Jagged Edges in a Divided RCP

 

The new RCP Manifesto includes the following pointed evaluation of  a large part of the party's activities and membership: .

more to come.

People in this conversation

  • Guest - Linda D.

    "The purge gets enforced by the discipline of democratic centralism. Avakian staged a self-coup and gathered a small core of people around him — and used the RCP’s particular form of democratic centralism to enforce this (both the purging and restructuring — but also imposing the synthesis as a cardinal question even before it had been articulated)."

    So what do you think is the RCP's "particular form of democratic centralism" and how does this relate to d.c. in general? What has been the practice of most parties and organizations when it comes to d.c.? Is it fair to characterize the RCP's version of d.c. as mainly commandism? In my opinion, within that org., the emphasis on centralism has been in existence for many years, and one of their justifications for that is around "security reasons" and a general malaise of siege mentality.

  • The RCP did not allow what can be called "horizontal communication". My term. All communications were (and I'm sure still are) vertical. So the manic writing of reports up the chain, to be digested (or not) by leadership, is supposed to be followed by the line handed back down.

    Without Party Congresses, or any form whatsoever of democratic accountability within the organization, cadre don't even know what's going on save what they are told by the self-selected leadership is going on.

    There is nothing democratic about this centralized practice. Nothing. It is creepy and its aim is to control the thinking of members, making them dependent on the higher ups for even the most rudimentary thinking. It produces brittle, fearful and small-minded people.

    <strong>Communists are rebels.</strong>

  • There is a lot to say about this, and a lot to creatively discuss.

    Essentially the RCP's version is as militarized as possible -- and in the recent "cultural revolution' became even more intense.

    Historically, this party has greatly isolated people -- its view of "chain of knowledge -- chain of command" essentially atomized members in their proposals and questions -- in ways that are similar to voting.

    This is an organization that has only very very rarely and briefly had internal discussion bulletins, organized study plans, larger conferences, party schools or discussion of work horizontally. Essentially such things were not part of the party life.

    Avakian's self-coup was pulled off in a travesty of even the party's own rules. And a formal organizational approval of "whateverism" was extracted without any accountability, real debate or checks.It was then enforced using the heavy hand of discipline.

    I think one of the key principles to question is the practice (in the RCP) of almost always only discussing things AFTER they were officially approved and "brought down." In practice that meant that discussion of question, other ideas, different lines etc were happening in the framework of OPPOSING organizational decisions -- a practice that smothered real discussion and critical thinking.

    When the discussions were opened up (in aborted process of discussing the party's new draft program) the bottled up differences and frustrations boiled over in many places -- especially around the long-suppressed issue of homosexuality -- so that the discussion itself was widely condemned as anti-party revolts.

    I think there are a number of issues involved here;

    * Any revolution needs highly organized, disciplined, and united organization.

    * A revolution need security (including protection of leadership and principles of "need to know"). any movement that doesn't have secrets and that can't keep secrets can't make a real revolution.

    * Some principles called democratic centralist in the RCP were designed to keep themembership in the dark about their own movement, and in effect keep their leadership (at many levels) utterly unaccountable. People stayed in positions of power for decades, creating fiefdoms. the questioning (let alone the removal) of leadership was extremely rare (even unthinkable in places) -- and any removal that did happen very rarely came at the initiative or involvement of those led.

    * The absense of "horizontal" discussion (workteams, open discussion bulletins, casual discussion of political work even between spouses) had a deadening effect -- and covered up many problems.

    * the requirement that members strictly and solely reflect organization line "outside" had a number of deadening effects; People meeting the party felt like they were meeting with robotic unanimity, and as if they could never really engage with party members. If someone made a convincing argument, the party members were still required to stoically and firmly hold to the party's position. It also had the effect of the party developing a highly intricate and elaborate set of positions on virtually everything.

    I see no reason why a party cant have a basic and central basis of unity, which defines membership and therefore what people represent -- but that also allows party members to express their own views to each other and people broadly on a wide range of political and ideological matters (within that common framework). I see no reasons why a commnist can't say "My party generally thinks a, b, and c. And I personally tend to think x, y, and z." The rigid requirement of public groupthink is itself a method that dampens critical thought, that makes a political party seem bizarre and somewhat repellent to actively thinking people, and that makes party members often very reluctant to actually speak and engage politically with people around them.

    * I tend to think that political parties should be formed around a set of core views -- including above all their political programs and a common conception of near and longterm goals -- and that within those frameworks should allow some diversity of views on other (even important) political and ideological matters. And that, infact, the common unities should emerge from the struggling through of such diversities. At the same time, there is a real need for common action and common approaches to questions like security.

    As for security:

    Unfortunately, there is a great deal of fantasy involved. Avakian clearly believes that he and the bourgeoisie understand his unique nature -- but that his own party has prevented the masses of people from appreciating it. So he has viewed himself as a constant target of government attention -- even in the absense of evidence. it is said that this party has such a clear potential for challenging this system that it is by its very nature a target.

    I only wish this were true. In fact there is a yawning gap between the party's own (often hysterical) view of its role, and the relative impotence and irrelevence of its real political impact.

    Its approach to security has been a powerful weapon in "keep the advanced elements tense" -- by hyping the conditions and self-image and the now rampant siege mentality. And it has (over decades) caused an incredibly heavy burden on this organization's ability to function among people. Having a national leadership unnecessarily isolated in exile has extracted a heavy cost in every way -- including in the obvious slide of that leadership away from a grip on real conditions.

  • Guest - chegitz guevara

    You know, those of us with no connection to the RCP always viewed the organization as a bit nutty and a cult of personality. My contacts with RCP comrades were limited to Mike and the comrade I met during the First Gulf War, who both impressed me immensely, and challenged my attitude towards the RCP, and the cadre in the bookstore who reinforced it (including one cold November night when I was walking through Lakeview in Chicago, and a group of about a dozen communist youth were *MARCHING* down Broadway behind a red flag).

    But this now. It's going from cult of personality to just plain cult. It's the Democratic Workers Party or the Socialist Workers Party all over again.

  • Guest - Iris

    Mike, or whoever--

    I am really fascinated by how the RCP has dealt with 'homosexuality' or gender queerness, or whatever. I think my sympathies finally died when I found out that they held this line until <i>2001</i>. I didn't know until I read the 9 Letters!

    Was it only the very highest levels that enforced this position on gay people? How did it 'bubble up'--were leadership directly challenged on this?

    I know this is pre-RCP, but how did revolutionaries react to Harvey Milk? The Stonewall rebellion? While the RCP held its line, were other communists getting it totally wrong, partly right? Agnostic? What is the communist context for this line (I already see the general context--who could hold such a line during the AIDS crisis? Such a betrayal of our brothers and sisters!) My assumption has been that communists <i>in general have had, at certain times, sort of backwards lines on sexuality in general; I should probably investigate that.

    Was there a negative cadre reaction to the 'summation' of that wrong line? That it was largely 'reductionist' in nature (snort)?

    Also, reading about security culture above--I think we need to struggle with the romanticizing of militarism. I mean, we shouldn't shy away from it, but I have met people who were 'impressed' with the security culture of the RCP, where I found it somewhat creepy--I <i>knew</i> spouses who didn't know what one another were 'working on'. How is that an advantage over the enemy? I think the awe of security measures is part of American culture generally, whereas in real life, it isn't always exciting or fun. It can be scary (fearing repression from the state), repressive or manipulated.

  • Guest - Iris

    P.S moderator, I see comments on some new articles, but don't see them posted on the right side?

  • Guest - Victor

    I do know that the old CP was pretty lax on the whole question of homosexuality, but then again they were out of the loop of revolutionary politics by the 1970s. I was reading Barry Shepard's bio called the Party about being in the Socialist Workers' Party and they came out in favor of gay liberation sometime in the early 1970s (not sure of the date).

  • Guest - Linda D.

    I agree with what Mike has laid out, and in particular, in terms of the RCP’s version of d.c. It reflects not just my own experience but that of many others.

    But I would still like to know if anyone can elaborate on d.c. in practice amongst other parties or organizations, and here’s why: People who have been trained in d.c. under the RCP, often times have an automatic aversion to the entire concept, which isn’t necessarily correct. But you will hear more often than not: “Fine in theory but in practice….” (and sometimes this also leads to further talk of “leadership/led”.)

    But Mike said:
    “I see no reasons why a communist can’t say “My party generally thinks a, b, and c. And I personally tend to think x, y, and z.”

    Is such a proposition even possible under a d.c. organization, or am I just so “brainwashed” by the RCP’s version, am having trouble wrapping my mind around it. How is the above d.c.?

    While Mike spoke to some essentials, I would like to elaborate on one:

    First he said…”* the requirement that members strictly and solely reflect organization line “outside” had a number of deadening effects; People meeting the party felt like they were meeting with robotic unanimity, and as if they could never really engage with party members. If someone made a convincing argument, the party members were still required to stoically and firmly hold to the party’s position. It also had the effect of the party developing a highly intricate and elaborate set of positions on virtually everything.”

    And then: “I think one of the key principles to question is the practice (in the RCP) of almost always only discussing things AFTER they were officially approved and “brought down.” In practice that meant that discussion of question, other ideas, different lines etc were happening in the framework of OPPOSING organizational decisions — a practice that smothered real discussion and critical thinking.”

    “Discussing” things AFTER they were “officially approved” and “brought down” didn’t just smother real discussion and/or critical thinking internally. This also hampered cadre’s ability when doing “mass work” or just talking to people outside the party. A stark example – Revolution Books—at least the bookstore I sometimes frequented. (Generally I didn’t go into Rev. Books to engage in some polemic or to be antagonistic. I wanted to try and get more materials to read up on different struggles, etc. and this was the only bookstore I thought that might have those materials in this area.)

    However--Two incidents come to mind:

    First—I did storm the bookstore after reading Revolution magazine’s article on homosexuality. I confronted an old comrade, actually, who was working there, and her answer to me was “We’re still discussing this.” “SAY WHAT? You’ve published a whole article…” Well, obviously she had not been instructed on how to deal with this subject, and to make matters worse she "confessed" to me that she hadn’t even read it yet.

    But year’s later I went into this same Rev. Books because prior to that their windows were filled with pamphlets, posters, etc. on Nepal and I wanted to learn more about it. I didn’t know that the RCP had taken a vow of silence on Nepal, so when I asked for the latest, the two bookstore people paled, and directed me to “From Ike to Mao” and other unrelated writings by Avakian. No explanations, no dialogue, No nothing. And I said “No thanks.”

    So, would the “behavior” of the bookstore people NOW be construed as revisionist, reformist, etc. by BA and his cohorts, or were they just following d.c., not discussing anything because verdicts hadn’t come down the pike yet, and they were just following orders?

    What was really sad was, the one woman was trying to be helpful and wrote down Rev. Books’ website for future reference, so I thanked her and she said: “Oh glad I could help. I’M WORKING ON MY MASS LINE.” Omg… I did not feel antagonistic toward this woman para nada, NOT HER FAULT!!! But I couldn’t help but wonder—is this how the RCP is training people these days? “Preparing minds, organizing forces”???

  • Guest - land

    I think the people in the bookstore probably had been instructed to say nothing on Nepal.. They were just following DC. Which is very strange given that they were working in a bookstore and people do inquire abut different things.

    I don't think DC means you are just a robot. There are reasons why you do need DC.

    But people need to be able to talk politically and at ease and raise questions about whatever the subject is. That is called conversation. And critical thinking.

    I think the RCP has distorted the meaning of DC because they do not think they can trust comrades on whatever subject. It is all a security question.

  • Guest - Iris

    Can anyone put the RCP split into an international context? I'm piecing it together--I get that the RCP disagrees with the CPN(M) approach to multi-parties, etc. What about the CPI and Turkish CP?

    Why don't they just come out and say it?

    I guess the big picture isn't really apparent to me!

  • Guest - Iris

    I have gotten cryptic answers to questions about the RIM, A world to win's relation to that, etc.

    'It's complicated', I'm told.

    Also, does anyone think that an official opinion on Nepal will be forthcoming, since the Programme is coming? I am becoming acutely aware that in my time around the RCP, I learned very, very little about communist parties in other countries.

  • Guest - celticfire

    As a former RCP supporter this revelation is not surprising, but welcomed into day light. Though some of the exact articulations are recent, the "mood" and "tone" of the RCP was obvious. It seems to slide into some strange psychological staged "revolution" and Bob is the director, and the cadres are his actors. The commandism, dogmatism, and un-Marxist understanding of concrete conditions are demonstrated fully here.

    If everyone that participated in RCP struggles in the last few decades are revisionists, why is Avakian free of criticism? Was he responsible for some of this revisionism?

    I <b>strongly</b> reject Mike's charity to the RCP as describing it as "<i>democratic</i> centralist." That ignores the political reality of the RCP Mike. Please, provide examples of the how the RCP is or was <i>democratic</i> with their centralism? Or there correct use (at any point) of the Mass Line?

    I don't think these problems exhibited in the RCP reflect (universally) problems with MLM, but generally, problems of class character of the RCP.

    When <b>every</b> victory is seen as "objectively revisionist" (ie: union struggles, community victories, etc..) then there really is no victory - because there is a dialectical relationship between the small victories (a neighborhood struggle against racist cops) and a larger victory (revolution.)

    The RCP misses this and only sees the big, not the small. Then cadre become commandist, masses-blaming hypocrites. I don't blame the cadres in the RCP or mid-level leaders. But certainly at this point all the top leadership of the RCP, principally Avakian, is due criticism from every genuine communist in the United States and abroad.

  • Guest - TellNoLies

    A couple comments:

    I think a separate discussion sometime of the RCP's line on homosexuality and its consequences is in order. Given its apparent significance in internal developments that people here now feel freer to discuss, I think it would be helpful to get into why the RCP clung to such a bad line for so long and was unable to articulate a serious self-criticism.

    On the question of what DC looks like in other groups, my observation is that in the vast majority of cases its heavy on the centralism and light on the democracy. There is some variation however. Trot groups generally seem more dedicated to at least respecting some of the formalities of democracy (internal bulletins, congresses, etc...) and the RCP sounds like one of the worse groups I know of on this score. The alternative vision of an internal regime that Mike describes seem pretty close to how Solidarity and FRSO (Left Refoundation) seem to operate. Perhaps some folks with more direct experience could comment on this.

  • Guest - DW

    I'll second TellNoLies: In my experience and observation, the problems with centralism-heavy dem-cen and with the abuse/distortion of dem-cen are not at all unique to the RCP. I still think dem-cen is necessary (despite being very hesitant to again submit myself to it), but then again, I think armed revolution is necessary, too--both can be dangerous stuff, and should be handled with care. I'll add that there may be particularities worth exploring regarding how dem-cen plays out in the US context.

  • Guest - Bob H

    I've never found any formal study of how D.C. works in the real world, particularly the psychological aspects, but I think such a study would be useful for future organizing. Most of what I know about D.C. is from my own limited experience and anecdotes from international comrades. That's highly limited and selective, but some of the patterns are interesting.

    For example, an old friend of mine was in a Maoist organization in S. Asia. Eventually he had to leave, partly because he would not fully break with his religious beliefs. Later, as a student in the U.S., he started working with a non-Maoist group (PLP) on his campus. Eventually he had to break with that too, in this case because of his sympathy for Black nationalism and people's war in Peru. I remember him talking about the striking similarities when the breaks came: shunning, a campaign of rumors, etc. For him, he would never work in a D.C. organization again no matter how good the line.

    Another comrade from India once told me about discovering that a senior leader had sexually abused a member. When she tried to confront the issue she was immediately expelled. What I found particularly interesting was when I heard an almost identical story from a member of another Maoist organization based in Europe. Despite vastly different cultural backgrounds and line differences, the circle-the-wagons and security mentality was key to defending bad leaders; and if cadre are trained to oppose revisionists or traitors or infiltrators, well all you have to do is label the critic.

    Reading the RCP's account of Avakian's struggle with "revisionism" (which seems largely of his own making), it seemed to me like a watered-down version of the Gonzalo cult that ultimately led to my rejection of D.C. While the Peruvian revolution had mass support and faced very serious repression, it was striking how even in the international arena where things were not nearly so dire the primary emphasis was on absolute submission to a Great Leader.

    To briefly address Iris' question about RIM, as an observer at a public RIM conference in Europe to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Communist Manifesto, I was really struck by the very clear line differences and struggles between RIM members. A complaint I heard with respect to both the Turkish and Indian struggle was that CoRIM (which many people viewed as ideological subservient to the RCP) liked to foster small groups that split off from larger parties within RIM to take a line similar to their own, as a way of having leverage in their line struggles. There was also strong criticism of the lack of horizontal party-to-party communication, which CoRIM tried to control.

    I realize this is all hearsay, but it reinforces my suspicion that the structure of D.C. we've inherited from the Comintern is easy to abuse. The need for security and protecting leadership is real, but the cultishness and psychological destruction it bring about seem pretty real to me as well.

  • Guest - Chuck Morse

    It is interesting to observe that a strange consensus has emerged: everyone--from Bob Avakian to the participants on the site--now denounces the RCP! Progress, at last!

  • Guest - Anon

    I'd be interested to see what Mike thinks of footnote #17, particularly the charge of not expressing his "major differences", of "concealing" his objections.

    Seems like a 'he said, she said' situation with this in that I remember having read otherwise in the 9L.

  • Guest - nando

    On democratic centralism: I think this is an urgent matter for discussion and resolution -- for the obvious reason that we now need to form new revolutionary organization.

    It is often said within Kasama that there is, among revolutionaries in the U.S., something like a crisis of the imagination:

    Many don't want a repeat of previous forms of democratic centralist organization. They generally don't want to found or join one. But at the same time many of them also can't imagine any other model for organizing revolutionaries.

    We need to identify the kind of organization we need, and we need to set about building it.

    * * * * *

    I think this is a case where a familiar and respected term ("democratic centralism") obscures more than it clarifies -- and where our existing terminology is exhausted as a result.

    So I think we should back away from starting our discussion with the question "should we be democratic centralism or not?" -- since that assumes there is only one "democratic centralism" and we all know what that is.

    What are the requirements of membership? Should we form a dedicated cadre organization from the beginning? Should we start with something broader, but consciously work towards a cadre formation? Should we have organization with a backbone of cadre, but that allows a range of membership, commitment and participation?

    I think we will need different forms of organization for different stages of our work -- different levels of unity in the beginning from later.

    We should get into it on the basis of looking at different contradictions that will develop and change over time (unity/diversity, leadership/led, internal life/public work, people vs. state, and so on.)

    And this requires, from the beginning, a rather firm sense of two things:
    * For what? For whom?
    * Grasping that what we do must serve the future within the present.

    <b>For what? For whom?</b> I think it is important to approach organizational matters seriously from the point of view of WHAT DO WE NEED TO BE AND ACCOMPLISH (i.e. the liberation of the people).

    We need to form a political organization for creative, energetic political combat -- for organizing the people in a long march of struggle, for power and transformation.

    This is not about building a subculture. This is not about creating safe and comfortable spaces to "be." And so any discussion of process needs to take a subordinate place to the discussion of purpose.

    Our approach to organizational matters should sharply serve the needs of humanity (for a movement that takes up serious revolutionary work and goals) -- not proceeding from the needs of ourselves (i.e. as communists, revolutionaries) for a niche within which to live and work.

    In that sense, it is correct that we should not view revolutionary politics and organization as a community or alternative lifestyle.

    I say that while believing deeply that our new organizations need to reflect our values -- and that we need to radiate a sense of solidarity and community, of mutual caring -- in sharp contrast to the values of dog-eat-dog and gimme-gimme and "i'm here to get mine."

    <strong>On the question of future and present: </strong>We need to form organization (now) that can serve and anticipate the tasks and contradictions to come -- including both the tasks of making revolution and of continuing revolution after the overthrow of capitalism. This has an impact on matters of security, on the basis of unity we select, on the way we train each other and select leadership. We are forging a revolutionary movement under hostile conditions -- and potential attack. And only fools would ignore that, including at the beginning.

    This is either about making revolution and liberating humanity -- or it isn't worth doing.

  • Guest - comradealastair

    Mike said this: "I see no reason why a party cant have a basic and central basis of unity, which defines membership and therefore what people represent — but that also allows party members to express their own views to each other and people broadly on a wide range of political and ideological matters (within that common framework). I see no reasons why a commnist can’t say “My party generally thinks a, b, and c. And I personally tend to think x, y, and z.”

    I thought I should comment on this, because this is exactly the approach that my own organisation, the Workers Party of New Zealand, takes on the issue. We're an organisation that contains both pro-Mao comrades and pro-Trotsky comrades, and we have absolutely no problems whatsoever with this. Our position is that historical differences over the precise character of the Soviet Union, Stalin vs Trotsky, the GPCR or whatever can be discussed at our leisure and if it is absolutely necessary to take a position on these issues, it can be done in the future.
    What's far more important is dedicating all our efforts to building a revolutionary party and a revolutionary movement here in NZ today, and providing support and solidarity to liberation movements abroad, from Venezuela and the Philippines to Ireland and Nepal.

    We remain small, with about 40 cadre, but that makes us by far the largest Marxist organisation in New Zealand, and we've consistently grown over the past six years from a group that orginally counted less than 10 people. This is kinda indicative of the size and strength of the communist movement in NZ! :P

    But our example proves that it is possible to have differences of opinion, including reasonably significant ones, within an organisation, so long as you are united around a basic platform and some key positions, and that it is possible for these mostly historical differences to exist without that leading to splits and factionalising. If anything, I think it's positive in every way, as it leads to an friendly and democratic internal culture without any of the paranoia and smothering control described here.

    From the WP constitution;

    (iii) Members are free to publicly express any political view, so long as it is not in contradiction with the aims set out in section (1).

    (iv) Members are also free to publicly express dissent on majority decisions of branches and national conference, so long as they do not try to obstruct the implementation of those decisions and do not contradict the party’s aims set out in section (1).

    I'm not trying to make out that the Workers Party is a shining light in the darkness that everyone should emulate, that would be ridiculous. But as there are a lot of discussions going on in this site that I and other WP comrades find very interesting, I thought I'd add my two cents to this discussion.

    The Workers Party website is www.workersparty.org.nz, so incidentally it should be changed on the international links thing on this page. ;-)

  • Guest - chegitz guevara

    3rd time's the charm (can someone delete the previous two attempts?)

    Linda D asks:

    <blockquote>But Mike said:
    “I see no reasons why a communist can’t say “My party generally thinks a, b, and c. And I personally tend to think x, y, and z.”

    Is such a proposition even possible under a d.c. organization, or am I just so “brainwashed” by the RCP’s version, am having trouble wrapping my mind around it. How is the above d.c.?</blockquote>

    I would like to point to my piece posted earlier this year on Kasama, <i><a href="/http://mikeely.wordpress.com/2008/03/02/rescuing-lenin-from-the-leninists/" rel="nofollow">Rescuing Lenin from the Leninists.</a></i> When we study how democratic centralism worked within the Bolshevik organization and compare it to how it has been practiced since the Russian Revolution, we must come to one of two conclusions. Either Lenin didn’t practice DC or we haven’t. I’m inclined towards the latter.

  • Guest - land

    I wrote a post #9 on DC.

    Riding home on the bus I was thinking what is wrong with the way I am thinking about this?

    One thing. There are different stages. And different needs. In China things were in some places decentralized. What do we need for a communist organization at this time with all that is going on around us.

    Almost all the posts have pointed out the weirdness of the RCP's view on DC.

    An example of this was around the question of homosexuality.
    Almost everyone I knew thought the position was wrong. I do not think I ever met a single person that tried to defend it. With the exception of leadership who mainly said nothing.

    Yet it was summed up only after at least 10 years and then there were moanings and groanings about "the Party was so busy they just couldn't get to it.

    I still think we need DC. But there needs to be a hell of alot of discussion about this. How can we think about this starting fresh.

    Not only do we have this government ruining the lives of people all over the world. Many people are clear on this. But they are not clear on what it is going to take to make revolution and
    in addition to all that there is a Party that is running around talking about preparing for revolution and doing nothing of the kind.

    Kasama has it's work cut out for us. I never thought I would be so interested in the internet.

  • Guest - Juan

    What I'm wondering is why would a conscious membership accept the imposition of a new Constitution, a new Program, and a an ideological Manifesto, including key questions on the role of the leadership and its composition, <strong>without</strong> a Party Congress to discuss, decide, and enact those measures? Surely, if the PCP could pull that off under wartime conditions, the membership of the RCP could expect their own party to hold one under conditions of full legality.

  • Guest - Dave

    For the record: I don't actually think that Bob Avakian is using the term "alternative lifestyle" as a coded term for same-sex relationships. However, given that "alternative lifestyle" is a commonly-used euphemism for same-sex relationships, and given Avakian's previously-held views on same-sex relationships, I found his constantly-repeated use of the term "alternative lifestyle" to describe his opponents somewhat amusing. It's sort of like if someone who used to be known for his racist views but now claims to be reformed were to go around calling his opponents "niggardly."

    (Like, for example, a certain senior West Virginia Democratic senator).

    Mike's comment that "there is a yawning gap between the party’s own (often hysterical) view of its role, and the relative impotence and irrelevance of its real political impact," is a serious candidate for understatement of the century. The questions that arise from this are: what led to the formation of this gap, what is a correct view of our role, what does it mean to have a real political impact, and what kind of organization is needed in order to constitute an effective political force?

    I don't claim to have a clear set of answers to these questions, so I am glad to see that these questions are being discussed.

  • Guest - orinda

    OK, I can perhaps explain why the RCP's position on homosexuality lasted as long as it did. Even though I had contradictions with it myself, the RCP was the only group that was not afraid to point out that there was a lot of misogyny in the male homosexual community. Every other leftist group pretended it didn't exist at all. Of course, there is more than plenty of misogyny in mainstream culture too, I'm not downplaying that. It was just that so many leftists pretended sexism didn't exist among male homosexuals because they were too oppressed themselves to oppress women. Now I can see it's more complex, both sides were wrong. Oppressed groups can play bad roles in relation to other oppressed people. I don't think this means the RCP was right to keep their position for so long. From what I recall of the struggle that took place, I don't recall Avakian ever stating himself he thought the position was wrong. I suspect the Central Committee over ruled him. But maybe I'm wrong.

  • Guest - Iris

    I thought there had been feminists pointing out misogyny in gay culture at least since the late 80's? And feminists have been arguing about the reproduction of heteronormative values in lesbian relationships since...there have been arguments for lesbian separatism!

    I'll try to find some sources on that in my anthologies. Also, it is just whack that this position was held during the AIDS crisis. They are correct about misogyny being prevalent in gay culture, but they trailed waaaaay behind on all these fascinating advances on theory of the nature of gender--like the Jon Katz book Mike posted. I mean, I view the (mainstream) politics of the gay rights movement through the lens of CLASS and gender. They dropped the ball.

    I'm just wondering if there was old-school homophobia or just misunderstanding at the top of the chain. The RCP spoke against the abuse and attacks on 'homosexuals'.

    Did they ever apologize for officially keeping members in the closet, or gay applicants out?

  • Guest - A voice from Hunan Province

    Blackmail and what that means in a rev movement (infiltration) was a cardinal consideration in the old days for closet homosexuals. Why would today openly homosexual members be considered a security risk?

    Party congresses have always been dangerous, not that would be the case here in the US, yet. Look at the repeated sweeps used to deadly effect in Iran on the Sarbedaran trend of the early CPI (ML). Devestating, in fact, lethal if organized incorrectly, that can force a party into exile and destroy implementing a mass line for decades, as in Iran's case.

    Also, do not figure that the Peruvian comrades did not have the same problems.

  • Guest - A voice from Hunan Province

    damn acronyms ... it's CPI (MLM) of the RIM.

  • Guest - Eddy

    <BLOCKQUOTE>I’m just wondering if there was old-school homophobia</BLOCKQUOTE>

    I'll suggest that the short answer is 'yes', but the longer answer is that the position represents the clear influence of oppressive ideologies being codified with a pseudo-marxist veneer.

    Consequently, I don't think I've ever run into anyone who was waiting for the RCP to actually take up a specific struggle that involved the democratic/civil rights of L/G/T/B individuals or groups.

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