Joining the Party: Revolutionary Communist Party USA (Part III)

To be perfectly honest, I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to write about the RCPUSA. The party’s history, its ideological background, its principals, its goals- there’s a lot of ground to cover.

Let me try to start by giving you a quick look at the party’s history. The party was formed in 1975, in the wake of the anti-war, anti-establishment, and counter-cultural movements of the 60s and early 70s. A number of leftist and collectivist groups merged, forming the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. While very much a local movement, the party has managed to survive to this present day (not something one can say about most leftist parties).

Now for ideology, where things get tricky. You see, I’m a Trotskyist. The RCPUSA is Maoist. In general, Maoists hate Trotskyists with a passion. Trotskyists aren’t exactly wild about Maoists either. Nevertheless, I’ll try to do my best to give an accurate picture of what Maoists believe, offering alongside it some notes on what Trotskyists believe- so if nothing else, you’ll at least know where I’m coming from.

  • Maoists call themselves “Third Worldist”, that is, they believe that (as many on the left do) that the people of the third world are key in the fight against Capitalism. At first glance, that might look fairly standard- it’d be well nigh impossible to find a Communist who doesn’t believe the third world is key to the fight against Capitalism. However, some Maoists take things a step further, arguing that the struggle in the third world is the only battleground that Communists should be concerned with- that Communists in “developed” countries are actually Capitalist stooges and exploiters. Of course, considering that the party in question is the Revolutionary Communist Party USA– it’s doubtful that they hold this particular perspective. Still it’s important to know the belief is out there.
  • Stemming in part from the emphasis on Third Worldism, Maoists are nationalists– that is, they believe that Communism can exist fully within the confines of a border, that the state can coexist (nay, must) coexist with Communism, and that the nation must resist foreign imperialism at any cost. Trotskyists, on the other hand, are internationalists– that is, we believe that Communism cannot exist in a vacuum (no coexistence with Capitalism- ever), that the state cannot coexist with Communism, and that while imperialism should be resisted, it should not be resisted at the expense of the freedoms of the people of that nation. For example, during Iran’s “Green Revolution”, Maoists sided with Ahmadinejad, claiming he would protect Iran from Western imperialism and Trotskyists sided with the rebels, claiming that democracy must be maintained.

Now with all those differences, why not write off the RCPUSA right now? Well, as much as I am a Trotskyist, I’d like to imagine that I’m also a pragmatist. While I’m not going to drop my views, I’m not going to let them stand in the way of me working with people who I disagree with in order to, let’s say, fight for a union, or protest the murder of Oscar Grant, or advocate collectivism. So let’s get right down to the pros and cons.


Among the pros are:

  1. While not as old as the CPUSA, the RCPUSA certainly has been around long enough to merit some respect. Further, the RCPUSA has connections with such famous leftist groups as the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) and the Black Panther Party for Self Defense.
  2. Unlike the CPUSA, the RCPUSA endorses revolution as the only means of achieving Communism. This doesn’t mean that the RCPUSA holds that violence is the only answer to every problem, but rather, that militant action is still and option, and that the RCPUSA recognizes that the evils of Capitalism, exploitation, and authoritarianism aren’t simply going to go away.
  3. Again, unlike the CPUSA, the RCPUSA does not believe in compromise in any way shape or form. No voting for Democrats, no making concessions. Yes, this rigidity can be a problem, but it certainly doesn’t seem any worse than the extremely conciliatory track taken by the CPUSA.

And now for the cons:

  1. The RCPUSA requires members to reject any belief in religion or god. Now I’ve got plenty of criticisms about organized religion and various theologies, but there’s no way I can support the RCPUSA’s demand that members reject any and all beliefs that there might exist more than just the material world. First and foremost, I have a number of religious beliefs, and I don’t feel inclined to just throw them away because the party wants members to be “scientific” (that’s the justification they gave to me when I asked them about this). If nothing else, being told that I can’t believe in god because I must be “scientific” is both a deeply disturbing reflection on what the party believes to be scientific. The existence of god isn’t something that can be proven or disprove- being told to reject the existence of god is just as unscientific as being told to accept the existence of god And beyond the seem logical issues, there’s application. How dare the party attempt to dictate the person thoughts and opinions of its members? Where does it end? Doesn’t every person have the right to make conclusions about the state of the universe based on his own experiences and studies? This tiff I have with the RCPUSA is alone enough for me to write it off my list, but there still so much more to cover…
  2. There’s a strong possibility the RCPUSA is a pseudo-Communist organization, that is, while calling themselves Marxists, their actual ideology is contrary to Marxism. For example, while the RCPUSA spends a lot of time criticizing democracy. Now it’s fairly normal for Communists to criticize “democracy” in a Capitalist society, but the RCPUSA spends so much time lambasting it, one begins to wonder whether they’re against democracy entirely. After the fall of Capitalism, Communists believe that there will exists a “dictatorship of the proletariat”, that is, “true democracy” or “pure democracy”, untainted by the class system, will emerge. However, this term “dictatorship of the proletariat” has often been misused by pseudo-Communists to justify totalitarian regimes, such as the USSR and North Korea. While the RCPUSA never explicitly state “we’re against the very concept of democracy” or “we believe in authoritarianism”, there’s enough skirting of the issue to make me nervous. I’ve watched a number of recordings of Bob Avakian, the RCPUSA’s leader, speak, and the general feeling I get is that he’s endorsing an open-minded, benevolent, dictatorship, in which the party control wields total control. If this is true, it would mean that RCPUSA is not only not Communist, but a straight up danger to the ideals of Marxism.
  3. I mentioned Bob Avakian, founder and leader of the RCPUSA. While he’s a good speaker, the guys is, to be perfectly blunt, creepy. Almost everything on the RCPUSA website is written either by him or about him. Just from a pragmatic standpoint, he’s so central to the RCPUSA, I’m not sure the organization will survive without him after he dies. Again, the whole party seems to really be a casual personality cult of this man who just happens to be a Communist (if he really is one).



So the final verdict?

All in all the RCPUSA is a weird, small organization that might not even be Communist. What little- what very little- it has going for it is absolutely dwarfed by its disturbing policies, obsession with its leader, and its unbelievably backward demands concerning religion. The whole thing seems more like a bizarre recreation of the worst aspects of the USSR, only the USSR was less invasive.


So yeah, that’s a no.


5 Responses to “Joining the Party: Revolutionary Communist Party USA (Part III)”

  1. 1 B
    June 25, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    You mention the word cult in your article in relation to Bob Avakian. The RCP’s line implies that Bob Avakian is genetically superior to others (can know things that cannot be taught to others under any circumstances) and is completely repulsive and unscientific in that regard, but one of the main things that feeds this cult-type worship of Avakian is people like you who do not actually engage Avakians’s works properly, but choose to bash a very skewed view of what they actually believe.

    Let me help you learn here.

    Your first point of BS is that Maoists hate Trots. I hate Trotskyism, not Trots. I feel that you’re just as brainwashed as any theist. You’ve simply taken up unscientific leadership just like the most of the rest of the world and I don’t hate the majority of humanity : ) I don’t actually hate anyone, system makes the people.

    Maoists do not call ourselves “Third-Worldist.” There is a movement called Maoism Third-Worldism, who basically holds the beliefs you speak of, but they’re a tiny fraction of Maoists. I don’t agree with the Maoist Third-Worldist position overall, but it is true that the majority of people who label themselves communist here in the frontyard of the empire are people who actually, in the final analysis, largely serve the interests of the capitalist class.

    You claim that Maoists are nationalists and this sharply displays your ignorance of the RCP’s New Synthesis. The RCP are not nationalists in any sense. One quote from Bob Avakian reads:

    “Put the advance of the world revolution above everything, even above the advance of the revolution in the particular country—build the socialist state as above all a base area for the world revolution.”

    And how about this short quote to prove that you’ve never deeply engaged the works of Avakian:

    “Internationalism — The Whole World Comes First.”

    Perhaps the biggest pile of BS in your piece here is that Maoists believe that communism can be achieved in one part of the world. Communism can only be achieved worldwide. Socialism is the phase between capitalism and communism in which the wealth of society is re-distributed and the means of production are placed into common ownership. You have serious misunderstandings of contemporary Maoist thought.

    I’m no expert on the Maoists in Iran, but can tell you that they’re one of the few Maoist parties who’re still on very good terms with the RCP. If they supported Ahmadinejad at any point they were not correct in doing so and obviously had not deeply engaged the RCP’s New Synthesis..another BA quote:

    “What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. If you side with either of these ‘outmodeds,’ you end up strengthening both.”

    Of course some would say Ahmadinejad is not “Jihad” but the overall point Avakain makes is the Islamic leadership cannot liberate humanity and will in fact only enable imperialists to rally and strengthen their fascist base.

    The RCP doesn’t hold that violence is the answer. Communists know that socialism will be a violent period because capitalist exploiters and oppressors will never give up their elevated $tatus peacefully.

    Communists are atheists. I’m sorry you have a problem with that, but we need scientific-minded people to be leaders of a revolutionary movement that stands a chance of defeating the capitalist dictatorship, and not people who take things on faith. The existence of some gods can be disproven based upon the contradictory attributes assigned to them, but the issue is never about disproving something, rather about offering testable evidence for its existence. There is no such evidence for the existence of god(s).

    You said “How dare the party attempt to dictate the person thoughts and opinions of its members?”

    You’ve got to be kidding me right? What is a communist party about for you? A bunch of leftists getting together as if there has never been attempts at revolution against capitalism before and there is nothing to learn from them, as if just any old understanding will do in leading a revolution to successfully eliminate the capitalist class dictatorship? No. Without leadership with proper vision we stand absolutely no chance of liberation! A communist party doesn’t tell its members what they can and can’t believe, you cannot make someone honestly believe something that they don’t, .. you simply don’t become a member of the party when you hold beliefs that are so hostile to its leadership, and in your case here, to communism itself. Your words here paint you more into the anarchist or liberal camp rather than anything communist. If you hold beliefs that are antagonistic to the leadership of a group, then you raise your concerns within the channels of the group and engage in principled debate, but when your position doesn’t win out then it’s time you formed a new party with the leadership that you believe is necessary for humanity to be liberated.

    Regarding #2. You seem to look at Marxism as a doctrine rather than a science. Here’s something that’ll flip you out I bet. I’ve never read any Marx other than quotes in passing, and don’t plan on it for the same reason I wouldn’t read Darwin today to learn about the theory of evolution. I dare you test my knowledge of the nature of the capitalist system and what it will take to eliminate it.

    Yes the RCP does basically reject notions of democracy, but for far deeper reasons that you’re probably thinking. Of course you (should) know why democracy can’t exist under capitalism and that even while socialism is a million times more democratic than capitalism, the fact that we will be at war with domestic and foreign forces that wish to take us back to capitalism, and we’ll still be uprooting the old system, will thwart any true democracy, but the RCP’s argument is that democracy will not exist in communism because there will be nothing against the will of the people. I don’t know that I totally agree with the latter, and wish to reserve judgment on that until we’re approaching communism, but their rejection of democracy is not about anything like you’ve painted it here in your piece.

    On your final point. Yes, Bob Avakian is creepy. People like you help feed that creepiness because it is true that the RCP has put forth the most advanced understanding of the nature of the capitalist system and what it will take to eliminate it that currently exists. When their cadre encounter people like you who bash the RCP, but clearly haven’t properly engaged their works, it makes them feel more like they’re the sole source of truth in this sea of nonsense and they become even more cultish.

    You say the RCP is a small organization, and in a certain sense that is correct, they don’t exist in the numbers that they could or should be because of the way they frame the leadership (very N. Korea-like, very repulsive), but they do have 11 or so bookstores across the frontyard of the empire and do have some rather big names and lots of funding backing them. I’d say they’re by far the most advanced communist party here in the frontyard in just about every aspect…and I know that’s not saying much.

  2. June 25, 2011 at 9:28 pm

    Let’s all join the communist party and party to death.

  3. 3 trotskyite
    June 27, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    Alright, there’s a lot to cover here, so I’m going to try to break things down point by point.

    I. If you feel that you’ve been misrepresented, I apologize.

    II. With regards to my comments concerning the tenets of Maoism, the majority of my interaction with Maoists is with Maoists-Third-Worldists. They claim to be the only “true” Maoists, so I’ll let you take up some of these issues (such as internationalism-vs-nationalism) with them. http://llco.org/. They’ve got some pretty harsh views on the RCPUSA, and you might want to see about trying to bring ’em around.

    III. Now with regards to religion, I can understand the need for a scientific approach to socio-economic problems, however, issues of faith simply aren’t scientific. They don’t work on a material plane, they can’t be empirically tested. The equivalent would be trying to apply the scientific process to decide whether or not the Mona Lisa is a beautiful painting- it just can’t be done. We can look at the paint, the geometry, the history- but ultimately, conclusions about the aesthetic quality of the work can only be made by individuals based on their own understanding of beauty. Because of this, no single person, organization, or nation has the right to dictate what a person does or does not believe to be beautiful- those conclusions are his or hers alone to make. We must apply this same reasoning to the question of science and religion. We can measure the expanse of the universe, the scales on a lizard, but whatever non-empirical conclusions we draw from our discoveries are ours to have. Person A might conclude from his studies that no higher power exists, and Person B might claim the opposite, and neither has any right to force his views on the other. To do otherwise would be an abuse of person liberty and of science.

    IV. With regards to democracy, we’re probably going to need to set down some definitions here. What we’re currently living under is Bourgeois-Democracy, a kind of pseudo-democracy in which, while everyone has a vote, power still rests in the hands of the ruling class. Now I’ll admit, I didn’t manage to make it through the RCPUSA’s daunting 104 page proposed constitution, but from the Avakian lecture’s I’ve seen, and from some of the writings on the RCPUSA website, the general feeling I’m getting is that the RCPUSA is proposing a system in which the party leader acts as the executive power, rather than a democratically elected official. While I’m tempted to admit that any system in which wealth-equality exists will be more free than a Capitalist society, I honestly don’t think this is what Marx had in mind when he talked about “winning the battle for democracy”. I’ve always understood this to be an advocacy of “Pure Democracy” or “True Democracy”- a system in which power actually is equally distributed among the people (as opposed to Bourgeois-Democracy), and anyone believing themselves to be better off alone may choose to leave that democratic union.

  4. 4 geez
    August 24, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    I think that the RCP’s beliefs are a bit wacky (and yes, I have engaged with their works) but I greatly respect them as activists and organizers, in fact, I *love* these people. I have worked with many of them in their front group, World Can’t Wait. They will work with anyone and they are also principled and right on the money about all of the issues of today, though the Maoism and Avakian are strange, yes, and I can do without those elements.

    Point is: you do not need a Bob Avakian, like Eugene Debs said, the working class do not need a Moses to lead them out of the wilderness, it is up to all of us, the people, internationally to do this. No cult of personality, ever. Has no place in the peoples’ struggles. I too have gone through many of the groups as you have and have even been in touch with them. I have finally found the SP-USA, I formally joined a few days ago.

  5. 5 Rock,strongo
    January 21, 2013 at 11:05 pm

    I just got an email from a guy I met at a rally trying to take Advantage of the actual ralliers and workers and passing out some BS propaganda and a crappy poorly written newspaper. Heres the email for any of you who wanna have fun with it. Don2007@allmail.net

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