Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
|Revolutionary Communist Party, USA|
|International affiliation||None (formerly the RIM)|
|Politics of United States
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the United States
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The Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (RCP, USA), known originally as the Revolutionary Union, is a Maoist Communist party formed in 1975 in the United States. The RCP holds that American imperialism will never end peacefully, and that the only way for people to liberate themselves is through Communist revolution.
The Bay Area Revolutionary Union (BARU) and other collectives had been rooted in the Revolutionary Youth Movement II (RYM II) faction of the Students for a Democratic Society after the latter fell apart in 1969. There were also discussions with several other Marxist-Leninist groups - I Wor Kuen, Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization, and Black Workers Congress - in the short-lived National Liaison Committee. This formation ultimately split between RU accusing the other organizations of Bundism with others rejecting the perceived national chauvinism of the RU. The party is led by its elected National Chairman and primary theoretical spokesperson, Bob Avakian. It is one of the few surviving direct descendants of the New Left of the 1960s and 70s.
Part of its influence can be seen in the numbers of groups it has spawned in recent decades. RCP members and supporters have founded organizations such as Refuse and Resist, founded by C. Clark Kissinger; October 22 Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation; La Résistencia; No Business As Usual; the anti-war groups Not in Our Name and World Can't Wait; affiliated youth groups the Attica Brigade, Revolutionary Student Brigade and the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade; and its network of "Revolution Clubs". The RCP also runs Revolution Books, a bookstore and publishing house based in New York City.
Historically, one of the group's most notable actions was raising the Red Flag over the Alamo Mission in San Antonio on March 20, 1980. This was done by Damian Garcia, who was killed a month later, April 22, 1980, in a Los Angeles housing project. The RCP claims his murder was a result of his actions at the Alamo, and alleges Los Angeles Police Department involvement. Another notable action was when a member, Gregory Lee "Joey" Johnson, of the RCP's youth organization, the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade, burned a United States flag at the Republican National Convention in 1984, leading to the Supreme Court case known as Texas v. Johnson.
As a result of criminal indictments stemming from a protest against Deng Xiaoping at the White House in 1979, Bob Avakian fled the United States. Due primarily to this, the RCP is active in both the United States and Western Europe. The protest, known colloquially as the Deng Demo, was part of an attempt to "realign" the international communist movement so that it recognized that socialism had been defeated in China, and that a capitalist-oriented leadership had seized power.
The RCP helped found the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, an association of revolutionary communist parties and organizations from Afghanistan to Italy. The RCP has both defended and criticized fellow RIM participants leading People's War, including the Communist Party of Peru (Shining Path) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). The RIM is a significant fraction of the international communist movement that sees the socialist period as one of continuing class struggle, with the role of a vanguard party in government to bring the lower classes increasingly into the administration of society as a whole.
Major RIM parties, including the RCP and the CPN-M, argue that while the Soviet Union was essentially genuinely socialist under Stalin's government, power-induced "absolutism" nevertheless hindered the ability of the masses to rule, and to replenish the truly revolutionary Communist Party of the Soviet Union ranks over time.
Avakian in particular says that communists must acknowledge the real history, with its victories as well as its mistakes, and "do better next time". Advocates for Avakian's "new synthesis" of communism contend that his work has advanced the communist project in three areas: philosophy, politics and the strategic conception of how one would actually make revolution in a country like the United States.
Bob Avakian was one of many activists in 1960s who turned to communist ideas and began organizing in the Bay Area of California. H. Bruce Franklin, Stephen Charles Hamilton, and Bob Avakian together formed the Bay Area Revolutionary Union (BARU), which was subsequently able to absorb a series of similar local collectives which had developed out of Students for a Democratic Society. The new nationwide structure allowed BARU to change its name to simply the Revolutionary Union.
The RCP claims that of the various groups coming out of SDS, it was the first to seriously attempt to develop itself both at the theoretical level, with the publication of "Red Papers 1", and at the practical level, by sinking roots into working class communities and struggles. Notable was Avakian's organizing work at a Chevron plant in the Bay Area as an organizing model to link the insurgent student movements with working people in struggle. This turn to 1970s "point of production" organizing was a broader phenomenon which was expanded throughout the Midwest and into the Appalachian coal fields during the wildcat upsurges through 1980.
Such rapid expansion was not without its problems, however, and in 1971 H. Bruce and Jane Franklin led a section of the RU to fuse with the Venceremos Organization, advocating immediate urban guerrilla warfare and then dissolving shortly thereafter.
After a series of unsuccessful unity meetings with nationality-based communist organizations called the National Liaison Committee, including the Black Workers Congress and Maoist-inspired Young Lords Party, the RU formed the Revolutionary Communist Party in 1975. The new organization stated its goal was the building of a "party of a new type," inducing some other Maoists to criticize it for revisionism. The organization had a strong "workerist" orientation concentrated upon mass line, and many members became engaged in point of production organizing and trade union struggle.
Tensions over this "workerist" tendency came to a head within the RCP in 1977 around whether China remained a communist country after the death of Mao Zedong and subsequent leadership struggles in the People's Republic of China between the Gang of Four and Hua Guofeng. Bob Avakian developed the analysis and led the forces within the RCP that declared that there had been a coup in China following Mao’s death and the new Chinese leadership was taking China on a capitalist road. The RCP's Vice Chairman, Mickey Jarvis, along with an estimated 30–40% of the membership and most of the Revolutionary Student Brigade formally left the RCP to form the Revolutionary Workers Headquarters (RWHq). In subsequent polemics, the RCP has dubbed the RWHq faction "Mensheviks" after Lenin's opponents in the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party.
Among older members of the RCP, there is a high proportion of Vietnam War-era veterans, including participants in the VVAW-AI. Joe Veale, the spokesperson for the Los Angeles area branch, was a former member of the Black Panther Party. C. Clark Kissinger, a writer for Revolution and prominent activist associated with the RCP, was a national secretary of SDS.
The RCP was controversial for being one of the few groups in the American Left that held a position that homosexuality constituted a conscious "ideological statement" and was a byproduct of capitalism. Within the last decade, with the publication of the New Draft Program of the RCP USA, they have repudiated that position, criticizing it as incorrect, unscientific and not "thoroughly Marxist". The RCP now holds that all sexual and intimate relations in bourgeois society are largely dominated by the ideology of male supremacy and exist within a framework of social relations where the oppression of women is an integral and fundamental part.
Views on the United States
The RCP has written that the United States "is a country founded on genocide and slavery" and that the RCP has a "special challenge and responsibility to make revolution, at the earliest possible time, right within the belly of this most powerful imperialist beast." The RCP has also stated that "the development of capitalism in the U.S. is a history of the most savage oppression of the Black, Native American, Chicano, Puerto Rican, Hawaiian, Asian, and other oppressed peoples" and that "the proletariat must overthrow and thoroughly smash and dismantle the bourgeois state. And that requires war."
Following the re-election of George W. Bush, the RCP released a statement called "The Battle for the Future". It called Bush a Christian Fascist and calls on the masses to resist. The document also puts forward Bob Avakian as the party's leader. Several supporters of the RCP initiated a campaign entitled World Can't Wait: Drive Out the Bush Regime to facilitate a political "re-polarization" around the current right-wing shift in U.S. government. Hundreds of protests and rallies, as well as disruption of prominent governmental speakers has ensued. Most recently, World Can't Wait organized a series of nationwide protests on October 5, 2006 and was at the forefront of efforts to impeach Bush and Vice President Cheney for "war crimes and other crimes against humanity".
In 2005, the RCP changed the name of its newspaper from Revolutionary Worker to Revolution. According to their website, the May 1, 2005 issue of RW newspaper signaled the end of 25 years of Revolutionary Worker/Obrero Revolucionario and the beginning of Revolution/Revolución. "[W]e believe that the new name more fully reflects our revolutionary communist ideology and politics, and the enriched vision of a tribune of the people that has been pioneered by RCP Chairman Bob Avakian."
In late 2005 and early 2006 the RCP launched the Revolutionary Communist Speaking Tour (RC4) of Black leaders intended to "build a Communist movement among the people locked on the bottom of society in the current era of Bushite Christian-Fascism." The RC4 tour ended quietly with the disassociation of one of the lead speakers, Akil Bomani, due to disagreements about lyrics in one of his songs produced independently.
Revolution Books distributes materials related to the RCP, and the revolutionary movement in general. They operate stores nationally, with a large store in New York City and a Spanish-language store, Libros Revolucion, in Los Angeles.
After many years of self-imposed exile, Bob Avakian released a four-disk DVD set of speeches called Revolution given on the East Coast and the West Coast, presumably within the United States, although Avakian had not been seen in the country for over 20 years. Aside from continuing his advocacy of Communism, Avakian critiqued what he called dogmatism within the movement, and emphasized the role of thinking and learning in political struggle.
The RCP had recently undergone a split in its ranks, concentrated around the role of revolutionary leadership. In published documents, the RCP has characterized this split as ultimately a struggle over the character of the party, between forces dedicated to revolution and those that have given up on making revolution in a country like the US.
Avakian's "promotion and popularization"
The RCP has said that there are two mainstays of its work: the role of the party press and building a culture of "appreciation, promotion and popularization" of Bob Avakian and his body of work, method, and approach, "along with a whole ensemble of Communist work which is necessary to the bringing forward of a revolutionary people—including building “massive political resistance to the main ways in which, at any given time, the exploitative and oppressive nature of this system is concentrated in the policies and actions of the ruling class and its institutions and agencies” and solving the problems of how to involve the masses in “meaningful revolutionary work”". Others have charged that the RCP has created a cult of personality around Avakian, with dissenting voices driven from the organization. The RCP has countered that over the period of the 1980s and 1990s two parties developed within the organization, representing two fundamentally opposed roads. One, represented by the “official” line of the Party and concentrated in the new synthesis Bob Avakian was championing, and expressed in the Party’s newspaper (the Revolutionary Worker, now Revolution). The other, opposed the new synthesis and revolutionary-communist line, was becoming predominant on all levels of the Party, and "objectively, [this] 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." ”".
The RCP does not generally attempt to work inside leftist coalitions, preferring to launch independent mass organizations to "repolarize" political movements on a more radical basis. The RCP explicitly states its expectation that members uphold their organization's positions, abstain from illegal drugs and habits, and maintain exceptional standards of "revolutionary morality."
The RCP has had an often stormy relationship with the broader political Left. From the initial publication of the Red Papers that formed the Bay Area Revolutionary Union, and their controversial inclusion of Joseph Stalin as a historical leader, the RCP has cut against the dominant Anti-Communist political discourse in the United States. Because the RCP is highly critical of the Soviet Union, which it views as state capitalist and social-imperialist, the RCP has often traded polemical criticisms with the pro-Soviet CPUSA, as well as Trotskyist groups that have rejected the view of the Soviet bloc as state capitalists to be decried in favor of "deformed workers states" to be defended.
As the RCP evolved as an organization, they came to reject electoral politics, a position they continue to uphold. According to Max Elbaum's Revolution in the Air they contrasted themselves with other self-identified Marxist-Leninst parties in the 1980s who advocated working within or alongside Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition, with the RCP summarizing their position in the slogan, "The right to vote has been won ... Now we need the political awareness and sophistication not to use it." In the years of the Jackson presidential campaigns in 1984 and 1988 the RCP's Carl Dix ran as an "anti-candidate [...]running against the notion that oppressed people could rely on the election arena to accomplish positive change."
The RCP holds that its line against electoral politics has been vindicated by the dissolution of several of the Marxist-Leninist groups in the Jackson Campaigns, and others' perceived shifts of line away from open advocacy of revolution with "ultra-leftism." The RCP's critique of what they call the "voting trap" has led many other socialist groups to label them "sectarian" and "abstentionist".
Other critics have claimed its organization of mass rallies amounts to engaging in lesser-evil politics, particularly with their World Can't Wait campaign. The RCP rejects these criticisms, its partisans pointing out that while it has shared stages with Democratic Party office-holders, it has never once, anywhere, endorsed Democratic Party candidates in elections or bourgeois democracy in general. The RCP sees the social base of the Democratic Party as distinct and in contradiction.
- "Re-envisioning Revolution and Communism: WHAT IS BOB AVAKIAN’S NEW SYNTHESIS?". Revolution#129 ,. revcom.us. May 18, 2008.
- Hamilton, Steve. "On the History of the Revolutionary Union". Theoretical Review No. 13, November–December 1979.
- "Red Papers 1". Originally published by the Bay Area Revolutionary Union, now available online thanks to Marxists.org's Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line project. Spring 1969.
- Hamilton, Steve. "Serve the People, Learn From the People, Become One With the People". Originally published Movement newspaper in December 1968, now available online thanks to Marxists.org's Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line project.
- Ely, Mike. "Ambush at Keystone: Inside the Coalminers’ Gas Protest". Kasama Project.
- Avakian, Bob (August 24, 2003). "Materialism and Romanticism: Can We Do Without Myth?". Revolutionary Worker #1211,. rwor.org.
- Revolutionary Communist Party,USA. "On the Position on Homosexuality in the New Draft Programme". rwor.org.
- Draft Resolution of the RCP, RCP Website.
- Bomani, Akil. "Revolutionary Communist 4 Tour: What the Heck Was That?". Kasama Project.
- Oppenheimer, Mark (January 27, 2008). "Free Bob Avakian!". The Boston Globe.
- Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. "COMMUNISM: THE BEGINNING OF A NEW STAGE A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA". rwor.org.
- "Observations by a Reader on the RCP’s Response to Mike Ely’s Nine Letters". Revolution #135,. revcom.us. July 13, 2008.
- "COMMUNISM:THE BEGINNING OF A NEW STAGE A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA". ,. revcom.us. September 2008.
- "Draft Programme Part 2 – Proletarian Morality: A Radical Rupture With Tradition's Chains". rwor.org. 2001.
- Dix, Carl. "What Carl Dix Stands For". National Spokesperson for the RCP, USA. www.revcom.us/.
- Do You Think? (November 3, 2005). "Oh". publish.nyc.indymedia.org. Web link.
- "Revolution: Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA". newspaper. Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.
- "Revolutionary Worker". archive newspaper site. Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.
- "A World To Win" (in English, Persian, Italian, and Spanish). International theoretical journal inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement.
RCP support websites
- Avakian, Bob. "Bob Avakian Speaks". MP3 audiobooks. BAS Collective.
- "The Battle for the Future Will be Fought From Here Forward". rwor.org webteam and RCP Publications Public Relations Office.
- "The Draft Programme of the RCP, USA" (in English and Spanish). RCP Publications. 2001. ISBN 0-89851-120-8.
- "Revolution Books Outlet Atlanta".
- "The Revolutionary Communist Tour".
- "Guide to the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. Collection 1975–1979". 41 folders. Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives. Bobst Library. New York University.
- "Revolution/Revolución". Weekly (Chicago: RCP Publications). Separate editions published weekly in English and Spanish. Formerly known as Revolutionary Worker/Obrero Revolucionario.
- Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (2008)
- Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, a Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (2008)
- Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy by Bob Avakian (2008)
- Ely, Mike. 9 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.
- H., Scott. "The RCP and the Mass Line". Massline.info.
- Gordon, Eric (September 2005). "The Maoist cultism of the RCP is anti-Marxist". Communist Voice Organization.
- Seattle, Ben (January 2005). "Hysteria about "fascism" serves to hide the essential role of the Democratic Party in the political and economic system of imperialism".