RCP Response Ver. 3.0: Still Dodging Substance and Reality
Posted by Mike E on March 3, 2008
by Mike Ely
The first was a verbal script circulated across the country which attacked me personally. The second was an elaborate argument that any communist criticism of the RCP was (virtually by its nature) “unprincipled” and “parasitic criticism.” The latest response argues that the only matters of line that can be discussed are those made available in the RCP’s and Avakian’s own published writings.
At the risk of stating the obvious, there is a common theme and method here:
Not one of these responses has dealt in the slightest with any of the substantive line questions raised by the 9 Letters (and by long troubling years of RCP theory and practice). All of these responses hope to keep the RCP’s core supporters sealed off from the 9 Letters (by not mentioning the Letters by name). All of them argue that any criticism of the RCP is unprincipled, irresponsible or distorted — unless it starts from the peculiar cramped and self-serving framework invented by the RCP itself. There is (over and over) a circular argument by which the RCP dismisses the 9 Letters’ detailed, substantive, accurate (dare I say correct and communist) criticism of their line by freely inventing new “orientations” and “standards” under which the 9 Letters can be disregarded.
It is all rather obvious, silly and superficial. And it is bullshit.
And, given the thousands of people (inside and outside the RCP) who have sampled the 9 Letters, it is an approach that obviously won’t work. The RCP is now organizing a traveling roadshow (March 9 NYC, March 22 LA/Chicago and so on) to (yet again) acquaint its core supporters with what Avakian’s new synthesis is, and (presumably) lay out their coming campaign to make Avakian a household name during this election year.
We urge the RCP to make a serious, principled, substantive and honest response to the 9 Letters a part of these public presentations. And we (in turn) promise to respond in kind, by deepening our excavation and exposure of this flawed strategy and hyped synthesis.
Here is this third RCP response followed by my answer:
* * * * *
Matters of Principle and Standards
(published on the Revolution website in March 1, 2008)
As a basic principle, things that involve (or are alleged to involve) matters which are internal to a communist organization but which that organization, for whatever reason, has not decided to discuss publicly, are not things which should be discussed publicly by anyone, especially anyone who even claims to be serious about revolution and communism. This is a matter of standards that is elementary and basic for any serious revolutionary and any real revolutionary-communist organization. If anyone wishes to evaluate what such an organization actually stands for and is working to achieve, there is plenty of basis to do so—and in fact the best basis to do so—by reading the official documents and other publications of that organization and by familiarizing oneself with the practical work that this organization carries out.
These are the standards and this is the approach which the RCP adheres to and applies. If and when the RCP itself decides to make public things which have been adopted through the internal processes of the Party—as has been done, for example, with the 1995 Leadership Resolutions—then of course the Party will not only be willing but anxious to engage with as many people as possible in discussion about these things.
Anyone who is not authorized by the RCP to do so but who claims to be revealing “inside information” about the RCP establishes himself or herself, by that very act, as someone who, at a minimum, is acting very irresponsibly.
Beyond that, spreading gossip, rumors, and distortions about the RCP, and/or others in the communist movement, marks anyone who does so as thoroughly dishonest and highly unprincipled. The more that life unfolds, the more the opportunist character of people who do such things will be revealed.
* * * * *
Mike Ely’s response to “Matters of Principle and Standards”:
1) Everyone who has read the 9 Letters, and followed the debates on Kasama, knows that great care has been taken to prevent ideological struggle over Avakian’s synthesis from providing organizational information that might be useful to sinister forces.
The opening lines of Letter 1 poses the contradiction:
“Without overstating an analogy, revolutionary communists need to undertake a “very presumptuous work.” It requires working through problems, not treating them as dark secrets. We too have reasons for caution. Our disputes take place within reach of a ruthless enemy. Yet, we need to deal with difficult truths about our movement, experiences and beliefs.”
For these reasons, the authors of the 9 Letters openly defined our standards:
“Principled Restraint: These letters attempt a critical excavation of political and ideological substance. However, they carefully avoid direct reference to internal events, documents, organizational structures and internal activities of specific personalities. This restraint means that potential documentation of some arguments remains submerged.”
These are correct methods, and we have adhered to them.
Personal note: The RCP has NOT adhered to these principles. They have circulated several false charges against me (personally) relating to internal debates. In the process they have alluded to internal events, documents, organizational procedures and internal activities involved in my last years within the party. This was done in order to smear me. How should I respond to such charges? By elaborately describing those internal moments and discussion where I opposed Avakian’s “Christian fascists as stage manager” thesis or where I raised that the RCP has not honestly summed up its failure to build a mass base? No. It would be wrong for me to make a personal recollection of those events public. And I haven’t. Meanwhile, the party’s hypocrisy speaks for itself.
2) The plot thickens because of one remarkable (even bizarre) feature of our present two line struggle: The RCP has been treating the defining element of its current line as a “secret.”
In Response Ver. 3.0 they are not just arguing that internal events, documents, methods and structures should be kept secret — they are saying they have a right to keep the central line of their organization a secret. And that for someone to critically examine their line, and to characterize their line in the process is highly irresponsible, dishonest, unprincipled etc.
Here are the facts of this situation: A new and far-reaching theoretical verdict has been literally imposed on the RCP, its leaders and membership as a whole. It is the verdict that the appreciation of Avakian and his new synthesis is now a cardinal question for communists — meaning that such appreciation is literally a dividing line between revolutionary communism and counterrevolutionary “revisionism.” Further it is asserted that this cardinal question is key for understanding ALL THE OTHER cardinal questions correctly (like the dictatorship of the proletariat and the need for a vanguard party). The appreciation of Avakian and his synthesis is (it has been insisted over and over) now THE cardinal question of this moment and this party — and all other opposing views needed to be “driven from the party.” All this is critically discussed in our Letter 6.
This concept of “appreciation” has had a complex bundle of implications that have been systematically unpacked for the party:
- First, the core of this appreciation is that Avakian must to be understood as a communist leader “on the level of a Lenin or a Mao” — meaning that he is literally re-conceiving communist theory and practice in a new way, with historic ruptures from the previous communist theory embodied in the works of Marx, Lenin and Mao.
- It was said that the masses of people of the whole world need to go through this gate opened by Avakian.
- And further the RCP, its members and supporters need to understand their role (as a party) very differently once a “leader of this caliber” emerges — because the party itself needs to be viewed as an instrumentality of that great leader. The party’s whole membership and leadership needs to race franticly, from now on, to “catch up” with the great leader and his rapidly evolving synthesis. The very notion of collectivity and the very operation of “democracy” within democratic centralism all supposedly change when a “leader of this caliber” arrives (or “emerges”).
- And another implication is that the communist forces of the world are expected to “engage” this new synthesis in a way that should lead to their own deepening “appreciation” of it. Instead the emergence of many different and opposing views among Maoists internationally has led to a barely veiled hostility from the RCP — with the exception of those few forces who are “engaging” in a suitable way. This has led to a shocking departure from internationalism — so that the RCP does not do public mass work in defense of the revolutions of south Asia (despite the U.S. government lies about them, and despite the real threats of various kinds of intervention and suppression.)
This verdict (on “the cardinal question of the Main Man”) and its elaborate implications now redefine the RCP. This thesis of “Avakian as the cardinal question” has been the animating focus of RCP’s internal life and its political direction for a considerable period of time now. (That is after all what a cardinal question does!)
And yet, (here is the unusual part) this great discovery (of a new “cardinal question” among communists) is not honestly and openly presented to the world for appraisal and debate. It is hinted at. This or that implication is discussed. This or that conclusion is revealed. But the core theoretical premise for the whole reworking of the RCP and its line is not (yet) laid out –now years after they have been formulated, imposed and used as a basis for forcing anything else “out of the party.”
When Avakian’s new synthesis is discussed — it is treated as if it is only a “re-envisioning of socialism and communism,” while these other elements are kept shrouded. In fact Avakian’s cult of personality (which he has personally invented, enforced and theoretically justified in exhausting detail) is a crucial and defining part of Avakian’s “package” — it is inseparable from the rest of his synthesis of Marxism, even if he chooses to keep if veiled from public discussion (and ridicule).
Let me put it bluntly: If you expect people to embrace this bizarre theory of how special individuals are the “fruit and flower” of the struggle (and the people themselves are merely the cellulose parts of the plant!) , that the “emergence” of special individuals is decisive in the whole epoch of history, and if you announce that all other communists must to “race to catch up” — just think what the IMPLICATIONS of all that are IF (magically) this mini-organization somehow got influence or power. Does anyone really think the other parts of Avakian’s synthesis (promoting critical thinking, truth, vibrant discussion, the listening to others) can POSSIBLY come to define their politics, style or actions?
This elaborate cult of personality (and all its idealist theoretical underpinnings) is a more defining and representative feature of Avakian’s synthesis than Avakian’s musings about a future socialism.
Look at how this party responds to the 9 Letters — and tell me they have a clue about respecting truth or informed dissent?
It has been amazing to experience, as I have written and discussed the 9 Letters, that the number of non-member supporters (in different places around the country) suspected that we HAD TO BE lying about “Avakian as the cardinal question” — because they had never heard that this party considered Avakian was “a leader on the world-historic level of a Mao” and “a dividing line question for communists.” Several said we must be lying because no one in their right mind could claim such a thing. In other words, the most basic beliefs of their own movement were kept from them, if they were not actually members. Meanwhile, party comrades are told “the train has left the station.” Meaning that it was not only “revisionist” to disagree with this cardinal question, it was now considered “revisionist sabotage” to even RAISE such disagreements any longer. And systematically, those who could not embrace this “cardinal question” were isolated and forced out, using one pretext or another.
And now the RCP’s is arguing, in Revolution #121, that it is unprincipled and “irresponsible” (!) for us to discuss this FUNDAMENTAL LINE QUESTION, because THEY want to continue to keep this verdict out of public view. They want to rally all kinds of forces to “defend” Avakian (from a presumed government attack that has not yet been manifested in any tangible way) but they don’t want to publicly justify their own belief that he is literally (and personally) the single decisive human being for the whole future of humanity.
Well that will not work. Revolutionary parties DO have a right to their secrets. They do have a right to have their internal procedures, congresses, meetings, personalities, documents respected by others. Those of us who recently left the RCP have not published anecdotes, personal vignettes, documents, personal accounts of internal events, and so on — and we will not do so.
But…. it is not correct, reasonable or responsible to insist that claims of a newly discovered “cardinal question” among communists also be kept secret.
Think about it: The RCP claims that appreciation of Avakian is the dividing line between whether there will be possible liberation or generations of more slavery on earth. They think the fate of humanity (literally and globally) hangs on whether a correct appreciation of Avakian wins out (first among the communists and then among the people as a whole). They compare his works to the famous Library of Alexandria where much of the precious knowledge of all Mediterranean civilization was gathered and then tragically burned (and lost). They describe him as a rare, special, irreplacable individual whose work and leadership are crucial for any coming revolutions.
But they want to keep the theoretical core of this understanding “under wraps”? It is what the Christian bible (Matthew 5:15) talks about, when it discusses how strange it would be to light a candle and then hide it under a bushel basket. Why is this happening? Obviously it is not modesty, humility and reasonable restraint — because those things have been left far behind in the escalating cult of personality around the RCP’s leadership.
Why should we be forbidden to mention and refute this thesis of “cardinal question”? Who is this theory being hidden from? Does anyone seriously believe it is because to reveal this theory threatens the RCP from government attack? Obviously not. This particular secretiveness are not about protecting the RCP. It is not part of building revolutionary organization wisely and well.
This is all a prominent example of something that has spread around the RCP like a cancer: Mis-using the mechanisms of security in order to control information and keep supporters on an information diet. It is to prevent people from having the most basic AND NECESSARY understandings of this movement, what it is doing and what it believes. They want to hide its failures and weaknesses, and protect those consolidated beliefs that are most antagonistic to progressive and communist thought.
What this third response from the RCP insists is that they alone can decide the terms under which they are discussed. They alone should decide what is said and thought about them, their projects and even their most basic line. But those principles of respecting secrecy just do not apply to matters of line, especially major matters of line and the debate over what are “cardinal questions” dividing communism from revisionism.
This new response suggests (for example) that we focus our “engagement” on the 1995 Leadership Resolutions, which was an attempt (13 years ago, right after the arrest of Peru’s Chairman Gonazalo) to jump-start Avakian’s cult of personality, at a time when Gonzalo’s cult of personality had people uneasy. Do they really believe that the public discussion and critique of Avakian’s cult of personality can be confined to discussing (yet again, in 2008!) to that odd thirteen-year-old document? How likely is that? No, folks, it is not likely.
Here is the situation: No one is fooled or cowed by this nonsense. Here at Kasama, in its discussion and network, we will (in the most principled and scrupulous way possible) avoid discussion of the internal structure, documents, events and personalities of the RCP. We will NOT irresponsibly open up radicals of various kinds to the scrutiny of hostile forces. But we WILL continue and deepen the excavation and exposure of line — and particularly the sad ill-fated neo-farrago that is rolling on, white-knuckled, under the banner of “Appreciation of Avakian is the cardinal question.”
This wind will not subside — this correct communist critique of Avakian’s synthesis is a fact-of-life on the political landscape. And, we will (as the 9 letters say) eagerly move “Beyond Avakian’s Synthesis” — after drawing whatever can be drawn from this critique, we will move on (as we are increasingly doing) with the “very presumptuous work” of reconceiving as we regroup.
The U.S. needs a serious, broad, thoughtful, living, open-eyed, non-dogmatic, creative revolutionary force — and we hope to be one current that helps make such a thing happen.
This entry was posted on March 3, 2008 at 12:13 pm and is filed under 9 Letters, Bob Avakian, Mike Ely, RCPUSA, vanguard party. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.