|This biographical article relies on references to primary sources. (June 2013)|
Bob Avakian (born on March 7, 1943) is Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (RCP), which he has led since its formation in 1975. He is a veteran of the Free Speech Movement and the Left of the 1960s and early 1970s, and was closely associated with the Black Panther Party. He has continually published writings on Marxism and Maoism for over 35 years and is viewed by many inside and outside the communist movement as the foremost Maoist revolutionary in the U.S. He has described his body of theoretical work and everything he does as a communist leader as focused on "developing a scientific understanding of the world and providing leadership in radically transforming it toward the goal of revolution and the final aim of communism." Avakian writes regularly for the newspaper of the RCP, Revolution (formerly titled Revolutionary Worker).
Avakian defines the basic aims of the communist revolution as seeking "to make those two radical ruptures of which Marx and Engels spoke: the radical rupture with traditional property relations and with traditional ideas. It seeks not to replace one form of exploitation with another but to do away with all forms of exploitation and indeed ultimately to eliminate all class distinctions." 
There is much contention even among communists around Avakian's development of what he has defined as a "new synthesis": what he describes as a recasting of the theoretical framework for carrying forward communist revolution; a re-envisioning of revolution and communism. Over the past 30 years, Avakian has critically examined what he views as the "first stage of the communist revolution" as concentrated in the revolutionary societies in the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China.
In his body of work, Avakian attempts to excavate, for critical evaluation, not only the practice of these revolutions, but also many of the fundamental theoretical concepts, from Marx, Lenin and Mao, underlying the strategic thinking and first experiences in making revolution and transforming society. While he upholds what he calls the great achievements of these revolutions and what he claims they have proven in terms of the possibility of people being able to create a better world, at the same time Avakian has been developing new thinking which he characterizes as real ruptures with elements of the past understanding and experience, a synthesis which he describes as reviving the "viability and, yes, the desirability of a whole new and radically different world, and placing this on an ever firmer foundation of materialism and dialectics … a source of hope and of daring on a solid scientific foundation." Some of the main elements of this new synthesis address philosophy and method; proletarian internationalism; the character of the dictatorship of the proletariat. and socialist society as a transition to communism; and a strategic approach to revolution, including on the possibility and approach of actually making revolution in a developed country such as the U.S.
A basic premise of his body of work has been that communism is not only a revolutionary political movement, but also a science, a scientific approach and method to understand and change the world. He has spoken of "the importance of the unity between grasping and applying Marxism as a way to engage all of reality, on the one hand, and its particular application to the problems of making revolution, on the other hand." This basic premise, that communism is a science, has historically been a major point of contention with liberal thinkers such as Karl Popper, other communists in the international community, and for a long time, even within the RCP.
While his "new synthesis" is at the heart of Avakian's works, he has written on a variety of other subjects that are related to society and revolution, including extensive radical and provocative critiques of traditional thinking, from democracy to religion. Avakian is an outspoken atheist.
Avakian was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in Berkeley, California. His father, Spurgeon "Sparky" Avakian (1913–2002), the son of Armenian immigrants who settled in Fresno, California, to farm, was an Alameda County judge in Oakland, California, and member of the Berkeley School Board. His mother, Ruth, was from Berkeley.
Avakian describes in his memoir that as a young person, he had passion for music, sports, poetry and literature, and these intersected with his life growing up in the 1950s and 1960s in Berkeley, a city with a mixed black and white population which was marked by discrimination and racism, but a city which was also becoming a center of a developing intellectual, cultural and political ferment (which would have a major impact on the whole country). Growing up and going to school with both black and white friends, singing in doo-wop groups and playing sports, Avakian experienced up close and personal the prevailing segregation and racism in society and the ways it affected his black friends. As a young person, Avakian came to hate racism and would brook no tolerance for white people who were racist or did not uncompromisingly oppose it. He was the quarterback of his high school football team at Berkeley High. In his memoir he recounts the experience of a late night bus ride after a game,
On the way back after the game I was sitting with some Black friends of mine on the football team, and we got into this whole deep conversation about why is there so much racism in this country, why is there so much prejudice and where does it come from, and can it ever change, and how could it change? This was mainly them talking and me listening. And I remember that very, very deeply – I learned a lot more in that one hour than I learned in hours of classroom time, even from some of the better teachers.
His early passion for sports in general, but especially basketball, could have led his life in an entirely different direction. As he explains in his memoir,
I always thought that if I hadn't ended up being a communist, maybe I would have been a high school basketball coach – but I was feeling that my life should be about something more than sports, as much as I still had real passion about that. I felt that there were so many big things going on in the world, I wanted to do something with my life that would mean something or, to use the phrase of the time, be relevant and not just be a personal passion for me.
Going into college he had yearned to learn multiple languages, to study literature and philosophy, and to play football. He started school at the University of California at Berkeley in the fall of 1961, and was trying out for Cal’s freshmen football team, but was forced to leave school when he faced a life-threatening health problem, which kept him in and out of the hospital for months, and out of school for one year, and which did not resolve completely for at least three years.
Early political career
It was at Berkeley through his involvement with the Free Speech Movement that Avakian took his first steps into political activism. Avakian, in different ways, and over a period of time, became deeply engaged in the movements of the times: the anti-war movement, the student movement, the black liberation movement, the developing women’s movement and the incipient new communist movement in the U.S. Avakian's ideological and political development can be traced through these rebellious times, as he developed political relationships and friendships with many of the key figures of that era, engaging in many debates with the various trends in the movement, including working closely with the Black Panther Party, particularly Huey P. Newton and Eldridge Cleaver. Through his writing for the newspapers The Black Panther and Ramparts magazine, his work in Students for a Democratic Society and with the Peace and Freedom Party, and his participation in the many struggles of the time, Avakian began to develop as a revolutionary and seriously consider what kind of revolution and revolutionary leadership was needed.
In 1967 Avakian moved to Richmond, California, and started a collective "to integrate with the proletariat and take radical politics to the proletariat." It was in this period that Avakian and others began to more seriously study some of the "classics" of Marxism, as well as the writings of Mao Zedong, and to more seriously engage and explore a theoretical framework for their developing revolutionary inclinations.
In 1968 Avakian played a central role in uniting a number of revolutionary collectives into the Bay Area Revolutionary Union, with the view that this would be one organization among many (such as the Black Panther Party as well as other organizations and collectives) which at some point would build ideological and political unity as the basis for a new multi-national communist party.
Into the 1970s these organizations continued to develop their positions on important questions related to revolution and communism, questions such as: If you are going to be for revolution, what kind of revolution? How can you make that revolution? What kind of leadership do you need? What kind of program do you need? What kind of forces do you need to mobilize and unite?
While fierce in his condemnation of all inequality and oppression and an ardent supporter of those who genuinely fight for their liberation, he sought to understand the dynamic underpinnings of society which give rise to inequality and oppression. This investigation along with the debates and ferment of the times led him to view Marxism as the theoretical framework that most scientifically synthesized an understanding of the world.
Through his writings in the Red Papers, the theoretical journal of the Revolutionary Union, Avakian began to develop a method and approach with which to examine many of the key historical questions of the communist movement and theory, as well as the sharp and controversial issues of the day. These issues included whether the Soviet Union was still a socialist country or whether Mao Zedong’s theses of "capitalist restoration" in the Soviet Union was true; whether China, under Mao, was a revolutionary socialist country; what was the character of the oppression of black people in the U.S. and the relation of this to revolutionary strategy, and other contested issues.
Through a very protracted process, which included theoretical debate around the critical issues of what kind of revolution is needed, issues of revolutionary strategy, and very closely linked to these issues, the question of what comprises revolutionary leadership, Avakian played a key role in the development of a new communist party in the U.S. In 1970 the Bay Area Revolutionary Union became a national organization (renamed the Revolutionary Union); this organization itself went through splits over positions in relation to the above questions. This process involved debates and sharp ideological struggles among revolutionary and communist organizations (and individuals) throughout the country, and culminated, in 1975, in the formation of the RCP. At its founding congress, Avakian was elected chairman of its central committee.
"Restoration of Capitalism" in China, arrest and self-exile
In 1976, shortly after the death of Mao Zedong, the followers of Mao (known as the "Gang of Four") were arrested and new leadership took over the Communist Party of China. Among communists both within the U.S. and internationally there were major differences on how to understand what had happened in China. Within the RCP, after a process of internal study and debate, the issue came to a head in a meeting of the RCP's central committee, where a majority of the leadership, led by Avakian, in reaction to the events, took up the position that what had occurred in China was a coup that overthrew socialism and was in the process of unleashing capitalism in China. This led to a major split in the RCP with a significant minority who supported the new leaders in China leaving the Party.
In January 1979 a demonstration was held in Washington DC on the occasion of Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping's meeting with Jimmy Carter to expose what the RCP and Avakian viewed as Deng's "reversal" of the revolution in China. There was a confrontation and the RCP claimed that the police attacked the demonstration, resulting in many in the demonstration injured and many arrested, including Avakian. The federal government brought serious multiple felony charges against seventeen people, including Avakian. The charges against Avakian were dropped in 1982.
While fighting these charges, Avakian went on a national speaking tour in 1979 and while in Los Angeles, gave an interview to an L.A. Times reporter. In her article, the reporter attributed statements to Avakian that were distortions, which the Secret Service then used as a pretext for an investigation. After being threatened with a lawsuit, the L.A. Times printed a partial retraction. The Secret Service investigation was challenged in court, and nothing ever came of this investigation.
In 1980 the RCP faced many arrests and other suppression. At the same time Damián García, who was closely associated with the RCP and who had raised a red flag on top of the Alamo a few weeks earlier as part of building for RCP-sponsored demonstrations on May Day 1980, was murdered in Los Angeles. According to Avakian's memoirs, within this same period there were growing reports of death threats against him from various quarters.
Citing the history in the U.S. of political assassinations of revolutionaries (including Malcolm X and Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton), and the increasing attacks and threats against Avakian, in 1981 Avakian left the country and went into self-exile in France. He has continued to be the Chairman of the RCP.
Many of Avakian's writings and edited transcripts of a number of talks have been published in the RCP’s newspaper, Revolution, and its predecessor, Revolutionary Worker. There are also a number of audio recordings of these talks that have been released. In 2003 Avakian appeared at two speaking engagements (on the East and West Coasts of the United States), delivering a talk “Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About” which is in DVD distribution.
Avakian's "New Theoretical Synthesis"
Avakian contests the conventional wisdom that the experience of the communist revolutions of the 20th century has proven the failure of communism. Instead, he draws an analogy to Europe in the period between the 15th and 19th centuries during which there were revolutions and counter-revolutions, but nonetheless resulted in the eventual triumph of capitalism and bourgeois democracy and the supersession of the feudal order. He maintains that while the defeats of the revolutions in the Soviet Union and then the People’s Republic of China were painful setbacks, the goals of revolution and communism remain necessary and viable. He further maintains that for communists and communism to move forward from these defeats it is necessary to "scientifically and critically evaluate this first stage of communist revolution", and on this basis further develop the theoretical framework upon which to continue the struggle for revolution and communism.
While providing overall leadership to the RCP, he has, over the last 30 years, applied himself to this theoretical task. Among the works that have been major stepping stones of his evaluation are: Conquer the World? The International Proletariat Must and Will (1981), "The End of a Stage, the Beginning of a New Stage”' (1989), and more recently "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity", Part 1 and Part 2 (2007). The result of this work has been the emergence of what he has termed a "new synthesis", a further development of the theoretical framework for carrying forward a new stage in this revolution.
Avakian's study has involved the exploration and intellectual interrogation of communist theory and practice in socialist states as well as in the communist movement more broadly; and at the same time Avakian has studied the criticisms, of various kinds and from various standpoints (including from non-communists and those hostile to communism), of that experience. While maintaining that he has proceeded from the basic framework of communist scientific theory building off of the theoretical foundation chiefly developed by Marx, Lenin and Mao in its first stage, Avakian argues that this represents a major theoretical rupture within that framework.
Summing up the experience of the first stage of communist revolution, Avakian argues that "the principal aspect, looking at this with historical perspective, is firmly uphold [the historical experience of socialism]. These were positive, very positive, unprecedented breakthroughs that were achieved in the historical experience of socialism; and, at the same time, there were real and in some cases very serious shortcomings that we don't want to repeat, and should not have to repeat, even with all the necessity we're going to be up against. We ought to be able, at least in crucial spheres, to make leaps and ruptures beyond this."
This new synthesis, in Avakian's words, "involves a recasting and recombining of the positive aspects of the experience so far of the communist movement and of socialist society, while learning from the negative aspects of this experience, in the philosophical and ideological as well as the political dimensions …"
This is a very controversial position in the international communist movement, as there are those who argue that the previous socialist experiences have principally been flawed and there is a need for a whole new theory; and conversely, there are those who argue it is "heresy" to critically evaluate and recast and re-envision the road to socialism and communism.
Philosophy and method
Avakian argues that what is necessary is a scientific approach to evaluating the experiences of the communist movement and socialist society, both in its practice and in the underlying conceptions, in their philosophical and ideological as well as political dimensions. This premise also challenges traditional thinking within the communist movement, which has tended to see the process of revolution as some kind of linear and almost "fated" development, which imbues the advance of revolution and communism with some kind of "historical inevitability". Avakian traces some secondary shortcomings in this direction all the way back to Marxism at its foundation. Avakian's basic thesis contends that while Marx has scientifically explained how the basic contradictions of capitalist society will give rise, again and again, to the most horrid conditions, and that while these contradictions and horrors can only be resolved through revolution and communism, this resolution is not inevitable. Avakian agrees that the possibility exists of eliminating exploitive production relations and class relations in society and their expression in social relations and ideas. However, he argues that this can only be understood and transformed in the interests of all humanity if consciously approached and understood on a scientific basis – and this is something that can be done, and needs to be done, by all who come to see the need for revolution and communism.
Epistemologically, Avakian has critically examined tendencies in the communist movement to view truth as "class truth". This is the view that truth is dependent on which class outlook one brings to the pursuit of the truth, and includes the notion that there is such a thing as "proletarian truth”. In contrast to this, Avakian has argued that truth is a scientifically-based objective expression or explanation of reality. He has polemicized against the philosophical view of "class truth" (as well as pragmatism, instrumentalism and positivism and has called on communists "to rupture more fully with instrumentalism – with notions of making reality an 'instrument' of our objectives, of distorting reality to try to make it serve our ends, of 'political truth'." He has emphasized that an important part of the process to communism and an important element of communist morality is the recognition that truth matters. And as he argues, under socialism, this process of getting to truth will involve unleashing all of socialist society, in its various realms, including fostering ferment and dissent in all of this.
In connection to all this Avakian has attached great importance to imagination, maintaining that "there is a unity between a systematic and comprehensive scientific method and outlook for comprehending and transforming reality, and giving flight to the imagination and giving expression to the 'need to be amazed'."
While continuing to adhere to philosophical materialism – a foundation point of Marxism – Avakian has simultaneously argued against a tendency toward mechanical materialism. He has devoted sections of many of his works to further explorations of what he describes as dialectical materialism which is also integral to Marxism. Avakian continues this in his recently published talk, "Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon – Part 1: Revolution and the State".
Avakian has addressed extensively the question of proletarian internationalism, arguing that that the proletarian world revolution must be viewed as a single integrated world process in which the international arena is overall principle; that socialism must in the first place be built as a base area for the world revolution; and that in their approach to revolution, communists must proceed from an understanding of what will advance revolution on a world scale.
Avakian contends that as long as capitalist-imperialist relations of exploitation and production and an oppressive capitalist state still have a foothold in the world, there is the basis for these relations to recreate themselves and spread elsewhere. And that in fact, it is quite likely that socialism in particular countries is bound to be reversed unless further advances are made in the world proletarian revolution. Further, Avakian argues that in an ultimate and overall sense, the development of a revolutionary situation in a particular country is more determined by developments in the world as a whole than by developments in that country – and emphasizes that this understanding must be incorporated into the approach to revolution, in particular countries as well as on a world scale.
[T]he achievement of [the necessary conditions for communism] must take place on a world scale, through a long and tortuous process of revolutionary transformation in which there will be uneven development, the seizure of power in different countries at different times, and a complex dialectical interplay between the revolutionary struggles and the revolutionization of society in these different countries … [a dialectical relation] in which the world arena is fundamentally and ultimately decisive while the mutually interacting and mutually supporting struggles of the proletarians in different countries constitute the key link in fundamentally changing the world as a whole.
On the Dictatorship of the Proletariat and Socialism as a Transition to Communism
Avakian has argued that while it is true that the proletariat as a class will be the backbone social base which is most strongly compelled to make communist revolution, at the same time, it must be recognized that the process of revolution is a very complicated and difficult process: that increasingly ever larger sections and various strata of society must be drawn into and enthusiastically take up this struggle, or very soon the revolution will fail, that is its communist objectives will be undermined and some form of capitalism will be restored. Related to this, he has argued that while a very crucial task of socialism will be to figure out how to transform the economy in order to employ, feed and house people and in general take care of society’s and people’s material requirements, and while doing all this continue to overcome the scars of the capitalist past, that a new dimension needs to be brought forward (even as compared to the Soviet Union and China during the period when he considered them genuine revolutionary societies) of what socialism will look like:
… opening up qualitatively more space to give expression to the intellectual and cultural needs of the people, broadly understood, and enabling a more diverse and rich process of exploration and experimentation in the realms of science, art and culture, and intellectual life overall, with increasing scope for the contention of different ideas and schools of thought and for individual initiative and creativity and protection of individual rights, including space for individuals to interact in "civil society" independently of the state – all within an overall cooperative and collective framework and at the same time as state power is maintained and further developed as a revolutionary state power serving the interests of the proletarian revolution, in the particular country and worldwide, with this state being the leading and central element in the economy and in the overall direction of society, while the state itself is being continually transformed into something radically different from all previous states, as a crucial part of the advance toward the eventual abolition of the state with the achievement of communism on a world scale.
This approach has been encapsulated in the formulation, "solid core with a lot of elasticity".
Another hallmark of Avakian is his stress on the role of the masses as "emancipators of humanity", where the masses are the conscious driving force of revolution; a revolution that is not about revenge nor about changes of position within the horizons of the existing class framework, but a revolution which is about the emancipation of all humanity.
Strategic Approach to Revolution
Avakian views the emergence of a "revolutionary situation" – briefly, following Lenin, a situation of major crisis in society and government in which millions of formerly inactive people have taken up political causes and, in specific, have become convinced of the need for revolution – as essential to an actual struggle for power in an advanced country. Avakian has also taken up the position for an orientation of "hastening, while awaiting" the emergence of such a situation – actively attempting to influence public opinion and organize followers to both hasten the emergence of such a situation, shape its character, and prepare to take advantage of it. In the words of the RCP's Constitution, this involves the party hypothetically leading "whole ensemble of revolutionary preparations", with party's press and the spreading of Avakian's theory. On that foundation, the mobilization of mass resistance, the raising of consciousness, and the recruitment of new members also goes on.
Avakian has also put forward a strategy of "United Front under the Leadership of the Proletariat." This involves a particular focus on the proletariat, while attempting to influence and mobilize people of many other strata. A critical part of this is the struggle of what the RCP calls "oppressed nationalities" – specifically, African-Americans, Chicanos (or Mexican Americans), Native Americans, Puerto Ricans and others more conventionally grouped under the rubric of "people of color." Speaking specifically of African-Americans, Avakian has written that:
There will never be a revolutionary movement in this country that doesn’t fully unleash and give expression to the sometimes openly expressed, sometimes expressed in partial ways, sometimes expressed in wrong ways, but deeply, deeply felt desire to be rid of these long centuries of oppression [of Black people]. There’s never gonna be a revolution in this country, and there never should be, that doesn’t make that one key foundation of what it's all about.
Avakian has been a critic of democracy, arguing that democracy cannot be viewed as a universal notion of equality, understood as above or separate from class societies. Avakian takes up the position that any democracy that exists with different classes, one class will always be able to exploit another class. In his book, Democracy: Can’t We Do Better Than That?, Avakian has developed polemics against Hannah Arendt and the "theory of totalitarianism" as well as other prominent theoreticians of democracy, including Locke and Rousseau. Specifically speaking to the history of the United States, Avakian has recently published Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy, which attempts to deconstruct the philosophical basis, and consequences, of Jeffersonian democracy.
Claims of "Cult of Personality"
The RCP has been widely criticized on the Left for constructing a cult of personality around Avakian. During an interview with a college radio program in Madison, Wisconsin whether there was a cult of personality being developed around Bob Avakian, Avakian responded "I certainly hope so — we’ve been working very hard to create one."
The debate has taken on renewed life since a prominent fellow affiliate in the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), has disassociated themselves from this method of promoting leaders. Avakian contends that there are two mainstays of communist political work: the role of the party press and the 'Appreciation, Promotion and Popularization' of Bob Avakian".
Mike Ely, a founding member of the RCP as well as former editor of Revolution, recently broke with Avakian citing the RCP's position that Bob Avakian's personal status is a "cardinal question".
- BAsics from the Talks and Writings of Bob Avakian (2011), ISBN 0-89851-010-4
- Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World (2008), ISBN 0-9760236-8-7
- Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy (2008), ISBN 0-89851-004-X
- From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist (2005), ISBN 978-0-9760236-2-3
- Observations on Art and Culture, Science and Philosophy (2005), ISBN 978-0-9760236-3-0
- Marxism and the Call of the Future: Conversations on Ethics, History, and Politics, co-authored with Bill Martin (2005), ISBN 978-0-8126-9579-3
- Preaching From a Pulpit of Bones: We Need Morality But Not Traditional Morality (1999), ISBN 0-9760236-4-4
- Phony Communism is Dead … Long Live Real Communism! – A Response to the Claims of the "Death of Communism" (1992, 2004), ISBN 0-89851-122-4
- Democracy: Can't We Do Better Than That? (1986), ISBN 0-916650-29-4
- A Horrible End: Or, The End to the Horror? (1984), ISBN 0-89851-070-8
- For a Harvest of Dragons: On the "Crisis of Marxism" and the Power of Marxism Now More Than Ever – An Essay Marking the 100th Anniversary of Marx's Death (1983), ISBN 0-89851-065-1
- Conquer the World? The International Proletariat Must and Will (1981)
- The Immortal Contributions of Mao Tsetung (1979), ISBN 0-89851-046-5
- The Loss in China and the Revolutionary Legacy of Mao Tsetung (1978), ISBN 0-89851-017-1
- "Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon" – "Part 1: Revolution and the State" and "Part 2: Building the Movement for Revolution" (2010)
- "Some Principles for Building a Movement for Revolution" (May 2010)
- "There is No 'Permanent Necessity' for Things to Be This Way – A Radically Different and Better World Can Be Brought Into Being Through Revolution" (March 2010)
- "Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces for Revolution" (Fall 2009)
- "Ruminations and Wranglings: On the Importance of Marxist Materialism, Communism as a Science, Meaningful Revolutionary Work, and a Life with Meaning" (2009)
- "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity" (2007), "Part 1: Beyond the Narrow Horizon of Bourgeois Right" and "Part 2: Everything We're Doing is About Revolution"
- "Bringing Forward Another Way" (2006)
- "The Need for Communists to be … Communists (2005)
- "The Oppression of Black People and the Revolutionary Struggle to End All Oppression" (2007), Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
- "Views on Socialism and Communism: A Radically New Kind of State, A Radically Different and Far Greater Vision of Freedom" (2005)
- "The Basis, the Goals, and the Methods of the Communist Revolution" (2005)
- "The Coming Civil War and Repolarizing for Revolution in the Present Era" (2005)
- "On Truth … On Knowing, and Changing, the World: A Discussion with Comrades on Epistemology" (2004)
- "Dictatorship and Democracy, and the Socialist Transition to Communism" (2002)
- "All Played Out" (available at soundcloud.com/allplayedout)
- Seven Talks (available at BobAvakian.net)
- "Bob Avakian Speaks Out: On War and Revolution, On Being a Revolutionary and Changing the World", interviewed by Carl Dix, Vol. 1 and 2, on CD (available on BobAvakian.net)
- "Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About", at RevolutionTalk.net
- Unless otherwise indicated, biographical material is drawn primarily from Avakian's memoir, From Ike to Mao and Beyond – My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist, Chicago: Insight Press (2005).
- Black Panthers – Huey!, Agnes Varda's documentary film of the February 17, 1968 rally to free Black Panther Party leader Huey Newton held at the Oakland Auditorium; and archival footage. Avakian was one of the guest speakers at the rally.
- Avakian, "On the Role of Communist Leadership and Some Basic Questions of Orientation, Approach and Method", Revolution No. 156, February 15, 2009.
- Avakian, Phony Communism is Dead … Long Live Real Communism!, p. 10.
- To get a sense of this, see COMMUNISM: THE BEGINNING OF A NEW STAGE – A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, Sec. V, "Communism at a Crossroads" (pp. 30-33 in published version).
- COMMUNISM: THE BEGINNING OF A NEW STAGE, Sec. III (pp. 17-22 in published version).
- In common with other Maoists in the world, Avakian and the RCP analyze the period when the Soviet Union was a genuine socialist society as being from 1917 through the mid-1950s only (see, for example, Editorial Department of Renmin Ribao (People's Daily) and Hongqi (Red Flag), "On Khrushchov's Phoney Communism and Its Historical Lessons for the World", Peking: Foreign Languages Press (1964). Avakian and the RCP also point to the period from 1949 through shortly after Mao Zedong's death in 1976 as when the People's Republic of China was genuinely revolutionary (Avakian, The Loss in China and the Revolutionary Legacy of Mao Tsetung).
- Avakian, "Views on Socialism and Communism", first three subsections.
- Avakian, "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity", end of "Part 1: Beyond the Narrow Horizon of Bourgeois Right".
- Avakian and the RCP define "proletariat" as "an international class which owns nothing yet has created and works these massive socialized productive forces" of today's world. It is also the "first class in history whose emancipation requires the kind of revolution that will sweep away all – not some, but all – exploitative and oppressive relations, and the political structures and ways of thinking that arise from and reinforce these relations" (taken from the Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA). Compare this to the Wikipedia definition at proletariat. Concerning the term "dictatorship of the proletariat", while there are many elements to this in communist theory and controversies surrounding it, in very brief, the dictatorship of the proletariat is the new revolutionary state power that replaces the overthrown state machinery of the old exploiting classes (capitalist-imperialist or in some cases feudal comprador) and is radically different from all previous forms of state which all have been class dictatorships serving exploiting classes and their political domination. This "new state must itself be a transition to a communist society, abolishing all class distinctions and the state itself". (Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA).
- COMMUNISM: THE BEGINNING OF A NEW STAGE, Sec. IV (pp. 22-29 in published version).
- Avakian, Observations on Art and Culture, Science and Philosophy, "A Scientific Approach to Maoism, a Scientific Approach to Science", p. 89.
- See, for example, Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies, Vol. 2. For an extensive polemic from Avakian on this, see "Marxism as a Science – Refuting Karl Popper", Revolution, No. 110, November 25, 2007.
- COMMUNISM: THE BEGINNING OF A NEW STAGE, Sec. V and VI (pp. 30-45 in published version).
- Biographical material on Avakian's early life is drawn primarily from his memoir, From Ike to Mao and Beyond.
- From Ike to Mao and Beyond, p. 65.
- From Ike to Mao and Beyond, p. 115.
- Black Panthers – Huey!, Agnes Varda's documentary film of the February 17, 1968 rally to free Huey Newton; and archival footage.
- See, for example, Avakian, "The Democratic Party: Oppressor of the People", The Black Panther, November 2, 1968.
- Avakian was listed as a contributing staff writer to Ramparts from September 1966 through March 1968.
- From Ike to Mao and Beyond, Ch. 5, 6 and 7.
- From Ike to Mao and Beyond, p. 152.
- Avakian explains in his memoir why he and many others from the New Left were "overwhelmingly disgusted" with the existing Communist Party, USA, believing that it had given up working for a revolution, and why such forces believed that a new communist party was needed; see From Ike to Mao and Beyond, pp. 149-150.
- From Ike to Mao and Beyond, Ch. 9 and especially p. 197.
- See, for example, archival footage of Avakian speaking at a Black Panther Party rally in 1969.
- From Ike to Mao and Beyond, Ch. 9.
- The Revolutionary Union published seven issues of Red Papers between 1969 and 1974.
- See, for example, the 1994 Chinese pamphlet, "On Khrushchov's Phoney Communism and Its Historical Lessons for the World".
- Red Papers 5 and 6.
- Red Papers 4 and 6.
- From Ike to Mao and Beyond, Ch. 14, 15 and 17.
- See the "Introduction" to Revolution and Counter-Revolution: The Revisionist Coup in China and the Struggle in the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. This book contains the major documents of both sides of the dispute.
- Avakian, "Bob Avakian Speaks on the Mao Tsetung Defendants' Railroad and the Historic Battles Ahead", Introduction and pp. 18--21.
- For detailed accounts of this case and its significance from a legal and political repression perspective, including the implications of the severity of the charges that had been leveled against the demonstrators, see Athan G. Theoharis, "FBI Surveillance: Past and Present", Cornell Law Review, Vol. 69 (April 1984); and Peter Erlinder with Doug Cassel, “Bazooka Justice: The Case of the Mao Tse Tung Defendants – Overreaction Or Foreshadowing?”, Public Eye, Vol. II, No. 3&4 (1980), pp. 40--43.
- From Ike to Mao and Beyond, pp. 364--365, 435--436.
- From Ike to Mao and Beyond, pp. 402--403.
- For an in-depth picture of repression aimed at the RCP in just one city, Los Angeles in the 1980 period, see the documentation in a series of articles by David Johnston in the Los Angeles Times: "Use of Special Prosecutor in Spy Case Urged" (Los Angeles Times, December 12, 1982) and "New Probe Ordered on Spying by LAPD" (Los Angeles Times, December 15, 1982).
- Henry Mendoza and Tom Paegel, "One Killed, One Hurt at Communist Rally", Los Angeles Times, April 23, 1980.
- From Ike to Mao and Beyond, Ch. 24.
- From Ike to Mao and Beyond, Ch. 25.
- See "1995 Leadership Resolutions on Leaders and Leadership", Part 1 and Part 2.
- More information about Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About can be found at RevolutionTalk.net.
- Avakian, Phony Communism is Dead … Long Live Real Communism!, Ch. 1
- COMMUNISM: THE BEGINNING OF A NEW STAGE, Sec. IV (pp. 22-29 in published version).
- See, for example, Avakian, "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity", "The New Synthesis", Revolution, No. 112, December 16, 2007.
- Avakian, "Views On Socialism and Communism", " 'Firmly Uphold, But Wouldn't Want to Live There' – Correctly Understood".
- Avakian, "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity", "The New Synthesis", Revolution, No. 112, December 16, 2007.
- COMMUNISM: THE BEGINNING OF A NEW STAGE, Sec. V (pp. 30-33 in published version).
- See, for example, the criticism of Frederick Engels' concept of "negation of the negation" in COMMUNISM: THE BEGINNING OF A NEW STAGE, Sec. IV, subsection on philosophy and method (pp. 24-25 of published version).
- Marx summarized in The Class Struggles in France 1848 -1850 that communism can only be reached once the "4 Alls" have been achieved: the abolition of all class distinctions, of all the production relations on which those class distinctions rest, of all the social relations that correspond to those production relations, and the revolutionizing of all the ideas that correspond to those social relations.
- Avakian, "Ruminations and Wranglings", "Communism as a Science – Not a 'Scientific Ideology'", Revolution, No. 174, August 30, 2009.
- See, for example, Point 4 of the "Circular of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party", May 16, 1966, Important Documents on the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China, Peking: Foreign Languages Press (1970), which criticizes the statement "everyone is equal before the truth" as a "bourgeois slogan" and speaks of "the class nature of truth".
- Avakian, Observations on Art and Culture, Science and Philosophy, "Discussion with Comrades on Epistemology: On Knowing & Changing the World" (p. 54 in published version).
- Avakian, Observations on Art and Culture, Science and Philosophy, "Materialism and Romanticism: Can We Do Without Myth?, p. 42.
- See, for example, " 'Crises in Physics,' Crises in Philosophy and Politics", Revolution, No. 161, April 12, 2009.
- For example, Engels argued, "Matter without motion is just as inconceivable as motion without matter." Engels, Anti-Duhring, Part 1, "Philosophy", p. 74
- Avakian, "On the Philosophical Basis of Proletarian Internationalism", originally published in Revolutionary Worker, No. 96, March 13, 1981.
- Avakian, "Revolution And A Radically New World: Contending 'Universalisms' And Communist Internationalism", Revolution, No. 157, February 22, 2009.
- Avakian, "Ruminations and Wranglings", Part 6, "The Social Base for Revolution", Revolution, No. 169, June 28, 2009.
- A concise explanation of this formulation "solid core with a lot of elasticity" is given in the RCP's Constitution:
"Applied to socialist society, this approach of solid core with a lot of elasticity includes the need for a leading, and expanding, core that is clear on the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat and the aim of continuing socialist revolution as part of the world struggle for communism, and is determined to continue carrying forward this struggle, through all the twists and turns. At the same time, there will necessarily be many different people and trends in socialist society pulling in many different directions – and all of this can ultimately contribute to the process of getting at the truth and getting to communism. This will be intense at times, and the difficulty of embracing all this – while still leading the whole process broadly in the direction of communism – will be something like going, as Avakian has put it, to the brink of being drawn and quartered – and repeatedly. All this is difficult, but necessary and a process to welcome." Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, "Appendix: Communism as a Science" (pp. 39-40 in published version)
- Avakian, audio of the talk, "Communism: A Whole New World and the Emancipation of All Humanity – Not 'The Last Shall Be First, And the First Shall Be Last' , available online at BobAvakian.net.
- Avakian, "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity", Part 2, subsection "Hastening while awaiting – not bowing down to necessity".
- Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, Sec. I, (p. 12 in published version).
- Avakian, "The Oppression of Black People and the Revolutionary Struggle to End All Oppression", Revolution, No. 78, February 2, 2007.
- Avakian, Democracy, Can't We Do Better Than That?
- Writings of Bob Avakian
- Bob Avakian Speaks
- Insight Press
- A book review of From Ike to Mao,
- Berkeley: Memoir follows author's road to Communism from SFGate.
- How Can We Apologize for Taking History into Our Hands by Bob Avakian at archive.org
- For the New Socialist Republic in North America
- "Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon – Part 1: Revolution and the State"
- Ely, Mike. Nine Letters to Our Comrades: Getting Beyond Avakian's New Synthesis. December 2007. (RCP response)
- Wright, Liam. On the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA: Criticizing a Residue of the Past. November 2010.
- Eric Gordon. The Maoist cultism of the RCP is anti-Marxist. Communist Voice Organization, September 2005.
- Punkerslut. MLM vs. Anarchism
- Oppenheimer, Mark. “Free Bob Avakian!”. The Boston Globe, 27 January 2008. (RCP Response)