Rules of the road

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February 27, 2006

Comments

celticfire

John said "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."

I have argued for accountability of leadership. You define that as "bourgeois" democracy, and wait for your magical leader to get his line straight then you don't need to think for yourself!

That smacks dogmatic revisionism.

So even when a leader has a bad line (like Bob did on homosexuality in the past), we should all just wait around for him to correct it, all the mean while PROMOTING the bad line?

Hmm, I wonder why the theory of 'totalitarianism' is so popular and then I come across people like you.

Why are elected (not self-selecting), accountable leadership "bourgeois"? Because you say it is? When the boureoisie copyright democracy?

You talk about the limitations of mass democracy, well lets talk about the limitations of expecting super-human achievements to one man, and then wondering why revisionism takes over so quickly.

You mock rank-and-file democracy, and the need for all of us to "understand" what our leaders are trying to "teach" us with BLIND obedience.

I know you've heard this before, several times, and I am sure you dismiss with whatever label you feel convenient, but that doesn't change facts. Keep waiting for Bob to liberate you, while the rest of us liberate ourselves!

On leadership, leaders are important. Undoubtedly Lenin and Mao played very important roles in those revolutions. But you aren't developing strong leadership by giving a blank check on authority. Lenin and Mao made mistakes, both were wrong at times and sometimes made SERIOUS mistakes. What made them so great was the ability to listen to their rank-and-file and learn from them too, not just treat them like ignorant pupils waiting to recieve your 'truth'.

Look, again - I am not denouncing Bob Avakian. I am however calling out the RCP's actions and practices.

lu

These are just some thoughts on the first read of this discussion. Some of them are directed towards particular comments.

Christopher: The Carl Dix interview, “Dissecting the Bush Agenda,” “Notes on Political Economy,” “imperialist globalization and the fight for a different future.” These are just the things I can think of off the top of my head that deal with the issues that you claim the party ignores. The rules of imperialism have not changed, but many things within that have. And the party, including the chair has spoken to them. As a side note, financialization of capital and the establishment of International Financial Institutions, are not new things. They were analyzed very deeply by both Lenin and Mao. And Avakian has really dug into them on that basis.

None of the other writers listed here, samir amin and the rest, have done anything close to actually understanding the mood and sentiments of the masses, understanding the history of class struggle throughout the world, and the problems and prospects of revolution in this country. Nor has anyone else come out with such a dissection of democracy.

As for Avakian’s followers being uncritical – there is uneven development and we’re not all your ideal. That said, we aren’t going to say that the chairman is wrong if he isn’t.

Now let’s get into the role of leaders. I want to take on a few big particulars and get into it from there. Can anyone else lead a revolution in this country that would mean anything besides Bob Avakian and the RCP? What role did Lenin play in the Russian Revolution? Would it have happened without his leadership? So now, what does leadership mean? It means concentrating knowledge and taking it out broadly.

Fellow traveler: Is history a dynamic thing? if you look materially at the 80’s and not use blanket analogies to other periods, then you’ll see that shit was coming to a head in terms of inter-imperialist struggle. And you will also see exactly where the party was wrong in “notes on political economy.” Now let’s talk about Christian fascism. First off, abortion is not “new ground.” Secondly, have we been living under fascism for centuries? No. Is this trajectory ripping up the social fabric of bourgeois democracy? Yes. Is fascism bad for the proletariat? Yes. I would especially dig into “Advancing the World Revolutionary Movement” even though there is some ghetto logic used in terms of colonialism differing with different groups of colonizers.

Is the chairman’s work ground-breaking? Yea. And people should read every piece. And we can accept if you don’t, even though we’ll tell you that you probably should. Even if that doesn’t fit into your commie stereotype handbook.

Should there be a culture of appreciation, promotion, and defense around a revolutionary leader? Yea. It’s good that individuals appreciate, promote, and defend leaders. But look, Malcolm X had many individuals who did all three, but that didn’t stop him from getting killed and a lot of his message from getting fumbled, co-opted, and other things.

BurningMan, I think your questions are bangin.

Lurigacho: how about his method and approach? What is his line? Let’s investigate that and those other things in relation to that. No maoist in this period of history could actually say that those things are separate. I want to know why the rcp can’t be trusted, isn’t honest, etc.

I don’t see a single example where avakian has missed some world historic thing in the past “40 years.” He doesn’t use a lot of the same language as others because his actually gets to the heart of the matter. I think that a leader’s role is to lead with line, and through that enable others to get into particulars with the right method and approach.

Greetings from Stanistan

I don't think I've ever seen discussions like this online.

Very interesting.

celticfire

Man, leadership is important, key and sometimes pivotal. But I completely oppose the RCP's mystification of leadership, in fact it downright fetishizes it!

We need leaders, and real leaders are no joke - but promoting leaders like gods or supermen is a BIG joke. See North Korea.

That line of thinking breeds slavish obedience, not a critical revolutionary communist spirit.

Yeah, Avakian is a leader, and has earned some respect and attention. But he hasn't earned the right to be the proletarian god -- and no one will.

I am a Maoist, a revolutionary communist - I think we need a broad democracy that not just permits dissent, it generates it - Avakian has a lot of good works on this. But in practice and in reality I would be really afraid to live in a society run by RCPer's.

I wonder if I could still have my blog, or go to a protest then...?
Yeah, you all talk about "allowing dissent" and "solid core with a lot elsasisty", etc. but when it comes to it you don't take criticism very well and you really don't practice the mass line or democratic centralism -- like I said, consultation is NOT democracy!

fellow traveler

lu: "Fellow traveler: Is history a dynamic thing? if you look materially at the 80’s and not use blanket analogies to other periods, then you’ll see that shit was coming to a head in terms of inter-imperialist struggle. And you will also see exactly where the party was wrong in “notes on political economy.”

No, history is not a dynamic thing. It isn't even a thing. That's not science, that's Hegel, and Hegel isn't science. This is the fundamental error of Marxism, which, in the end, inverts Hegel anyway. You can't build a "science" out of Marx: the idea that history will end in a class-less society and that the state will wither is a hypothesis, not a science. A hypothesis that can't really be tested either; or at least the test aren't looking so good.

It's good though to hear a Maoist admit that the RCP was wrong on political economy in the 80's. On what basis are they right now? Science?

Christopher Day

Yes, Lenin discussed financialization and if you direct me to Mao's writings on the subject I'll read them. And at least in Lenin's case he made some very important contributions. But financialization has made a qualitative leap in the past twenty-five or so years that demands further theorization. I've read the RCP's "Notes on Political Economy" and I've read Arrighi's "The Long Twentieth Century" and Harvey's "Limits of Capital" and subsequent writing on post-fordism, flexible accumulation, and accumulation by dispossession and well, they aren't in the same league. The rules of imperialism HAVE changed. The urbanization and proletarianization of the global South, instantaneous flows of information and capital, the collapse of transport costs, the rise of IFIs and other international organizational forms, to name only a few big developments have radically transformed the political economic terrain on which we all struggle. They have changed the ways that crises unfold, the place of inter-imperialist rivalries in the overall dynamic of world capitalism. And all of this has big consequences for revolutionary theory and strategy.

Organizational forms (like the Leninist party) and strategies (like peoples war) developed under one set of conditions must be radically rethought under new conditions. The Leninist party applied the most advanced military thinking of the early 20th century to the problems of clandestine revolutionary organization under conditions of Russian absolutism. Gramsci recognized this as an important advance but also realized that it was inadequate to the conditions of Italy (and the rest of Central and Western Europe). But the RCP doesn't say what they think of Gramsci and there has been a hell of a lot of water under the bridge since then.

Avakian isn't the only person grappling with the limitations of the communist movement in the 20th century. Its a question that has troubled a lot of sincere revolutionaries and to refuse to engage the whole rich body of discussion that has taken place and to demand that we just read more and more of the brililant words of Avakian is both insulting to our intelligence and an abdication of responsibility by a man and a party that claim to be the vanguard of the U.S. proletariat.

I've been reading Foucault on governmentality recently. While I have some big criticisms I also think it contains some profound insights. As you probably know I'm not the only person in the world reading this guy either. For better or worse he has had a huge impact on how radical-minded intellectuals (and many activists) understand power and the state. How is it that in the past couple decades Avakian hasn't seen his way to critically analyzing and responding to the claims of this enormously influential thinker?

One of the things that made me more receptive to reading Avakian again was Slavoj Zizek's introduction to the interviews with Bill Martin. The interviews themselves were a mixed bag, but Zizek's interest piqued mine. Again I suspect I'm not the only one. So what does Avakian (or anybody in the RCP for that matter) think about what Zizek is saying?

Well enough ranting, I have some other things to do today.

revolutionary kisses to all!

No Faith in Prince or Peer

Lu said the following:

"Now let’s talk about Christian fascism. First off, abortion is not 'new ground.' Secondly, have we been living under fascism for centuries? No. Is this trajectory ripping up the social fabric of bourgeois democracy? Yes."

Are you beating a strawman? Yes. I did not say we lived under "Christian fascism". I did state that it was always there. The problem, up until World War II, is that this element had its own contradictions - Protestant and Catholic sectarianisms, new Christian movements like the Mormons popping up and upsetting things. But after World War II, at the very least the Catholic-Protestant contradiction was settled - Vatican I had already established that Catholicism's big enemy was no longer Protestantism but socialism; Vatican II then took the leap of rendering the religion in America as Anglicanism-with-stupid-rituals.

Thus we have a common front of American Protestant and Catholic clerics emerging in the 1960s, anti-communist to the bone. It first gets seen in the areas of American intervention - Catholics and Protestants essentially ganging up to ensure that their missionaries innoculated the population against revolution. That group then merges in the 1970s with the evangelicals - Graham, Falwell, Bryant, et al. - to take up Culture War in the United States.

Since 1980, that group has had an effective entryway into the doorways of politics on a consistent basis. Look at any number of the really big events in the Reagan years - the AIDS crisis, the struggles in South Africa, in Latin America, the breakup of the Eastern European Soviet bloc - and there's clergy fingerprints all over them, and always for the reactionary side.

So what are the differences between then and now? The only one I can find is that the Democratic-to-Republican shift in Congress from 1994, and the alliance between the right-clergy and the Republicans, essentially sidelines them. They are no longer the folks who launch these things - it's now a highly mobilized set of people who consider themselves only accountable to God. But the agenda is still the same. The bulk of Democrats want to ensure that the Middle East is a British-American-Israeli controlled region; so do the Christian Right. The only difference is who gets the credit come election time.

Christopher Day

I know its not germane to the argument over Christian fascism, but to say that clerical involvement in U.S. politics always lined up with reactionaries is dogmatic in the extreme. Progressive clergy played important roles in the civil rights movement, in opposing the war in Viet Nam, in the nuclear disarmemnt movement, in Central American solidarity work and so on. Not to acknowledge this complexity is a big mistake.

Lu

Let’s talk about the relationship between the particular and the universal. Mao’s writings on warfare systematically summed up the experience in Russia, the experience in China, but they did more than that. People’s war is actually a universal of the capitalist era. Many things done in Russia, China, Nepal, and Peru have particulars to them, including big particulars like the way you do it in an oppressed country vs. in an imperialist country, but the theory of people’s war is universal in this epoch. These particulars also include kinds of weapons used, different allies and alignments, etc. But the theory of people’s war is still strong, even stronger today. And it is the same for a Leninist party – I don’t see the problem with a Leninist party in this time, I think it’s the only way out.
On this point about “just reading Bob Avakian and no one else.” I’ll be honest, in intense periods, when I’m working all day, the only thing I will read that’s more than 3 pages long is the chairman’s works. And I don’t see a problem with that. Yes, I’ve read Marx and Lenin and Mao, Trotsky and Che, and Malcolm X and Samir Amin and Chomsky. But even if I don’t read those, I don’t see a problem with reading mainly Bob Avakian or even at times, only Bob Avakian (of course, depending on the work that you’re doing, you have to get into particular things). The reason I do this is because Bob Avakian is actually providing the most advanced method of going at things, and that enables me to actually engage all of these other things on a deeper level. And this is why I’m able to talk to professors about changing the world and people in the projects about changing the world and everyone else.
By saying that history is not a dynamic thing is basically tailing the worst of Stalin – the world is dialectical. I’m confused when I hear “it’s good to hear a maoist admit the party was wrong.” WE HAVE A FUCKING BOOK ON IT! Maoists developed the idea of two-line struggle, and or criticism/self-criticism. And in terms of homosexuality, I used to be really into queer identity politics and I’ve read a lot about “gay liberation.” The position paper on homosexuality is the deepest, most thoroughgoing analysis of sexuality I’ve ever read. Not because it goes into every particular, but because it applies and provides a method of understanding it. And we openly say that we don’t know enough, especially about this subject.
Finally: Christian fascism. Relations between different sections of the ruling class continue to sharpen up, showing the teeth of their particular grouping and in doing so clarifying their stances in relation to other groupings. There are real differences within the ruling class. If you can’t see this, you’re ignoring reality. Does this mean that we should align ourselves with one grouping? Of course not – it means that there are huge conflicts going on and we need to take advantage of this. These crises are a must for a revolutionary situation. As the chairman said in relation to the last elections – they’re both worse. But let’s also get into who is the solid core right now within the ruling class, and all the analysis of that which was put forward in the new situation and the great challenges piece and more in the Coming Civil War pamphlet. And yes, the middle east is a crucial part of this, but it’s not nearly the only part of this. Let’s go a little deeper into the Christian fascist program. Fascism is not good for the proletariat. We do not want different struggles and our own efforts to be crushed on a qualitatively higher level. And we do not want the people generally to feel crushed in the same way. And then, there is particularity as well. Look at the Russian Revolution: after February, the conditions actually became more ripe for revolution – not because in some general way it’s better for our prospects to have a parliamentary society than a tsarist one – but because of the development of the particular thing. Now, that situation could have also gone the other way depending on its particular development.
No matter what, unless we make revolution, we will still have bourgeois rule – but under bourgeois rule there are revolutionary situations and non-revolutionary situations. What necessity are we faced with and what freedom can we wrench out of it – that is the question that we’ve got to wrangle with and that too many progressive people ignore. This is the question that the chairman wrangles with. Let’s finally get into that.

one last note: I want to know more about how "rcpers" don't apply mass line? i want to know what basis you have to say that you're scared you won't be able to have your blog and go to protests.

No Faith in Prince or Peer

One can equally make a mistake in believing that people like Reverend King, Bishops Romero and Helder, or Father Berrigan were anything other than "statistical outliers" (to use your phrase) in their respective denominations and orders; the real power in American denominations has stayed solidly in the hands of reactionaries since World War II. Father Berrigan may have poured his own blood over draft cards; the sad fact is that all the blood in the world couldn't stop the Catholic Church, as a whole, from fomenting American involvement in Vietnam - as best exemplified by the role Pope Pius and Cardinal Spellman played as architects of the of the South Vietnamese puppet state.

Similarly, one can be easily forget just how much Martin Luther King Jr. went against the grain of the Baptist movement -- Letter from Birmingham Jail was directed precisely at its leaders.

As for the role of Bishops Helder and Romero - the tensions they had with the Vatican are legendary. But was it the case that these were "progressive" clergy, or that Brazil and El Salvador had, in fact, gone so reactionary that even Christian Democrats looked good in comparison?

It may be a trite way of putting it, but these are exceptions that invariably ended up proving the rule.

Lu

this question of churches' role in politics is another case of being to simplistic. Religion is, in the final analysis, reactionary - it will not lead us out of this mess. But many times, in leadership as well as mass-base, some religious forces can play a objectively positive role, as well as sometimes subjectively.

celticfire

WTF? Lu there's a WHOLE website dedicated to it: www.massline.info

Lao Hong Han

Oh, dang, late to the dance again. Nonetheless, there are a few points I'm driven to make on this thread.

First, there's what we might call the meta-caveat. Discussions undertaken on blogs or lists like this have severe limitations rooted in the fact that the Internet is lawful. Threads have short lives, are broken and replaced by others, often under the same heading, and the dramatic generally trumps the thoughtful. That mitigates toward what a couple of posters called prooftexting. Confronted with a long document like the Bob Avakian piece posted by our host, the Human Torch, my tendency is to read it once quickly and if I decide it needs more attention, print it out and give it a more careful read, make marginal notes and so on, especially if I plan or need to give a written evaluation or response. By the time anyone does that, there are a bunch of new posts with points to be considered and answered, and in the meantime, everyone’s on to the next topic.

And of course there’s the participation problem—not to open old wounds, but exchanges on this list seem to be monopolized by a handful of people with good and quick writing skills and a fair amount of time on their hands (on the job, one can only hope). Unsurprisingly, from those I can identify, the players here are mainly educated white guys.


Second, on the subject of “The New Situation and Our Tasks” which The Burningman describes as Avakian having “his finger on the pulse of this moment,” I guess I fall on the “where’s the beef” end of the spectrum in this discussion, especially since the paper is being reprinted and re-promoted for use today by the RCP.

Much of it is insightful, of course. The Chair is a smart guy with decades of political experience under his belt and a whole organization to draw on. I particularly like the whole excuses-for-imperialist crime riff. Given that, I want to point to some shortcomings that I think make this piece less than pulse-pounding—or useful.

For one thing, Sun Tzu’s proto-Maoist precept “Know your enemy and know yourself and in a hundred battles you will never be defeated” is ignored. While there is a lot of talk about the US bourgeoisie and its global reach and overreach, it stays at the level of generality—if the US didn’t hit back after 9/11 its enemies would be emboldened and similar observations. Particular analysis of the ruling class and divisions within it is non-existent. “Sections of” the ruling class is a lefty cliché as old and hoary as “it’s no accident.” What sections? This is especially important now as those splits have developed or deepened to the point that dumping Bush seems a good idea to a lot of the ruling class and not just the overwhelming majority of the world’s people.

I acknowledge the references to “Christian Fascists” as a force somehow involved in the determination of ruling class line and policy, but the generalization problem still exists. Who and where are the CF forces within the ruling class? (As a side note, the three figures actually named here—Ashcroft, Reed, and Robertson are not exactly riding high these days.) Are we to abandon the Marxist idea that particular capitals or blocs of capital adopt political stands based on how they perceive such stands will advance their interests in the “expand or die” war of each against all? If so, what do we replace it with—the citation of anecdotes that demonstrate that some monopolists will do shit based on their religion, ideology, etc. even if it hurts the bottom line?

And some of the CF analysis is not only general but one-sided, like the take on the military in the “rolling coup” section: “And this whole element of the military, and in particular the officer corps in the military, is one that has great weight. The fact that here, too, right-wing (and to a large degree Christian Fascist) viewpoints and allegiances hold sway, is highly significant.” Now the Christian Right does have considerable power in the Air Force, but since well before 9/11, big sections of the officer corps overall and even the high command have been resisting the evolving Bush/Rumsfeld program. The Shinseki/Zinni inside/outside effort to slow the steamroller prior to the invasion of Iraq has been followed by Congressman John Murtha’s promotion of immediate withdrawal as a desperate bid to save the Armed Forces themselves before they are even more damaged by the current fiasco.

The same problem exists on the “know yourself” side of the equation. The paper misses a lot of what is important about the developing movement. It praises, for instance, stands taken by some “prominent people as well as students and other social forces.” Again, hindsight sure helps, but from September 12 on, the main social forces resisting the drive to war were there in plin sight: the pre-existing peace movement, post-students from the no-global and NGO arena and, to put it bluntly, a whole layer of boomer veterans of the ‘60s and early ‘70s (mainly, but by no means exclusively, white and petty-bourgeois) who sighed, shrugged into harness and went into battle again. By the time Bob’s paper was written, the rate of Black enlistment in the Armed Forces was already going into free fall, which revolutionaries in the Black community had observed and were fueling. College students have been noteworthy mainly for their unexpectedly low level of contribution to the movement.

In another mis-estimation of the people’s forces, Bob gets the “Support the troops” issue wrong, arguing that you can’t support the troops without supporting the war. In fact, one of the most important aspects of the anti-war/anti-occupation struggle has been the veterans/troops/military families movement, whose main banner is “Support The Troops. Bring Them Home Now!” Not only have these folks helped break through the right wing demonization of the anti-war movement as America-hating hippies and latte-sipping elitists, they have created a beachhead for anti-war and anti-empire politics within the armed forces, especially through the formation of Iraq Veterans Against the War. They have repeatedly crippled efforts by liberal policy wonks to make the movement’s main demand an “exit strategy” or drop the “Now!” And they have given us our own non-Hollywood “prominent people”—like Cindy Sheehan and Fernando Suarez de Solar, Camilo Mejia and Kelly Daugherty.

Line has repercussions in practice, as we all know. Although the RCP (d/b/a VVAW (Anti-Imperialist)) has cadre who are veterans, they have played a negligible role in this most important movement, especially by comparison with broader initiatives the RCP has undertaken, also with relatively small numbers, like the Pledge of Resistance.

Before I leave the subject of the paper, I want to unite with chris day’s point 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.” Even the fact of asymmetrical warfare on the scale of 9/11 is a new thing and coming as it did after the first attempt at the WTC, the USS Cole, Nairobi and so on hightlights exceedingly important new developments in the world. To dismiss that by referring to Islamic reactionaries “who actually hit out at U.S. imperialism for their own reasons” in the context of challenges to US hegemony kind of misses what’s been going on in the Arab world at least since the fall of the USSR. Nor is there any sense of what Prachanda suggests may be the start of “the encirclement of America.”


Third, and last before I burrow back into less enjoyable but more productive activities, a point or two on the question of the RCP and the role of Bob Avakian, which has been a big theme in this discussion. This is all stuff that has been said before, but let’s run through it one more time for the newjacks.

1. Lots of people write smart books and give good speeches. “Practice is the sole criterion of truth.” Until the practice of the RCP can show its line and method produce results in building the class struggle palpably superior to what anyone else is doing on the ground—in the US, let alone in the world—breathless claims like john’s concession in this thread that it can’t entirely be ruled out that somewhere on the globe there “may” be an Engels to Bob’s Marx can only provoke derision (and make people wonder why the fuck the RCP leadership doesn’t rein this nonsense in a little).

2. Lots and lots of people have been thinking about what went wrong with the first wave of socialist revolutions. That’s all to the good, but the conclusions are not likely to be tested in practice in the US any time real soon, and the experience of the Russian Revolution shows that when prognostications about building socialism meet the real world, it ain’t the real world that crumbles. Certainly we’ll have the experience of several more revolutions to draw from as we here continue rethinking our movement’s global history. Elevating summations and insights about what went wrong to dogma puts us at risk of emulating Daniel DeLeon who concocted a whole trade union-based map of how socialist society was going to run in this country which his followers spent decades bickering over and refining.

3. This isn’t the Russia of 1917 or the China of 1949, it is a vast variegated imperialist superpower of 300,000,000 people with a complex class and social structure shot through with imperial and other privileges. No grouping of a couple, few hundred people, I don’t care how smart their big cheese is, can have the actual roots in the daily life and culture of the people, let alone the actual social practice in the class struggle and other struggles against the empire and its rulers, to develop more than the vaguest idea of what it will take to make socialist revolution here. As a case in point I offer the paper on the Chicana/o national question put out by the RCP as part of its project (1999-2006 and counting) to draft a new party programme. In brief, it announces that the Chicana/o people of the Southwest aren’t a nation and don’t have the right to national self-determination and to top it off arbitrarily defines immigrants from Mexico as non-Chicana/o. This is just dumb. If folks there decide to go for independence in a revolutionary situation, is the Red Army going to march in and stop them? In the meantime, the vast slowly unfolding changes being wrought in Aztlan and throughout the US by waves of Mexican and Central American immigration would seem to call for a little tolerance of ambiguity, no?

4. Finally, I know this is a nit-picky point and I’ve seen it made elsewhere, but, dammit, self-criticism is a real practice in Maoism. The RCP documents being cited by folks in this exchange are simply not self-criticisms. I, alas, do not have in front of me the one which tried to come to grips with why, in the ‘80s, revolution did not prevent world war and neither did world war give rise to revolution. I do recall the introduction as a set-up—the reader is presented with three choices: Uh, we kind of screwed up; things didn’t break quite the way we thought they would but check out our nifty methodology (and nobody else expected that the Soviet Union would collapse either); and we were right. I would imagine a lot of folks felt at that point that they didn’t really have to read any further. As for the document on homosexuality, it is in essence an argument that we were kind of wrong for 25 years, but look how deeply, thoroughly right we are now, while all the folks who were right all that time may have been right but they were right for the wrong reasons, so it doesn’t really count. A self-criticism, a real one, identifies and looks deeply into an error, examines its roots, sums up the damage done by hewing to the incorrect line, traces the outlines of the line struggle to correct it, and proposes rectification. These don’t.


tn_red

I recognize RCP members as compas, and I have a good friend that joined RCP. Nevertheless, I think it's a *serious* error that the RCP hasn't developed more public leaders , or offered the writings of other members besides Avakian. Or, does no one else in the RCP have anything of merit to say? I know that can't be the case, but that's how it reads from the outside.

This is not just my opinion, but refects the opinion of *numerous* other activists I know, including young student activists relatively new to the struggle.

I'm not sure what the internal culture of the RCP is that there aren't public leaders other than Avakian (or Dix), but I think it's time to "take a clue from the 20th Century" and develop some. I think RCP would be stronger and more effective for it.

======

"The older I get the better I know/
That the secret of my going-on/
Is when the reins are in the hands of the young/
Who dare to run against the storm"

-- Sweet Honey in the Rock
"Ella's Song"

observer

The SuperAvakain thing is not good in my estimation, and serves to ensure far more isolation for the RCP organizationally than their politics would otherwise merit. They view it as a dividing line question, and equate support fot the cult of personality or, what they call a culture of appreciation, with being a communist at all.

To be fair, they do have a number of other public leaders:

Sunsara Taylor is the national spokesperson for the RCYB.

Joe Veale is the LA spokesperson.

Carl Dix is the national spokesperson of the RCP.

Travis Morales, C. Clark Kissinger (a writer for Revolution), Mary Lou Greenberg, and Dolly Veale in the Bay all speak and write under their own name.

Then there's their paper, various appendages, and so on.

Avakian is the Chair, but it's a pretty big table he's sitting at.

repeater

Burningman,

I'd email you if I knew your email address.

tn_red,

One of the major problems with people's perceptions of the RCP is their subjectivity.

Statements like the one you have made about Avakian and "(Dix)" being the only public leaders of the Party are incorrect. The Party has several local spokespersons as well as other public figures who support and promote both the Party and Avakian's leadership of it.

I think people need to start making distinctions between opinions and truth when it comes these issues. Simply because people with opposing political lines are willing to come to unfounded conclusions based upon little investigation and a priori understandings of a "vanguard", "maoist", "leninist" Party, whatever that means to them, doesn't make them correct or even significant issues to be dealt with.

Opinons aren't worth shit, and the political methodology which uses opinions as the basis of analysis is no better.

We should all be engaging over questions of truth and have the intellectual/political honesty to censor ourselves from engaging reality on a purely subjective basis. Gossip/opinion gets us no closer to the truth, and is in fact harmful to everyone's overall understanding.

In the short run it may be efficacious for those political groupings that haven't the wherewithal to put out a positive political program. Efficacious in that it serves to tear others down to their level, thereby in fact blurring distinctions between those who know what to do, or at least have a pretty good plan on how to begin, and those that don't and resist commitment to the real. This methodology of raising opinion above truth, and subjectivity above investigation, serves, in the short run, to ensure the existance of these political groupings and nothing more.


the burningman

redflags.us@gmail.com

tn_red

repeater, i accept the point there are other leaders in the RCP besides Avakian and Dix. I should have been clearer in my post. My bad.

But, at least from the outside, it appears that the RCP is structured with Avakian as Chairman for life, and his writings given far and away more prominence than anyone else in the organization.

Am I mistaken?

Every organization needs a leadership structure. I guess I just think that in this time in the U.S., having leaders appointed for life hurts the cause of building organization. Perhaps in other contexts, like armed struggle, this would be different.

Use of the phrase "Our leader Bob Avakian" (which I have heard from RCP members in four different cities on four different occasions) makes a poor impression. On each occasion, I was in the presence of young activists and they thought it was creepy. It's not that these folks are anti-organization, though some of them may have had knee-jerk impressions of socialism and socialist organization.

Of course, RCP members are free to use any language they want, and adopt any structure they want. It won't stop me from checking rwor website occasionally, or even clicking on the "bob avakian" tab.

repeater

tn_red,

I think the issue of subjectivity and opinion vs. truth is still relevant to your point, even with the clarification.

That having been said, it is the case that Avakian, to put it in simple terms, is THE leader not just A leader. The vast majority of people are made uncomfortable by this. I don't at this point have my ideas fully worked out around this issue, but I hope to, in the coming weeks, write out my ideas relating to questions of leadership, Avakian's role as a leader, as well as the content of that leadership.

Frankly it is a VERY complicated issue. I think it will be a rather long piece.

As an indication of how important this issue is, one can look at the many discussions about Avakian that occur on the internet. This one for instance, is very in depth and busy. I think the controversy points to something much more important than it would seem on the surface. I hope to be able to illuminate some of this.

? for Lu by fellow traveler

A quick shout out to to the chops and comments of Lao Hong Han, especially his points 2. and 4. ("Speak bitterness" indeed!) But let me get back to Lu's question on Hegel: "By saying that history is not a dynamic thing is basically tailing the worst of Stalin – the world is dialectical."
Whoa, there cowboy! Just because I don't agree that Hegel is scientific, that history is not a "thing", is no need to go smearing good folks with the Stalin slur, especially since Stalin took YOUR argument. Lu, if the world is dialectical then we're never going to PERMANENTLY reach a communist utopia. The dialectic will swing back, class divisions will return, the state will reform. Marx proposes an END to the dialectic, an INVERSION of Hegel, a secularized eschatology. Do you really know what you're arguing for when you propose that "history is a dynamic thing"?

What I'm challenging is the basis for your belief that Hegel is "science" or that one can even build a science out of Hegel. This is no small thing for the communist project, but gets to the very root of Marxist faith, whether Maoist or otherwise. Is it a faith, or is it science? So, Lu, bring out the big guns, "The Phenomenology of Mind", "Reason in History" and "Philosophy of Right", and convince me that there's anything "scientific" about historical materialism. If you can't get this straight then there's no need for Bob Avakian.

celticfire

Mentioning educated white people with time, burningman said some good stuff about white activists in his comments about STORM. It is a lot to think about.

celticfire

and its something I don't have an answer to, being another typical educated white male, what role should people like myself play in progressive politics, and how do we get the people of color and other minorities to take more of the spotlight?

Pro-Marx/Anti-Lenin

Traveler, I think you're being mean when you challenge Lu to defend historical materialism. As you must know, historical materialism is from Marx, not Hegel, and Marx and Engels themselves took pains to emphasize that it was only a guideline to historical research and not the "master-key to history". Dialectical materialism, a form of vulgar Marxism, was devised by second rate thinkers like Plekhanov and Ulyanov (Volgin and Lenin) and became the fundament of most 20th century communisms. You're right though to press the point about science and faith. Communism, as a "secularized eschatology" is a prophetic traditon whose adherents don't understand its origins. Just like most religions.

celticfire

burningman wrote on AWIP:

"White people become revolutionares for all kinds of reasons, most of them to be applauded. The phenom of whites "searching the Negro streets at dawn/looking for an angry fix" is not a new one.

The tendency of white leaders and activists to use people of color to "diversify" THEIR projects is real. The domination of black movements, in particular, by external white funders and class trained leaders is real.

So is white resentment. Bitching about quotas is the last thing I would expect here. And honestly it's not a debate that young revolutionaries usually want to engage as a first priority."

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