- Category: Race & Liberation
- Created on Thursday, 07 August 2008 10:20
- Written by the Revolutionary Formerly Known as Akil Bomani
In 2005 the RCP launched a campaign aimed at rallying African Americans around communism and, in particular, around Bob Avakian. They called it the RC4 tour (Revolutionary Communist 4). It consisted of four African American speakers: Carl Dix, Joe Veale, Clyde Young and myself (or as I was known at the time, Akil Bomani).
The tour was a colossal failure as it was fraught with messy contradictions from the very start. While there were a myriad of reasons (even many I may not be aware of) for its ineffectiveness, I will elaborate on what I saw to be some of the main issues.
No roots in the African American Proletarian Communities
The RCP had very little political influence and connection (if any) to the African American communities it was trying to reach. We entered the communities as outsiders attempting to proselytize the inhabitants to become followers.
Too much of the campaign depended on the sudden spontaneity of the African American masses to be drawn to four African American revolutionary communists. (I believe the Nine Letters spoke to this tendency of the RCP in general and referred to it as idealism and volunteerism).
If there had been extensive, constant and vibrant political work taking place within these communities, and the RCP had actually had a relatively definitive presence therein, then possibly spontaneity would have been in our favor. However, any political work within these particular communities had either gone stagnant, was very marginalized or did not exist at all.
As a result, organizers in the different areas were forced to desperately scramble at the last minute to gather immediate ties to attend speaking engagements --which averaged somewhere between 25 to 50 people, most of which were not African Americans. The intention had been to gather hundreds.
A movement rallying any group of people around a revolutionary ideology simply can’t be imposed from the outside. It has to emerge from within. For this to happen, revolutionary forces have to already be strongly entrenched within these areas and politically engaged with the people. This apparently was not the case for the RCP with regard to the RC4 tour and their lofty aspirations for it came crashing down on the pavement of material reality.
On the Defensive from the Beginning
As a result of the overall Culture of Appreciation/Cult of Personality around Bob Avakian, the tour was inadvertently framed as a testimonial of why four Black revolutionaries chose to follow a white leader and further, why it was ok for other Blacks to follow this white leader. Whether or not this was the intention, it certainly was a driving element within the tour.
While the complexities of race relations involved in leadership deserve heavy theoretical attention and political struggle in many cases, here the fundamental problem lay in the Cult of Personality around Bob Avakian. The excessive efforts to defend Bob Avakian’s legitimacy as a leader to Blacks (many of which who do not a have a clue as to who he is) turned the topic away from the necessity of strong revolutionary communist forces in Black communities to an Avakian promotion campaign. The Cult of Personality push by the RCP had its own problems—many of which are pointed out sharply in the Nine Letters—and when intertwined with the objectives of the RC4 tour, these problems only thickened.
In particular, the artificial and self-declared “specialness” and “irreplacibility” of Bob Avakian as a leader has absolutely no bearing in a community of people who have never heard of him or had any engagement with his party.
This leads back to the previous point: There were no active political roots within these areas. Therefore, Avakian has no “track record” (for lack of a better word) among them to back any claims made by him or his party members about his indispensability as a leader to them.
Again, given the contradictions of race relations in the U.S., it is largely an unavoidable issue when it comes to leadership. But a leader of whatever racial orientation has to both have a connection to the community he/she intends to claim the ability of leadership over and actual “substance” (the dignity of actuality) to reinforce his/her claims of competency.
Thus, we could tout as many slogans as we wanted about his “irreplacibility”, but without evidence, we were defending an empty argument.
Pioneers or Puppeteers
Avakian has certainly made very valuable contributions to the field of Marxism. It was in fact his works that started me along the revolutionary road of communism. Further, his party has made very valuable contributions over its lifetime and I am grateful for what I’ve learned through my affiliation with them. However, within the context of the RC4, I couldn’t help but to feel as though we were being used as front men or spokespersons within the Black community to connect them to Bob Avakian.
It was obvious of course that racial orientation was a significant factor in creating the team of speakers. I don’t think there was anything in particular wrong with that. We all had direct experience and history within the Black community and were seen as relatively advanced revolutionary communists, and these latter aspects more than anything were probably the more principal reasons we were chosen.
The problem was that this tour was too much structured as Avakian’s cult of personality gateway into the Black community. As a result, RC4 members were made out to be Black representatives of Avakian and his party. This approach basically was saying two things:
1) “it’s ok to follow this man because we’re Black like you and we do” and
2) Avakian needs certified Blacks to talk to other Blacks to get them to accept his cult of personality.
The problems here are quite evident.Altogether, race relations in the U.S. often complicate revolutionary politics. (They can even complicate mainstream politics as we see with the Obama circus.) They can cause unfortunate barriers between groups whose objective interests lie in their unified struggle against common enemies. For any revolutionary force to be effective in helping groups realize this common interest, they have to have active political roots within their communities and engage the daily affairs and struggles of these groups and not simply come from the outside making unsubstantial claims using “representatives” of those groups to reinforce those claims.