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February 27, 2006



I am certainly not for dismissing stuff from Avakian off hand. He has some really good stuff.

But it's worth noting his errors as well.

The old line on homosexuality, and the lack of personal responsbility Avakian took for example.

He is certainly worth reading -- critically.


Of course we should read Avakian, and all RCP literature, critically. No one inisists on this more than Avakian.

I don't know what you mean by personal responsibility, but you should give them credit for changing their line on homosexuality:

While many, including myself, have criticized their line for years, their self-criticism and new understanding, are more thoroughgoing than that of their critics. I wish it hadn't taken them so long to put it out.

Other left groups have 'progressive' positions on homosexuality which amount to reciting a litany of gay radicalism. This history is important and deserves to be popularized but is hardly adequate for a serious understanding of sexuality and women's oppression. In fact, all it does is substitute one essentialism for another. "Gay=bad" simply becomes "gay=good". RCP's new approach is more open-ended and scientific than than I've seen from others.

r graves

what's so great about Avakian? this stuff is right on but doesn't seem much deeper, more nuanced, or clearly articulated an analysis than what we can find from any number of other sources. is he a particularly able organizer? charismatic speaker? burningman, what are his qualities that make you praise him so highly, and others quote his statements like they were delivered from on high?


R Graves, maybe I'm missing all these other sources you mention, but I just don't see leaders building organized forces, engaging on a mass scale (even if realatively modest), engaging the core contradictions of this society and so on.

I don't know about anyone else, but I wish Avakian wasn't so special. I wish there were people on every street corner saying this. But there aren't.

Avakian is noting that US imperialism is a paper tiger today more than ever. He says that we should not attach ourselves to the liberal democratic opposition even when we defend democratic rights. He says that oppressed people need their own party -- not in the abstract, but right here and now. He is fighting for an advanced understanding of what communism is as a movement that is more than a re-hash of the "third international thinking."

All and all, he has singualrly dedicated his life to the development of a fighting communist movement through some of the hardest years we've seen. Now that people are ready to move, they need to encounter a leader who speaks the plain truth from the perspective of those with nothing to lose.

There's nothing magical about it.

Other leftists are NOT saying the same things. They may critique some of the same problems, but they are in profound crisis about what they are doing and who they even are.

friend of a friend

Avakian has a new piece up at Revolution:

"A Radically New Kind of State: A Radically Different and Far Greater Vision of Freedom"

It seemed appropriate for a discussion of the basic line, and the push Avakian is making not just among the masses, but within the international communist movement.

Christopher Day

Like many of Avakian's writings, I find much that he says here compelling and I think it is simply true that there aren't many people talking this way.

I think Observer has clearly articulated several of the things that are distinctive about what Avakian says. I am not personally convinced that Avakian has the most incisive analysis of the current situation, but unlike others he does distinguish himself by linking what is on balance a pretty good analysis to an organizational and political plan of action. He says "we are in a volatile situation with the potential to go in quite divergent directions, we need to agressively intervene if we want ti to go in a good direction, I have a plan to do so, follow me." Actually he leaves the last clause to RCP cadre to say, but its implied.

There is something compelling in all this, especially in a moment like the one we are living through.

So whats my problem?

I have basically two. The first is that the analysis of the world situation is good as far as it goes, but in many ways is trapped in categories that are thirty or forty years out of date. Avakian knows the world has changed a lot and attempts to incorporate some of those changes into his analysis but he relies very heavily on an armory of MLM theoretical concepts that has not been radically overhauled imprtantly since the Cultural Revolution. This a particularly notable in the area of political economy. There have been some big changes since then: globalization, financialization of capital, neoliberalism, the stablishment of International Financial Institutions. And there has been a rich literature arguing over the proper theorization of these developments. Avakian and the RCP are oddly silent on these debates. One could easily come away from reading Avakian thinking that he thinks the only important stuff to read are polemics within the international communist movement and some popular critical literature on topical subjects like the rise of the Christian Right. I don't actually think that is all Avakian reads, but there is a studied refusal to explicitly ENGAGE this other quite extensive literature.

Arguably this is a tactic, a means of making his thinking accessible by not bogging it down with references to all these other debates. The problem with this is it does a disservice to the political development of Avakian's followers who are trained in his line, but not in the much broader world of ideas in which that line must contend. The result is a lot of loud insistence on the urgent importance of what Avakian is saying without much ability to explain what distinguishes his analysis from that of say Samir Amin or Hardt and Negri or David Harvey or Ellen Meiksins Wood, or for that matter where he agrees with any of those folks or many others. This inabiity weakens the case for the view that what Avakian has to say is so groundbreaking.

This brings me to my second problem: the disconnect between some of the genuinely exciting things that Avakian is saying about the need to "embrace not replace" and the role of culture and art and the painfully familar agitational methods that suggest little seriousness about training cadre in the kind of listening that is a precondition of "embracing." These agitational methods are defended in strikingly moralistic terms or on the basis of abstract reasoning rather than any evidence that they are actually accomplishing what they are supposed to.

Is Avakian a leader? Well in the sense that he is the chairman of an organization that presumably has several hundred highly dedicated members, yes he is. And maybe he is taken seriously by the leaders of other MLM parties which certainly counts for something. But does he command the respect as a leader of a significant fraction of the politically advanced in the U.S.? I think the answer here is no. Maybe thats just because the advanced aren't advanced enough, but I think its worth considering the possibility that its also a reflection of real weaknesses in his analysis or his strategy or in the organizational culture of the RCP.

friend of a friend

Chris -- All and all, that's fair enough what you're saying.

Don't you think maybe that this is a challenge that people exactly like you should be rising to?

I don't think Avakian is superman. If you are immersed in these discussions and so on, then please put out some of what you think Avakian could be doing.

He is a leader, not the Alpha and the Omega. He's built a pole, but that won't answer every question. Not at all. He certainly doesn't say that.

You are right about how some can "uphold" much better than they can implement.

So where does that leave us?

I say, with much to do.

fellow traveler

On the Chairman, observer observes: "All and all, he has singualrly dedicated his life to the development of a fighting communist movement through some of the hardest years we've seen. Now that people are ready to move, they need to encounter a leader who speaks the plain truth from the perspective of those with nothing to lose."

How different is this from 1986? Wasn't the RCP ready to move then as well, especially under the "scientific" notion that revolution or World War 3 was imminent? As per Chistopher Day's comments, how substantively has Avakian evolved in the past twenty years and why did he and the RCP get it so wrong back then?

the burningman

I don't know how wrong they had it back then. I remember the Cold War viscerally. There was a constant danger of nuclear holocaust. The RCP never said revolution was "imminent." They just didn't.

The RCP did say to "go for it," and in a time when most of the left was putting Lenin on the back shelf (or in the trash), Avakian kept a fundamental clarity about why we build organizations in the first place.

As it happened, it was the Soviet Union, not the USA, that fell apart. But short of the the ruin of one of the contenting powers, war was the trajectory -- and our duty was to oppose our ruling class.

What's so "fundamentally" wrong about that?

Chris Day's points about Avakian's standing among the millions is worth raising, and whether there are connections between the RCP's hard line and it's lack of a mass base (in general), well, I'll leave that to discussion.

I will say this: the RCP has always hit far outside its league, and compared to what else is standing in the desert of the real, they don't look so bad at all.


Avakian doesn't argue for uncritical acceptance, but many of his followers do. It doesn't matter what "the chairman" says about inner-party democracy or the mass line, these things aren't being practiced by the RCP according to a number of people, including Scott H ( who I have a deep respect for.

The RCP's version of democracy is consultation, not proletarian democracy. And as much as Avakian is promoted as an "original" thinker, much of his stuff can be found elesewhere.

I am not denouncing Avakian, in fact, I think he is worth defending and much of his work is valuable. But...

He isn't the Marx-Lenin-Mao rolled into one the RCP packages him to be, and asking him to be that and the masses to expect that from him isn't fair.

The goofy "culture of appreciation" (let's be honest and REAL and call a spade a spade, it's a good ol' (though mild) cult of personality.)
is silly, and they need to drop it.

I don't wanna hear shit about "promoting leaders."

WHY not just promote revolution, communism? Isn't THAT the point?
Or is the point who can carry a bigger picture of Avakian?

I am not trying to be antagonistic or pessimistic. The RCP for all its flaws has kept its revolutionary stance even after many left those positions for more fashionable economist ones. For this, I appluad them.

They did eventually do a self-critcism on their homosexuality position, yes, but it did NOT include or mention the harm they were responsible for, and neither did Avakian. So yeah, a half-assed self-critcism is better then nothing, a lot better the Conservative CPUSA they didn't even metnion it!

They had a bad line and caused a lot of damage. They should take responsbility for it, not just say "oops."

I am curious about burningman and his positions. He posted some really good, critical stuff in the past but now it appears he is more more wedded to the RCP. I hope he doesn't lose his critical edge :(

No Faith in Prince or Peer

What was fundamentally wrong about Avakian and the RCP's analysis of the 1980s (as envisioned in the 1970s) was that there were never going to be a substantial change in patterns of American aggression. Reagan-era defense policy (which in May 1980 was purely rhetorical and short on specifics) ended up not being any different from the "Thirteen Days" situation that Avakian watched; it maintained proxy conflicts, it built up nuclear stockpiles, and continued pushing them around a map. The liberals would like us to believe this was something new; in truth were no closer closer to war with the Soviet Union (either a hot war or nuclear war) than we had been under a liberal in the 1960s.

Such a willingness to take the heated political rhetoric of the moment - complete with "The End is Neigh" predictions based on the latest bleatings of liberals - seems to me a continuing trend in the RCP, as well as its stumbling block. Let's take for instance Avakian and the RCP's line on the imminent arrival of "Christian fascism" (adopted since the 2004 election). The problem is that this imminent arrival *will never happen*, as it's already *been here* for centuries. There are indeed new wrinkles in the Christian fundamentalism's assault - these only come because abortion and birth control gave them new territory for them to try to conquer.

This relation between the "woe is us" rhetoric of impotent liberals and the "let's do something about our impotence now" rhetoric within elements of the revolutionary movement is precisely what Lenin criticized within the pages of "What Is to be Done" as their shared error of spontaneity. So I think, burningman, you've got it back-asswards: "What Is to Be Done" is more like Lenin's line on the RCP and this document. And it ain't pretty.

fellow traveler

celtic fire asks: "WHY not just promote revolution, communism? Isn't THAT the point?"

Because communism always need an authority for its authoritarian agenda, a strong leader to explain why its utopian vision of the future is just over the next hill, or the next one . . .

Avakian's written some decent stuff, but his prose is clunky and derivative, and I think cf might have answered cf's own question with: "He isn't the Marx-Lenin-Mao rolled into one the RCP packages him to be, and asking him to be that and the masses to expect that from him isn't fair."

It ain't fair, but it's required. What's communism without the vanguard party, and what's the party without a strong, very strong leader?

Short commentator

Befitting a philistine with pat revisionism is the almost compulsory desire to signify devoid of any substance (perhaps by negative example).

I'll say it plain and clear. Then re-read Avakian's post and re-read what each of you wrote.

You suckers REFUSE to address what Avakian is saying. I follow these boards regularly and am absolutely blown away by most of the responses to Bob Avakian's work. In all honesty, it really seems as though most of you don't read what Bob is writing.

You never take on his best arguments, which is what he always does. You always bring up something that isn't addressed in his piece, and then say that he hasn't addressed what you're saying (even though he almost always has: Read the Conversations book with Bill Martin for Bob's remarks on homosexuality position and history among other things; read countless pieces by him and the Party, from Notes on Political Economy, to Dictatorship & Democracy pamphlet, to Great Objectives and Grand Strategy... Chris, this means you....)

If you think he isn't addressing the profound changes in the world and the need to take what was developed by Marx, Lenin and Mao much further and making real contributions in that regard, then you are simply not paying attention.

Or perhaps, what is more than likely is your consistent practice of 'prooftexting'.

Funny, how you all do it over and over and over and over again. And Bob, well he just ain't that scuuuuured!

Now, seriously.... read the piece that Burningman posted.

Then discuss THAT. Not how your view was reinforced before you pretended to even read it.

Step up.

Quote from Bob Avakian

'One time someone wrote me a letter and asked: how do you read things, do you do what's called "proof-texting"?--which is a way of reading to refute something. Do you read it in order to make your point? What he was referring to was the approach of only looking for things that confirm what you already believe; for example, you start out with a disagreement with somebody and in reading what they write you look for those things that you don't agree with, things that prove your point, and then sort of tautologically you go around in a circle. You end up with: "Aha, it's wrong." And I replied, no I don't approach things that way. Even things I vehemently disagree with, going in, I still try to look to see what there is that they are grappling with, what ideas they may hit on even inadvertently or may stumble on, or may actually wrangle with more systematically. There are things to be learned even from reactionaries. There are things to learn from reactionaries, even about politics and ideology, let alone other spheres. That doesn't mean we take up their outlook or their politics. [laughs] But there are things to be learned. And this is an important point of orientation.'

Christopher Day

He called us "suckers!"

Seriously, I think this criticism of proof-texting is fair. Bob's piece demands a more thorough response than I gave (and than I really have time here on the internets to give). But I also think its worth reflecting on WHY he is responded to in this way, and its not all just that everybody is afraid of the awesome power of his thought. Its also because it always comes wrapped up in a package of bombast about how earthshaking it is. So when folks feel the need to qualify their responses the way I have here I think its basically a defensive response to being shoved.

For years I couldn't buy a book at Revolution Books without hearing a breathless explanation of the urgency of reading the latest earth-shaking piece by Avakian. The first couple times you hear this you say "okay, I'll read it." But on the hundredth time my response becomes "you sound like a goddamned carnival barker, talk to me like a human being comrade." (And then I would read it anyway because I knew there'd be something in it "even though.")

I actually urge people to read Avakian who the RCP can't even talk to. And a few do. But its like pissing up a rope to convince people that its worth reading "even though."

And BTW this calling people "suckers" thing is just a residual New Left macho style of argument that has to go.

the burningman

Case in point.... Of what?

I post an transcription of a talk he gave and (some of) ya'll think you're judges on American Idol. "Come on, Bob. Brown shoes with a black jacket?"

There's not a word in Avakian's piece about idolatry or iconoclasm, or the end being neigh. (Or about what the RCP thought 20 years ago... What did YOU think 20 years ago, smart guy?)

It's about what is necessary.

If Avakian's saying what I've posted, and giving it organization expression -- then deal with that real and not the silly bow around his neck.

I understand the bow around the neck doesn't help, but life is strange like that.

I'm not down with promoting cultures of appreciation. Appreciation pays its own fare.

I'm very happy that the leaders of the revolution in Nepal have spoken clearly against THEIR intention to develop such a "culture," though they accept the disputed term "cult of personality" and reject it as "taking a clue from the 20th Century."

Taking a clue from the 19th Century: Walt Whitman, poet of "Song of Myself" also wrote "O' Captain, My Captain" for Abraham Lincoln.

He saw those two spirits as complimentary, and in many ways the more radical manifestaion of Republicanism were where the action was at in those days, with Marxism barely breaking out of immigrant German communities.

That said, Whiman doesn't shine in the civics class edits the young learn in schools, where he praises the great leader.

It is in Whitman's wild, pantheist celebration of life, spirit, electricity, throng tasting and sweet, like certain friends and even locomotives. It is in his poems for "a common prostitute."

So no "O' Captain, My Captain" for me -- even if I'd have done my part hastening emancipation. And even if I don't think Whitman is a sucker for upholding the leadership of the Union in his time.

The trick with socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat (as currently termed) is that it is much more than an emancipation to proclaim -- it is liberation to attain. The difference lies in the agency of the oppressed.

Placing men (and it is ALWAYS men) as "seeing further and better," is a recipe for training those who listen to disengage, become passive or rigid -- and, ultimately, to think like "proletarians." To be molded and made -- not to create and to live. So...

What is Avakian essentially?

For those concerned, it's an important question.

I'll ask a few questions in the critical spirit I hope Celticfire expects. ;-)

Is a revolutionary party necessary in the United States?

Is Marxism-Leninism-Maoism the ideological spine that the international communist movement (writ LARGE) would best organize itself by?

Is Avakian an honest leader or a charlatan?

Is the leadership team of the RCP something that should be supported even by those who, for whatever reason, don't take on the responsibilities and general discipline of party membership?

Is some other organization even seeking the same things, let alone doing it better?

Will there be a "broad, left regroupment"?

Would such a formation be able to deal with "politics" and the fight forward to socialism?

What are the responsibilities, indeed duties of revolutionaries?

There are clusters of revolutionaries around the country, largely grown out of various social movements.

Do these forces intend in any serious way *as currently constituted* to develop a revolutionary leadership organization?

And if so -- how will they deal with the lessons of the 20th Century and the challenges of today?


Now, I'm not saying anyone has to answer those questions HERE and NOW. A blog by its nature is good for kicking things around, but it resolves nothing and has inevitable static and distortion.

And btw, I've known Christopher for years now -- and a "proof-texter" he is not. The man reads, and is deeply familiar with arguments from many different trends... Yes. And a man who has politically grown up in public, through the course of living movements.

Part of what happens when you do read (and work) broadly is that you learn more than the aspects of ideas you need (or don't). That's part of what Christopher brought up to Joey in a previous thread -- how do you really learn?

Are communists just good soldiers? Or "proof-texters" regurgitating the great leader? I think no. And I think that so long as "great leaders" are promoted as such, it gives that result whether its intended or not.

The struggle to get over "Third International Communism," with all the misconceptions, mechanical thinking, and opportunist baggage is real.

It's a mixed process -- and in whole, Avakian is taking that task up in an explicit way. It has nothing to do with "authoritarianism," as the anarchist above says, and everything to do with the unevenness of poltical development inherent in class society. Reality is "authoritarian," not just those who recognize it.

I'm still curious what people think about the actual talk posted. I think its invaluable -- as has just about everything Avakian's been putting out.

Part of the point I was making about Avakian not being a "manager" or just another "analyst" is that the set of ideas and visions he is laying out are not a package to be digested as if we were Rabbis pouring over the Talmud.

He is a challenge to be given the dignity of immediate acutality -- a set of tasks FAR beyond what the RCP as currently constituted can accomplish. This is also something he (and they) know full well.

So where the criticisms are, let them find clear expression and be struggled over -- but the ESSENTIAL challenge remains standing, and that's a lot harder to deal with than facile comments and observations about the RCP's more notable foilbles.


on your first point, Chris' response was exactly a negative example.

Some one says "where is engagement with line"

And Chris essentially answers "I don't have time much for really engaging that way, but here are two or three cheap shots I DO have time for -- this guy used the word 'sucker' and the bookstore people press a little hard."

[rolls eyes -- However I don't think it is being "philistine and sucker", more on that below.]

Avakian is arguing that something deep and radical is happening in the world (in the "New Situation") -- and that we all better get real with that, and really grasp what is possible (both for the other side, and for us).

I think the dissing of Avakian constantly takes the **form** of critiquing the way he is promoted (or the **previous** position on homosexuality or whatever) -- but I think the real heart of it is a rejection that we actually CAN do anything profound in the period ahead, and also that something extremely dangerous MIGHT be coming.

Look at the argument "Avakian said something similar in the 1980s." Now, first of all, this is an argument that does not engage the issues now (in other words it is dismissing without making any real counterargument or evaluation of THESE times. And, as was pointed out, it is in fact a false evaluation of the 1980s -- where there was a real danger of the dislocation of world nuclear war, and where the outcome (even if unexpected in some details) did produce waves of war and "regime change" in "large and strategic parts of the world" (including above all the former SU and eastern europe, but not limited to there.)

To the extent that Avakian made some mistaken evaluation in the 1980s he was NOT mistaken about either of these two crucial things:

a) that the collision of two superpowers held the potential for massive destruction and dislocation, and

b) the revolutionary forces of the world needed to approach this in a revolutionary way and seek to extract revolution from WHATEVER CAME to the extent possible.

How can someone dismiss a leader without engaging what he is saying? Because the very idea of leadership, science and a vanguard is an affront to some very deeply held beliefs. If you say something true to a subjective idealist, they say "who the fuck are you to say my ideas are wrong and yours are right?" And the actual truth of your remarks doesn't come up in the blizzard of relativism, personal affront, and accusations of authoritarian arrogance.

Something else that jumps out of this Avakian piece is a call to really dig into and understand the roots of Islamic fundamentalism, and the implications of its rise.

Some people very mistakenly see jihadism as something "objectively progressive and antiimperialist" while some people see U.S. imperialism as progressive compared to "islamo-fascism."

And Avakian is digging into the situation to lay bare how we should actually approach this (See for example his section of "Revolutionary Defeatism.") All in order to snatch something FOR HUMANITY out of this.

And he calls out the danger in resting on old theory, on assuming that matters we settled by Lenin and Mao, and all that is needed now is applying what they laid out. And he lists some things changing in the world (urbanization, globalization etc.) that require changes in thinking and strategy on the part of communists.

This is both an important philosophical and ideological point (on having a scientific approach to the science), and it is itself discussion of places he is working to make needed contributions to that science.

In another thread, someone told nick he was brave to defend Stalin. Perhaps that's true where you live, but lets understand that making CRITICISMS of Stalin (to say nothing of Lenin and Mao) is still very controversial in large parts of the world communist movement. And Avakian is the one here who is fearlessly arguing for a SCIENTIFIC APPROACH, a self-interrogation by communists of old verdicts and even "basic principles." Are you for that or against it?

Flashback to earlier points ===>

I don't believe that celticfire, or Chris are avoiding the key issues (or that they are just "philistines and suckers.")

I think they are MAKING their key arguments.

I have watched celticfire's arguments online, his point is almost always that communists should apply bourgeois democracy under socialism and within their organizations. That's his politics.

He honestly thinks that if the rank-and-file of a communist organization defines, decides and approves the major decisions that it will all work out. A view that strikes me as unbelievably naive in a world where people like Lenin, Mao and Avakian inevitably have to buck the assumptions of their whole movements (and their own followers) in order to fight through to breakthroughs. If the rank-and-file of the Bolsheviks had ruled their party, instead of Lenin, there would not have been a revolution. Our parties don't "belong" to their membership, they belong to the people of the world, that is who they serve. Somewhere I read someone giving the example of going into battle with Mao -- do you want him deciding based on consultation and investigation of conditions in the world and among the ranks, or do you want the rank-and-file soldiers deciding when and whether to move?

And you need to dig into the epistemology of why you can't basically find truth or correct line through more and more inclusive forms of mass democracy.

Mass democracy has its uses, but understand how and why, and understand its objective limitations too.

And Chris answers with discussion of process: He doesn't like how "short commentator" called him "sucker."

He doesn't like how Revolution bookstore people urge him to read new writings by Avakian. And these matters of form (to Chris) OVERWHELM AND OVERSHADOW the matters of line.

I don't think it is unfair to believe that he thinks you can JUDGE the line of a movement by such matters of personal interaction -- this is tied to his view of "listening," "mass line" and "public agency" in ways that are both profound and perhaps obvious.

If you believe in mass democracy as THE KEY thing, then what a leader thinks is less important than whether he listens, since his job (or the job of his whole movement) is to give shape to the pre-existing thoughts and desires of the people.

I acknowledge that Chris is not QUITE that crude or simplistic, but this is all close enough to the truth that I think I will leave it standing for comment.

Or let's deal with the bookstore example for a second.

As a fellow New Yorker red, I have spent my time in that bookstore. And I have to note that all of us experienced during the RNC the value of the place in new ways -- and not just as a center for books and ideas, but also as an organizing center.

Are the staff enthusiastic, about Avakian's writings and new developments in communist theory? Yes, mainly they are.

Is this wrong? Ah, that is the question.

For Chris, it is dehumanizing in some way I can't possibly relate to.

But it also avoids exactly the question Burningman is raising.

Is Avakian saying something new, urgent, unique, and perhaps decisive? Is this unfolding in front of us week after week, in waves of new exciting theoretical breakthroughs? Is this in some ways the single most positive thing in the current situation?

Let me make a historical analogy. We are leaving a bolshevik bookstore sometime in 1917, and the person with us grumbles:

"I can't stand the way they promote lenin's new writings. Last month it was his "letters from afar," then it was his "April Thesis,"
and this time, they were all excited about this new thing "State and Revolution." Can't they give the guy a rest? Cant they discuss his newest work without acting like it is some earthshaking classic? Can't they also push Pannekock, or Martov, or some of the Plekanov they used to love?"

I guess the point i'm making is obvious. These folks are not "puffing" avakian because he happens to be the leader of their party. But because he is reshaping and recreating Marxism in a way that will be decisive in whether this party and this international movement can actually snatch something out of what are some very very turbulent and dangerous waters.

We are watching the most incredible turrent of theoretical creation of Marxism, certainly in fifty years. it is happening right before us, right around us, and right on time for what we need.

And Chris may be irritated when someone says this to him.

He may assume that it is just distateful and offputting hype, WITHOUT EVEN for a second STOPPING TO CONSIDER whether it is true.

There you have it. Your line can blind you.

Or consider the suggestion made several places in this thread, that this discussion of Bob Avakian is merely the local American manifestation of some larger line that vanguard parties need to promote their top leader in a particular way.

That is NOT what is going on.

Let me put it historically. It was very unfortunate that Lenin's line did not have more influence in the communist movement of his time. Things might have been different if HE and HIS WRITINGS (i.e. his breakthroughs in opposition to the dominant thinking of the movement of his time) had been promoted better and taken up in Germany, Italy, Hungary, or wherever in addition to Russia -- where it was also a long and constant fight to break with the longstanding axioms inherited from their world movement.

The idea is not "You need a cult of lenin in Russia, but a cult of Liebknecht in Germany, and a cult of Debs in the U.S."

Uh-uh. This is not some pragmatic organizational marketing trick for each country and each party, where they label their leaders ideas a "thought" and market him/her.


The point really is that Avakian is the kind of unique and irreplacable leader who emerges only very rarely and kicks both the science of Marxism and potentially the practice of millions in moments of crisis.

There may be other leaders of that stature and calliber in the ICM right now -- that can't be ruled out. Marx had an Engels. But that is now what we are discussing because promoting Avakian and his work is NOT to denigrate others.

Personally, I have no problem with the term "cult of personality." It is like other terms, like dictatorship of the proletariat, that some people seem afraid to speak or defend. Not me.

Mao was right when he said there are two different kinds, one is necessary and promotes revolutionary action of the masses, the other is reactionary, religious and promotes slavish thinking.

The RCP discusses having a culture of appreciation, promotion and popularization -- which is a good concentrated and clear expression of what they believe should be done. And they talk about promoting "method, approach and body of work" as well as a sense of Avakian as a person and a leader.

Is that wrong? Not in my opinion.

And put it this way: It was Avakian (personally) through his work that made me a communist and a revolutionary over the last few years.

That is what brought me close to his party. And I think he and his work can have that effect broadly, as a kind of cutting edge of a new generation of communism.

And I am a supporter of that party because and in the ways that it is an instrumentality of what he is putting out.

Celticfire asked an interesting questoin, "WHY not just promote revolution, communism? Isn't THAT the point?"

I have to reply that Avakian is changing how revolution and communism are understood -- what it is we are going for.

In other words, celticfire doesnt see what is going on here.

It isn't like "revolution and communism" are something fixed, that we all have a clear and correct understanding of, and they just need to be "promoted."


Avakian, based on summing up a hundred years of proletarian revolution, is deeply and radically transforming how revolution and communism are viewed, and developing a new understanding of what we as a result need to do to actually avoid dead ends.

enough for now.


Burningman raises a number of questions that are indeed essential for revolutionaries in the United States to be asking themselves.

But to actually answer these questions in a meaningful way, one would have to consider in detail numerous aspects of internal RCP party history and struggles, the role of Avakian in the ICM and the various opinions held of him and his work by various major forces in the ICM, and one would have to consider the various current and past efforts to organize alternatives to the RCP in the US.

Basically, for this discussion to be had in the sort of serious way it has to be had (and not in some sort of half-assed way that does not deal with important facts that it would serve no one to put out on the internet), it cannot be had here.

People should find ways to have that discussion, but I'm afraid any attempt to truly answer those questions here would be either dangerous or shallow.


To clarify a little further my last statement:

This is because fundamentally Burningman is raising questions about the RCP and its leadership not only as the exponents of a certain line (which can be discussed here just fine), but as an organized force which must be evaluated not only on the basis of its various public statements, but on the basis of a whole long and complicated history revolving around questions of its leadership capabilities, whether it deserves to be trusted (or treated as an honest force), etc. And these are not questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no.


celticfire said, "Avakian doesn't argue for uncritical acceptance, but many of his followers do. It doesn't matter what "the chairman" says about inner-party democracy or the mass line, these things aren't being practiced by the RCP according to a number of people, including Scott H ( who I have a deep respect for.

The RCP's version of democracy is consultation, not proletarian democracy. And as much as Avakian is promoted as an "original" thinker, much of his stuff can be found elesewhere."

You are missing the content of what Avakian is putting forward. It is true that many cadre from the RCP approach popularization of Avakian and the Party in incorrect ways, but what is more profound is how they approach the political situation correctly.

Avakian's most recent works have created the room for experimentation and the embracing of various fields in their own right, while at the same time enriching the revolutionary project and these various social fields. It is simply not the case that people are being trained to act as typical communists, or that the majority of RCP supporters do act like that. It is just the opposite.

As for what makes Avakian himself so important, I believe that it has everything to do with his militant subjectivity and his firm rooting in the concrete.

Having read Badiou and other en vogue thinkers of the moment, the fundamental difference is between people who are constructing new vocabularies and concepts (often not as new as they claim) and those who are leading a revolution.

That Avakian does the latter without ignoring or not engaging the questions of the former is what makes him great, unique and irreplaceable.


Earlier, Chris wrote regarding Avakian:

"the analysis of the world situation is good as far as it goes, but in many ways is trapped in categories that are thirty or forty years out of date. Avakian knows the world has changed a lot and attempts to incorporate some of those changes into his analysis but he relies very heavily on an armory of MLM theoretical concepts that has not been radically overhauled imprtantly since the Cultural Revolution."

This criticism really resonates with me. Chris and others who feel this way might find it really refreshing to read the introduction to Baburam Bhattarai's dissertation, published as The Nature of Underdevelopment and Regional Structure of Nepal: A Marxist Analysis. Written in the early to mid-1980s, it incorporates quite a bit of social theory (including Samir Amin) from the time.

Clearly, there are different lines in the ICM on how to implement 'embracing but not replacing', and perhaps some others are better than Avakian at actually embracing.

The fundamental problem is that all this hand wringing and honest debate about the need for new categories explicitly fails to create new politics.

They can create new vocabularies, new concepts, and new ways of looking at the situation, but each, when posed with the question of new politics, admits total ignorance.

This is certainly the case with Badiou, and from what I've read about Hardt and Negri, it is also the case. Furthermore many of these new concepts and ways of looking at the situation are not new.

One thing is certain, the questions remain essentially the same.

In the context of the total negation of the party concept, one has to wonder if the most radical position is exactly what Avakian is doing. That is, to reassert the necessity of the party and of seizing state power, but, with an eye to the real contradictions and failures of the past, to do it in a better even qualitatively different way than it has been done before.

Furthermore, it is the case that political theory divorced from political practice is worthless. The great strength of these new theories is that they posit something which is untestable. Hardt and Negri, as well as Badiou cannot be verified in the political field, because they offer no political prescriptions.

This is the fundamental and incredibly important difference between Avakian and these other thinkers.

Having said this it is absolutely necessary for people in the political field to engage these thinkers and their ideas. Not to engage them as a field of conflicting lines, or sectarian interests, or as a priori wrong in favor of "the correct line", but exactly to engage them to develop the continuing conversation and to enrich revolutionary communism's understanding and practice.

This is what we're doing. This is the line that Avakian is fighting for, and it is fundamentally different than what anyone in the political field in any country in the world is practicing or advocating.


The last post was authored by me.

the burningman

Repeater: I saw a young woman reading Badiou on the subway coming home from work tonight. I put up an essay by him in the Hot Shots on the right column list.

Could you email me a short description of his work?

(This must be the laziest research method in the world: but when in doubt, ask someone who knows more.)


More on this 30-40 years out of date point:

(Obviously, I don’t know if this is what Chris meant when he brought up that point, but this is what I mean…)

This really isn’t a question of “is Avakian or Prachanda or communist leader ‘x’ reading the latest trendy thinkers, or this particular thinker or that particular thinker.” Rather, it is a matter of recognizing and incorporating the advances in thinking about culture, society and history that have been achieved by the humanities and social sciences as a whole since the 1960s.

Some communist thinkers have a tremendously conservative way of thinking about society and history, sort of a left-wing mirror image of people that have refused to incorporate the insights of social history (and the cultural and intellectual histories that have been built on that basis) that have been developed since the late 1960s (and which reached much more sophisticated forms in the past 15-20 years). The analyses of these communist thinkers are focused almost exclusively (in sort of a childish, “I’m playing a war game” sort of way) on issues of ‘grand strategy’, on the maneuverings of elites (whether in imperialist or socialist societies), and on war (as opposed to the daily reproduction of economic and social relations) as the decisive factor in shaping society and history. And while the activities of elites and the playing out of wars are (obviously) important things in society and history, the idea that they should be the main or exclusive arena for analyzing historical causation and thinking about history and politics is a notion that has basically been demolished among people who study society and history professionally (apart from a few old codger hold-outs).

So this basic neglect of fundamental advances in the way human society, culture and history are/can be thought about, sometimes makes reading some communist leaders or talking to communist activists feel like one is caught in a time warp. And, like I said earlier, the main forces among intellectuals who have refused to acknowledge the development of historical knowledge from the last 40 years are very conservative forces.

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