringing the Good News that there is this man, this “rare, unique, and irreplaceable leader”---now reaching New York City. It’s absorbing the energies of the party faithful, hoping desperately to generate enthusiasm.

    “Imagine…” writes somebody in the RCP newspaper, down to one issue every two weeks,

    <blockquote> “a big brass band and a crew with beautiful signs in the city center or town square…a flash mob with people shouting out the quotes one by one…a big globe balloon...poetry and spoken word performances inspired by the quotes…dramatic and colorful giant banners… These are just a few ideas.” </blockquote>

    Strange that the preacher man is not accompanying it. Why? Because he is so feared by the U.S. government, due to the quality of his leadership and the threat posed by the (hundreds of?) people he so brilliantly leads in a revolutionary movement, that he cannot appear in public.

    The savior is hovering out there somewhere. And just as he re-appeared in the U.S. in 2003, to the delight of the people, after 22 years in Parisian (self-imposed) exile, lecturing for hours to adoring crowds and producing two DVDs unfolding his “new synthesis” only to disappear again from view, so perhaps he will return again, as the revolution gets under way.

    Does anyone else see the religiosity here?

    Those reached by this magical mystery tour are not supposed to grasp the “new synthesis” immediately. Indeed some in party leadership positions will say---I speak from personal experience, from repeated conversations with someone---that they can’t sum it up, but that I had to “engage” Bob’s body of work myself. As though this were a deeply personal thing, the way that Martin Luther described the individual Christian’s engagement with scripture. The point is to forge a mystical bond with Bob, like the “personal relationship” the Christian believer attains with Jesus.

    The point is not to be persuaded by any particular line that Avakian espouses, such as the idea that the socialist experiments of the 20th century were more good than bad, or the idea that in the future “Socialist Republic of North America” he posits intellectuals and artists will have greater freedom than in past socialist societies.

    These are actually the main points of the “new synthesis”---so trite that Zizek noted last year

    <blockquote>“for all their talk of the ‘new synthesis,’ there is no theoretical substance: It [the RCP] doesn’t do the work. They always have the answers: no questions, only answers.” </blockquote>

    But the point of the cult is not to give concrete political answers.

    It is to “popularize” Bob Avakian (and get people to buy his books---especially the much-hyped “<a href="/http://revcom.us/avakian/About-Basics-en.html" rel="nofollow">BAsics</a>,” videos, and other products).

    The 69-year-old having failed to build a genuine revolutionary movement, who has berated and purged his party’s rank-and-file for failing to understand and implement his synthesis communicated from afar, may wish at least to live out his days comfortably on royalties while cherishing in his own head the conviction that he is “our Lenin” whose works will, like Lenin’s, live and move hearts forever.

    What triggered these remarks was my encounter over weeks now with a new RCP cultish practice: the quoting of Avakian, chapter and verse.

    Avakian has collected passages of his writings before (in “Bullets”, published in 1985, in apparent emulation of the Little Red Book of Mao’s quotations). But in “BAsics,” he has the material arranged, as it were, biblically.

    The Christians whose beliefs and practices were so ridiculed by Avakian in his “Away with All Gods!” are all accustomed to this method of reverence. Everybody knows what John 3:16 says. Now the RCP is trying to popularize Avakian quotes in this way. Thus the rather simple Avalian quote:


    <blockquote>
    “No more generations of our youth, here and all around the world, whose life is over, whose fate has been sealed, who have been condemned to an early death or a life of misery and brutality, whom the system has destined for oppression and oblivion even before they are born. I say no more of that.” </blockquote>


    …which is of course not at all problematic content-wise (although it’s not entirely grammatical) becomes <a href="/http://basicsbustour.tumblr.com/post/24936290673/changing-the-world-with-basics-1-13-and-getting" rel="nofollow">BAsics 1:13</a>. A holy text subject to what religious scholars call “hermaneutics” (the explication of the meanings of scripture).

    Watch Susara Taylor explain why this text is so important.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-clPHcTZvEY />
    “We’ve been working with this quote,” she begins, “taking this quote out but I really think it’s important that we ourselves and then with the masses take every opportunity we can to get deeper into what this quote means. It’s actually very rich and it’ll be important to break this down like I said on radio and street corners and discuss in different ways among each other of what it fully means. So I’m gonna walk you through this. BA is saying, ‘No more generations of our youth.” Think about it.”

    She then enumerates all kinds of oppression in this world affecting youth and others.

    “So that’s the first,” she continues: ‘No more generations of our youth.’ Then BA goes on, ‘Here and around the world.’ He’s saying this because we’re talking about generations literally in every corner of the world…”

    Then she cites different global examples of oppression, followed with:

    <blockquote>“Every part of this statement from BA---you can walk through, every part of it has layers and layers, both here and around the world… “

    “The very end of the statement “No more of this” and this is significant because this declaration is an insistence but it’s also said by this person who has done the work, he’s developed a new synthesis of communist revolution….. The more you walk through it the richer it becomes…”</blockquote>

    She sounds like nothing so much a a deacon in church breaking down scripture.

    I suspect the inclusion in her statement of “he’s done the work” is a response to Zizek. But the whole thing is so vapid that she merely confirms Zizek’s point.

    Avakian’s answer to oppression is that it’s awful, and he---special he, as a revolutionary leader---says (in his confidant, strident way): “I say no more of that.”

    Like this is an historic conceptual breakthrough. It would be ludicrous if it were not so tragic.

    It is as though BA in his cursory studies of religion has determined that his party, to survive, must adopt religious techniques. What is next? I have a King James Bible that renders all the words of Jesus in red. During the Cultural Revolution the Chinese leadership adopted the policy of rendering Mao’s statements in many documents (in Peking Review, for example) in red. It was one of the more bizarre aspects of the personality cult.

    The division of the Bible into verses as well as chapters dates to the 16th century, to facilitate discussion of biblical comment among the masses as the Reformation surged and Bibles were translated into vernacular languages. This made Bible study easier and reinforced the idea that Bible study is IMPORTANT for the individual. (As Marx put it, Luther replaced the “faith in authority”---the idea that the clergy would understand and interpret, and the people just follow them, with “the authority of faith”---that is, the idea that the individual’s faith based on independent engagement with the Bible would lead to salvation. Is there not something like that at work here?)

    Engage BA. Go to your well-thumbed copy of BAsics. (“<a href="/
    http://www.rwor.org/a/209/BAsics-en.html" rel="nofollow">You can’t change the world if you don’t know the BAsics.</a>”) Engage <a href="/http://revcom.us/i/275/275p08-9-fullsize-en.pdf" rel="nofollow">5:7 and 5:8 on internationalism</a> and think how wonderful it is that this unique man is saying something that billions of people on the planet know and think.


    <blockquote>
    “American people’s lives are not more important than other people’s lives.” </blockquote>



    Then read Galatians 3:28 or Colossians 3:11.

    Or for real intellectual stimulation read <a href="/http://www.amazon.com/Saint-Paul-Foundation-Universalism-Cultural/dp/080474470X" rel="nofollow">Alain Badiou’s book on Paul</a>.

  • Guest (Bill Martin)

    Thanks for this, Gary. I love the "layers and layers of meaning" bit--this concerning someone who is now so literalist in his reading of everything that he simply flips biblical literalism on its head. It's funny, my wife and I attended a family wedding yesterday at a fundamentalist church, and the preacher gave a little rap about how the institution of marriage begins in Genesis chapter 2, when God creates woman from one of Adam's ribs. There's nothing there about marriage, of course, and neither were Mary (mother of God) and Joseph "married" in any sense that would be accepted by Christian fundamentalists today. "Literalists" rarely mind all sorts of interpretive leaps, especially if that's what it takes to make a philosophical system out of an endless series of scattered reflections. Anyway, it's very interesting that the RCP is now going this way, almost as if the "new synthesis" is an esoteric, hermetic text that has to be explicated in terms of the layers of meaning that only some can really fathom. What is instead the case is that Sunsara Taylor comes off more like a Sunday-School teacher (than a deacon, I think), and she talks as if she is speaking to little children, or to mentally-retarded people. It's vastly condescending. Incidentally, it's "hermeneutics" rather than "hermaneutics," though perhaps you were referring to the method for deciphering the many layers of meaning in a Herman's Hermits song. There's so much there!

  • Guest (Gary)

    Thanks Bill. I stand corrected on the spelling and I agree ST seems more of a Sunday School teacher than a deacon. It's just sad that someone able to take on Fox's Bill O'Reilly with such cool sophistication and articulateness would be diverted from productive political activity to...what to call it?...preach from a pulpit of bones like this.

    At another level, the May 1, 2012 letter from the RCP to the parties of the defunct RIM is echoing this Avakian cultism. All other parties (except the CP Iran (Maoist)) are castigated for their failure to embrace the new synthesis of BA, which as summarized in the document is so simple/simplistic that it's no surprise the RCP notes that few parties have responded to their earlier letters in recent years.

    So on the one hand, the U.S. masses are urged to revere Avakian, on the other, the international communist movement. It seems though that few are paying attention.

    I think of the guy with the blank look in his eyes that I pass every time I visit Fenway Park for a ball game. He wears a cardboard apparatus that warns of hell and damnation and passes out flyers calling people to Christ. He reminds me of a local Revolution seller with the same vapid expression, armed with the saving words of BA, who used to frequent Harvard Square. But I haven't seen the paper seller recently.

  • Guest (jp)

    the question looms : what mechanisms of the human organism allow well-intended persons, clearly not deficient in intelligence [sunsara taylor], to pursue these lines of false reasoning? and what are the most efficient ways of combating that effect?

    i'm sure this is what 'self-criticism' and peer review are intended to combat, but if the group is insulated from outside 'contamination', it can sustain quite a high level of unbelievable beliefs.

    though not without its idiosyncrasies and problems, the value of kasama is to risk these 'contaminations' and allow critical development of the ideas that, presumably, will be tested in action and be subsequently re-thought.

    the recent pham bin threads are of this type - i read pham bin as one of those described here by chegitz: 'The left are people moved by the suffering of others...' and pham bin's unqualified pursuit of support for those oppressed in syria follows.

    though i believe he's wrong, and aggressively wrong, his motivation is not inconsistent with the overthrow of soulless conditions, and he can't be cast aside but needs to be kept within the discussion. for the same reason sunsara taylor belongs here too, but she likely would not want to be. inclination should be toward inclusion and not exclusion.