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RCP Response Ver. 3.0: Still Dodging Substance and Reality

Posted by Mike E on March 3, 2008

by Mike Ely

faces.jpgThe RCP now has now published its third response-without-a-response to our polemical 9 Letters to our Comrades.

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.

81 Responses to “RCP Response Ver. 3.0: Still Dodging Substance and Reality”

  1. a good friend said

    Brother Mike, I have to say that it actually angers me that a voice like yours was kept so obviously stifled within the RCP.

    Reading this plain spoken, principled response I can’t help but feel actual anger at the creativity, love for the people and plainly communist politics that have been smothered by a cult of personality that straight-jackets its adherents and inspires little beyond ridicule among radicals looking for a way forward.

    I am heartened that you appear to be making up for lost time.

    Comrades still in the RCP: You are making a mistake. You are submitting yourself to a regime that will not even come close to attaining its stated objectives. You are settling for routine in what is, and I say this in sadness and regret, Avakian’s personal promotion machine. It didn’t have to go that way, sadly it has.

    One more thing: Don’t let them make you defensive with attacks and dismissal. Comrades are reading this and struggling painfully with the implications of this moment.

  2. Pavel said

    The new (to me) info that I derive from Mike’s last comment is

    “the 1995 Leadership Resolutions…was an attempt (10 years ago, right after the arrest of Peru’s Chairman Gonazalo) to jumpstart Avakian’s cult of personality, at a time when Gonzalo’s cult of personality had people uneasy.”

    I recall talking with RCP people at the time, and stating my own opinion that the fate of the People’s War in Peru reflected the problem of the Gonzalo personality cult. I didn’t hear any defense of that, and in fact one guy said, “I don’t know about this ‘fourth sword of Marxism’ thing…”

    Seems strange to me that the party leadership would in contrast decide that Bob was (in effect) that ‘fourth sword.” I appreciate the need for “principled restraint” and all but I’d really like to know how the two cults have related over time.

    Mike says:

    “It is what the Christian bible (Matthew 5:15) talks about how strange it would be to light a candle and then hide it under a bushel basket.”

    (I know the passage well, the general interpretation being, “Why if you understand reality, would you not tell people about it openly?”) I

    But Mike, it’s not clear from your probably hastily written response to today’s RCP statement how this fits into your discussion.

    Are you simply alluding to the “secret” nature of the “cult of AP&P” (as something unprincipled)?

    Or are you saying that within the party itself this passage was used to say: “Why hide our lantern [Avakian] under a bushel, rather than making him an in-your-face dividing-line issue?”

  3. saoirse said

    I would like to echo Pavel here. I had always thought that the RCP was critical of attempts to elevate Peru’s Chairman Gonazalo to a “fourth sword,” of Gonzalo personality cult and linked these things to the decline of the people’s war.

    Whether these things did in fact lead to a decline of the people’s war they certainly seemed like glaring errors from afar. It therefore seems striking that the RCP would, in certain ways, mimic the cult.

    Mike- Might it be possible to engage these seemingly parallel lines and ask whether there was much discussion of these matters at the time?

  4. zerohour said

    “I had always thought that the RCP was critical of attempts to elevate Peru’s Chairman Gonazalo to a “fourth sword,” of Gonzalo personality cult and linked these things to the decline of the people’s war.”

    As I recall, the Party was not in agreement with that assessment of Gonzalo but not because it was opposed to the cult of personality. RCP was not convinced that Gonzalo’s line had attained the universal quality necessary to qualify as an “-ism” as opposed to a “Thought” which is more localized.

  5. redflags said

    It’s worth returning to the “Jefetura” criticism that came out of the RIM.

    On one hand, it talked about it being wrong to swear personal loyalty to Gonzalo as above and beyond the party structure…

    …and on the other left open that the question of cults of personality in general, and more specifically whether some other 4th Sword was wandering the wilds.

    I remember this criticism of Gonzalo as “a day late and a dollar short.”

    Is that fair?

  6. Mike E said

    All this is worth unraveling. Here are some pieces:

    * * * * *

    The RCP was opposed to promoting Gonzalo as the “fourth sword.” More specifically they were opposed to the formulation of “Gonzalo Thought” — and particularly to the idea that communists around the world needed to adopt theories within “Gonzalo Thought” that were supposedly “universal.”

    To put it crudely: the leadership of the RCP was not against a cult of personality promoted as a new level of Marxism — it was just that Gonzalo was not their candidate in those primaries.

    This is all the more obvious now that (thirteen years later) the RCP anoints Avakian as the “cardinal question” for communists — and objectively promotes his version of Marxism (which is called a “synthesis” not a “Thought”) as the crucial set of new universals for the coming period of human history.

    * * * * * *

    Here was the situation in Peru where not only was their main leader captured == but where a line was emerging (from Gonzalo himself) that the revolution was not possible without him, and so the revolutionary war should be abandoned in hopes of freeing him in exchange. (This is the so-called Assumir line, or “Right Opportunist Line,” that as far as can be known, seems to have since won over virtually the entire remaining party organization in Peru.)

    The discussion of the two leadership documents is a major thing to unravel. But my view is that they were one of those eclectic communist documents (like the Moscow declaration of 1957) were everyone got their views embedded, and could draw back out of it whatever meaning they chose.

    Part of those documents was an elaborate discussion of collectivity, in the first document in particular. And then, grafted onto that discussion was a second discussion (also in the first document) where Avakian is promoted as the first among equals, the leader among leaders.

    The second document (Part II: Some Points on the Question of Revolutionary Leadership and Individual Leaders) makes a discussion of the importance of leadership — and morphs it into a discussion of the specialness of a particular leader, Avakian.

    Every part of those documents bristles with line struggle, and every part has the stitches of careful compromise or studied eclectics (where two things are said side by side and not synthesized). That is why reading them is so bizarre.

    In a way that is rather obviously misleading, the RCP implies that opposition to the cult of personality around Avakian MUST come from some petty bourgeois opposition to leadership per se. And so the second of these documents is promoted (and reprinted over and over) as the explanation of the necessity for a cult of personality. And it doesn’t work, of course, because it is quite possible to grasp deeply the need for communist leadership, and yet find the specific cult of personality around Avakian to be inflated, culturally odd, religious, unjustified and organizationally self-destructive.

    * * * * *

    Pavel asked a particular question about the bushel basket:

    Mike says: ‘It is what the Christian bible (Matthew 5:15) talks about how strange it would be to light a candle and then hide it under a bushel basket.’ (I know the passage well, the general interpretation being, ‘Why if you understand reality, would you not tell people about it openly?’) But Mike, it’s not clear from your probably hastily written response to today’s RCP statement how this fits into your discussion. Are you simply alluding to the ‘secret’ nature of the ‘cult of AP&P’ (as something unprincipled)? Or are you saying that within the party itself this passage was used to say: ‘Why hide our lantern [Avakian] under a bushel, rather than making him an in-your-face dividing-line issue?'”

    Sorry if there is any confusion. The bushel basket is my biblical allusion, and my use of the quote. The party does not quote the bible in such ways.

    I am saying that it is a strange paradox, that they think this Main Man is literally key to the world’s problems, literally key to whether all of humanity can reach liberation or not — and yet they chose not to make that verdict public. (i.e. I’m not necessarily saying just that it is unprincipled to keep their line secret, but that it seems odd and uncharacteristic.) And, the reason for the reticence is obviously not humility (because even a pretense of humility is simply absent around this leadership.)

    The reason for the reticence (i.e. the secrecy) is quite purely tactical — that these theses are so “out there,” and the reaction of all kinds of forces (in the ICM and among progressive people) to the full brunt of the RCP’s real views would be so stark, that this party literally now has a love “that dare not speak its name.”

    They have chose to keep their defining principle and verdict a secret. And like everyone keeping a “big secret,” they drop crumbs and suggestive hints. They run out a blanched and sanitized version of their own core beliefs. They act like the synthesis is just about “solid core with a lot of elasticity” (about communist past and future) and leave out the baroque theories about a particular “special” individual making history in this very present moment.

    In this recent Revolution piece “Matters of Principles and Standards” they are really arguing that their larger ideological line (their actual operative view of their own synthesis and ideology) is a secret that no one may discuss or characterize (at the risk of being called “opportunist” and worse.) Over decades as a wide-awake Maoist I have truly never seen or heard anything like it.

    The thirteen-year-old Leadership documents were a reving up of that cult of personality, but it has really taken whole new levels (in concept and form) in the last five years. In other words, if you think the public cult of personality around Avakian is extreme — you ain’t seen nothing yet, because (just behind that curtain) is a much more elaborate and extreme version, filled with quasi-Marxist justifications, catchphrases, argumentation and implications.

    And that is why they can’t “name the distortions” — i.e. because we aren’t distorting, and they aren’t about to publicly explain (or deny) their line.

    I think we have a responsibility to deepen this process, to further excavate and criticize (in a careful, accurate, principled way).

  7. logistical note said

    These March 9 events are not a “traveling show”. They are happening more-or-less simultaneously across the time zones. The New York event starts at 4 p.m., while the West Coast starts at 1 p.m.

    In other words, at the same time…

  8. Mike E said

    They have just announced Chicago and LA for March 22. I.e. it is not “more or less simultaneously.”

    The common time for the two main events is because there will be (probably) some announcement that is intended to be “big news.” My guess is about a imitation of the Finland Station, this time during the elections.

  9. andreimazenov said

    Do you think there will be some kind of “anti-candidate” campaign for the elections?

  10. saoirse said

    Anyone going to the events? I may go to the one in NY. who hasnt been waiting for that finland station moment for ages.

    Mike you say “…you ain’t seen nothing yet, because (just behind that curtain) is a much more elaborate and extreme version, filled with quasi-Marxist justifications, catchphrases, argumentation and implications.” Is this because of the logic of the cult of personality that it has to go this way because of its own internal dynamics. Or are you saying this was planned all along. And if the later than that makes it all the more relavant to tease out where this bad line emerged.

    Related and here I am just riffing, from the outside looking in things look like the party is falling apart. If as you say, the cult line has momentum I can only foresee further marginalization and fracturing. But is it?

    As we look to Kasama growing and developing what role will critique play for us all as this line continues to develop while at the same time I want to see things grow beyond a critique of the RCP which I will feel compelled to “step up” as the cult line grows.

  11. Mike E said

    My guess is about a sad imitation of the Finland Station, this time during the U.S. elections. It is just a guess. (Repeat: just a guess.) And we will know the details after March 9.

  12. YO said

    Mike’s unprincipled methodology is on full display here. No matter what the RCP says, Mike claims that he has the insider secrets that they are not telling. How can you argue with someone like that?

    When the RCP is withholding judgement on Nepal, Mike says it’s a “long sour silence.” When the RCP talks about A cardinal question, Mike says it’s THE cardinal question. When they talk about the communist project hanging by a string, Mike says Avakian is the string. When the RCP talks about repolarizing for revolution, Mike says they are trying to repolarize around Avakian. When the RCP puts out its leadership resolution, Mike says it’s out of date and they don’t really mean it. When they put forward a basic “orientation” (IN RESPONSE to the 9 Letters and other criticism), Mike says it’s the “RCP’s public response to the 9 letters.”

    As the RCP states very clearly above:

    “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.”

    In other words, what they say is what they mean. That’s how democratic centralist communist organizations operate. The RCP is not trying to keep the new synthesis a secret. Why do you think they have been promoting Avakian’s works and are now promoting the synthesis in the 3/9 and 3/22 lectures?

  13. BobH said

    I would like to make some comments on the “jefatura” thesis and Gonzalo Thought (GT), since I used to be quite familiar with those positions.

    First, I would be very interested if anyone could point out where the PCP used the term “quarta espada (fouth sword)”: I read every PCP document available from the movement in Spanish, and that term was never used. What was upheld was that GT was the application of MLM to conditions in Peru, and that its course of development suggested that new ideas and practices (e.g. the militarization of the party) might in time become universal in scope. The reason for joining RIM was to become a ‘red fraction’ to struggle for these ideas, with the clear understand that there were ‘hegomonic tendencies’ within RIM (which was a prescient description of the RCP — see the International Line of the Basis of Party Unity).

    The Jefatura thesis specifically argued that all revolutions generate a set of leaders with one eventually emerging as embodying a particular revolution; some of those, like Lenin and Mao, become the initiators of a new stage of theory and practice at the world level. A short passage of one of Lenin’s works was used to justify this (in the spanish translation by International Publishers the word ‘jefatura’ is used where ‘leadership’ is used in English). Clearly this was part of an effort to elevate Gonzalo to the position of ‘fourth sword’ even if the actual words were not used.

    With Chairman Gonzalo’s capture and the emergence of the ROL, this contradiction with hegemony came to a head with the long silence of ‘investigations’ leading to a half-hearted rejection of the ROL while implicating Gonzalo’s role in ‘possibly’ formulating it. This was a ‘cardinal question’ for anyone in the MLM-GT movement, since the CoRIM (and by implication Avakian) were seen as converging with the ROL. For example, there was substantial evidence that some of the key figures of the ROL were collaborators (e.g. one of Montesino’s videos that showed Margie Clavo being coached by the intelligence services), yet none of this was ever exposed by the CoRIM. There was quite a lot of exposure of this in the late 90s by Sol Rojo, but the ‘info diet’ was quite strict in the US and of course the defeats on the battle field made the PCP’s positions less important, especially after the capture of Com. Feliciano and his capitulation.

    I bring up this rather obscure history because I find it astonishing that the jefatura thesis is apparently becoming the new stock-in-trade of the RCP. The jefatura thesis, and the notion of unconditional submission to Chairman Gonzalo, was too much for me to swallow, but that being said there was quite a lot of good practice and ideological sharpness in MLM-GT that was worth studying and critically assimilating. How ironic that the least correct aspect of MLM-GT would be adopted by those who rejected or denigrated (in an indirect and unprincipled way) the best aspects of the PCP.

    Mike says:
    Here was the situation in Peru where not only was their main leader captured == but where a line was emerging (from Gonzalo himself) that the revolution was not possible without him, and so the revolutionary war should be abandoned in hopes of freeing him in exchange. (This is the so-called Assumir line, or “Right Opportunist Line,” that as far as can be known, seems to have since won over virtually the entire remaining party organization in Peru.)

    Mike, I believe this to be factually incorrect for a number of reasons, I only bother to point it out because it perhaps comes from the very selective ‘info diet’ the RCP tried to impose on the ‘peace accords’ question, probably to further impose their hegemony. It’s not so important now, of course, but I think it bears some value in the context of summing up past experiences (e.g. the role of the state in undermining captured revolutionaries), which is presumably important to us all, at least in the abstract.

  14. zerohour said

    YO –

    On January 11th, Mike wrote a post that included this: “That is the logic of the last part of the RCP’s response, and of various party supporters who are verbally repeating that script in various places. The script (usually called orientation or guidance)…” [emphasis mine] He was referring to the first “unofficial” RCP response.

    On February 17th, what’s published in the Party paper? “A Matter of Basic Orientation — a Message from the Revolutionary Communist Party”.

    Does Mike have magical powers that allow him to predict future formulations? No. He was a long-time member of the Party who knows how they function.

    I am also unable to speak to this “secret line” but I will give Mike the benefit of the doubt since much of their practice reflects an excessive and exaggerated sense of Avakian’s importance consistent with what Ely claims. But there is a way to verify his claims – ask them.

  15. zerohour said

    Mike –

    “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).”

    No way. Really?

  16. YO said

    Taking Mike Ely’s version of the RCP (rather than basing it on the RCP’s public documents and practice)… talk about a faith-based view of leadership!

    Zerohour, your example of Mike at one time using the word “orientation” to describe what may or may not have been an early rcp orientation does not impress me.

  17. STB said

    Mike, I think you are becoming overwhelmed with self-obsession. The “RCP Response 2.0” as you have called it applied to you in some regards, but it was not specifically about you. It was a response parasitic critics of the RCP. This includes many different kinds of forces such as the Boston Globe, and other “communist” forces like MIM, the Spartacist League, and on and on. I think some of it, but not all, applied to you. But instead, you have taken this narcissistic line of trying to make everything about you to make yourself seem more important that you really are.

    This article was about people leaking internal debates within the RCP and making up false rumors the about the RCP. There’s nothing new in it, it’s just a fucking reaffirmation of the RCP’s democratic centralism. It’s not all about you.

    Mike, I think you’re distorting reality to make yourself seem more important than you actually are.

  18. Ulises said

    Response to Yo/STB.

    Yo writes:

    “Taking Mike Ely’s version of the RCP (rather than basing it on the RCP’s public documents and practice)… talk about a faith-based view of leadership!”

    Yo, if you ask a representative of the RCP whether Avakian is held to be a “cardinal question on the level of the dictatorship of the proletariat or the vanguard party” you will be told that it is in fact true. And YET, it’s not published! Indeed, let’s talk about a faith-based view of leadership. And while we are at it let’s talk about the boring sophism and legalisms of those who are defending the RCP’s actions in all of this.

    There is no doubt that there are MANY former cadre who are now critical of the RCP. The “Orientation” very well may have been speaking to those unorganized and relatively private critics AS WELL AS the 9 Letters. But the RCP has NEVER dignified MIM or the Sparts with a reply (rightfully so). And they made a very direct reply to the Globe article, which could in no way be confused with the criticisms of “so-called communists”. With all of this, are we to believe that the RCP’s first rumor campaign (which explicitly referenced both the 9 Letters and Mike Ely), and then their subsequent orientations (which carried the exact same logic and phrases) are all coincident to the publishing of the 9 Letters? Seriously? Because MIM and the Sparts and the Boston Globe are “leaking internal debates”?

    We are supposed to believe that the RCP’s first reference to Nepal in nearly two years, and its first ever sign of solidarity with the revolution in India are also coincidental in relation to the explicit criticisms of the 9 Letters on exactly these issues? Seriously?

    I can buy some coincidence in all of this, but come on, the whole thing?

    We make serious critiques of the RCP and its current trajectory, and you come back with these petty technicalities. We are talking about essential issues for the revolutionary movement in the U.S., and you are talking about whether the “Orientation” should be considered a “response” or not, and whether it was entirely aimed at the 9 Letters or only partially. Or is your big point that the RCP uses an indefinite article rather than a definite article in conjunction with its “cardinal question”? At the same time that you play these word games, you use exactly the language and verdicts in the “Orientation” to characterize Kasama and the 9 Letters.

    Why play this absurd little game of denying every irrelevant detail while studiously avoiding any real engagement with the criticisms or even backing up your own assertions as to their distortions?

  19. Big L said

    Ulises wrote: “We are supposed to believe that the RCP’s first reference to Nepal in nearly two years, and its first ever sign of solidarity with the revolution in India are also coincidental in relation to the explicit criticisms of the 9 Letters on exactly these issues? Seriously?”

    Do folks think that this is a positive development? Might it not be the RCP is ‘listening’ to the critique and moving forward to improve?

  20. SS said

    Big L,

    That’s something I’ve been curious about myself. The people I have talked to are all saying coincidence, I’m not sure if they actually believe it or if they are just upholding party line, but whatever the case there certainly have been a lot of “indirect responses” to the letters. I find it hard to believe that they would be changing line now, rather than listening while people writing the letters were raising these criticisms. I’m leaning more towards damage control at the moment but that may change as things progress.

  21. zerohour said

    “Do folks think that this is a positive development? Might it not be the RCP is ‘listening’ to the critique and moving forward to improve?”

    Superficially, it could be an improvement, but as the Party rightfully says, line is the key. While it is good that they are now starting to publish information on Nepal, it is not clear what it signifies until the Party explains the politics behind its long silence on Nepal and now reversal.

    “Taking Mike Ely’s version of the RCP (rather than basing it on the RCP’s public documents and practice)… talk about a faith-based view of leadership!”

    Yo, if there is a faith-based approach here, it’s coming from you. You might want to try actually reading the posts on this blog and you’ll see that many of us have long experience with Party practice and documentation at different degrees. None of us are relying on Mike’s critique, but are instead doing what the Party wants: evaluating them on their public line and practice. We find it seriously wanting, many of us for years. You and the Party want it both ways, when we make criticisms and back them up with evidence, we are charged with distorting their line but the Party provides no examples.

    Ely has suggested in the past that you confirm his point about Avakian as the cardinal question by asking Party supporters. What are you waiting for? You have nothing to lose but YOUR faith!

  22. redflags said

    Taking Mike Ely’s version of the RCP (rather than basing it on the RCP’s public documents and practice)… talk about a faith-based view of leadership!

    Ya think?

    Let me ask you a question, yo: Can someone join the party who does not believe that Bob Avakian, as both man and personification of political line, is a “cardinal question”?

  23. Quorri said

    Zerohour says:

    “You might want to try actually reading the posts on this blog and you’ll see that many of us have long experience with Party practice and documentation at different degrees. None of us are relying on Mike’s critique, but are instead doing what the Party wants: evaluating them on their public line and practice.”

    I second this!!!!!!

    YO: If you haven’t been paying attention, so very many of us have experienced what the 9 Letters and Mike are talking about when it comes to the RCP’s line and tactics. I, and I assume most of us, are not mindless, uncritical, followers ready to jump at the first morsel of drama we are thrown.

    Rather, I, and many of us, have been critiquing the RCP ourselves and coming to realizations over years and are relieved to find an organized, compelling, and well laid out critique that we can AGREE WITH, not SWALLOW WITHOUT THINKING.

    I think you’d better think things through better before you sling accusations around like no big deal.

  24. Mike E said

    Yo writes: “When the RCP talks about A cardinal question, Mike says it’s THE cardinal question.”

    Yo is, in fact, CONFIRMING that the RCP says Avakian is a cardinal question (since I imagine he has done what others are suggesting…. i.e. it looks like he asked if Avakian should be considered a dividing line question among communists, and is confirming to us all that the answer he got was “Yes”).

    This is a rather important confirmation of a key and contested assertion of the 9 Letters.

    It is not worth quibbling over “a cardinal question” vs. “the cardinal question.” The RCP often says that it is “a” cardinal question — but also that it is “the” cardinal question for their party IN THIS SPECIFIC PERIOD (i.e. it is the cardinal question most directly being contested — and it is the one that enables you to understand the other cardinal questions.)

    The more reports I get from people around the party, it seems clear that March 9 will represent an announcement on these matters — a coming out from behind the curtain. After all, this key line question is being widely discussed — and they can’t keep just denying it exists.

    * * * * * *

    At the risk of stating the obvious: nothing should be taken “on faith” — or, obviously, on “Mike Ely’s word.”

    John Steele just recently wrote here: “I’ve been associated with the RCP, often closely, over a 25 year period, ending about two years ago…. I can say, from my own experience, that the Letters’ description of the RCP’s line and analysis is carefully accurate.”

    There are quite a few former party people reading and commenting on this site. Quite a few were involved in writing the 9 Letters. Not a single person who has been in the party has (yet) stepped forward to point out any specific description of line that is inaccurate. I think that is because EVERY member of the party (past and present) who went though those line changes knows it is true — whether they agree with the conclusion of the 9 Letters or not. There a can be quibbles about formulation (a cardinal question vs. the cardinal question) that may depend on where you sat and what you read.

    But the essence of the matter is that the 9 Letters are painstakingly accurate and restrained. And that is why charges of “distortion” arrive (so far!) remarkably stripped of any detail.

    * * * * *

    I do not think the RCP has conceded anything on Nepal by publishing the 12th anniversary article.

    I do think that they were highly embarrassed to have their retreat from internationalism called out publicly. And they should be embarrassed. And I think they took the occasion of the 12th anniversary to commission an article they could publish, and then published it. They have broken their silence, because their silence had been called out. They also published an article or two about the arrest of the Maoist editor in India. But I do not believe this represents any change in their basic approach to all of this.

    To be clear: there may be further morphings of their tactics. It is quite possible that the RCP might make public statements opposing U.S. interventions in Nepal, or in support of particular actions of the Nepalese revolutionaries. But I really believe the heart of the issue is that they believe that to seize power and then to “do anything good with it” requires some version of Avakian’s synthesis. The receptivity among revolutionaries around the world to Avakian’s views and claims have not been the “Germanic appreciation” that he ultimately thinks is needed.

    * * * * * *

    In the U.S. Army they say “when we want you to have an opinion, we will issue you one.” Without actually equating the RCP to the U.S. Army in any way, the approach that Yo advocates is rather similar: Until it appears (officially and explicitly) in Revolution an idea has no credibility. This is life in a small, self-referencing bubble.

    Meanwhile: I think it is very obvious who these three responses are aimed at. They are not written at some non-existent spectrum of “critics.” Some people have mentioned MIM or the Sparts or EG Smith — which just shows (puleez!) that they have no real suspects for who the other, alleged, mysterious “critics” might be. No. These responses (and several more substantive responses yet to come) are aimed at the 9 Letters — AND they are aimed at the deepening disaffection spreading among the RCP’s own closest supporters.

    Here is the situation: the 9 Letters speaks for and to a deep and growing disturbance among Maoists and other revolutionaries about the direction, line and practice of the RCP. This disturbance permeates the party itself, it is all through its periphery, and it characterizes quite a few people who have moved “out of the orbit” of the RCP. Not all these people agree with the 9 Letters (obviously), but all have been waiting for SOMEONE to craft a careful, communist critique of “what is happening with the RCP?”

    March 9th may be significant: The RCP’s top leadership may now (finally) “come out of their bag” a great deal more — I suspect they have to. They may (of necessity) express some public humility toward the rest of the international communist movement, and say predictable boilerplate about internationalism, the masses making history etc. But the heart of it will be codifying and situating this “new synthesis.” And they will cast the synthesis in terms of “re-envisioning communism,” and on that basis re-envisioning the transition to communism. Meanwhile the REST OF THE SYNTHESIS will be on display in the method and framework of the whole presentation — including its unmistakable approach to Avakian-the-person (whether he “appears” by video feed or not).

    I expect they may provide a new answer to the early Christian question: “Who do they say he is?”

    I have already laid out (several times) both who the RCP “says he is” and why we believe that estimation is wrong. They now need to bring their public and private estimations in somewhat closer sync (in part because everyone is reading the 9 Letters and the RCP leadership can’t JUST keep pretending that isn’t happening).

    This question of “who do they say he is” has two interrelated components:

    1) There is the question of “who is he for the revolution in the U.S.?” And there (in that mechanical “typical motion” way) Avakian has been designated “Our Lenin” — i.e. he is “the” leader of “the” revolution, “the” future head of “the” coming socialist state, “the” person who is NOW the most powerful single attractive potential that communists have for creating a revolutionary movement.

    2) There is the question of “who is he for the communist movement historically and internationally?” There (in yet more “typical motion” schematic thinking), Avakian has been tapped to play the role analogous to “a Lenin and a Mao” — meaning that he is not just “the Lenin for the U.S.” (i.e. just the key leader for a specific revolution) but he believes it is crucial to recognize him as a transformative figure for the whole international communist movement, for its theory and self-conception and therefore for humanity itself. Putting forward this second evaluation has been tactically tricky — for all kinds of reasons, including that the raw grandiosity of it triggers a visceral “ew” response among many people.

    That tactical complexity is why these particular claims about Avakian have been harshly enforced among organized communists but deliberately soft-pedaled in print. That is why I called it “the love that dare not speak its name.” Sooner or later, that reluctance must fade.

  25. Anon said

    Mike E writes:
    I do not think the RCP has conceded anything on Nepal. I do think that they are highly embarrassed to be called out, publicly, as retreating from internationalism. And they should be. And I think they took the occasion of the 12th anniversary to commission an article they could publish, and then to publish it. They have broken their silence, because their silence had been called out. They also published an article or two about the arrest of the Maoist editor in India. But I do not believe this represents any change in their basic approach to all of this.

    The questions I was asked by Party supporters about the recent Nepalese article were somewhat telling to the nature of the specific article chosen for publication.

    Specifically, I was told that the article was putting out the question of the danger Nepalese comrades are facing with their engagement with non-violent negotiations within Kathmandu with non-revolutionary parties. Not without the violent seizure of power could the state be transformed onto the socialist road is what was hinted at towards me from various supporters I spoke with — that this article was calling into question Nepalese comrades current non-violent tactics.

  26. Mike E said

    Exactly, Anon: The essence of the article is a polemical critique, presented as an “objective” background article. And it unwinds its critique without coming out from behind the curtains. People may not know what the Nepali Maoists are saying and doing — and many may not even see how that article embeds highly tendentious verdicts and summations. We will be posting a dissection of its argumentation, to make this more clear.

  27. zerohour said

    “Specifically, I was told that the article was putting out the question of the danger Nepalese comrades are facing with their engagement with non-violent negotiations within Kathmandu with non-revolutionary parties. Not without the violent seizure of power could the state be transformed onto the socialist road is what was hinted at towards me from various supporters I spoke with — that this article was calling into question Nepalese comrades current non-violent tactics.”

    This is an example of the dishonesty of insisting that we focus on the Party’s documented positions to understand their politics. What you recount is telling and consistent with the the notion that the Party’s silence over Nepal reflects a significant line difference. But since this position isn’t made explicit in the paper, it doesn’t exist for some people, like Yo.

  28. YO said

    Mike,
    first of all, the little blog blurb of some anonymous person on the internet, like me, is not a “confirmation” of anything. But the fact that you take it as a “confirmation” of the RCP’s line is a confirmation of YOUR METHODOLOGY (in the same way that you posted some email you recieved as evidence of the RCP’s initial “response” to the 9 letters).

    I personally do think that Avakian’s new synthesis is a cardinal question (not THE cardinal question). I think it has to do with whether we will get to communism or not. But I also think it’s something that is up for debate, and certainly not a settled question. And it is not a dividing line between revolution and counter-revolution (which is what you falsely claim the RCP’s line is).

    Every RCP supporter I know thinks your 9 Letters is inaccurate, dishonest, and unprincipled — and a crude distortion of what the RCP’s actual positions are.

    Another crude distortion from Mike:

    “Without actually equating the RCP to the U.S. Army in any way, the approach that Yo advocates is rather similar: Until it appears (officially and explicitly) in Revolution an idea has no credibility. This is life in a small, self-referencing bubble.”

    No! of course I’m not saying that ideas have no credibility unless they appear in Revolution Newspaper. Marxism embraces but does not replace. What I’m saying is that if you are going to debate the line of the RCP, you should debate the line that they put out (such as the leadership resolution, Bob’s recent talk, the World to Win article printed about Nepal, etc.), and not the line that Mike secretly knows about and other faith-based followers like Zerohour “give him the benefit of the doubt.”

  29. Mike E said

    Yo writes:

    “I personally do think that Avakian’s new synthesis is a cardinal question (not THE cardinal question). I think it has to do with whether we will get to communism or not.”

    In that you agree with the RCP. And it is an important agreement. And it is significant that the RCP supporters generally are saying that Avakian (not JUST his synthesis, but appreciation of him as a person) is a dividing line.

    But I also think it’s something that is up for debate, and certainly not a settled question.

    It is certainly NOT a settled question objectively. But the RCP insists that it must be a settled question for their party.

    Yo writes:

    “And it is not a dividing line between revolution and counter-revolution (which is what you falsely claim the RCP’s line is).”

    When you describe my “claims” you always leave off the key point: The RCP holds that it is a dividing line AMONG COMMUNISTS.

    They hold that it is a dividing line AMONG COMMUNISTS between communism and revisionism — i.e. between revolutionary communism and counterrevolutionary revisionism.

    I think the view you are expressing (of limiting debate strictly to published documents of a political force) is exactly the “fetish of the word” we criticised in letter 5. It is similar to thinking you can judge religious people basically through a close read of their religious texts. It is (as we said in the 9 Letters) like thinking you can analyze Obama from his public position papers.

    I think people SHOULD debate the published line various forces “put out.” But what do you suggest doing when the organization has decided to NOT put out many of their core beliefs? Should it not be mentioned or excavated? For example, in the Cultural Revolution, should we have only debated the actually published positions of Lin Biao? If we had limited ourself to that, could we have gotten to the essence of things?

    In fact Marxism insists you can’t judge people solely by their own self-description, or judge their views simply by a textual read of their own articulations of their views. And the reasons for that (for a materialist) should be pretty clear. Things are often not what they seem. People often believe things they don’t clearly express. There is a complex relationship between people’s self-labeling and their actual essense.

    Yo writes:

    “Every RCP supporter I know thinks your 9 Letters is… a crude distortion of what the RCP’s actual positions are.”

    If that is true then, Yo, you are in a great position to actually school us. What are those distortions? What are those “actual positions.” (Don’t tell us it is “a” cardinal question, as opposed to “the” cardinal question. Give us a real distortion!)

  30. Ulises said

    Yo writes:

    “(in the same way that you posted some email you recieved as evidence of the RCP’s initial “response” to the 9 letters).”

    Yo, you may want to act as if the email in question was just one individual speaking only for themselves, but what we all know is that email was an initial response and it was based on the “Orientation”, or something very close to it, which was not made public at the time. How do we know this? Because we received the same response, including the exact same phrases and accusations, from different people all over the country at the same time. AND THEN the RCP published the actual “Orientation” that the emails and conversations had been based upon in the first place, including the very same orientation and even some of the exact same phrases and accusations.

    The fact is that Mike was correct in his characterization of that email, and we didn’t have to wait for it to be put in print to know that it was the response of the RCP to the 9 Letters. We just had to ask cadre what they thought of the 9 Letters, and when they all said the same thing (after weeks of complete silence) it was clear that they had received the official response, or “orientation on how to respond” regarding the 9 Letters.

    Of course every RCP supporter you know says that the 9 Letters are inaccurate, crude, distorted, etc. That’s the orientation that they’ve been given in a democratic centralist organization. But when we ask repeatedly these same supporters for specifics we notice that they don’t have any. That is, they cannot enumerate the inaccuracies and distortions, which suggests that they are working completely off of their received script. It has become clear that many of these same supporters have not even read the 9 Letters. Why would they after their orientation has assured them that these criticisms should be ignored?

    “No! of course I’m not saying that ideas have no credibility unless they appear in Revolution Newspaper.”

    No, what you are saying is that we can’t criticize the RCP for its line until the RCP says that it’s O.K. What you are saying, practically, is that unless it’s in print in the Revolution Newspaper, it didn’t happen, insofar as it concerns the politics and line of the RCP. This is obvious bullshit, which has been illuminated ever brighter by the current controversies.

    Bob’s recent talk says, effectively, the same thing that we have been saying about the RCP’s line. They now hold Avakian’s synthesis to be THE highest expression of communism. They believe that the personal promotion of Bob Avakian IS “meaningful revolutionary work”. This is the essence of their program of “hastening while awaiting”. The only problem is that Avakian’s works are not the highest expression of communism, and if they were, they still wouldn’t be what we need to make a revolution in our situation. We need so much more. But the RCP intends to rest on Avakian’s synthesis as it is TODAY, rather than truly explore and develop the kinds of practical and theoretical invention that we need to REALLY bring about a revolution. They have “the plan” “the party” and “the leadership”, even when they don’t have a plan for making revolution, just a lot of talk about what they would like to see socialism be like, with no discussion of how they’re going to realize that. What is the plan for making a revolution in our situation? Beyond that, how can we really believe that the RCP is going to develop a socialism which incorporates dissent (should they ever stumble into power) when they refuse to engage dissent TODAY? They simply CLAIM that this is what they are about, all evidence to the contrary.

    I would add just one thing about this March 9th program: The suggestion has been that something new is going to be announced, and beyond this that the New Synthesis is finally going to be thoroughly explained to everyone. WHY DID THIS NOT HAPPEN FIRST? Why did the verdict on the New Synthesis PRECEDE the explanation of it? Why did the verdict PRECEDE any significant struggle over it?

    What kind of Party talks so grandly of scientific methodology, speaks so clearly against a practice of a priori thinking, and then goes out and so clearly practices exactly this brand of unscientific thinking?

    Look at all this, Yo, and remember your own words:

    “Have you read Avakian’s “Views on Socialism”? Dissent and debate, even coming from your harshest political opponents, as the way to get to communism… Talk about leaps beyond ML and M. There is much more, but I don’t have time.”

  31. Ivy said

    from MATTERS OF PRINCIPLE AND STANDARDS:

    “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.”

    from page 192 of IKE TO MAO AND BEYOND:

    “…Eldridge came to me and said, ‘Why don’t you just join the Black Panther party and be a secret member of the Central Committee of the Black Panther Party?’ And I thought about it and discussed it with people I knew, and I think he discussed it with some others in the Panthers.”

    So following the RCP’s logic it would be the BPP’s decision to make this information public. Or is there some out clause if the organization isn’t a thoroughly communist organization…oh wait that can’t be it.

    Is it that the Black Panther Party was smashed so it’s okay to talk about events internal to the BPP? Is it that Eledridge betrayed the people so it’s okay to recount those discussions?

    Any explanation of this contradiction by an RCP supporter would be welcome.

  32. zerohour said

    Yo –

    “Every RCP supporter I know thinks your 9 Letters is inaccurate, dishonest, and unprincipled — and a crude distortion of what the RCP’s actual positions are.”

    They said it, so it must be true. But why bother to ask them their personal opinions? You know they won’t openly contradict what’s in print.

    “No! of course I’m not saying that ideas have no credibility unless they appear in Revolution Newspaper. Marxism embraces but does not replace.”

    Mike was not referring to “ideas” in general but to the line of the Party. You insist again: “you should debate the line that they put out” but ignore that: 1] we do debate it, it is RCP that refuses to engage, or even directly acknowledge, us, and 2] the line they put out is not always in print.

  33. I find it amazing that this party can’t even train people to have a debate on an internet forum. That is something else. I moderate a few other websites, a couple of which RCP supporters used to interact with. Then they reduced themselves to reposted quotations… now they can barely do that and simply forward event announcements.

    Fear Nothing, Be Down for the Whole Thing!

    This is a larger phenomenon. It is amazing to me, not because the internet is some kind of be-all-end-all, but because – obviously – it is where a large number of debates are happening among all kinds of strata.

    Refusing – outright refusing to engage in discussions where all the terms aren’t controlled is something else.

    Think about it: Comrade Parvati, a leading member of the CPN(M) has managed to “speak” in the United States… via telecast. Jose Maria Sison has done the same. These are two individuals who have been (grossly) labeled by the United States State Dept. as “terrorists” – to whom the rule of law does not apply.

    Yet they can speak. And do.

    But for some reason… Avakian has been unable to do the same. It’s about building a mystique that ends up a total farce.

    So we are left to debate anonymous supporters when this organization has spokespeople, public and articulate named leaders… and the Great and Powerful Oz himself…

    Yo, you actually think that millions of Americans (or anyone else for that matter) are going to line up behind Avakian on the terms being demanded?

    Does anyone believe that?

  34. Jaroslav said

    First, on the brief back-&-forth around Nepal article (comments 18-21, 24-27), I suggest let’s continue this on the thread below where the actual article is posted here.

    Ivy raised a great question about BA’s reminiscences of BPP stuff. I think it is OK to talk about things which are ‘ancient history’, but where is that line between ancient history & modern history, it’s hard to determine. The fact that BPP is no longer around is certainly a big factor. But also, given BA’s & his party’s other actions, there is also quite a factor here of trying to establish his revolutionary credentials.

  35. STB said

    Mike, Yo obviously doesn’t speak for the RCP. The RCP have told their followers not to post on here. To be clear, I’m not a follower of a lot of the RCP line, and that is why I’m posting here. I think that comrade Joseph Ball’s critique of the unprincipled nature of what you are doing here and it’s harmful effect on the communist movement rings true.

    I’m saying this because I see a trend… anyone who comes on this board or who tries to debate with you… yu grab what they say and project it onto the RCP. For example, this whole thing about Avakian and cardinal questions, where you claimed that Yo had “confirmed” that the RCP viewed “Avakian as the cardinal question bla bla bla.”

    As much as I normally wouldn’t do this, I have to defend the RCP here. This shit is fucking unprincipled.

    And Yo, you need to consider the effect that some of this shit you are posting on here has on the RCP. I’ve read some of your shit and it was seriously not good and totally fucking unprincipled.

  36. lily said

    I want to put a few thoughts out here to YO and Mike E and myself and everyone listening or posting- this is all far more serious than the approach of anyone is facing up to. Mike knows some things very well that I wish he would state: it is very hard to form a party. People who’ve been around the RCP (including Mike E) have talked a lot about how the most important product of the 1960’s in this country was the formation of the party. With all of it’s warts and bumps, does anyone doubt that is true? If the Party was not so important, this web site would not exist and little would be written.

    The RCP has worked tirelessly to confront the challenge of making revolution in “the belly of the beast”. I have a lot of thoughts about how the practice has suffered from some consistent problems. But come on everyone, there is a stream of practice spanning over 30 years that, at the very least, was seriously working to expose and oppose US imperialism and working to take communism to the masses of people, and to make revolution. The excavation of practice needs to reflect that kind of seriousness. But you all are acting like working to destroy the RCP is okay because you are all freely expressing your opinions and dissenting. I am sorry, but there are things much larger and much more important than my or your “right” to talk about anything you want to. This “debate” is not happening in a vacuum or classless context. And, while I respect that Mike E and kasama has stayed away from talking about internal matters, it is actually not talking about the consequences of what is unleashing. There are all kinds of lines expressed on this site…trotskyism, anarchism, etc. This kind of “open” debate is one kind of debate. But there is also a needed debate between communists on communist terms.

    Do I think the responses of the RCP are adequate or even very good? No. Though I think everyone should step back and think about some of the things being said with a little more objectivity. I think that the RCP’s line on Avakian must be put right on the table and debated. In fact, my guess is that within the RCP, that debate was settled and that different people have fallen out on different sides of the debate. I am in very sharp disagreement with some of the lines of the RCP (in theory and practice) about how it is assessing Avakian and how this line is translating in practice. But some of this critiquing is starting to sound a bit like how the bourgeoisie summed up lenin, stalin, mao. Look, we are talking about taking on the most powerful government on the planet. Do we need to have a debate whose starting point is questioning the need for leadership and strong leaders? Do we need to have a debate that acts as if there have been no verdicts on the need for democratic centralist organization? It is one thing to argue that the RCP’s line on leadership is in contradiction to its summation of the problems that have faced communist leaders. It is one thing to argue that there is something about the line of the RCP’s leadership that has led to a wooden and sterile culture inside the RCP and that this is so serious that its external line is a cover for its internal line and practice. I would say this though, the long history of the RCP has incensed many people, but I think most would have to admit that the Party has, if anything, put its line right out there and has not got a reputation of being dishonest. I doubt that most of the long term members or supporters in or out would have stuck around for no good reasons (including Mike E). So, let’s not banter about accusations of dishonesty. Let’s say, a lot of the posters on this site don’t like the line of the RCP. Now, I am really blown away by the methodology of the RCPs “response”. I do think it is a loop, a tautology, a presumption of truths that then lead to more truths and then to conclusions. And I thought that the dismissive sarcasm was a cheap shot unbecoming of a party that hopes to be at the center of state power someday. What I would like to see are some polemics. yes, I know, much of Avakian’s writings involve sharp polemics. But that “been there done that” attitude is counterproductive. And YO, I assume since you uphold the new piece on standards that you have been approved to post on this site. If so, I think your posts are also beneath the seriousness of this unraveling debate. There was a point when the Mensheviks split from the party and were fond of saying “the rebellion is real.” But something being real is not the same as something being correct. And I think there’s an importance to the public meetings the RCP is holding on Avakian’s synthesis. People on this site should stop acting like they just can’t understand what that synthesis is– you should be prepared to prove it is wrong. Why? because, at the very least, it is a signficant work summing up the first wave of proletarian revolutions and envisioning the future of communism. What I have taken from the writings Ive read on the Revolution site is that part of Avakian’s constant refrain is that communists need to actually be scientists and dig substantively into the questions that the class struggle has posed to us and future generations who have not given up on fighting for a whole new world. Yet I would like to know that Avakian thinks about the objective problem that there are clearly few people in or out of the RCP who can coherently talk about this new synthesis. I say this not to be snotty but to say that there is, in my belief, something in the method and approach which keeps people talking without clarity. But I want to get back to my initial point– no one should be casual or blase about ripping up the RCP– because if it were not on the scene, it would indeed be a much more unfavorable situation than it already is. I think that the party does need to get beyond being so threatened by the messiness of line struggle and the messiness of people. I think there’s a certain amount of desire to control the terms of struggle and I think this gets linked to the tendency toward voluntarism when it comes to the ability of the vanguard to will its line into being a material force. But, let’s face it, if you had to choose between a tendency towards idealism and voluntarism and the determinist and defeatist passivity that currently has a hold on things, which would you choose? which would you choose, especially if you knew through time that the force you were seeking to destroy has stood with the masses through thick and thin for decades. Should the Party speak about why it has been basically silent about nepal for a long time? yes, it should, in fact it is its responsibility.

    And it makes me nuts that it suddenly prints an article and thinks it doesn’t need to say anything. Those moments make me want to shake its collective heart and say, “why are you so fucking weird about reality?” have there been distortions about the RCP, well, everyone should be careful about saying that sharp line struggle is the same as distortion. This is why I have found Yo’s remarks so unsatisfying, she/he has no voice, it’s duller than dull– nodding heads in lockstep is not the same as being an unleashed revolutionary people. There is a problem in our communist movement. I look at Nepal and I too have questioned some of the party’s decisions. But bigger than my questions has been my heartfelt support, my desire to see that revolution advance through twists and turns and new challenges– even when I am concerned about approaches. Is it not an amazing thing that our comrades there have taken the revolution to the point where it is? Where has the RCP been when it comes to b uilding support for the revolution? why is it so hard for the RCP to admit it dropped the ball, to put it lightly? it is true none-the-less and exactly because the RCP is important it’s posture vis a vis the revolution in Nepal is actually important. Why must the RCP reject that kind of transparency? If I understand some of Avakian’s points, he is grappling with the relationship of many things– dictatorship and democracy, voluntary decisions and coercion, solid core and elasticity, dissent and closing ranks. This examination is relevant and worth everyone who reads this site digging into.

    But maybe the RCP could put it’s own practice on these fronts to the scrutiny of the masses and to this emerging line.
    It would be so refreshing. And yes, none of these questions can be addressed as if we live in a classless world without one class or another holding state power. I am sometimes afraid when I read the posts on this kasama site that the petit bourgeoisie’s penchant for upholding bourgeois right is getting a lot of play on here in this anything goes rolling discussion. But, this (including me) is a collection of individuals without an alternative. This doesn’t mean we have no right to speak. It does not mean that the questioning is just a bunch of opportunism. No one has a monopoly on truth– no one and no one party, and that is not an argument for relativism. Maybe it’s not mainly about having the humility to be led– maybe it’s just about having some humility.

  37. STB said

    Lily, I appreciated your comments here, but I think you’re accepting some of Mike’s assumptions. I disagree with Mike that these statements of the Party’s orientations are specifically “Responses to Mike Ely.” To the contrary, I think they are statements of how the RCP is saying it will orient itself to those criticisms. I think the RCP has actually insinuated in some of their writings that they very well may respond in depth to the 9 Letters “if it is in the interests of the masses of people.” I’m sort of speculating here, but we should accept some of Mike assumptions as truth. Communists ARE scientists like you were saying, not bloody speculators.

  38. STB said

    typo:

    I’m sort of speculating here, but we should accept some of Mike assumptions as truth.

    should read

    I’m sort of speculating here, but we SHOULDN’T accept some of Mike assumptions as truth.

  39. ulises276/2 said

    Stb writes:

    “Lily, I appreciated your comments here, but I think you’re accepting some of Mike’s assumptions. I disagree with Mike that these statements of the Party’s orientations are specifically “Responses to Mike Ely.” To the contrary, I think they are statements of how the RCP is saying it will orient itself to those criticisms. I think the RCP has actually insinuated in some of their writings that they very well may respond in depth to the 9 Letters “if it is in the interests of the masses of people.” I’m sort of speculating here, but we should accept some of Mike assumptions as truth. Communists ARE scientists like you were saying, not bloody speculators.”

    Lol, that’s kinda funny cause I had the same complaint from the opposite direction. I think she accepts an awful lot of the RCP’s own assumptions about itself, its importance, and the danger of open but restrained debate.

    At any rate, your parsing of the words “orientation” and “response”, is utter nonsense. If you ask a representative of the RCP what they think about the 9 Letters the RESPONSE will be the same as the ORIENTATION. This nonsense that the orientation was ONLY meant as a general orientation towards criticism is actually worse than if it was aimed particularly at the 9 Letters. Are you saying that the RCP’s position is that criticism IN GENERAL should be responded to with “dismissive sarcasm”?

    Why have an orienation? An orientation for what? Obviously, so that your cadre can RESPOND to questions and criticisms in a uniform way.

    Look, the “Orientation” was specifically designed in response to the 9 Letters. It was not an orientation regarding MIM, the Sparts, or the Boston Globe. As I’ve pointed out before: They explicitly responded to the Boston Globe, and no one could confuse the author of that article with “so-called communists”. Furthermore, they have NEVER responded to MIM or the Sparts (and there really isn’t any need to). Third, the informal orientation which was circulated verbally and through email, and which this site posted as “The Initial RCP Response”, mirrors more or less exactly the later “Orientation” which was published in Revolution Newspaper. Once again, if you ask about the 9 Letters, you will be given the “Orientation”. On the other hand, if you ask about the Boston Globe you will be pointed towards that specific response. If you asked about polemics with the ISO, you would be pointed to those articles.

    You can go ahead and say that this was a general orientation to criticism, and that they are not particular to the 9 Letters, but then in the situation and context of today the 9 Letters are the only real critical polemic on the landscape. It’s like you are saying “we are going to have a general orientation to critics, but this orientation has NOTHING to do with the main critics on the landscape”. ABSURD! The only thing worse is if it IS a general orientation to criticism.

  40. ulises276/2 said

    STB writes:

    “The RCP have told their followers not to post on here.”

    Isn’t this unprincipled of you, by your own “standards”?

  41. STB said

    “Are you saying that the RCP’s position is that criticism IN GENERAL should be responded to with “dismissive sarcasm”?”

    Did you even read the article? The only dismissive sarcasm I see is coming from people on this site.

    “In keeping with our basic principles and methods, we will examine and seek to draw whatever lessons can be learned from even the most unprincipled opportunist attacks. In some cases, we may respond to such an attack—particularly where we believe it can serve as a useful “teacher by negative example,” and refuting it will enable people to get a sharper and deeper sense of the correct, revolutionary and communist, ideological and political line, in opposition to opportunist lines of various kinds, and to understand more clearly where these opposing lines will lead and with what consequences for the masses of people. But we will not allow such attacks to deter us or divert us from our fundamental purposes and aims, nor do we believe that it is necessary to answer every such attack in order to clarify what is, in reality, the line and the work of our Party. Those who are genuinely interested in learning about our Party are more than welcome, and indeed are encouraged, to read Revolution and other publications of our Party, to dig into the body of work of Bob Avakian, to attend public presentations and discussions of our line, and in general to engage with our Party and its viewpoint, aims, and practice.”

    Dismissive sarcasm? No it’s a basic orientation for RCP-ites.

  42. Peppermill said

    Yo writes:

    “Another crude distortion from Mike:”

    There are no distortions. The characterizations of the line of the RCP in the 9 Letters are accurate. I know this because I was in the party. For those of us who have experienced the change and degeneration of the party over many years, the 9 letters reveal a deeper understanding of what we have gone through.

    If I were still in the party, I couldn’t tell you what I know to be true, only the orientation that was set out. So all you will get from party members is the official verdict.

    When we form our new, disciplined revolutionary organization, our principles should not require that everyone has to spout the same zombified homogeneity. It’s not necessary; it’s counter-productive; and it’s weird.

    I have a lot more to say about this, but I will save that for a later post.

  43. ulises276/2 said

    STB,

    Yeah I read the article. And I remember this:

    “I heard you, you booed.”

    Bob Dylan, back in the day, responding with dismissive sarcasm to those at a concert who screamed at him for “going electric,”
    rather than remaining within the orthodox confines of “folk music.”

    Exactly, “basic orientation for RCP-ites.”

  44. SS said

    STB,

    Where can Joseph Ball’s critique be found?

  45. zerohour said

    Lily

    I appreciate your willingness to take our discussion seriously, but you are still viewing it through RCP-tinted lenses.

    “Do we need to have a debate whose starting point is questioning the need for leadership and strong leaders? Do we need to have a debate that acts as if there have been no verdicts on the need for democratic centralist organization?”

    No one is questioning the need for leadership, we are critiquing Avakian’s leadership. Equating Avakian with leadership blurs the issues and attempts to shield his particular leadership from criticism. We acknowledge the past summations on democratic centralism, but are questioning the degree of political restrictiveness that it requires. As for questioning the need for leadership, even though it’s not our starting point, as RCP would have everyone believe, as with all questions, it should never be considered completely resolved, even if it’s not the most immediately relevant question.

    It seems that you share many of the same concerns we do, but have not drawn the same conclusion that many of us have. Barring some extraordinary shakeup, Party will not change in any substantial way. They may adopt some very good positions, the current one on homosexuality as an example, but will not deeply examine the causes of it’s original bad line to begin with, leaving room for it to manifest again in another guise. The posters on this board have different degrees of interaction with RCP. Nothing is absolute and the Party could change for the better but many of us have tried and have seen little progress. So what would be better, to keep banging our heads against a brick wall for an indefinite amount of time, or to start conceiving an alternative now?

    “But, let’s face it, if you had to choose between a tendency towards idealism and voluntarism and the determinist and defeatist passivity that currently has a hold on things, which would you choose?”

    How about choosing neither creating a better option?

    “And, while I respect that Mike E and kasama has stayed away from talking about internal matters, it is actually not talking about the consequences of what is unleashing. There are all kinds of lines expressed on this site…trotskyism, anarchism, etc. This kind of “open” debate is one kind of debate. But there is also a needed debate between communists on communist terms.”

    What do you mean by consequences? Negative consequences from an open debate? Please clarify this for us. If you are referring to a wave of anti-RCP sentiment, would it be better for it to be contained?

    We are not only debating with anarchists and Trotskyists but hashing out some ideas among ourselves here too. In some cases we might even have some agreement with some points anarchists and Trotskyists [and other trends] make and yes, unlike Avakian, we will even admit when they’ve touched upon a crucial points that merit further discussion.

  46. I am not sure why anyone is surprised that the RCP hasn’t responded to the Nine Letters. The group has never seriously engaged its critics (to my knowledge), so what reason is there to think that it would suddenly begin doing so now?

    In any case, I have a question for Mike and others: how would you like the RCP reply? I am not asking how you think it will respond, but what would be the ideal, best case scenario? How could the group respond in such a way that would fulfill or even exceed your wildest dreams?

    Would you like it to expel Avakian? Dissolve? Something else? What exactly?

  47. lily said

    Zerohour,

    Yes, I take this very seriously. You asked what I meant by “consequences.” I am not so much thinking about this in terms of consequences of an open debate (so long as that debate sticks to the ground rules that kasama has outlined).In fact, I think the consequences for the RCP, for us, for the people more broadly, and for the struggle, will be very negative if there is not a more open approach practiced toward debate. frankly, I think in simple terms we will be rejected and unable to lead ultimately millions and our very line and approach will suffer for it.

    I remember days when we led major struggles and had to literally win debates with direct face-to-face participation of hundreds of people. We had to win through convincing people we were right. We had to win over the advanced, we had to swing the intermediate in our direction, and we had to often render the more backward people, impotent or speechless. More, I am thinking about the consequences should the RCP be isolated and more vulnerable to attack from the enemy and, perhaps most of all, what will be lost if we lose the RCP. I have had arguments with myself late at night over whether the line is so wrong and so far out of whack that the line of the Party can not be transformed.

    What I keep coming back to is this: that it is now important that there be a principled public debate over the party’s line on not only its Chairman’s body of work but on its very line on Avakian. Given the importance the Party is placing on establishing Avakian as a beloved or at least deeply appreciated leader broadly in society, then this debate is now the provence of public open debate. It is indeed a two line struggle.

    I agree that we should not shy away from drawing from correct ideas or points whether they come from varying “ists” so-to-speak. Though I think that more sweeping and basic disagreements should not be ignored or go without acknowledgement.

    To some degree you can have your debate with the RCP on some major questions whether they directly respond to this site or not. Take, for example, the polemic with K.Venu or Avakian’s writings on democracy. No one is prevented from debating this or writing polemics against these presentations. The same goes for the Leadership resolutions, or the many and lengthy presentations that are available online.

    Yet, I think that if the RCP is erecting a bubble around itself to avoid or deny the struggle around its line on Bob Avakian, it is doing a disservice. (to be cont’d)

  48. zerohour said

    “In fact, I think the consequences for the RCP, for us, for the people more broadly, and for the struggle, will be very negative if there is not a more open approach practiced toward debate.”

    During the debates around its Draft Programme, RCP put up a website 2changethworld.info which generated a great deal of intense activity. I had suggested to Party supporters that a modified site should continue so that discussion and “wrangling” could continue even if not specifically around the program. I’m not sure why they did not do this, but it made me wonder why they didn’t create a forum for open debate even if only to play the role of moderators. Was it a matter of logistics, security or just lack of interest?

  49. STB said

    ulises276/2 Says:

    “The RCP have told their followers not to post on here.”

    Isn’t this unprincipled of you, by your own “standards”?

    I’m not an RCP follower, just sympathetic to them in this struggle. I’m a Maoist of another flavor.

    SS Says:
    March 5, 2008 at 8:46 am

    STB,

    Where can Joseph Ball’s critique be found?

    It was posted on this forum and touched on the seriously damaging effect the Mike’s unprincipled approach has had both on genuine Maoist forces in the USA as well as in the world… and how it has unleashed all kinds of bad shit against Maoism, including all of the anarchism and Trotskyism that was found on this board that Lily was just touching on. I think you can find it if you rummage through the responses on the 9 Letters page.

    Mike’s approach to his disagreements with the RCP are dead wrong, and they really do root themselves in leach of people’s disagreements with the RCP. It’s opportunist. Look at the people who are posting here! Talking about dissolving the only Maoist vanguard in the US… christ.

  50. lily said

    “Look at the people who are posting here! Talking about dissolving the only Maoist vanguard in the US… christ”

    STB,
    thank you for putting this so succinctly…this is what i meant by negative consequences…that to lose the RCP would be a horrible setback for the people…in this county and internationally. Wavering on this among seasoned communists and revolutionaries is not only dangerous, I think it is inexcusable.

    the casual approach to this issue by some posters here seems so much a part of the crazed on commodities culture we live in…everything seems easy to get, disposable, new day new style, endless “things” and nothing precious…as if the ability of individuals to get what they want is higher than the relations of exploitation that make all this stuff possible. I guess I am saying there is a certain indulgance in many posts; a celebration of individuals.

  51. Pavel said

    So…

    “Some posters here…crazed on commodities culture” plus some “seasoned communists” inexcusably “wavering” might cause us to “lose the RCP”?

    Lily, any party you truly believe in should be able to withstand these criticisms, principled or unprincipled.

    “I guess I am saying there is a certain indulgance in many posts; a celebration of individuals.”

    Excuse me, but what individuals are being celebrated by those engaging in this discussion of the RCP, which appreciates, promotes, protects, sells, celebrates the advertises the “exceptional leader” Bob Avakian?

  52. Ulises said

    STB writes:

    “I’m not an RCP follower, just sympathetic to them in this struggle. I’m a Maoist of another flavor.”

    What I meant was, isn’t it unprincipled to be publicly stating matters of line and orientation that the RCP has not published, such as telling everyone here that they have ordered their members not to post on this website? I mean, isn’t that exactly what you’ve been criticizing Kasama for?

    What I would suggest is that it actually is unprincipled to be spreading rumors about how the “RCP have told their followers not to post here”. Because it is an internally held tactical position in relation to the 9 Letters, which is not 1) a central matter of line or 2) directly related to a campaign of false allegations and charges against the author of the 9 Letters.

    What the 9 Letters has studiously stuck to in all this discussion and debate is the central line issue of the evaluation of Avakian’s leadership and synthesis, and how that relates to the RCP’s program for hastening while awaiting. To Lily and STB, there is absolutely nothing unprincipled about that. Absolutely nothing. And if it requires some excavation of what the RCP’s line actually is, because they choose to keep their own verdict and summation of Avakian’s personal leadership and synthesis being a cardinal question a secret… Well, who exactly is being unprincipled here? The people keeping the central piece of their program secret, while bullying people and jacking people up around it in private, or the people who want to have a line struggle over the issue, in public now that the RCP itself declared that struggle was out of the question internally?

    Look, as the 9 Letters says, the RCP is not a vanguard. It doesn’t have the kind of connections to the masses that are required, it doesn’t have even the haziest outline of how they’re going to organize in our particular situation to hasten revolution. What they have is a record of being right ONCE, with regard to China. A series of very large miscalculations and wrong lines in between, and now what appears to be a program of “hastening” which can be summed up as the promotion of Avakian and his vision of socialism (Russia/China, but with dissent), along with the time honored practice of parachuting into the struggles of the masses long enough to make a scene of doing so, but not long enough to win a battle or develop roots.

    Perhaps you could say that our goal was to dissolve the only vanguard in the U.S., perhaps. But this would require that you lay the basis for the claim that the RCP is a vanguard. Otherwise you are just uncritically repeating the RCP’s own self deluded account of itself. And even in this you would be one sided in your appraisal of what we are trying to do here, which has as it’s principle goal the creation of a revolutionary vanguard in relation to a revolutionary movement, which has a correct approach to handling contradictions amongst the people, as well as with the enemy, and has an ACTUAL strategic plan for seizing state power, not just a bunch of talk about civil liberties* under socialism (if we ever get there).

    Now, as to accusations about the celebration of the individual, and the “danger” of other ideologies being in the mix. This kind of thinking is exactly the problem. We want to develop a revolutionary movement, we want to bring forward a revolutionary leadership within that. It WILL NOT HAPPEN if we continue to contain debate and struggle within the hothouse of an increasingly isolated sect. If we can not navigate debate amongst these forces now, when will we be able to? Isn’t the best way to learn how to navigate amongst the MANY shades of opportunism and other deviations, to actually engage it in the real world and to sum up that engagement? Or is the best way to handle this for us to wait until something is printed in Revolution, never minding how those verdicts are actually arrived at?

    I think the answer is obvious. We have far less to lose in turning our attention to the concrete situation and beginning the process of reconceiving as we regroup, than we do in desperately holding onto the sinking ship that is a Party consumed with the promotion of a hyped leader, even as that leadership has proven in practice time and again to have been a failure. What is even more unforgivable is the inability and disinterest in learning from those failures that the RCP has exhibited.

    What we have to gain, on the other hand, is a new movement and a real vanguard in relation to that movement. If we don’t grasp the developing situation NOW, if we simply rely on Avakian to get it right “next time”, we will have failed in our duties to the people of the world.

    The RCP may insist that the “train has left the station” with regards to any debate of Avakian’s centrality to the communist movement, but without addressing that particular claim I would like to point out another train that has left the station… reality. And if we don’t get on board with this train, we are not going to be able to effectively intervene in the politics of the coming period.

    We should not get suckered into another one of there confidence scams relying on over-hyped dangers (WWIII, Christian Fascists), practicing guilt-tripping activist methods, along with collecting signatures of famous people. Instead we should have a method of going to the masses to investigate their situation and the multitude of ideologies that are alive in that situation. We should be taking this kind of investigation as THE BASIS for developing a revolutionary program which picks out the strategic sections of OUR specific class structure to intervene in. Which should particularly seek to intervene on the side of the masses in cases where they are under direct attack by the state. And our intervention should BE REAL, not just writing about it, or selling papers, or gathering a couple hundred people from out of town to protest and then disappear the next day. We should be a part of those communities and we should be learning how to and then leading them in the organization of their communities as bastions of struggle against direct state intervention. Secondarily we should be promoting this struggle to the middle forces and uniting with them where we can. I can think of several communities which fit this bill. Why is there no organized strategic approach to these communities and to their struggles with the state? Why when muslims are rounded up and harasses, is our main reaction to wear a blue triangle? Why when ICE comes through neighborhoods rounding up thousands, is our reaction simply to write about it? Why when Katrina happens, are we some of the last people to respond, and why has that response been so hopeless in actually gaining victories for the masses?

  53. Ivy said

    A few quick points before I write something more substantial.

    Ulises writes:
    Look, as the 9 Letters says, the RCP is not a vanguard. It doesn’t have the kind of connections to the masses that are required, it doesn’t have even the haziest outline of how they’re going to organize in our particular situation to hasten revolution. What they have is a record of being right ONCE, with regard to China.

    Is Ulises saying that the position of the 9 Letters is that Avakian was “right ONCE”, or is that Ulises’ opinion? That’s not what the 9 Letters say. This is a flippant comment that, frankly, isn’t Maoist. Being correct on China wasn’t insignificant at all. It was a big fucking deal. And Avakian was right a lot more than once. Look, I have major major criticisms of the RCP’s current line and practice, but this is an example of Lily’s point: “this is all far more serious than the approach of anyone is facing up to.” So folks, let’s get serious.

    Without getting into a whole thing right now, I think the RCP is on a trajectory from which it can’t escape. It’s current line won’t allow it to recover. I fear it is doomed. This is bad news.

    I was interested when I first heard about the 9 Letters. I wanted to read a worked out critique of the RCP and its developing cult of personality around Avakian. However, recently there does seem to be a sort of “rooting” against the RCP, which I find unacceptable. I have read public documents by various parties of the ICM, I have some serious disagreements with many of them. I do not wish the destruction of any of them. So please don’t talk about internationalism and then root for the RCP’s destruction.

    People should not confuse a congruence of Avakian-bashing by non-Maoists, Maoists, and “Maoists” as an example of a broader, more critical, more fertile “Maoism.” Do I think non-Maoists should be part of the debate? Yes. But let’s not kid ourselves, there’s also another level of debate that has to happen AMONG Maoists. Yes, we need both but let’s not get eclectic and pretend it’s all the same thing.

    Ulises writes:
    Perhaps you could say that our goal was to dissolve the only vanguard in the U.S., perhaps. But this would require that you lay the basis for the claim that the RCP is a vanguard. Otherwise you are just uncritically repeating the RCP’s own self deluded account of itself.

    This is disgusting straw man argument. So if the RCP is not a vanguard, according to you, then it’s okay to attempt to dissolve it? Once again the stakes of what we’re trying to do are serious and Ulises statement doesn’t grasp this. This is anti-communism.

    Ulises writes:
    We want to develop a revolutionary movement, we want to bring forward a revolutionary leadership within that…What we have to gain, on the other hand, is a new movement and a real vanguard in relation to that movement. If we don’t grasp the developing situation NOW, if we simply rely on Avakian to get it right “next time”, we will have failed in our duties to the people of the world.

    What we’re trying to do is fucking hard!!! Do people get that? Do people think that the RCP was somehow blocking the development of some enormous vanguard in the US? I know some people on here get the immensity of what we’re up against, but others don’t seem to. The idea that the correct line will magically lead to a “real vanguard” is exactly the type of wrong-headed dogmatic volunteerist interpretation of “line” of which I am so critical of the RCP for. People, righty so, criticize the RCP for this and then turn around and do it themselves! Provided we can do what this site is talking about–reconceiving and regrouping–forming a “real vanguard” is not just around the corner. It sounds like something years away to me. This isn’t the 60s and if you think the dissolution of the RCP will make this task easier than you’re delusional. On the other, if you think just promoting Avakian will build some type of revolutionary movement you’re also delusional. The situation is not good. And if you dismiss the RCP as having gotten “one thing right” you won’t do as badly as the RCP you’ll do far worse.

    Lastly, the RCP’s current line is wrong. I believe a thorough critique can be made using the public documents. So let’s not have anymore anonymous internet claims about membership and personal anecdotes. There’s plenty to critique in the pages of Revolution (the “Pyramid piece” being an obvious example to me of something that has proven to be wrong).

  54. STB said

    “What I meant was, isn’t it unprincipled to be publicly stating matters of line and orientation that the RCP has not published, such as telling everyone here that they have ordered their members not to post on this website? I mean, isn’t that exactly what you’ve been criticizing Kasama for?

    What I would suggest is that it actually is unprincipled to be spreading rumors about how the “RCP have told their followers not to post here”. Because it is an internally held tactical position in relation to the 9 Letters, which is not 1) a central matter of line or 2) directly related to a campaign of false allegations and charges against the author of the 9 Letters. ”

    I think you are right here. I was accepting a lot of Mike’s assumptions that people are being told not to post here. I actually don’t know how the RCP is looking at how it will respond this stuff… but I don’t think the messages of orientation were actually responses to Mike Ely. The people I know around the RCP insist that they are not.

    “What the 9 Letters has studiously stuck to in all this discussion and debate is the central line issue of the evaluation of Avakian’s leadership and synthesis, and how that relates to the RCP’s program for hastening while awaiting. To Lily and STB, there is absolutely nothing unprincipled about that. Absolutely nothing. And if it requires some excavation of what the RCP’s line actually is, because they choose to keep their own verdict and summation of Avakian’s personal leadership and synthesis being a cardinal question a secret… Well, who exactly is being unprincipled here? The people keeping the central piece of their program secret, while bullying people and jacking people up around it in private, or the people who want to have a line struggle over the issue, in public now that the RCP itself declared that struggle was out of the question internally?”

    Come on man, what is this? Speculating about “secret lines” within the RCP? There’s nothing principled about that at all.

    “Look, as the 9 Letters says, the RCP is not a vanguard. It doesn’t have the kind of connections to the masses that are required, it doesn’t have even the haziest outline of how they’re going to organize in our particular situation to hasten revolution. What they have is a record of being right ONCE, with regard to China. A series of very large miscalculations and wrong lines in between, and now what appears to be a program of “hastening” which can be summed up as the promotion of Avakian and his vision of socialism (Russia/China, but with dissent), along with the time honored practice of parachuting into the struggles of the masses long enough to make a scene of doing so, but not long enough to win a battle or develop roots.

    Perhaps you could say that our goal was to dissolve the only vanguard in the U.S., perhaps. But this would require that you lay the basis for the claim that the RCP is a vanguard. Otherwise you are just uncritically repeating the RCP’s own self deluded account of itself. ”

    I do not accept Mike’s claim that RCP has no base among the proletariat in the US. I’ve seen enough, even with my very partial experience with the RCP, to see that they certainly do have ties among the proletariat. We might have our personal agreements with the RCP, but we have to accept the reality of the importance of the RCP.

    Mike Ely raised the false distortion of “the RCP has no base among the proletariat” in order to set the stage for the other distortions of their line that he printed in the 9 Letters. You can’t destroy a Maoist vanguard from the point of view of Maoism unless you first lie about it’s base. This isn’t a void, and Mike Ely is trying to destroy one of the very few things that communists have in our favor in this fucking imperialist shit hole.

  55. STB said

    “People should not confuse a congruence of Avakian-bashing by non-Maoists, Maoists, and “Maoists” as an example of a broader, more critical, more fertile “Maoism.””

    This isn’t a void Ivy. What is the objective effect of the 9 Letters? It objectively is aiding those lines and taking things in that direction whether that is what some of it’s supporters want or not (or Mike for that matter).

  56. ulises276/2 said

    1) I edited my above comments before I saw these responses.

    Ivy, the primary justification for the legitimacy of Avakian’s leadership is around the singular events of the coup in China. I do not treat that flippantly, but it is incorrect to expect that a leader’s further mistakes and failures remain unacknowledged and uninterrogated thirty years later, because he was right on this one issue. To clarify, this is my position. Where has the RCP drawn a correct analysis of the situation and then lead a victorious campaign in relation to that? Not with the “Revolution, Go For It!” line, and not with the most recent WCW program. These are two spectacular failures, which mirror each other. Is Avakian right that vibrant dissent needs to be a part of any future socialism, yes. Is he right that we need a communist revolution, and we need a party to lead that, yes. But I fail to see how these stands equate with an actual strategic plan for developing revolution in the U.S. Moreover, I fail to see the spirit of debate which is supposed to characterize this socialism in any of the practices of today.

    Don’t give me lectures about getting serious. I spent the last two years carefully reading Avakian’s speeches, exhaustively noting his audio commentary, debating RCP cadre, and sending criticisms back to the RCP via my connections. I have taken this very seriously.

    It has been Yo and STB and other critics that insist that a public criticism of the RCP is by its very nature a call for destruction and dissolution. I don’t agree with that. I believe that the RCP is fading due to its own internal dynamics related to exactly the lines and practices discussed in the 9 Letters. I believe that the 9 Letters is a call to SALVAGE what is in fact good in the RCP in order to move forward. People who want to describe this intervention as purely destructive are incorrect. The last of the 9 Letters clearly orients where we are going with this, to the future, to something better, through a process that includes the masses.

    The RCP IS NOT A VANGUARD. If the reason for its special treatment with regard to political debate and criticism is that we will destroy the ONLY MAOIST VANGUARD in the U.S., then this reasoning is fundamentally flawed in one of its premises. It is really not a matter of whether we destroy it or not, it is a matter of whether criticism and dissent will be allowed at all, and how that criticism and dissent will be enacted. The RCP ain’t disappearing because the 9 Letters has TRUTHFULLY described its line and its trajectory. To focus on the damage that the truth can have in this situation, is to deny that truth be discussed openly, once ALL OTHER AVENUES have been barred. And they were barred. I ask, who makes the strawman, the one who claims the RCP is a vanguard, or the one who claims it is not. Take your disgust elsewhere.

    Yes, what we are trying to do IS HARD. And no it will not come about with some line cooked up as “the correct line”. After all, that is the RCP method. It will require a completely different methodology of INVESTIGATION amongst the masses, while leading them in organizing their struggles with the State. It will require a REAL leap in theoretical development, it will require an in depth political economy, and it will ultimately require changing objective conditions. Who here has suggested that this is easy? On the other hand, it seems there have been people who have suggested that the difficulty of it means that we should not attempt it, but rather we should stick with the RCP. I disagree with that.

    Get off this dissolution of the RCP kick. It was STB and Lily that injected that specter into this debate. It is not going to happen as an effect of the 9 Letters, but as an effect of the failures of the RCP’s leadership and line, if it in fact happens. I personally do not see the destruction of the RCP as a legitimate goal, but neither do I think that we can simply start something new without developing a critique of that organization, which was for a long period of time the most advanced revolutionary organization in the U.S. The people in this thread distorting the positions and presentations of this website are objectively arguing that either the RCP’s current program is correct, or that moving forward does not require a critical accounting of what has preceded. Both of these positions are wrong.

    What claims about membership and personal anecdote, Ivy?

    Hey STB,

    It ain’t speculation that the RCP holds Avakian’s personal leadership and synthesis to be cardinal questions on the level of the dictatorship of the proletariat or the vanguard party. This is the ACTUAL line of the RCP. And you can either see how it IS reflected in their practices and written statements, or you can do what I did, which is to ask a representative of the Party if they hold this to be true. And you will be told that they do hold it to be true. This IS the line question. Is Avakian’s personal leadership and his synthesis the highest expression of communism today? Is the content of what Avakian brings forward as a leader of the level that justifies a comparison with Mao and Lenin, or which justifies concentrating the entire Parties functions around the personal promotion of that leader? We can’t discuss this, even when it obviously is central to their entire program today, and for the last couple of years? Bullshit. This is two line struggle. And in order to do that you have to critique the opposing line, whether they have it fully published or not. Note carefully that the RCP has never said that they DO NOT hold Avakian’s leadership to be a cardinal question. Note this and do a little deductive thinking.

    Mike defined the term “base” very specifically. Having a couple proletarians staffing a bookstore is not the same as having a entire neighborhood or community that is partisan to your organization. But if you insist that these ties exist, maybe you could describe them in general, so as to disprove Ely’s contentions. First, what ties are you calling significant. What is the scale and scope of the partisanship? Has it grown or weakened in the last 30yrs? Etc.

    The RCP has no bases among the masses on the level that they themselves defined as a goal. If you insist that this is not true, then prove it.

    The objective effect of the 9 Letters has as much to do with the objective reactions of the RCP as it has to do with whatever “sinister forces” you see haunting the periphery.

    Weather the storm or complain about it. Just as making a new vanguard is not easy, maintaining the legitimacy of ones leadership should be contingent upon ones ability to continuously develop the correct line which helps the masses to organize their own power for radical social change. It is not something that you get at one point in 1979 and then coast on for 30 years. The inertia of tradition and legitimacy must eventually give way to the concrete situation, both in the very positive tendencies towards the future and in the accountability of leadership to the failures of the past and present.

  57. antiimperialistgirl said

    “Cardinal” is a synonym for “principle”.

    Whether or not Bob Avakian is A cardinal question or THE cardinal question is really irrelevent when you consider the fact that he IS a cardinal question at all according to the RCP. So if the party’s principle line is that Bob Avakian’s body of political writings have “synthesized” a higher truth about the advance towards communism than MLM has, and that his unique style of leadership is so awesome that you can’t get to communism without it- then the extent to which people take that line up is what divides the advanced from the backwards in their view. People who are not “all the way down”, and people who even question this line, are being shoved out of the party.

    It seems that the party is doing a fine job of dissolving themselves, or is this just their new line of “less is more”.

    Many RCP supporters I have talked to over the years who have disagreed with the party’s cult of the personality around BA say that they keep working with the party because “IT’s the best thing out there right now, and it’s better than doing nothing.” This is settling for incorrect line and leadership instead of ‘daring to scale the heights’, or in BA’s own words “taking the ball and running with it” when there is no one else there to take it. That ball in this instance is the communst project in the US.

    I’d like to add that I believe that it is the unresolvability of disagreements within the organs of the party that the great majority of genuine supporters who come around invariably leave after a few short years. Retention for them is dismal, which makes it even more alarming that they are actively running “backward” people off. Aparently this and many other questions are not up for debate within the party and questioners beware.

    Lily says that this website is here because the RCP is important., I think it is more correct to say that it is here, and we are here because the world-wide communist project is what’s important. And as the RCP has been the most concentrated expression of communism in the US – it is a huge blow that their political line has gotten so antithetical to communist principles of ideological struggle and relying on the masses.

  58. YO said

    I think Lily, STB, and Ivy have gotten at a simple point that I have not always appreciated in arguing in a tit-for-tat way with some of the people on this site: This debate has SERIOUS consequences. The U.S.A. would be a MUCH worse place without the RCP.

    I want to add though, that I don’t think it is just Ulises or the trotskyites or anarchists that have been energized by this website that would rather not have the RCP be around. Here’s what Mike Ely said in another post:

    “As for “tearing down the RCP”….. hmmm, look, here is the stark fact: That party is over. Done. That party’s leadership has been tearing the remains of that party to shreds. It is (from everything I have seen) slowly crumbling amid increasing isolation — meanwhile INSIDE its shrinking, self-made bubble, the sound and lights are being TURNED UP for the few remaining participants.”

    [This is both flippant and unprincipled, in the sense of a claim (true or false) about the RCP’s internal life] He goes on after saying that he’s not interested in “tearing down the RCP” to say:

    “Maoists say “Flowers fall off, do what one may.” This is an objective process…. The RCP was an important attempt at making a revolutionary movement in the U.S. — there is some important theory and practice to learn from. But beyond that, this party is not that big a deal. The bones are picked pretty bare by failure.”

    As for the question of “secret lines” being exposed by “insiders” that this most recent “Matters of principle and standards” was intended to address… Ulises isn’t the only one on here determined to promote rumors. Listen to what Mike Ely says above:

    “I think people SHOULD debate the published line various forces “put out.” But what do you suggest doing when the organization has decided to NOT put out many of their core beliefs? Should it not be mentioned or excavated?”

    How can you argue with someone that knows the RCP’s core beliefs better than they do?! I agree with Ivy, there’s plenty of debate to be had around the RCP’s public documents and practice. Let’s get into it, without making claims about what the RCP thinks — about cardinal questions, dividing lines, leadership, nepal, etc. — that they haven’t put out. You want to talk about the RCP’s view of leadership, critique the leadership resolution that they published in the paper a few weeks ago. You want to talk about Avakian’s view of leadership, here are some of the things he said in his recent talk:

    1) “Even the aspect, which is secondary but not unimportant — the aspect of the person Bob Avakian — is important only in the framework of, and on the basis of, being a revolutionary communist leader, the leader of a communist vanguard party
    which is capable of leading people toward the goal of revolution…”

    2)”We are not a cult but a group of scientists (a group that aims to be constantly expanding), straining to solve vexing problems — making mistakes, yes, and doing our best to learn from mistakes, doing our best to learn from others, including those who have different outlooks and objectives than we do…”

    3) “We have never argued, nor believed, that the Party collectively or the leader of the Party… is endowed with supernatural qualities or powers, or that the Party or the leader of the Party is “infallible” or should be “worshipped” or followed blindly. All notions of this kind are completely alien and fundamentally opposed to what we do believe and set to put into practice.”

    4) “[The culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization] is a key part of boldly taking revolution and communism out everywhere. It is one of the key means, one of the main vehicles, we have for doing that.”
    [Note here: He doesn’t say it is THE key part, or the ONLY vehicle, or THE ONLY cardinal question, or even THE MAIN cardinal question, and centainly not a dividing line between revolution and counter-revolution – as Mike Ely would have us believe — but one of the key elements, and he goes on in the speech to talk about many other key elements.]

  59. YO said

    On the question of Mike Ely’s orientation toward the existence or lack thereof of the RCP, here’s what he says:

    “The RCP’s current path and methods have not worked and will not work. Its recent strategic turn is indifferent to the lessons of its own practice. It is a voluntarist attempt to magically leap over real obstacles and necessary stages in communist work. The assumption that things can come together, suddenly and massively, under communist leadership makes an idealist overestimation of spontaneity. If unchallenged, it will squander the remaining revolutionary communist forces within the U.S.”

    This is not just calling for a critique and the formation of some new organization, this is saying that the RCP is a major OBSTACLE to revolution in the USA — that “will squander the remaining revolutionary communist forces” if not challenged. This is serious, and explains in part why the 9 Letters website has continued to parasitically criticize the RCP.

  60. STB said

    Ulises says:
    “Ivy, the primary justification for the legitimacy of Avakian’s leadership is around the singular events of the coup in China.”

    I actually don’t think that is the RCP line anymore. They seem to have now rejected that conception and are more concerned about the New Synthesis. I once heard and RCP comrade say “Look, if a leader isn’t bringing anything forward that is a leap, like Avakian is with the New Synthesis, then fuck it, why would we promote them?” At the time, they were trying to struggle with me because my line was that cults of personality should be built around all revolutionary leaders, and they did not agree with that.

    Ulises says:
    “The RCP IS NOT A VANGUARD. If the reason for its special treatment with regard to political debate and criticism is that we will destroy the ONLY MAOIST VANGUARD in the U.S., then this reasoning is fundamentally flawed in one of its premises. It is really not a matter of whether we destroy it or not, it is a matter of whether criticism and dissent will be allowed at all, and how that criticism and dissent will be enacted. The RCP ain’t disappearing because the 9 Letters has TRUTHFULLY described its line and its trajectory. To focus on the damage that the truth can have in this situation, is to deny that truth be discussed openly, once ALL OTHER AVENUES have been barred. And they were barred. I ask, who makes the strawman, the one who claims the RCP is a vanguard, or the one who claims it is not. Take your disgust elsewhere.”

    “Mike defined the term “base” very specifically. Having a couple proletarians staffing a bookstore is not the same as having a entire neighborhood or community that is partisan to your organization. But if you insist that these ties exist, maybe you could describe them in general, so as to disprove Ely’s contentions. First, what ties are you calling significant. What is the scale and scope of the partisanship? Has it grown or weakened in the last 30yrs? Etc.”

    This is not a discussion of the damage that the truth is having on the RCP, it’s a discussion of the damage that unprincipled lies are having on the international proletariat and the entire fucking world revolution!

    The RCP obviously has more than “a few proletarians staffing a bookstore.” I’m not going to get pulled into some numbers game with you and I have no clue what kind of numbers the RCP enjoys, but I have seen many different groupings of proletarians who form a small section of the RCP’s base. There is not formula “you have each individual proletarian in a neighborhood, and then you’re a vanguard!” The Panthers were a vanguard long before 1968. Can you name any “entire neighborhoods” the BPP had in early 67?

  61. ulises276/2 said

    All of a sudden a verdict about an intention and a direct attempt to “destroy” the RCP has been arrived at between the handful of you here. Two things, 1) I did not say that the destruction of the RCP is the goal of this project. I do not believe that this is a legitimate goal. And I have said as much elsewhere. If we literally did want to destroy the RCP, and held this as our aim (primary, secondary, or otherwise) we would not have imposed upon ourselves our position of principled restraint. We could just as easily have come out and made public many internal documents. We could have fingered people, and developed our critique relying on anecdote and rumor. If we wanted to compromise the RCP’s security, and our aim and goal was to do so, there would be no question as to whether that was what was happening.

    We chose not to do that exactly because we recognize the importance of security in these matters, and we recognize that only a principled discussion of these matters will bring forward any kind of an advance.

    In light of this, you all are using the ghosts of dissolution and security threat to STIFLE OPEN CRITICISM AND DEBATE.

    On the other hand, as I have repeatedly stated, and as Yo and others know full well, and have even accepted at different points on this website, the RCP’s line on the leadership of Bob Avakian IS that his personal leadership and synthesis are a cardinal question. That is not a rumor. That is not a distortion. That is the very plain fact of the matter. Once again, you may verify this by simply asking representatives of the RCP. You should do the investigation on the truth of the issue BEFORE you accuse people of nasty motives.

    You want to talk about what’s been published fine.

    The Engage! statement says this about Avakian:

    “He has brought forth a fresh, relevant and compelling approach to Marxism, deeply analyzing the history of the Communist movement and the socialist revolutions and upholds their achievements.”

    What is fresh relevant and compelling in Avakian’s approach to Marxism?

    “initiating dialogue with people who hold a wide range of views.”

    Where is this dialogue?

    “necessary part of the ferment and discourse required in this society and the world in this dark time.”

    Necessary for what? Why is his analysis and solution necessary? What is his analysis, and what is his solution to the situation today?

    “Bob Avakian is also the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA; as such he not only theorizes about the world, but plays a special role in organizing and leading that change.”

    Why does Bob Avakian have a “special role to play”? Where has his leadership been in making that change? What affect has his leadership had? Where are his victories, where are his insights? A “special role” compared to what, compared to who?

    Now on to his “Making Revolution” Speech…

    Avakian announces:

    “One important aspect of boldly spreading revolution and communism everywhere is the work of building what we have characterized as a culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization around the leadership, the body of work and the method and approach of Bob Avakian. Now, I recognize that some people (especially among the middle strata, frankly) may find it “immodest” (and perhaps, to some, strangely disturbing) for me to speak about this (and, for god’s sake, to refer to myself in the third person!). But, first of all and fundamentally, “modesty” (or “immodesty”) is not the essential issue, not the heart of the matter. This, like everything else, is a matter of a scientific approach—objectively assessing what is represented by a particular person and their role, their body of work and their method and approach—and it should be viewed and evaluated, by myself or anyone else, in this way and according to these criteria (and, let’s be honest, would those who object to my referring to myself in the third person here really be any less “put off” if I were to talk about “a culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization around the leadership, the body of work and the method and approach of myself”?). No, the essence of the question is: what is objectively represented by this leadership, this body of work and method and approach, and what does this have to do with the larger question of transforming the world?

    “As Lenin emphasized in What Is To Be Done?, one of the key tasks of communists is to set before all their communist convictions and aims. And this means presenting what is, at any time, the most advanced representation of those convictions and aims. In fundamental terms, the principles involved are the same as in all fields of scientifically based endeavor (physics, biology, medicine, and so on): breakthroughs are very often associated with a particular individual, and to speak about the most advanced understanding at a given time would be impossible without reference to and, yes, a certain focus on, that individual—and attempting to avoid such reference and focus would be extremely artificial and wrong, and not at all helpful. So, once more, while of course there are particularities to the sphere of political (and ideological) leadership, and more specifically to communist leadership,[19] with regard to anyone whose role has a significant influence (or is put forward as something which should have a significant influence), the basic question comes down to: what is the content of that role, and in particular the content of the body of work and the method and approach of that person, and what effect would it have, one way or another, if that were to have greater, or lesser, impact and influence?”

    Now there are at least two things to be pointed out here: 1) Avakian starts by conflating the general question of leadership with his particular leadership. When people disagree that his particular program is the “most advanced representation” of communism, then we get hit with the 1995 Resolution* on the question of leadership in general. 2) Once he has made this bait and switch from general to particular (noting to the side that the question is “what is objectively represented by this leadership, this body of work and method and approach, and what does this have to do with the larger question of transforming the world?”), we now get NOT an explanation of WHY Avakian’s line and leadership is the “most advanced representation” of communism, but simply the statement that this is true:

    “Why am I—why is my body of work, and method and approach—important? Because this is bringing forward an advanced understanding, a heightened understanding, of what revolution and communism are all about and how to move toward the objective of revolution and communism, as well as a method for engaging and struggling through the contradictions that are inevitably going to be encountered in that process. (Some things are inevitable—and, while the achievement of communism is not inevitable, it is inevitable that in the struggle to achieve communism we are going to encounter many complex and difficult contradictions. We can guarantee that.)”

    This is a circular logic. Leadership is important and it should be popularized (true). Correct leadership is defined by what is objectively represented by this leadership (true). Avakian’s leadership concentrates the most advanced representation of communism (false). But look at this logic again: 1) Leadership is important 2) Leadership should be judged on its real world effects in advancing the struggle 3) Avakian is the best. Ummm, we’re missing a step here. We are missing an argument which says HOW Avakian’s leadership has advanced the struggle. How it is the most advanced representation of communism. In fact, just when you think Avakian is going to answer this question (why am I-why is my body of work, and method and approach-important?) he simply says, because it is. It is important because it is the most advanced representation. It is the most advanced representation therefore it is important to promote it.

    – What in your synthesis accounts for these claims Bob?
    – Sorry, but we don’t respond to unprincipled criticisms.

    Now after YEARS of this kind of thinking being pushed from on high within the Party, the RCP is going to “explain itself” on March 9th. LOL, how scientific of them to announce the verdict on the question of Avakian’s leadership BEFORE they explain it. What a scientific method to develop the conclusion FIRST, and THEN marshal its reasoning to defend it, but only after they get publicly called out on the illogic of their logic. This happens over and over again in the RCP.

    Yo, STB,

    I am more than willing to discuss “the content” of Avakian’s works. But I’m not interested in playing the game of getting lost in the thousands of pages of material while losing sight of the REASON for reading them in the first place. In this context that reason would be to evaluate whether the claims about Avakian’s leadership and synthesis are correct. Then we can start to evaluate whether their program for hastening revolution in this country is the best program or whether it is a deadend.

    So put it on the table. Let’s go. Let’s “engage” yet again.

    *I would note that embedded into the 1995 Leadership document is the same bait and switch. It at least makes an attempt at enumerating the reasons for Avakian’s greatness, though the padding is quite heavy. And it is also here, which since the RCP is now pimping this document we can take this to be their line, that we find the single substantive accomplishment of Bob Avakian leadership referenced:

    “There have been a number of times—again critical junctures in the development of the revolutionary road in the U.S. and internationally—when Comrade Avakian has stood out in his ability to wield the methodology of MLM to correctly analyze changing conditions and on that basis provide crucial direction and guidance to the revolutionary forces. The analysis of the counterrevolutionary character of the events in China following the death of Mao, and of how they were bound to lead to the restoration of capitalism in that former stronghold of revolution, cut through a time of great confusion, disorientation and disarray in the international revolutionary ranks and is one striking example of this.”

    This really is the only thing that they can point to as an accomplishment. A very real contribution to the communist movement at that time, no doubt. But does not going to jail list as an accomplishment of such gravity? Not unless you accept the assumption that Avakian is the Lenin/Mao of our day. Does not giving up count as an accomplishment? No, this is something to be expected, and the fact of not giving up has very little bearing on whether the line pursued in that not giving up has been correct. Does the fact that Avakian has been reelected by the CC mean much? Since we can’t verify how the CC is constructed or comes to these decisions, there is nothing of substance in the endorsement of the CC, it is just another appeal to authority.

    Here it says:

    “But he has never abdicated responsibility. In hard times there are some who give up, whine a lot, or resort to blaming others—the leaders, the masses, or both—for those difficulties. This is not what Comrade Avakian does: when there are problems, his attitude is first to maintain his strategic confidence in the Party and the masses and second to try even harder to use the methodology of MLM to figure out even better what to do. This is something we can all learn from!”

    And this was later proven to be not true when Avakian in fact DID blame the masses: “I want to say, just for the record, that at times I myself have been acutely disappointed by — and, yes, have cursed in graphic terms — the people in this society who are sitting by and doing nothing in the face of atrocities and horrors committed by their government and in their name…”

  62. ulises276/2 said

    STB writes:

    “This is not a discussion of the damage that the truth is having on the RCP, it’s a discussion of the damage that unprincipled lies are having on the international proletariat and the entire fucking world revolution!”

    What lies?

    You are equivocating on the word “base”. The criticism plainly put in the 9 letters was not whether the RCP had a base of support or not. Of course it has a “base”. The criticism put was in relation to a conception that had developed in the 90’s of developing partisan BASE AREAS, like Raucana, or the Wedding District. This is an entirely different question from whether they have supporters and volunteers staffing their bookstores. I would suggest you go back and read the relevant section of the 9 Letters because you clearly don’t understand what is being said there.

  63. ulises276/2 said

    STB writes:

    “I think you are right here. I was accepting a lot of Mike’s assumptions that people are being told not to post here.”

    Oh I get it, it’s Mike Ely’s fault that you are going around claiming that the RCP is telling its cadre not to post here. Pretty convenient.

  64. Peppermill said

    Ulises, as to your last few posts here, you’ve pretty much nailed it. The points on methodology were particularly well done. There is a similar example in this post:
    https://mikeely.wordpress.com/2008/02/10/its-a-sin-thoughts-of-a-former-youth-brigader/#comment-1481
    The circular logic is repeatedly seen with the RCP and needs to be unraveled again…and again.

  65. ulises276/2 said

    Yo writes:

    “I want to add though, that I don’t think it is just Ulises or the trotskyites or anarchists that have been energized by this website that would rather not have the RCP be around.”

    Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me. Just look at how self serving and distorted this is. 1) You lump me in with “trotskyites” and anarchists as if I’m some how tainted by proximity. Then you parse your words in such a way as to suggest that only your favorite left-sect enemies are energized by the 9 Letters. This method continues the narrow minded sectarian logic that thinks that it can end debates by jacketing people with some loaded name without actually having to deal with the content of what is being said. It thinks it can just come in here and smear everyone who is participating. It can smear the authors. It can smear the commentators. It can smear all the people who have been sick at heart to see the disastrous turn of the RCP, people that have spent YEARS of their lives devoted to hastening revolution, just smear them all as being in the company of “dangerous” ideological elements.

  66. STB said

    Ulises writes:
    “Yo, STB.

    I am more than willing to discuss “the content” of Avakian’s works. But I’m not interested in playing the game of getting lost in the thousands of pages of material while losing sight of the REASON for reading them in the first place. In this context that reason would be to evaluate whether the claims about Avakian’s leadership and synthesis are correct. Then we can start to evaluate whether their program for hastening revolution in this country is the best program or whether it is a deadend.

    So put it on the table. Let’s go. Let’s “engage” yet again.”

    I don’t agree with a lot of what they have written, you’ve missed the entire point of my posts. I’m here, as someone who normally wouldn’t be considered an RCP supporter, to try to expose some of the opportunist and harmful shit that is on this board. I’m not here to get into the New Synthesis with you. If you want to go debate the New Synthesis go to their programs, I’m sure they will be interesting.

    “You are equivocating on the word “base”. The criticism plainly put in the 9 letters was not whether the RCP had a base of support or not. Of course it has a “base”. The criticism put was in relation to a conception that had developed in the 90’s of developing partisan BASE AREAS, like Raucana, or the Wedding District. This is an entirely different question from whether they have supporters and volunteers staffing their bookstores. I would suggest you go back and read the relevant section of the 9 Letters because you clearly don’t understand what is being said there.”

    You’re the only one who has said “supporters staffing bookstores.” Don’t straw man me. I understand Mikes arguement, but I do not believe the question of whether or not you have a Raucana or a Wedding District is a totally different question from whether or not you have a partisan base among the basic masses of people. The RCP very much does a partisan base among the masses of people, even if it doesn’t have “a Raucana.” Having “a Raucana” is not the determining factor in whether or not you have a revolutionary vanguard.

  67. ulises276/2 said

    To “strawman” you with “bookstore staffing” would have required my point being focused on that issue. I clearly say that bookstore staffs are not the issue. I didn’t realize that you actually believe that the RCP has significant partisan bases in the U.S. I assumed you were equating the fact that they obviously have some support with the level of support that we are pointing out as lacking. In other words, I had no idea your actual position could be so far removed from reality.

    Look, on the issue of the bases… it is a basic matter of logic that one cannot prove a negative. If you are going to insist that the RCP has bases, then the burden for supporting that argument is on you. The criticism stands until someone can give evidence to the contrary.

    On your overall methodology… I will point out once again, that you are criticizing Kasama for misrepresenting the RCP’s positions and line. At the same time you are coming on here and representing the RCP’s positions and lines, or suggesting that you know it well enough to tell where it is misrepresented, even as you clearly state that you have no basis for doing so. You go so far representing the RCP’s line as to state that they have instructed their members not to post here, and then argue (despite your admitted position of ignorance) that the RCP has bases.

    I ask where the lies are, and you ignore that question. You seem content to make the accusation.

    So what is it?

    You can’t come on here and declare that the 9 Letters is misrepresenting the RCP’s line, unless you know what that line is. In declaring that something is being misrepresented you actually have to accurately represent it. So what are you going to do? Lay out the correct understanding of the RCP’s line, even though you don’t support that Party, and seem to be making the claim that you don’t really know what their line is? Or are you just going to come on here and declare that we have misrepresented a line that you don’t actually have the ability to truthfully represent? In either case, how could you know it’s misrepresented?

    And seriously STB, you are not a supporter of the RCP, but you believe that a criticism of them is having a destructive effect on the “entire world revolution”? Please explain this leap of logic.

  68. Mike E said

    A note in passing:

    The tactic of the initial RCP responses was, of course, to reject the 9 Letters without dealing with the substance. You can see some of the intent here, in the last part of this thread. the implication is that the issue is my credibility, and that the 9 Letters don’t deal with the substance of the published RCP line (that it somehow relies on “inside information.”

    One question (“Avakian as cardinal question”) was not published (yet!) But it was important to raise and criticize that approach (in our letters 6, 7, and 8) anyway, because it is so DEFINING of everything the RCP has now become.

    But meanwhile think of all the other important issues that the RCP has chosen NOT to respond to… and that their supporters here on this site have so rarely engaged either.

    * the fact that there is not a “coming civil war” and that the christian fascists were just not top contenders in the presidential race so far. (A Huckabee type MAY become the secular McCain’s VP or his attorney general if elected…. but where is the theocracy in this moment? where is their power over the last year to determine the pace and program of other sectors of the ruling class?) does anyone want to argue that the endless hype about a coming theocracy and the inability of a Democratic-imperialist counter-program have proven correct?

    This analysis was being proven wrong starting virtually on the day it was published (in the flyer “From Here Forward” and then in the pamphlet “the coming civil war”). This method is so typical of the RCP by now that I urge everyone to go back over those two writings as an negative example of how incorrect analysis are invented by cobbling together available facts in mechanical and reductionist and instrumentalist ways. (Talk about “political truth”!)

    This analysis had so many of us playing “chicken little” (me included). Does anyone want to still defend it?

    * The RCP’s overestimation of relative truth — including the pretense that “Avakian knows the way out” — when in fact key questions are not solved, political work is stagnant, and Avakian’s own work is marked by dilettantist overreaching.

    * The discussion of the RCP’s protracted inability to reach and mobilize ANY significant section of the people (ever) with its larger program of revolution and socialism. Does anyone want to argue that a slowly dwindling 60s cadre core is all that could have been accomplished from 1975 to 2008? and that this was the only thing possible under the objective conditions of three decades?

    * the RCP’s undialectical view of christianity and religion (as if it GENERALLY and inherently is characterized by ignorance, venality, anti-science and fundamentalism). Is it really true that christians uphold (or must uphold) the morality of the Old Testament? Is it really true that Avakian’s arguments deal with the outlook and beliefs of most Christians and Jews (on morality? on the bible? on politics today? on the nature of God?) And the issue of mass line (and view toward the masses) contained in the RCP’s rather arrogant, uninformed and disrespectful campaign to challenge believers (while actually not having much clue of what they believe).

    * The error of making “the culture of appreciation, promotion and popularization” more and more the center of communist work — the reasoning behind that, the results of that. The inherent disconnect this creates between the organized communist forces and the masses of people. the abandonment of struggle that it inherently represents (as cadre are shifted from one area of work after another — toward selling DVDs, memoirs and tracking down professors for endorsements).

    * the transformation of the communist press toward a shrill, self-righteous, often unreadable paper (that often implies the people are willfully complicit — i.e. “if you have the ears to listen…”)

    * The related tone of blame the people that has arisen starting with the notorious “training video” teaching activists to accuse students of being complicit in Abu Ghraib (anyone have a link?), and then was hiked by Avakian’s own published talk of cursing the masses for his party’s failure on October 5. Are the people complicit if they don’t jump at your own hyped plans? Who does that logic blame? More important, who does it shield from interrogation, critical thinking and the self-criticism?

    * the telling comparison between the Chinese cultural revolution and the self-invented cult of personality coming out of the RCP’s neo-farrago — what is the difference in the CONTENT of how the masses and leaders are viewed historically. who are the makers of history? How did Mao struggle over his own role, and how it was portrayed? What is the difference between making history (by leading millions) and declaring your own every move as “historic”?

    * the question of internationalism — the special responsibility of communists “in the belly of the beast” to oppose the lies and interventions of the empire (especially against broad revolutionary movements led by Maoists). Is there anyone who wants to defend the decision NOT to have committees in support of the revolutions in south Asia (in India and Nepal)?

    * The question of leadership — the RCP calls Avakian a great leader. But don’t you actually have to lead the masses of people in struggle to be a great leader? Their newly minted definition of “communist leadership” focuses on connecting the present to the communist future. But there are two problems with that definition: 1) it has a teleological view of “from communism back” that involves an “envisioning” of the future society (apriori, without regard to the conditions and discoveries that will emerge from real events), and 2) it is a definition of leadership that does not involve actually bringing the masses of people with you. If you have a political party that has never mobilized any significant section of the people around its maximum program and banners (not a dorm, not a housing project, not a high school, no Kreuzberg or Wedding District). If you have a political party that isolated and unsuccessful, what actually are its leaders leading? can you say they are “leading” a revolution? can you say their untested analyses are “leading” the international communist movement? Avakian has led a small and dwindling party over thirty years — little else, and not particularly well.

    If there are folks who only want to debate the RCP’s PUBLISHED line….. fine. Why don’t we start with the issues I just listed? Do you want to defend the line there?

  69. lily said

    Would everyone just stop all the instant blogging, step back and think? again, all of this is very serious.

    I want to restate somde of my thoughts, maybe more clearly.

    1. The negative consequence I am worried about has nothing to do with the silly characterization here. Obviously, open criticism will not make the RCP dissolve. It has been criticized throughout its existence. And, as for dissolving…that is neither something I hope for nor a possibility. What concerns me includes:
    –the persistent tone that the RCP has basically hyped the objective situation in this country and then a strange lack of addressing the ramping up of the repressive apparatus. “Normal times” are bad enough but these are times when the government can openly deem people enemy combatants and essentially disappear them, etc.
    –the appearance of some summation that Avakian and the RCP is paranoid about his security.
    This thread that has come up repeatedly is very foolhardy.
    –that closely connected to some communists on here flirting with throwing out the need for a democratic centralist party is their walking a very close thin line with revealing the internal questions of the RCP, a democratic centralist party.
    –that some of the personal anecdotes and characterizations of individual’s treatment whips up a rather bizarrely similar picture to the anti-communist scare shows and to the stories that have been promoted to paint a picture of the history of proletarian rule as simply a nightmare for individuals.
    –and yet, little written in the way of speaking to or independently addressing the question how do we sum up the experience of socialism thus far (i.e. in the first wave). And I mean substantively
    –the characterization of over 30 years of intense practice by the RCP as basically a failure because there is not a significant revolutionary movement in this country. Related to this is the desire for having it both ways– accusing the RCP of voluntarism when it comes to what it can accomplish given the objective situation and various points in time and then stating that the party never aimed to lead the masses in large numbers or with staying power.
    –the sophomoric attitude towards the RCP’s efforts with the middle strata, including intellectuals and also a silly attitude towards it’s work building a more broad support around itself on the basis of various programatic questions– such as the importance of the Party and Avakian having room and safety to function.
    –the absence of more coherent addressing of the key questions that Avakian is addressing, including his own summation of what he represents. It is not really a debate to state your conclusion. Further, you can disagree with Avakian, his line, as well as the way the Party is promoting him by deeply addressing the questions.
    –approaching the internal life of the RCP at all. Those who may have been part of it especially. This is not a matter of helping the Party to hide reality. Their line is way out there in public statements and documents. IT IS A MATTER OF RESPECTING the right of organizations to confidentiality. I am not saying that someone can’t argue for a view that the RCP needs to be more transparent about line struggle or self-criticisms. But for any communists or revolutionaries on this site and beyond, “confidentiality” is a basic principle and standard.

    so where does the danger come from– it comes from looking at the issue of the existence of the RCP at best passively. It comes from confounding an “open” debate with a debate where there is intense struggle on the substantial questions of line with taking individuals summation of their own or others personal experience as somehow higher than the line as it is expressed in its richest expositions.

    spreading the notion that the RCP is saying one thing in print or publicly and that it holds a “secret” line inside the Party is not only preposterous but potentially damaging to the united front (which, frankly, is important to the RCP and to all of you too).
    The Party’s line of Avakian is way out there- it is not a secret. How that has been struggled over inside the RCP is RCP business. Just like it has been stated here that contact and relationships go on beyond this site. The RCP’s line around which it has organized signators to the “Engage” statement is printed on the damn site. To read the Boston Globe article and to not come to the support of the RCP is bad business and naive, at best.

    Yes, I have disagreements with the line of the RCP. But do I also recognize how precious the RCP is? YES. So let’s not short shrift the seriousness of all this and let everyone who draws a basic dividing line with being part of the “us” and not the “them” make sure that you don’t end up adding your voice to those who would seriously like to see the RCP and more destroyed.

  70. NSPF said

    Ulises,
    I think Lily and Ivy are correct to start their interventions with some cautionary note and clear statements to distinguish their comments from the likes of Chuck Morse. I found his last comment infuriating but excersised restraint; I wouldn’t criticise Maoists for feeling disgusted by such anticks.

    You cannot afford, as a consistent defender of the 9Letters, to be vague sometimes and give the impression to newcomers to this site that you couldn’t care less what happens to the RCP. Sometimes (very rare) you sound like you are about to change your correct method and verdict and this gets Maoists who care worried.

    Ivy writes “Is Ulises saying that the position of the 9 Letters is that Avakian was “right ONCE”, or is that Ulises’ opinion? That’s not what the 9 Letters say. This is a flippant comment that, frankly, isn’t Maoist. Being correct on China wasn’t insignificant at all. It was a big fucking deal. And Avakian was right a lot more than once.”
    I tend to agree with every single word of that but more importantly with the spirit with which it is written and I think you miss that though most of your comments have led me to believe you share the same spirit.

    Ivy says “Look, I have major major criticisms of the RCP’s current line and practice, but this is an example of Lily’s point: “this is all far more serious than the approach of anyone is facing up to.” So folks, let’s get serious.”

    Well, Lily and Ivy, here on this site you are dealing with some Maoists who have shown to be dead serious about their criticism of the RCP and making revolution in the U.S.; they have been serious enough to formulate their criticism in a very principled way and they have not left the Party to go home take care of their personal business. So the sun was shining long before you dawned on this site; please dispense with the implicit arrogance and be specific about your “major major criticisms”. I agree with you and Lily that what is happening with the RCP is very serious and I am sure that some Maoists, not to mention others, under estimate the potential damage of the wrong line of the Party. But if you understand this you should be furious with those who have brought about this wrong line not those who had resisted it in the Party first and now, not by choice, are resisting it outside and in the open. I guess you have some unity with those Maoists or else you wouldn’t be here saying openly that “the RCP is on a trajectory from which it can’t escape. It’s current line won’t allow it to recover. I fear it is doomed. This is bad news.”
    Should someone now accuse you of trying to wreck the Party? Would it be justified if the Party said so? Identifying an inescapable trajectory to doom is putting it not much different than Mike and Ulises have done.
    If you think there is anything to contribute to further the cause of Maoism in the U.S., here is the place where people are listening intently. What was it Marx said? here is Rohdes, Dance here?

  71. Mike E said

    Lily, I have read all of your posts with great care and share your stress on the seriousness of the moment and of our choices.

    I am well aware of the ways the U.S. has changed since 9/11…. and well aware of the fascist whiff in the air. And very aware that the ingredients (legal, political and cultural) for new leaps in repression have been systematically put in place. and such things are put in place precisely because someone intends to use them.

    But it is true that the RCP has hyped its analysis of the situation in this country — it has taken the facts, and interpreted them in a reductionist way. And in an instrumentalist way. It has used the real dangers to promote a sense of messianic urgency that is misplaced. As I suggested: go back and re-read the “from Here forward” flyer — with a materialist and critical patience — and study it for method.

    We need to deal with the seriousness of this moment without allowing ourselves to be panicked or stampeded. We need analysis, not hype. We need to deal with the actual contradictions, not the posturing of wishful thinking and self-promoting role-play.

    We need an analysis of this moment: the Obama phenom, the conflicts in the ruling class revealed in these elections, the choices they have in Iraq (and elsewhere), the ways people are dealing with the madness of that war and the ugliness of this government… and from that we need to make a plan that actually intersects with these events and these people in a revolutionary way.

    * * * * * *

    Lily writes:

    “the characterization of over 30 years of intense practice by the RCP as basically a failure because there is not a significant revolutionary movement in this country. Related to this is the desire for having it both ways– accusing the RCP of voluntarism when it comes to what it can accomplish given the objective situation and various points in time and then stating that the party never aimed to lead the masses in large numbers or with staying power.”

    Nah. that is not the argument. the reason there is not a signficant revolutionary movement in this country is largely due to objective conditions. and that is not the basis on which we (and the 9 letters) charge failure.

    we say it has been a failure because it has been a failure. The RCP has never met any of its own goals. Its projects and campaigns have all fallen short ON THEIR OWN STANDARDS AND MEASURES. And in particular, we have said that the RCP never became a party — in the sense of having any section of the people (even on an embryonic scale in one city or whatever) rally to its banners. It has sometimes rallied people to a few popular mass demands (stop police murder! Don’t execute Mumia!) but never its own politics or program. Never. and this failure is not vague or debatable, it is absolute and universal and obvious. This party attracted individual converts in ones and twos, but after the original formation of the RU, that were few “cohorts” of new recruits. The RCP was unable to go into a radical “scene” and emerge with a communist network. It has been a party build around its 60s backbone.

    It should go without saying that people should rally to revolutionaries facing repression. The way we have done to Mumia, and before him to the Black Panthers, the Chicago 8, the Puerto Rican Independence fighters, Peru’s Chairman Gonzalo, and many others (even when we had major differences politically). But no one will do so based on the assumption that there MUST BE an attack COMING on a particular person right over the horizon — at least not without a materialist assessment of that prediction.

    I have myself been involved, in many ways, in protecting avakian from attack over many years — all the way back to 1979, when he was facing legal charges, and I was among the other volunteers who moved to DC to make his defense a mass issue. However, over the last year, I have carefully avoided making any assessments over whether Avakian is in danger. And will avoid making any prematurely today.

    But I need to point out that the RCP’s argument around that danger has been circular. They START with the ASSUMPTION that he is a figure posing a world historic threat to this system, and that the bourgeoisie (on some level) MUST BE ferociously aware of that. And from those assumption the conclusion is drawn that he MUST be in their crosshairs, and he will be in mounting danger as their crisis deepens and as his synthesis inevitably becomes a material force.

    The argument is that Avakian is in danger because the ruling class (somehow) KNOWS (just like HE does) that Avakian is a unique mortal threat to them — even if his party doesnt, even if the masses don’t. And Avakian thinks that was always true (that is why he went into exile).

    Well, there are a lot of assumptions in that reasoning, and very little evidence. In fact, the logic doesn’t need evidence.

    You imply Lily that it is a fact that Avakian is in danger, and that this danger should be a major concern for us all. Ok, share with us the reasons you think that, the arguments and evidence. Let’s start that discussion now.

    because, as the RCP puts these arguments (more and more) at the center of their work, we (and everyone else) will need to assess those claims. But we won’t do so based on circular logic and assertions-without-evidence. we have a responsibility to make a clear materialist assessment of those claims. And we will (collectively) — including through public discussion here on Kasama.

    On your final point: yes things are serious. and no (unfortunately) the RCP is not “precious.” It is simply exhausted. And we now have to forge something “precious” the only way it can be forged… out of the life of society, out of the actual dreams of the people.

  72. Ivy said

    Again:

    Ulises writes:
    Perhaps you could say that our goal was to dissolve the only vanguard in the U.S., perhaps. But this would require that you lay the basis for the claim that the RCP is a vanguard.

    This is sleight of hand. A clear response would be to say I do not think the RCP is a vangaurd and I do not wish for its dissolution. To say the “party’s over” again dodges the question. On one level, I too feel the party is over, like the Titantic heading toward the iceberg. Yes, it’s still afloat but not for long.

    To be clear, I don’t think criticizing the RCP is unprincipaled, opportunist or leading to its destruction. The RCP is destroying itself. I think it is necessary and the responsibility of communists to crtique the RCP’s line. The reason I was initially hopeful–though I’m growing more skeptical–about this site is that currently it’s not possible to have a critical, nondogmatic, non Avakian-obsessed conversation with those in the orbit of the RCP. Or to put it another way, the type of conversation in the Conversations book is no longer possible. So my hope was that the 9 Letters (of which I have agreements and disagreements) would be strengthened through the debate on this site and would become a force that at least sections of the Party (as well as other radical-minded people) could not ignore. A new and vibrant Maoist voice. This is not to say I have any illusions about the Party being “saved” from without becasue I don’t. (If you think there was tautology around the homsexuality questions you ain’t seen nothing yet!)

    Ulises writes: Don’t give me lectures about getting serious. I spent the last two years carefully reading Avakian’s speeches, exhaustively noting his audio commentary, debating RCP cadre, and sending criticisms back to the RCP via my connections. I have taken this very seriously.

    Well, I think you’ve missed my point completely. I was not attempting to call you out on your lack of study or effort. When I say serious I mean the enormity of the task in front of us (I remember one post on another thread where someone raised that RIM could always recognize two groups in the US, like that type of organization could spring up in no time). I mean that the RCP falling apart will objectively be a bad thing for the political terrain. That is not a call to “save the Party,” it can’t be saved, its line won’t allow it to be saved from the inside or the outside. But for many many years it was the best we had. To speak of the “Revolution, Go For It!” line as a colossal failure is one-sided to say the least. As is Mike Ely’s insistence that “This party has failed at everything it has attempted, except its own survival.” I have many criticisms of the 80s period, but there’s no denying it was head-and-shoulders above anything else out there at the time. Mike Ely’s criticsms of the RCP go back many years and yet he “stuck with it.” This is because a vanguard is a precious thing. Even if one doesn’t think the RCP ever was a vanguard (something which I’m still mulling over) I am convinced that it was once precious. And when the Party does fall apart, or at any rate becomes a tiny study group, I know I will be a little sad. It was a sad day when Huey Newton got shot down in the street, even with what he had become.

    To be clear the 9 letters and this site are not one in the same. My criticisms were aimed at the behavior of some on here, not at the 9 Letters.

    Ulises writes: What claims about membership and personal anecdote, Ivy?
    Peppermill writes: I know this because I was in the party.

    I think that’s pretty clear and as for anecdotes there are numerous anecdotes on this site. To be clear about this, personal anecdotes cannot be verified. In theoretical debate, especially on the internet, they don’t serve much of a purpose except as a substitue for argument.

    ***

    Another point, it is not the case that a party should always publicize every aspect of its line. Think about how problematic this would be in terms of building a New International. I am not raising this in relation to the current debate (frankly, the three responses from the RCP have been terrible and disappointing) but simply to say it is not an iron-clad rule.

    In terms of critiquing the RCP’s public documents not only is there much to do (I think there’s a lot on Mike Ely’s list worth dissecting, especially the incorrect CCW line) but it’s much more fruitful. Sympathizers, supporters, and communists in other places will have a much better basis to understand and agree with a critique of the RCP that sticks to the stuff that the Party themselves has been pushing out there for years and is readily accessible on the internet and in print.

  73. lily said

    To Mike E:
    Thank you for a thoughtful reply. I want to think about your points and write again later today when I have time.

  74. Jaroslav said

    A couple quick observations:

    1) Mike actually published on this site a rebuttal of the Boston Globe article, making clear that despite BA’s wrong line this anticommunist attack is very bad, before even Revolution did so.

    2) This whole ‘parasitic critic’ line has a snowball effect. There are many other discussions on this website relating to ecology, the vanguard party (as a general question), Obama, the ‘war on drugs’, revolutions in South Asia, etc etc — not to mention the 9 Letters themselves. But as soon as the RCPUSA puts out each slanderous ‘orientation’, Mike (rightly) posts it with his response, & discussion (rightly) ensues. And many important questions are being gotten into. But some people are not only not participating in the other discussion topics, but raise a charge that the only topic on the site is criticism of RCPUSA, which is ridiculous. The snowball effect is that as that charge is engaged, as folks of various standpoints go back & forth on the latest ‘from on high’ announcement in RCPUSA’s paper, the discussion actually is centred around directly RCPUSA-related matters.

    3) Ivy, thank you for criticising my ‘RIM recognition’ comment. My intention was not at all to imply that party formation (or even formation of an ‘organisation’/’league’/whatever worthy of RIM recognition) is a quick & easy thing. I was trying to get across two main points: (a) that as internationalists who see US revolution as part of world revolution & US proletariat as part of international proletariat, one long-term goal should be to have a concrete organisational expression of this by participating in RIM (or new International) once ready; & (b) ironically related to current thread’s topic, that advancement of new US Maoist group in this or other areas doesn’t inherently mean that we should try to force international communists into ‘us or them’ choice. Also the topic was raised by someone else, & contrary to RCPUSA typical M.O., I actually think we should respond to people’s questions as directly as possible, whenever possible. Further I don’t pretend that once something comes out my mouth, it’s an infallible position that can never change. Actually, for communists freely airing ideas (within proper bounds of security etc) followed by lively & comradely criticism & self-criticism is how we can arrive at correct verdicts; as opposed to everyone individually conjuring things in their head & then competing for those ideas like in capitalist ‘free’ market. One shouldn’t take this to extremes of course, Lily’s sentiment in asking for stop to ‘instant blogging’ & consider things more deeply before writing is very correct. But one of the things wrong with RCPUSA currently is that there is a chilled air of fear, that one basically can’t say anything but verbatim quotes lest the hammer of leadership smashes down, contentless epithets of ‘economist’ or ‘individualist’ (ha! ironic that, from BA promoting his own cult of individual) & being made to feel stupid or worthless. Did you know that the only unforgivable sin in Christianity is not rape or murder, but to doubt or deny existence of Holy Spirit?

  75. ulises276/2 said

    Ivy,

    You take offense at my declaration that Avakian has been right only once in this 30yr history that we are discussing. Well let me point out what I consider “right”.

    Lets use the very words of the 1995 Leadership document:

    “There have been a number of times—again critical junctures in the development of the revolutionary road in the U.S. and internationally—when Comrade Avakian has stood out in his ability to wield the methodology of MLM to correctly analyze changing conditions and on that basis provide crucial direction and guidance to the revolutionary forces. The analysis of the counterrevolutionary character of the events in China following the death of Mao, and of how they were bound to lead to the restoration of capitalism in that former stronghold of revolution, cut through a time of great confusion, disorientation and disarray in the international revolutionary ranks and is one striking example of this.”

    Now let’s un pack this. The claim is, “There have been a number of times—again critical junctures in the development of the revolutionary road in the U.S. and internationally—when Comrade Avakian has stood out in his ability to wield the methodology of MLM to correctly analyze changing conditions and on that basis provide crucial direction and guidance to the revolutionary forces.” This is the standard for being “right” that I am using. Not something like calling out Bill Cosby for putting out a bullshit line. So the question is when has Avakian’s leadership “correctly analyze[d] changing conditions and on that basis provide[d] crucial direction and guidance to the revolutionary forces”? I concede that on the issue of the coup in China Avakian in fact did provide this kind of leadership. But the 1995 Leadership document speaks of “a number of times” when something like this has occurred. I don’t think it is flippant, or “anti-maoist” to make this point. I think that if you firmly believe it to be wrong then you should give an example of when and how Avakian provided “crucial direction and guidance to the revolutionary forces”. Because the majority of people who confront these claims, never mind whether they have taken the time to “steep” themselves in the “body of work” in question as I have, DO NOT SEE these “many” accomplishments.

    If there are so many examples of this, why don’t they tell us about them? And why should I or anyone else ASSUME that their claims are true in this regard? What I do know is that in two very important cases he was wrong (WWIII, Christian Fascist/WCW), and this would mean that at two key junctures Avakian’s leadership has given incorrect guidance and direction.

    Moreover, as I’ve pointed out above, some of the very claims in the 1995 Leadership document can be PROVEN to be false using the very words of Bob Avakian himself:
    “But he has never abdicated responsibility. In hard times there are some who give up, whine a lot, or resort to blaming others—the leaders, the masses, or both—for those difficulties. This is not what Comrade Avakian does: when there are problems, his attitude is first to maintain his strategic confidence in the Party and the masses and second to try even harder to use the methodology of MLM to figure out even better what to do. This is something we can all learn from!”

    And this was later proven to be not true when Avakian in fact DID blame the masses. He even insisted on it being part of “the record”: “I want to say, just for the record, that at times I myself have been acutely disappointed by — and, yes, have cursed in graphic terms — the people in this society who are sitting by and doing nothing in the face of atrocities and horrors committed by their government and in their name…”

    Perhaps not every claim that is being made is true, perhaps.

    And on the use of the word “perhaps”. I think you make too much of it. It has clearly been stated, over and over again, both here and in other forums, that I do not hold the destruction of the RCP to be a legitimate goal. To say “perhaps”, was simply to recognize that people in fact can make the argument that this is our goal. But the point of that entire exchange was to say that such an argument of our intentions is based upon a series of assumptions, both of the nature of the RCP, and of the nature and role of dissent and debate. Assumptions that I firmly disagree with, and which I believe are being shown to be false throughout this process.

    One thing that has been lost in all this argument of semantics is THE TRUTH. I believe that many people want to focus on the form of the criticisms, distorting them, and damning them for unleashing a struggle with an unforeseen conclusion, because it is TOO DIFFICULT to come to terms with the truth. If you will allow me a personal anecdote, I did not come to this position without tremendous struggle over what this would all mean. I lived for weeks in a constant state of anxiety. I was panicked over the possibility of the RCP falling apart. In all my thinking about why this shouldn’t have been done, I realized at a certain point that the one thing that I was refusing to come to grips with was that the criticism was true. This is what made the decision for me. I believed in the criticism and the political method that it was trying to lay out. And I believed firmly that the RCP had to live up to its own declarations about the need for debate and struggle, especially on the question of Avakian’s leadership. Well here it is, and it isn’t perfect. But damnit it needed to be done. Were we going to go another year in this country without speaking of the revolutions in South Asia? Were we going to simply allow the mantle of revolutionary communism to be directly identified with Avakian as a person, not only his ideas, but his very person? Especially after years of studying it had made it plain that he DOES NOT HAVE a groundbreaking synthesis, let alone a plan for making revolution in our situation?

    And then the situation! Look at it. Is what the RCP is doing rising to this situation? To me, and this is my personal view, their program seems like a back-door program to liquidation. Wrap yourself in the red flag, or revolution, or science, and then scuttle the ship in a vain and desperate gamble on a personality cult. It’s really awful to see this, and just as awful to have people defend it on the basis of it “being all about revolution”. It has nothing to do with revolution, except in name, and in subjective intent. But it really should be plain as day, based upon not just the actions of the RCP, but on its INACTIONS, that this is not going to advance communism or a revolutionary movement in the U.S.

    Look, I agree that this Party is subjectively focused on making a revolution, and this is why i don’t see them as an enemy or an obstacle. But that’s not the single standard by which I think any communist should judge leadership. We should judge leadership exactly as B.A. has said, “what is objectively represented by this leadership, this body of work and method and approach, and what does this have to do with the larger question of transforming the world?” We should not be satisfied that a leadership maintains its subjective focus on revolution when at the same time its politics have failed to move things forward, and when in light of this failure they actually demand an even more pronounced fealty to this same leadership. It is the position of the 9 Letters that Bob Avakian’s New Synthesis objectively will not lead to the kind of transformation in the world that we need. It will not develop a revolutionary movement. And it will never be able to seize power. At the same time, I believe that it is possible to do both these things in our current situation, and in the next few decades. It will require using a different method. We are trying to wrap our heads around this now, even as this polemic with the RCP continues.

    As for Peppermill’s statement… I don’t know what to say. I think you should take it up with her, and others you see improperly arguing in anecdote. On the other hand, she was closely related to the RCP, just as Mike was, just as John Steele was, just as many people here were. Is it improper for people with deep experience in these matters to testify to the veracity of these criticisms? Especially when a steady stream of non-supporting supporters come on here and flat out call us liars? Of course, there’s nothing sinister in that, they’re simply putting their “Orientation” into practice. But how should we handle that?

    How can we even have a conversation if it’s starting point is an assumption that no one knows what they in fact do know? Isn’t this getting a bit Kafkaesque? I would note that internally it was exactly this kind of Kafkaesque maze of justification, and formal catch-22, which made it impossible to seriously struggle over these criticisms in any way except as we have done.

  76. zerohour said

    “I don’t know what to say. I think you should take it up with her, and others you see improperly arguing in anecdote.”

    We have to make a distinction between relating an anecdote and an argumentation by anecdote. Anecdotes are considered legitimate if they are consistent with an argument which is logically constructed and supported with evidence. In such cases, conscientious people try to minimize their use. However, an argument that is mainly anecdote, that provides no support other than private interactions, is usually not considered street legal.

    The reason people mention their Party affiliation is that it is the only way to account for their knowledge of the secret line. As Ely himself acknowledges, this line is not in any public documentation, so those of us not in the Party would not be able to claim any awareness of it. I’ve also questioned whether it was appropriate to discuss such a matter as it seemed akin to argumentation by anecdote. Ely suggested a resolution which no Party proponent on this board seems to have taken up – just ask a Party supporter.

  77. Mike E said

    Zerohour writes:

    “We have to make a distinction between relating an anecdote and an argumentation by anecdote. Anecdotes are considered legitimate if they are consistent with an argument which is logically constructed and supported with evidence. In such cases, conscientious people try to minimize their use. However, an argument that is mainly anecdote, that provides no support other than private interactions, is usually not considered street legal.”

    Well put. Some people discuss political organizations and lines by repeating (over and over) their personal experiences and personal gripes. This is reflects a lot of individualism and a dismally low political level. Any human organization has contradictions and runs into people who then claim to have “a terrible experience.” But how can anyone evaluate your complaints (or your “experience”) apart from an overview (including the question “for what?”). And really, the way to measure a revolutionary organization is not the “quality of your experience” — but against the measure of our communist goals (which is what examining things in terms of “line” means.)

    [An aside on line: Some people think “line” means a list of your political “positions.” And so when we say “we should examine this in terms of line” they think we are leaving organizational matters (and social relations) out of the equation, and mean simply the stated policies and objective. But (in order to have a common language) when we Maoists say “line” we DON’T mean an aggregate of “positions” — as in “what is your line on medical care?” “Overall ideological and political line” or “general line” means what road are you on? It means “what is your line of march?” Different roads lead different places. THIS kind of examination of line means “how does the direction you are moving compare with the end goals you are proclaiming?” What is the connection between what you are doing and where you claim to be going? And line includes (it subsumes) matters of social relationship within organizations — and it does not consider the actual social relations of the movement unimportant. They are just a subordinate aspect of the dynamic, not the determinant thing.]

    A positive example about the RCP and social relations: Someone said to me that as we criticize the RCP we should not to mention this: That the party’s circles were the only place she had ever been, as a woman, where she did not feel hit on or evaluated as a sexual object. That has been true (generally, not just anecdotally!) about the RCP. It was not true around the Black Panthers, or SDS, or many anarchist circles, and so on. And it has been a wonderful thing (that didn’t “just happen” but was a culture consciously fought for). And it reflects “overall line” — i.e. it is something that emerges within a movement that is set on “all the way revolution” and that believes “you can’t break all chains but one.” Now on the other hand, there were things about the social relations of the RCP that should be criticized (including some views and practices around sexuality and the woman question). But the point here is that these social relations are not appart from “line” (if we understand line in the Maoist sense).

    So when people discuss a revolutionary organization anecdotally — as if they are a “disgruntled employee” or a “dissatisfied customer” — it is worthless. We can’t approach our movement and its organizations as “consumers” of the revolution. We have to examine lines, and organizations, and events from the overall.

    And (in that context of the overall), anecdotes can be useful — as examples of the general (or as examples of the exceptions). And they can be useful as illustrations of a larger point made on a broad basis of argumentation and evidence.

    The negative example was always MIM’s bizarre storytelling: For example, they would say they talked with an RCP party supporter in the 1980s who told them the El Salvador struggle should not be supported because it was just a proxy of the Soviet Union, so as a result MIM decided it could no longer work with the RCP. In fact, that was not the line of the RCP toward the Salvadoran struggle of the 1980s, and there is no reason to even believe that their retelling of this “encounter” had any objectivity to it at all.

    An example of another contrasting kind is my post on “Linc and Me” — I tried to illustrate a political point by telling a personal experience. It is literally anecdotal. But I don’t believe it is THEREFORE not credible — since the argument does not rest on some isolated personal experience, it is merely illustrated by the retelling of an experience.

  78. Jaroslav said

    I agree with the orientation towards anecdotes outlined by Mike & Zerohour, but I would add that sometimes anecdotes are empirical evidence. There is a tendency of ‘book worship’ (or in Mao’s original Chinese words, ‘book-book-ism’ which I think sounds much cooler) of which RCPUSA’s ‘fetish of the word’ is an example, which basically views things to only be true if they are published. This is objectively (though often not subjectively) a capitalist bias because it takes material resources & influence to publish things. No matter how scientific our method, unfortunately there is no communist equivalent of a ‘peer-reviewed journal’, so something being published isn’t necessarily more credible than the word-of-mouth stuff. Line struggle must be based on the synthesis of things, looking at their essence, but oftentimes this synthesis can only be arrived at after sifting through some nitty-gritty empirical evidence. Is the anecdote of an individual activist less acceptable as evidence than the scholarly paper of a sociologist?

  79. Mike E said

    Yeah Jaroslav…

    I was talking to RedFlags yesterday, and I said “there is a lot of gossip and buzz going around about this line struggle.”

    And he answered (in his usual biting way): “Yeah, ‘gossip,’ which most people call ‘conversation.’ Just like the term ‘anecdotal’ is a codename for what most people call ‘talking about your experiences.'”

    There is a way that people are being shut up about their actual experiences (as if relaying them is unprincipled).

    But it is also true that to sum up an experience it is important to step back from yourself, and see the movement or organization in a larger context, in terms of overall what it is about, and where it is going.

  80. TJ said

    Wow, I just read the 3rd response published on the revcom site. Are they kidding?

    Standards? I don’t think so. The P should have seen something like this coming a long time ago.

    “…are not things which should be discussed publicly by anyone, especially anyone who even claims to be serious about revolution and communism.”

    Fist of all, if these things were not discussed publicly in this way, the P would have completely ignored the criticism. Why would P members really care when they exist in a completely dogmatic organization that blindly follows BA? There is no criticism of BA in the RCP and criticisms received get pushed aside as if they are some kind of illusion. I find it quite ironic that an organization that has not really done anything “revolutionary” in quite some time has the nerve to call the revolutionary nature of the 9 letters invalid. The 9 letters are extremely gentle compared to what could have been written and I find the text to be quite considerate given the circumstances.

    “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.”

    In case anyone has not noticed, what the P publishes is often very different from the practice of the P. In writing, we were supposed to promote “wrangling” and “struggle” over ideas and theory. However any wrangling over BA’s text always ended in a quick shutdown of the conversation and an implication that the questioner should get their head checked out. No outsider would ever be able to understand the alarmism, the paranoia, and dogmatism that exists under the supposed “new synthesis.”

    “..spreading gossip, rumors, and distortions..” “…opportunist character…”

    I’m sorry, but I fail to see anything in the 9 letters that fall under this description. Maybe the letters are slightly opportunist in the fact that they are taking advantage of the fact that the RCP is failing and there is a need for someone to attempt to legitimize this movement and start doing real work for people.

  81. […] “Avakian as the cardinal question“), the RCP has reverted to a 1930s mode — and tried to argue that people should not engage arguments that their party leadership had labeled […]

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