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RCP Response Ver. 4.0: The First Official Commentary on 9 Letters

Posted by Mike E on April 11, 2008

The RCP’s website has published a response to the “9 Letters to Our Comrades: Getting Beyond Avakian’s New Synthesis.” Here is the full text of their polemical response. Join us in a critical examination of this response.

STUCK IN THE “AWFUL CAPITALIST PRESENT” OR FORGING A PATH TO THE COMMUNIST FUTURE?
A Response to Mike Ely’s Nine Letters*

By a writing group in the RCP

INTRODUCTION

Mike Ely and his Nine Letters are wrong on every single question that matters. These Nine Letters constitute a highly unprincipled and opportunist attack aimed at the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP,USA) and its leadership.

What stands out is not just that Mike Ely and his Nine Letters are wrong on political conception and strategy, on philosophy and ideology, and on communist leadership and the contributions of Bob Avakian. All that is true, but what is most striking is that we are NOT even talking about the same project! In a nutshell, the essence of Mike Ely’s criticism of the RCP, in his view, is that after many years in existence, it does not have “a mass partisan political base,” and the main reason is because of its “denigration of practice” and moving away “from actually organizing people in struggle” on one hand, and its “dogmatism” and its one-sided overemphasis and insistence on “theory and ideology” on the other hand, and in particular, “the heart of this – both its theoretical core and most visible manifestation – is how the RCP’s central leader, Bob Avakian, is seen and promoted,” promoting a “cult of personality,” based on his new synthesis, which according to Mike Ely is neither valid, verified in practice nor relevant at this time.

Alternatively, Mike Ely offers “thoughts about a different path” and what, in his opinion, is to be done. He offers a political program that in its essence calls for tailing the mass struggles of the day, rooted in and flowing from a pragmatic and empiricist philosophy, and marked by virulent hostility to ideological struggle among the masses, especially over religion – all in the name of being “presumptuous” and “creative.” Sorry, none too creative, and mainly preposterous, as we shall demonstrate. What Mike Ely is doing, and has done with his Nine Letters, is capitulating, and promoting capitulation to imperialism and its horrors, while maintaining a threadbare camouflage of communism and in fact pandering to and cohering all kinds of anti-communist prejudices – in the name of “communism”! The only unifying “principle” of his Nine Letters is a highly unprincipled attack on the RCP and its Chairman Bob Avakian – the one party and leader in this country which are actually and actively working for revolution and communism, and contributing to that cause in the world.

But Mike Ely’s criticisms and gross distortions of the RCP’s line and practice and his alternative “thoughts” constitute a coherent revisionist framework and package. This package has nothing positive to offer in terms of achieving a radical alternative to the monstrous system we live under. In fact, the only positive aspect about the Nine Letters is that it constitutes a “teacher by negative example.” It would be impossible to speak to every mischaracterization or to refute every wrong line contained in these Nine Letters, but we will expose some of the main distortions and address some of the key questions of ideological and political line that define this package. In so doing we hope to enable people to compare and contrast this opportunist package with a revolutionary communist line and methodology – and to grasp why it matters. In addition we encourage those who are interested to go to revcom.us and bobavakian.net for a more complete exposition of the line of the RCP, and the body of work of Bob Avakian. Immediately, we must say that for a series of letters pompously titled “Getting Beyond Avakian’s New Synthesis,” there is almost zero substantive engagement or critique of the new synthesis. Far from refuting the new synthesis – and despite all the talk of “practice” in the Nine Letters – Mike Ely and his Nine Letters have shockingly little to say about nearly 60 years of the most advanced practice in the world in forging a path to communism – the historical experiences of socialism in the Soviet Union and China, impacting over a billion people.

The end of this first wave of socialist revolutions has posed tremendous challenges. How to go forward in the face of that? How to embark on a new stage of revolution? In this situation, Bob Avakian has led in defending, upholding and building on the monumental achievements of those revolutions and the profound revolutionary breakthroughs in understanding of its greatest thinkers and leaders. But he has also deeply analyzed the mistakes, and the shortcomings in conception and method, that led to those mistakes. On that basis, Avakian has forged a coherent, comprehensive and overarching theoretical framework – that is, a synthesis. While this definitely comes out of and builds on what has gone before, this advance has also involved real ruptures with the past understanding and experience as a crucial element, which is why we call it the new synthesis. It is concentrated in three realms: philosophy, or how we understand the world; politics, especially but not limited to the political conceptions that guided the first attempts at socialist transformation; and strategic conception, which focuses on how one would actually make revolution in a country like this. Again, we refer people to revcom.us and bobavakian.net for elaboration and exposition on these matters.

In Mike Ely and his Nine Letters, on the other hand, we have both an opposition to this advance in our science, and in the process an inexcusable retreat to and replay of a road traversed before, strewn with the betrayal and blood of the masses of people – the road of economism. Opposed most notably by Lenin in What Is To Be Done?, economism is a trend that directs communists to focus their attention, and the attention of the masses, on immediate struggles (often in the economic realm), viewing this as a special stage which enables communists to get a mass following; only then, it is held, can communists bring in larger issues. In actual fact, there is nothing new about this notion – it has been tried many times, and in every case it has led to the desertion and finally betrayal of the goals of revolution and communism – and this has been especially sharp when it has been applied in imperialist countries. Politically this line and trend, first refuted by Lenin conclusively and incontrovertibly in What Is To Be Done?, and now championed by Mike Ely, charts a path to capitulation to imperialism, becoming yet another weight on the masses of people.

Mike Ely’s main “sales pitch” for this tired old line is his past associations with and supposed “inside information” on the RCP, and an implicit – and sometimes explicit – assertion that his narrative is the “real deal” – his claims and experience being the “truth” that trumps any scientific assessment of the line and practice of the RCP. On this, we would like to quote the following excerpt from “Matters of Principle and Standards”:3 “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.” Quite frankly, the fact that Mike Ely has gone about things in this way and not been immediately and roundly castigated says that the standards of the revolutionary movement need to be raised on questions of principle.

footnotes

1. “Nine Letters to Our Comrades: Getting Beyond Avakian’s New Synthesis” *For readers’ reference, we are posting a copy of Mike Ely’s “Nine Letters to Our Comrades: Getting Beyond Avakian’s New Synthesis” (click here)

2. We strongly encourage readers to go to the original source and study Lenin’s What Is To Be Done? to get a fuller understanding of the dividing line nature of this work in the development of communist theory and practice and of its relevance to the issues at hand.

3. See revcom.us, issue #122, March 9, 2008 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.” Quite frankly, the fact that Mike Ely has gone about things in this way and not been immediately and roundly castigated says that the standards of the revolutionary movement need to be raised on questions of principle.

for the full text of this response

80 Responses to “RCP Response Ver. 4.0: The First Official Commentary on 9 Letters”

  1. Iris said

    Ok, so I waited alllll day for the RCP response (I checked every half hour!)–and it is massively disappointing in its arguments and especially its insulting tone. It actually states some terrible arguments–particularly about religion– cadre made against the 9L before this came out–arguments that made me ask repeatedly, to their irritation: “Did you READ this?” Here are some of my posts, from their scattered locations on the website, brought here to the thread for organizational clarity/discussion purposes:

    ******

    The most striking thing to me–indicated in the quote pulled by ColdLamper above–is their total silence on the actual ‘charge’ that the 9L is making about their problems in the present. They basically slander him as anti-communist at several junctures without interrogating the glaring reality of their own level of popularity, failures, ventures and successes.

    *******

    “I am halfway through the Response and I just want to respond to a section of the RCP’s response to the 9L before I lose this train of thought:

    Am I incorrect, or does the 9L and the RCP Response characterize arguments about ‘class truths’ differently? Something about the way they characterize the meaning of the phrase “class truth” disconnects with what you say in the Letters. The 9 explicitly state:

    “However, in fact, the communist notion of class truth is not “whatever we believe is true, whatever the bourgeoisie believes is not.” Nor is it “we create our reality by declaring our truths, while the bourgeoisie creates its reality through its truths.” Nor is it “whatever serves our cause is true, whatever doesn’t serve our cause should be treated as untrue.”

    The RCP seems to respond to the 9’s engagement of the concept of class truth as though the above sentences do not exist and as though the Lysenko affair is the only representation of this mistake of pragmatism and political expediency. They seem to characterize it thusly:

    “However, the existence of fierce class struggle over what is accepted as truth does not imply that truth itself has a class character, depending on what class interest is deemed to be served by that truth, or frankly based on what class the person who asserts it belongs to. This constitutes an inverse and incorrect logical leap. Truth itself is objective, and should be assessed by whether it corresponds to objective reality, as can be known and understood in the most scientific and materialist way.”

    Is it just me, or did the 9 say that it is precisely not the above? It’s like pushing BA’s summation of problems with 20th c socialism sort charges ahead of actual, subtle theoretical engagement.

    My problem here is that I am seeing two separate discussions of this communist concept of class truth–that are almost divorced from one another, because they have different conceptions of it. I feel like there has been some leap over an actual definition here, or perhaps it is my theoretical ignorance. Isn’t there a difference between willful distortions of the truth by a class for it’s own ends and the concept of ‘class truth’–that truth is approximated differently by different class experiences? Even this is a bit confusing for me. What is ‘class truth’? I really need to read this more closely, particularly their section on Ely’s statement about tenuous relations between objective reality and relative truth in L4.

    There seems to be a running issue so far with their mischaracterization of the stated point of the polemic–that it is not a new Program/Synthesis, whatever. Also, I feel that they (and cadre I have spoken to) have grossly distorted Ely’s writings on religion in particular–implying that he thinks religion ultimately has a positive role in Communist society–or that he may even be religious himself! I can’t shake the feeling that they keep conflating the 9L’s very specific criticisms of BA and the party’s method with what must be THE “program” for revolution. For instance: saying that you only care about “numbers in the movement”, or even sarcastically mis-characterizing the 9 Letters as Ely’s “presumptuous work” [footnote to p19]. This seems a bit off track for theoretical work to me–perhaps even willfully dishonest.

    It’s ironic that their end quote by Lenin–and the imagery Lenin uses–echoes precisely what Ely calls for (traveling forward, traveling light)in the conclusion of the 9L.

    I’m sure you all will be digesting this for a while. Cheers!”

    P.S.: Is it just me, or is the tone of this exasperated and rude, implying that engaging with your polemic is a huge inconvenience?

    P.P.S.: If I read another formulaic Official Vocabulary Word in quotations [“awful capitalist present”], I might bludgeon myself with this laptop. And I’m only on page 28!

  2. orinda said

    Am I missing something? I can’t find this refutation on revcom.us. I clicked on the link to “read more” but it wasn’t there.
    I read most of it, fairly quickly. I found the insulting tone very off-putting. Other than that, they answered some points well, on others they were totally off. How can they condemn Mike for wanting to join in the struggles of today? What was the Oct 22nd movement, if not a struggle against the very present problem of police brutality?
    I’m going to read it over later more carefully before commenting further. i look forward to hearing what others have to say.

  3. orinda said

    OK, one more comment. I find the allegations of unprincipled attacks to be very annoying. I’ve read the 9 Letters very carefully and no where do I see anything that I would call unprincipled. Nothing Mike has written is anything that revealed anything about the inner workings of the RCP that can’t be learned by working with the Party (without even becoming an actual member). Is criticizing Bob unprincipled in itself? I hope that is not what is meant.

  4. rafael said

    i haven’t had the opportunity to strain each word of both views, but a few things jump out that i wanted to present to no one in particular.. first i want to look at the question of economism and how it plays out for reformism and short term economic demands and how we, the oppressed, have nothing to lose but our chains and the methodology around dealing with that. i think anyone who’s been involved in the movement knows, the rcp “has been there and done that.” (sorry about the quotes hehe) i don’t think this can be disputed.. even the corporate media, time and again, has been forced to have shown how they have been ‘up in the face of the system’ trying to raise the level of consciousness in different ways (heck, its all over youtube). the question is, that i think has been posed by even the most sincere is, why the hell, after all the blood that been shed, the energy directed, the events, the forums, the struggle, is this system still has its boot on the neck of most of the world.. the answer is there is no blueprint to ending this horror, and this is, in fact, the belly of the beast. real objective conditions in some serious ways have deteriorated (the consolidation of the media, lack of socialist beacons, counter imperial competition, real attacks and obfuscation of some great things that came from the 60s) so what do we have, that Avakian, has for decades, given those who seek to create a whole new world. i would say a goddamn lot. ive ran into all sorts of people in the movement, and we are all products of the system we live in, i’ve ran into really beautiful people, academics, shallow reformists, anarchists, artists, and frankly, the people i’ve met who worked to build things around the rcp (i dont know if they are members or what), have been deeply giving, loving of the oppressed, selfless, principled people. now, we all have our quirks, i know i do, i actually for a long while was up in their face about the importance of anarchism, yet i never felt coerced into reforming my outlook, and believe me, this was in the context of some serious objective movement struggles.

    anyways, i dont have much time to write… but one last thing i wanted to point out, and thats the question of objective truth. that which is, non sterile, non cold, that what is possible with the aid of science and dialectical materialism is possible to understand and change. the Lysenko example, i know has been kind of the reference example for as long as i can remember around reductionism and empiricism, but there are many examples, look at BA’s book observations and making revolution (i think these are 2 good, and easy reads), the are also multiple books on lysenko out there.. and i hope with the new synthesis, people are able to pursue things in a less dogmatic way and feel more free to debate, struggle, study, sum up etc. i know BA used to ramble on more, haha, but i’m starting to see this as more of just a compassionate vibrancy, his later writing seem easier to read which i have a lot more to do, i always feel like im just scratching the surface.

    keep up the struggle

  5. Cassius Ghost said

    Studying the full text of the response paper to the 9 letters will require much more time. I will refrain from any extensive comment, as before, other than to once again reiterate the obvious. The present objective situation in the United States does not warrant more flag waving (red or otherwise) at least if revolutionaries are to survive in strong base areas with extensive support from the people.

    The whole convulsive epoch of the last two centuries of proletarian revolution cannon be boiled down to the simplistic “first wave” – something that Peru’s Guzman (Gonzalo) and the PCP did seek to point out about the “three historic peaks” successfully to the popular masses in that country. It is an awful truth that according to the rigid strictures of the RCP one must first put on Avakian’s glasses, speak in his language, use his words (down to even the spoken syntax), before one can begin to look, speak or write about the history of the proletarian revolutions, as brief as the communist periods lived, in this world.

    Analyzing this whole discourse is so tiresome. The archaic language, and the time worn phrases … it does remind me of that infamous debate during the medieval age in Europe where the assembled bishops, monsegniors and assorted holy ones argued for long periods of days about how many angels can sit on top of a needle.

    In today’s world, here in the belly of this most awful beast, where a “real-time” predator drone can “take out” a revolutionary leader from an office thousands of miles away, or gather and sweep almost all data transfers (including most likely these puny words of revolution) with the flick of a keyboard button, there must be something more.

    Let’s take a long hard look at this document and remember our shared history – without Bob’s glasses, hats or language affecting the whole framework.

    We can and have been better in other times and places, apparently long ago and forgotten.

  6. Iris said

    Rafael–

    I too have worked with party cadre and supporters who are really wonderful, dedicated people. That is important to say and apppreciate. But I’ve noticed that they are really wonderful about everything but talking about the Party or BA. I got the ‘scripted’ response when I asked about the 9 Letters from an otherwise amazing person. I was incredibly disappointed. I have heard second hand that this cadre–a good friend–regrets their defensive attitude and is thinking about returning to the discussion. Funnily enough, this hasn’t occurred before the official response came out.

    About the “compassionate vibrancy” you speak to–I agree, I get this sense from BA’s writings about himself and his tone (most of the time). This does not speak to the dearth of riguer in this theoretical work, and their bad attitude about engagement. I have been disappointed by the chasm between what I percieved as Bob’s openness, appeals to debate and vibrancy, and apparent compassion and commitment–and the behavior and application of cadre and party “writing committees”.

    About what you said about feeling like you’re barely scratching the surface–maybe it is not just you, maybe it’s the author too!

  7. LEE ANN said

    WHAT DOES THIS IRIS PERSON MEAN BY “SCRIPTED RESPONSE”? HOW CAN YOU TELL? IF A RESPONSE DEFENDS THE RCP AND BOB AVAKIAN, IS THAT WHAT MAKES IT SCRIPTED? IF A PERSON THINKS AND SAYS THE 9L ACTUALLY ARE OPPURTUNIST AND UNPRINCIPLED (AS I DO) DOES THAT MEAN IT IS SCRIPTED?
    IF A PERSON READS ELY’S ‘PRE-SPONSE’ TO THE RCP’S RESPONSE AND ASKS HOW COULD ANYONE READ THAT CRAP AND NOT USE A WORD LIKE ‘UNPRINCIPLED’ DOES THAT MEAN THEY ARE ARE SCRIPTED?

  8. Lost Artemio said

    I think what Iris means by scripted response is that shortly after the 9 letters were published, Party supporters across the country in city after city were operating in a unified way, all using the same language- verbatim, when discussing the 9 letters. The experience of many, again in city after city, all having talked to supporters saying nearly the same or exactly the same things about the 9 letters is the best confirmation we have that the party had some kind of verbal script.

    I am gathering from the tone of your post, you have some issue and are taking some kind of offense to the word “script”. Am I correct?

    IF A PERSON THINKS AND SAYS THE 9L ACTUALLY ARE OPPURTUNIST AND UNPRINCIPLED (AS I DO) DOES THAT MEAN IT IS SCRIPTED?

    Not necessarily. It just means that your opinions (or a persons opinions) in this regard are exactly the same opinions as the RCP.

    IF A PERSON READS ELY’S ‘PRE-SPONSE’ TO THE RCP’S RESPONSE AND ASKS HOW COULD ANYONE READ THAT CRAP AND NOT USE A WORD LIKE ‘UNPRINCIPLED’ DOES THAT MEAN THEY ARE ARE SCRIPTED?

    I’d like to engage this point, but don’t really have enough to go on. Could you elaborate the specific ways in which you (or a person) feel the “presponse” is unprincipled? Could you elaborate more on what you feel is unprincipled and opportunist about the 9L?

  9. Iris said

    As I said, LeeAnn, I really, really care about and like this friend (cadre) who gave me the response–this is why I was so shocked at their defensive attitude and VERBATIM non-arguments with the Letters. I was really disappointed. Disagreeing with the Letters does not mean you are reading a ‘script’. I write on this experience briefly in the post “It’s Like the Sun Is Out”. The alleged ‘script’ is at the post “RCP Initial Response”, or something to that effect.

  10. redflags said

    I’m sorry, Leanne. Could you please tell me exactly what principles are being violated?

    Also, for future note, writing in ALL CAPS generally means you are YELLING in internet discussion.

  11. LEE ANN said

    In the “pre-sponse” Ely starts speculating what he and his group should do if the RCP starts using internal experience (KNOWING GODDAMNED WELL IT WON’T!)with Ely to answer the 9L, ‘should WE then just let it all hang out’ blah blah blah & ‘I’ve met Avakian many times (just so’s you know I’m from the inside)’ blah blah blah implying that the RCP will be slinging mud and that is followed by his posting Ulises'(or whoever’s) comments that are even more inflammatory in the same vein.
    The bourgeois media uses implications in the same manner.
    So, that said, the post is unprincipled and OPPURTUNISTIC. AND THAT’S A YELL.

  12. Ka Frank said

    I’ve just done an initial reading of the RCP Response, and have a number of comments.

    (1) It “engages” very selectively with the 9 Letters, and at one point claims that it would be too tiresome to take on the whole of the Letters.

    (2) On tone: It’s a relief, of sorts, that the response does not too often stoop to personal attacks on Ely (other than for supposedly revealing inside information about the developed cult around Avakian) and sticks to questions of political line. What is insulting is the ad nauseum characterization of the 9 Letters as “economist, revisionist and capitulationist” with absolutely no evidence.

    (3) The response starts off with an obvious mischaracterization of Ely’s statement about developing “communist solutions to the awful capitalist present.” According to the response, Ely is saying that solutions to capitalism can be found by communists within the system itself. This in turn helps the RCP build its case that Mike has “capitulated” to imperialism.

    (4) The 9 Letters assert that it is necessary to unite with key struggles of the masses, to deeply understand their conditions and thinking, and to boldly bring revolution and communism to these struggles. The RCP response characterizes this as “the movement is everything, the final aim nothing” and claim, incorrectly, that Ely believes that revolutionary political consciousness emerges spontaneously from the masses. (On page 24, the response attacks Ely’s insistence on understanding what the masses are thinking and doing at any given time.) What comes through from the response is that the RCP knows everything, the masses know nothing, that all consciousness has to be brought from without. This is contemptuous of the masses and makes it impossible to apply the mass line correctly.

    (5) The response attacks the statement that “people develop consciousness and sophistication in the course of political struggle.” Of course they do and we need to dig into this. This only goes to show how deeply the RCP’s line is suffused with subjective idealism. According to the RCP’s political cookbook, there is the party and Avakian over here, the masses are over there, and when the masses struggle, the only way they learn anything and develop correct ideas is from the party and Avakian. This subjective idealism is the methodology and philosophy for the RCP’s periodic forays into the struggles of the masses, usually followed by withdrawals after a few months.

    (6) The response attacks Ely and Mao for arguing that the masses during the Cultural Revolution had to sort things out themselves through practice and political debate. The response claims this attacks the vanguard role of the party. But where was the vanguard party during the intense upheavals of the CR? Liu and Deng’s? Zhou’s? Lin Biao’s? The masses had Marxism-Leninism, Mao Tse-tung Thought and Mao’s basic line on the conduct of the CR, and had to proceed from there. Here the RCP response is again claiming, incorrectly, that Ely believes that the masses can grasp revolution and communism spontaneously.

    (7) In its discussion of religion, the response completely ignores Mike’s criticism of how Avakian’s writings are heavily based on textual reading of holy books and demonstrate a profound lack of understanding of the social roots of religion and how it is actually “lived” today. The response has absolutely nothing to say about Avakian and the RCP’s line on the imminent danger of Christian fascism. It also makes a totally false accusation that Ely takes a CP-like position that communists don’t have to be atheists.

    (8) The response claims that, “For Black people especially, religion is a slave mentality.” This blunt and profoundly incorrect statement points to a bigger issue–that the RCP and Avakian (with the publication of “Away with All Gods”) think that militant atheism needs to be made a mass question on the same level as white supremacy, male supremacy and internationalism. I don’t think this is true. Yes it is true that communists have to rupture with all religious beliefs, but it is not true that religious beliefs always hold back struggle and the development of more advanced political consciousness among the masses. Is Black liberation theology a slave mentality? Communists do have to challenge backward beliefs among the masses, especially those awakening to political life, but this must be done as part of the method of unity-struggle-unity, and it must be done when these beliefs pose an obstacle to the further development of the struggle and individuals’ political consciousness.

    What comes through from the RCP response is a simplistic subjective idealism that is profoundly disconnected from the masses. This is a recipe for sending out RCP members and supporters to “struggle” with the masses’ backward religious beliefs in all arenas of political struggle–to “excise the cancer of religion”–with predictable negative results.

    (9) In “Tony Soprano’s House,” the response continues to defend the RCP’s line that refusal to resist crimes against humanity is itself a crime. And it defends Avakian’s statement blaming the masses for not coming out to the World Can’t Wait demonstrations on October 6, 2006 instead of providing a summation that could explain their failure.

    (10) The response upholds Marx’s experience of working for ten years in a British library as the model for a communist leader. It finds much less material to work with in discussing how Lenin and Mao made their ideological and political breakthroughs. This is particularly absurd in the case of Mao, who made his historic contributions concerning the practice of people’s war, new democratic revolution and philosophy in the midst of the revolutionary struggles of the 1930s, who summed up the triumph of revisionism in the Soviet Union in the course of building socialism in China, and who developed the theory of continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat in the course of launching and leading the GPCR.

    (11) The response tries to pin the tag of “relativist” on Ely because he aggressively challenges the RCP’s use of epistemology to assert that what the RCP and Avakian believe is objectively “true”–when it often has a tenuous relationship to reality. Whenever the RCP response needs a philosophical hook to hang an attack on the 9 Letters, it claims that Ely “substitutes eclectics for dialectics.”

    (12) The response claims that there is no slavishness to Avakian within the RCP. It does not even try to refute Ely’s statement that Avakian is a “cardinal question,” and that all those who question this have been or are being driven out of the RCP. The RCP response correctly points to the contradiction between establishing the authority of revolutionary leadership and the need to promote a critical, questioning attitude to all received authority, but in fact the RCP has not handled this contradiction correctly. It has instead constructed a political cult around Avakian that has been consolidated internally and is being projected externally.

    (13) Given the way the RCP is carrying out its intense campaign to promote Avakian, it is hard to find the proper word–ludicrous, laughable?– to describe the response’s claim that this party is conducting its work as a “team of scientists.”

  13. zerohour said

    Ka Frank –

    I’m not going to write an analysis but the point you made about their obvious mischaracterization of Mike’s statement should make Party supporters wonder about the kind of methodology at work. It is something that occurs throughout the document so it can’t be dismissed as an anomaly.

    For those who have not read the document yet, here’s the first example:

    “The following formulation in the Nine Letters captures the essence of what it is that Mike Ely is bringing
    forward in opposition to the revolutionary communist line of the RCP: “A revolutionary organization has
    to be integrated into the struggles of the people – directly in its own name while connecting with (or
    initiating) a variety of other organizations. And it has to draw the thinking and activity of people toward
    creatively-conceived communist solutions to this awful capitalist present
    – a task which can only be
    accomplished with methods that are bold yet sophisticated (not hackneyed or infantile).” (Emphasis ours)
    [Letter 3]

    This is exactly and completely wrong!

    The task of a revolutionary communist vanguard, the entire raison d’être of communists at this time in
    history, is precisely the opposite: to lead the masses in making communist revolution and getting rid of this
    entire capitalist system – not to find solutions within it, creatively-conceived or not, communist in name or
    not.”

    It didn’t even take them three sentences.

    See how “to” becomes “within”? On top of that we see their fetish of the word at work as well. Mike is describing a method of leadership, but since he didn’t use their neat little formula, it’s invisible to them.

  14. Lost Artemio said

    Lee Ann

    I’m not shouting at you, really. I won’t yell either. and I hear you.

    The RCP has to some degree revealed internal experience in discussing the 9 letters. One of the few accusations that I have heard from party supporters, is that Ely is unprincipled because he pretended to support the party, never raised his disagreements inside the party, then suddenly split and launched an opportunist attack. The RCP has been giving a narrative of what happened with Ely, and they are characterizing what happened and offering details of what happened internally.
    I am glad that the RCP did not end up revealing internal experience in a written polemic to slander or discredit Ely. That wouldn’t have done a bit of good, for anyone. The RCP is still abiding by some very basic principles, if at this point, not much more than that.
    As stated above, The RCP has to some degree been revealing internal matters with regards to Ely. Was it wrong for some to speculate that they would committ to this in writing? Could one ” know goddamned well” before hand that they would not? (de-emphasis added by author). The important thing in larger matters is the party did not do this. Your standing accusation is that it was unprincipled for Ely and others to speculate the party may reveal internal matters in writing, at least I think. I can not tell for sure, all the blah blah blah’s and unreferenced words your placing in other peoples mouths lead to speculation. Ironic indeed.
    Just curious, I’ve been combing over both the 4.0 thread, speculative restraint thread and this one, looking for a loose conversation in which ely says we should just let it all hang out, followed by i’ve met avakian many times, and inflamitory speech by ulises (or whoever). I actually can’t find the sequence.
    Maybe something in my method is wrong, and a comrade or a critic can correct me- I welcome it. I just can’t find the specific sequence your refferring to. I am speculating here and questioning if it ever really happened? or is it your invention?

  15. TellNoLies said

    When the charge is made that responses to the Nine Letter from RCP supporters seem scripted I think there are two issues involved.

    The first is the factual observation of the verbatim repetition of certain language that indicates that people are all working from a common document and not freely sharing their own developing thoughts on the subject. While annoying, this is to be expected when dealing with an organization that applies democratic centralism in such a rigid fashion.

    The second issue is not so much about terminology but about understanding. The problem is that when it comes to certain questions (not just in the Nine Letters but these seem to draw this out pretty sharply) that people in and around the RCP generally aren’t really prepared to actually explain what they mean by the terms they use, let alone defend the positions they are putting out. I have yet to meet a member of the party who could explain the “new synthesis” and answer two or three pointed questions without resorting to just urging me to read more Bob or the old “can you name anybody else who is doing what Bob is doing” gambit (which neatly shifts the responsibility for explaining Bob from them to me).

    The problem is this: the most coherent explanation of the “new sythesis” that I’ve encountered has been in the Nine Letters. Ely actually makes it more coherent than it has been coming from Bob or from RCP members. The objection that he is somehow misrepresenting the “new synthesis” is hard to take seriously. Maybe he is, but given the intellectual poverty of its defense, who the hell knows.

  16. LEE ANN said

    “But if we are accused of being liars, if they make claims about their line which are deceptive, are we then freed to “quote chapter and verse” from their internal documents, speeches, resolutions, polemical descriptions of other parties and other position papers?

    “and of course, my insights into this party are not just based on paper and formal resolutions. I have been in many conversations with Avakian (and other party leaders) over many years — both in meetings and in private. I have not directly cited or described any of that experience to make my case in the 9 letters, for important reasons of principle we have given repeatedly.

    “But, if this party’s leadership makes false claims about me and their own internal life, is it now correct to lay bare how things really were? What people really said?

    “I hope the RCP takes a second to speak, publicly or privately, on what they consider appropriate in our position, facing their methods and false claims. Do they really expect that THEY can characterize what went down internally over the line struggles of the last five years, but that we may not?

    “Ulises speculates that perhaps “the RCP intends to selectively reveal elements of internal debates and positions to smear Ely.”

    “and he adds:

    “‘For my own part, I believe that any opening up of such issues makes them public, in which case there is no reason for those with information contradicting the RCP to restrain themselves.'”

    Those are the quotes I was referring to. There is also quite a few paragraphs explaining why, on principle, internal things might SHOULDN’T be used. Which is a nice touch. Followed by this:

    “So, again, I’m not[?] in a speculative mode. I look forward to seeing a substantive attempt to refute of the 9 Letters (from anyone including the RCP), and I look forward to responding in ways that moves forward the larger process now unfolding. AND IF THEY FALSELY CLAIM WE ARE LIARS, I THINK WE SHOULD CONSIDER ULISES’ PROPOSAL TO CITE PROOF OF OUR CLAIMS — but the decision has to be in keeping with OUR goals and principles (not with an assumption that it is always fine to “respond in kind.”)”

    BTW talk about tone!!!

  17. Jeff said

    “I think what Iris means by scripted response is that shortly after the 9 letters were published, Party supporters across the country in city after city were operating in a unified way, all using the same language- verbatim, when discussing the 9 letters. The experience of many, again in city after city, all having talked to supporters saying nearly the same or exactly the same things about the 9 letters is the best confirmation we have that the party had some kind of verbal script.”

    Or it could be (read “is”) that lot’s of party cadre in all kinds of cities across the country recognized that the polemic was in fact unprincipled in its method and riddled with economism and distortions of the RCP’s line and method in its content.

    There is no script, just some rather glaring flaws with the polemic.

  18. BobH said

    I have not yet finished reading the RCP’s response, but it seems pretty predictable: make a lot of strawman arguments that paint the 9 Letters as economist = reformist = revisionist = evil. The true believers will welcome any half-decent argument that reinforces their beliefs and commitment, while anyone who can see how empty the “new synthesis” is can easily see how shallow their counter arguments are.

    This whole game of “principled” is such a crock. In the early 90s when the RCP abandoned support for the people’s war in Peru, they wrapped themselves in all kinds of “principles” while actually they were conducting a whisper campaign that Chairman Gonzalo might really be a capitulator. That for me, and others, was a lesson in how shallow the RCP’s “principles” are when they face an ideological threat. Since they are the “vanguard” with the “truth”, any critique of them must by definition be “unprincipled”.

    It’s pretty obvious to many that the 9 Letters and most of the discussion raised by them here have been a principled political critique. While important, that’s secondary. What’s primary is that something tangible come out of this round of criticism, so the ex-members and supporters have somewhere to gravitate towards this time around when they wake up to the problems of Avakian’s “Keystone Kommunist” routine. I wish this had existed 10 years ago, I would have been able to contribute a lot more.

  19. TellNoLies:

    Simply stated, right on. I think your two short points are not only correct but insightful. As former supporter of the Party, I remember memorizing the TCP’s, “the Chairman of the Party says” (circa early 90’s). I have read both the writing in this cite and the Party’s response. I find it this all a healthy discussion. I’m still a revolutionary communist but I don’t run with the YB nor the Party like I once did. I have many comrades in the Party who I have much respect for but politically, estamos en otros mundos, entiendes? The reason I write all this is because it is really fucking sad, seriously, really sad to see friends and comrades repeating the same script. So much potential, and yet, lost is the critical thinking skills, of really engaging folks where they are at, of really listening and responding without dividing the heart and mind–ala the Eurocentrism of Descartes…I was recently invited to a discussion of the “New Synthesis” at someone’s house. I mentioned to 9L’s to her and some of the questions it brought for me. I told her I wanted to bring these up at the meeting, I was dis-invited. Whatever, not a big deal. What I know is that this system is completely fucked and must be overthrown. Let us not repeat the same disasters of the 20th century.

    peace to the villages, war to the palaces

    I

  20. Iris said

    Jeff, we’re talking verbatim responses…like you cannot distinguish whole sentences from the alleged whisper campaign piece in the “first response”. Or, the more unlikely answer–but possible–is that the dedicated members of the RCP have been encapsulated with The RCP Vocabulary and line for so long, they repeat it all over the country, simultaneously, defensively, angrily and unaccompanied by more developed thoughts–by chance and because they all just ‘feel this way’.

  21. mitch said

    Perhaps both sides here are a wee bit to hung up on the “fetish of the
    word” so to speak when it comes to examining over all points trying to be made. The RCP’s most recent response is a nasty heavy handed piece of work period. At times I feel
    too though a few posts here (at Kasama over all)”cherry pick” BA’s
    words in ways that are not helpful. One brief example: he says he felt like blaming the masses. He never blamed the masses per se… however, what plays out from that in practice got ugly here and there like at Hunter College where perhaps half or more of the campus is made up of immigrants. There people were “challenged” in very stark ways over Guantanomo or Abu Graib… I don’t think this was done without a geniune concern for internationalism
    but the end result in this particular case made for some seriously conflicted inernationalism… let’s look at practice emanating from theory being my own conflicted point…

  22. Sean S. said

    If I disagree with both Mike Ely AND the RCP, do I get a bonus prize?

  23. Iris said

    Maybe, if you actually elaborate arguments and engage in meaningful critique to the benefit of the movement instead of trying to score snark points to the benefit of no one. Mitch actually elaborates his point. Thank you Mitch.

  24. Sean S. said

    I see someone doesn’t have a sense of humor.

    I have never met, or worked with anyone from the RCP, and this probably has something to do with my geographical location (the Southeast). What little I do know, mostly from reading their websites, has always smacked of a weird authoritarian cult. I’ll be honest upfront; I don’t see how anyone in their right mind could have joined up with them, and nevertheless taken 25 years to figure out that maybe, just maybe that they were on the wrong track.

    And thats the beef really. For as interesting as the 9 letters are, they are fundamentally in the same mold of a dozen other essays on the split of X racial communist organization. I disagree with the RCP supporters that claim Mike is unprincipled; in fact he’s too principled. By avoiding talking about personal issues, such as how things were run or debated on a day to day basis, he limits the discussion of Avakian’s new messiah-hood to a relatively recent change in positions. Certainly that cannot be the case; the slippery slope must have started much, much earlier.

    Most people on here have pointed out that the RCP delivers theory from on high, and then disseminates it down the ranks. How did this come to be? How were decisions made editorially at the newspaper? Who had final say what when on the website? Most importantly, who controlled the money and what projects sunk or swam based on financial support? These aren’t even political issues of “line” or Maoist theory;whose holding the power in the organization and why were they allowed to do so with little to no restraint?

    If people are talking about a new organization being created, which seems to be where some people are heading in here, how do they plan to confront this? A rotation of responsibilities? Depressing the hierarchy in the organization? Using consensus or a majority vote, or some sort of graft of the two, to make group decisions?

  25. celticfire said

    I can’t comment on the whole response here, but I can say it reads like a childish tantrum with red insult-throwing and essentially baseless criticisms.

    It only, IMHO, demonstrates again the RCP degeneration. But I applause the response. At least they did that…

  26. orinda said

    Back to Lee Ann’s comments. I have to give her credit for being the only one to actually explain what she thinks is unprincipled. And I think she has a point. What did the speculation before the RCP response accomplish in a positive way?
    However, that discussion was very recent and the RCP was calling the 9 Letters unprincipled from the beginning. I’ve read them carefully twice and can’t see anything I’d consider unprincipled, not even close. it’s so bizarre reading the NS about the need to encourage dissent and then see disagreement with the Party attacked so defensively. Which leads to the obvious question: why should we believe you will tolerate dissent in the future if you can’t handle it now?
    And Iris, in my experience of many years the scripts were never overt. No one ever told me what to say (though I was often told what NOT to talk about). Supporters read the paper and have discussions about it. Avakian is studied, in a very non-critical way. it all gets internalized.

  27. orinda said

    By the way, would someone please explain what “moronization” is or was? it’s been referred to several times.

  28. zerohour said

    The point about that post on speculation was to address the potential for RCP critics to engage in an unprincipled tit-for-tat response. This opened up a dialogue on our method and approach and why it is and must be different than that of RCP. Even having such an open, public, and hopefully contentious, dialogue is already indicative of that difference.

    They have been accusing Mike of revealing “inside information” without providing any support, but their fundamental accusation is that he was not authorized to reveal such information: “Anyone who is not authorized by the RCP…” [from the Orienatation document], suggesting that the RCP might reveal internal matters if it served some their purposes in fashion. In such a worst-case scenario, if they did step over the line, some well-meaning comrades might argue that it give us an opening to do so. Such a response is understandable, especially from ex-Party members who made great sacrifices, who don’t want to see their lives and work being publicly distorted by an organization they once trusted. The arguments came down on the side of not allowing someone else’s unprincipled behavior to justify us violating principle.

    I argued that they wouldn’t reveal anything of substance, since that would serve no purpose, and they didn’t, but they did characterize their internal life this way:

    “…we do operate on the basis of certain organizational principles that enable the whole Party to both struggle vigorously, through Party channels, over questions of ideological and political line and policy and, at the same time, to unite to carry out what, at any given time, has been determined, through those same Party channels, to be the Party’s position on particular questions and its ideological and political line overall. This relation between struggling over line and uniting to carry out line (what is generally referred to as the relation between democracy and centralism within the ranks of the Party) contains very real contradictions, which can become sharp at times. These contradictions, and the correct means for handling them, so that the greatest amount of initiative and critical and creative thinking is fostered, throughout the Party (and in its influence more broadly, outside the ranks of the Party) while at the same time there is the greatest unity of will and purpose, and unity of action, on the part of the Party…” [pg. 32, RCP response]

    This is exactly the sort of claim that Party supporters would attack Ely for if he responded. Just as in Ely’s case, the Party cannot supply any internal evidence so Party supporters take it for granted. In such cases, no amount of argumentation will be sufficiently convincing, but we can see the external manifestation of Party life in their line.

    I am working on an overall critique of the RCP response but I have some observatins. In addition to addressing specific distortions, I think we should look at how RCP, from the standpoint of their line, was almost compelled to make this sort of criticism.

    During the New Synthesis event in NYC, Lenny Wolff was asked about spirituality and the speaker made a point to say “not religion.” He responded in terms of Christianity and how RCP could work with progressive Christians. To those of us in the real world, it seemed the speaker was asking about non-theistic beliefs like wicca or Buddhism or even various beliefs that fall under “New Age.” I believe Wolff wasn’t being evasive, but that he genuinely didn’t understand the question because he, as a Party rep, didn’t understand the world in which this wide range of beliefs exist. Rather than admit this, he gave an answer, lacking as it was.

    This is reflected in the response to 9 Letters by calling it Ely’s “program” despite the many disclaimers that it is not that. There are places where they quote clearly-formulated passages from 9L and then blatantly distort it a few lines later. I already provided one example above, though it will not be hard to find the others.

    I don’t think the Party is “lying” in the sense of deliberately fabrication. I think their line requires a great deal of self-deception which cannot help but be projected outward. The Party cannot conceive of the kind of project that 9 Letters and the kasama site represents, that could still be called communist. They have a priori notions about what communists are and can do. Anything outside of this is, by definition, non- or even anti-communist.

    Much of their critique revolves around what Ely did not say. I think in this case, they’ve made come correct observations in the sense of indicating where there must be more discussion, but they’re criticism is wrong. These openings don’t represent economism or pragmatism, but a recognition of a need to have dialogue, and not a pre-fabricated position loaded with unquestioned assumptions.

  29. Zerohour:

    the same thing occurred during the New Synthesis presentation in Berkeley. [the person speaking for] the RCP was asked a similar question about the role of “spirituality” in the context of a socialist (if i remember, i think the person in the audience said “communist” society). [he] responded in the most condescending way and in the long “response,” he didn’t even answer her question. i agree with you Zerohour, the party wasn’t trying to be evasive, from their positionality, they can’t even understand the question…

    in the context of revolutionary diversality, the zapatistas have a saying, “we are equal because we are different and we are different because we are equal.” i don’t think the RCP is “wrong.” in the spirit of zapatismo, i would say: “i disagree with the RCP.” i acknowledge their points but would disagree with them. i wish i could say that they have a similar revolutionary praxis.

    II

  30. orinda said

    Regarding the spirituality question, I submitted a similar question a few years ago, asking Avakian to address non-patriarchal religions. Granted, Wiccans and western Buddhists are not a huge section of the population in the U.S. but these trends are prevalent among the most progressive sections of our society. As Zerohour and Jose mention above, I’m not the only person asking about this. And I’d love to read more from anyone about what atheistic spirituality is. Is there such a thing? I’ve not come up with an answer on my own.
    I can’t agree with the RCP’s current line on religion. Yes, religion is not true and yes it does limit or affect some people’s vision of what kind of future is possible. But it is not the main contradiction out there. Belief in the Democrats is much more disastrous, for example. I’m not saying the RCP doesn’t address other contradictions but there are many non-fundamentalist Christians and Moslems who would be willing to take part in a communistic revolution. Most religious people do not want to be continuously struggled with to give up their beliefs and will quit working with any organization that insists on doing so or speaks of their beliefs in a condescending manner. I’m definitely NOT saying have NO struggle about it. Mike points out in one of his letters how few people give up religious beliefs because you point out horrors or falsehoods in the Bible or Koran. People turn from religion for a variety of reasons, such as seeing blatant hypocrisy in other believers, having serious doubts about an invisible god, rebelling against the strictures on sex and other normal behaviors, etc. It’s so important that people know what a scientific atheistic ideology is and how it explains the world and the human condition. Ironically, back when I was teetering on the brink of becoming a non-believer, it was a Christian who pushed me off that cliff while she was trying to convince me to accept Jesus. I am glad i had people who helped me become a positive atheist instead of a bitter agnostic. Not saying all agnostics are bitter, mind you. I know I wouldn’t have become an atheist if I had never been exposed to it and if no one had ever struggled with me about it. But I never felt bludgeoned or pressured into it, beliefs have to be taken up freely or they aren’t very real. Hammer on people too much and some will pretend agreement just to get you off their back.

  31. Tahawus said

    But I never felt bludgeoned or pressured into it, beliefs have to be taken up freely or they aren’t very real. Hammer on people too much and some will pretend agreement just to get you off their back. <– great point

    re: “atheist spirituality” … Richard Dawkins uses an interesting set of definitions for theism, deism and pantheism.
    in most theistic belief systems, an omnipotent omniscient deity is intimately involved in human affairs and routinely intervenes in the world by performing miracles, answering prayers, forgives or punishes sins, etc. for deists (including many of the “Founding Fathers”) there is also a supernatural intelligence, but that deity is confined to setting up the laws that govern the universe and does not intervene thereafter. pantheists do not believe in a cosmic intelligence at all but use “God” as a non-supernatural synonym for Nature, the Universe and the laws that govern its workings. “Pantheism is sexed-up atheism. Deism is watered-down theism.” Dawkins claims that Einstein was consistently pantheistic:

    “To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflection, this is religiousness. In this sense I am religious.”

  32. ulises276/2 said

    I want to point out that the speculation, particularly on the possibility of the RCP releasing internal debates in selective way to smear Ely, was directly related to a pattern of RCP supporters doing exactly that. The first obvious evidence of this is the rumor campaign which directly characterizes Ely’s relationship within the RCP in a selective and distorted way. And then there was the post of “this-won’t-get-center-paneled” who made untrue claims about Mike Ely being a part of the RCP leadership during certain periods of that Party’s existence. These are exactly examples of the RCP and their supporters selectively releasing internal information in order to smear “Mr. Ely”.

    And these smears go back to this issue of script. The first indication of a response from the RCP came, as others have described, in the form of a nearly universal response using the same phrases and argument, AND including accusations about internal matters that many of the people circulating this rumor campaign had no ability to have known about. Moreover, in a matter of one or two weeks the RCP itself released the script.

    Certainly, there were RCP supporters who had an immediate reaction to the 9 Letters, and found them to be unprincipled. But it has been rather difficult for them to explain themselves on that count. Those who have explained themselves don’t seem to have read or understood the 9 Letters, and once debate has been engaged their reasoning has failed to hold up to the light of scrutiny.

    As for the content of the RCP’s latest polemical response, I haven’t been able to read it in its entirety. But I hope to do so soon, and to comment on it. In the meantime, I think it would be positive if those who have read it continue to analyze it and post that analysis here, even if tentative, as part of a larger collective process of understanding where their document is correct and where it’s incorrect.

  33. zerohour said

    Orinda –

    I think “moronization” refers to a process of eroding one’s capacity to be able to think independently.

    As far as “atheist spirituality”: there are those who claim to be atheists in the strictest sense of being “without gods.” They still believe in supernatural phenomena, such as fairies, spirits, or vaguely defined “forces” and “energy.” I refer to this as “weak atheism.”

    Those who are committed materialists, I call “strong atheists.”

  34. Mike E said

    Moronization is a term used by the RCP leadership to describe the theoretical level of the party’s membership. In the current estimation this was attributed to the dominance of a “revisionist package” over the last years — that focused the membership on movement activism, not on major questions of theory.

    Zerohour writes:

    “I think “moronization” refers to a process of eroding one’s capacity to be able to think independently.”

    The RCP does not argue in favor of people’s ability to “think criticially.” The concept of moronization was associated with the membership’s supposed indifference to Avakian’s synthesis. and the solution to moronization is to be “steeped in the Chairman’s work” (not in thinking “independently.”) In fact the very idea of thinking independently is considered a concept and outlook to be associated with revisionism.

  35. YO said

    Everyone’s wondering what’s so unprinicipled about Mike Ely and the 9 Letters. For one small example (on a website filled with much greater examples), look at the above post from Ely. When has the RCP ever used that term in public documents? When have they spoken about internal line struggles (which may or may not have happened, or may or may not have happened in the way that Ely characterizes it) related to members’ supposed “indifference to Avakian’s sytnthisis” or the “revisionist package” in public documents? Since they HAVE NOT, how are we supposed to confirm the validity of this? How are we supposed to know in what context they may or may not have used that term? Oh right, we’re supposed to have faith in Mike Ely, because he’s got the inside scoop.

    As the RCP recently said: “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.”

    In terms of Mike Ely’s claim that “The RCP does not argue in favor of people’s ability to think critically”… all I can say is: THAT IS in the public documents! Just pick up anything by Bob Avakian. Start with his talk, “Balance is the wrong criterion and the cover for a witch hunt. What we need is the search for the truth: education, real academic freedom, critical thinking, and dissent.”

  36. Lost Artemio said

    The first paragraph from the RCP response, page 23 below

    But what exactly is Mike Ely arguing for here? First, he has a problem that Avakian asserts that relative
    truth is truth. Then, in seeming to refute Avakian (in reality, a distorted and incomplete version of
    Avakian’s quote), and to take an all-sided view of relative truth – that it “divides into two” – into both truth
    and falsehood,” he then goes on to assert that “the relationships between our relative truths and reality are…
    often painfully tenuous.”

    3 words were eliminated from the end of the sentence the RCP is quoting in the 9 letters which actually reads:

    The relationships between our relative truths and reality are dynamic, contradictory and often painfully tenuous.

    A few things strike me about this ommission. The first is that in the RCP’s response they literally start a sentence by accusing Ely of presenting a distorted and incomplete quote from Avakian, and end the sentence distoring and presenting an incomplete quote from Ely.
    Eliminating the words “dynamic, contradictory and” fundamentally distorts Ely’s point. It changes it. We can assume that this ommission was intentional, they removed 3 words and replaced it with 3.’s
    Why did they remove those words, dynamic, contradictory? Who exactly is substituting eclectics for dialectics? turning reality onto it’s head, into it’s opposite?

  37. TellNoLies said

    The legitimate security needs of a revolutionary organization should not be used to shut down criticism that in no way compromises that security. People here don’t have faith in Ely because he has the “inside scoop” but because his critique explains their experiences, whether as members or supporters of the RCP or as outside observers. The term “moronization” corresponds with the disdain we have seen in how the RCP treats the intellectual development of its membership, which is what is really at issue rather than the term itself. Similarly, Avakian’s use of the term “critical thinking” doesn’t neccesarily translate into an actual practice of promoting the ability of the membership to think critically. What is at issue is not the terminology but the actual practice which in the RCP seems to presently involve non-stop force feeding of Avakian’s writings to the exclusion of the sort of breadth of reading neccesary to actually think critically about what Avakian has to say.

  38. YO said

    I don’t think the “…” shortening changed the meaning much at all. They zeroed in on “painfully tenuous” to make a larger point about relativism.

  39. YO said

    TellNoLies, what you are putting out here is the definition of “empricism.” As in, me and my friends feel this way, or me and and some ex-RCP people (and other assorted parasitic critics) feel this way, so therefore, that’s the reality. No. On one level, that type of analysis is contradicted by many more people who do not feel that way about their experiences. But on a deeper level, that’s not how one makes scientific analyses.

    And who are you to talk about “the disdain we have seen in how the RCP treats the intellectual development of its membership”? Disdain we’ve seen where exactly? Again, if your argument is empricist, and based on what Mike Ely and a few others on this website have claimed about their personal experiences, that’s contradicted by many other people’s personal experiences. So, where have we “seen” this disdain?

  40. Mike E said

    It was Avakian who personally promoted the term moronization to describe his own follower’s theoretical and intellectual level over many years. Not tellnolies. Deal with it.

  41. Lost Artemio said

    They changed Ely’s quote, to sandwich it into a boiler plate argument against relativism. Dynamic and contradictory, thats how dialectical materialst see matter in motion in a constant state of develpment and change. Yes, this relationship is painfully, painfully tenous. We can understand it though- if we look at it without “…” shortening things…

  42. YO said

    Lost artemio, your argument is petty. You’re so worried about the 3 words the RCP took out in order to focus on their point, that you lose sight of what the actual debate is here: Mike Ely is claiming that the Avakian “hypes the objectivity of relative truths.” And the RCP is saying that Mike Ely has a “relativist epistemology.” You are the one that is actually taking things out of context. What do you think about the RCP’s argument, and not just their punctuation?

    The only thing “painfully tenuous” here is the relationship between Mike Ely’s unprincipled (either false or de-contextualized) “inside knowledge” and reality.

  43. STB said

    “It was Avakian who personally promoted the term moronization to describe his own follower’s theoretical and intellectual level over many years.”

    Ah yes, here come the unprincipled distortions of Avakian, followed by the bully-esque “deal with it.”

  44. occam said

    funny that avakian sees “moronization” in the recent period when the rcp was actually doing mass work: out in the world, doing important work with NION and talking to people beyond the already-converted. if they were disappointed with turnout to wcw rallies, imagine what the reaction will be when they consistently get 50-odd people to show up to 4-hour second-hand exegesis.

    let’s just face it: avakian’s writing is piss-poor. sorry, but it is. even the memoir reads like it was dictated to a scribe. paragraphs start with things like “but this gets back to what i was saying earlier…” over and over again. his published output reads like volume 12 of john updike’s diaries, and if he doesn’t win converts, it’s because he can’t be bothered to actually set pen to paper and write a fucking second draft. far as i can tell, his main accomplishment in life is figuring out how to get a diminishing handful of people to do his meager work for him.

    i have friends who are doing harder and longer time than anything bob avakian ever faced. when you go into self-imposed exile based on an inflated sense of your own centrality to world revolution and maintain the facade of persecution even after all charges are dropped — you get lazy. every paragraph i’ve ever read of bob avakian’s just sounds lazy.

  45. yo:

    i hear what you are saying. its more than just personal experiences though. in fact, if we closely examine BA’s text “Observations” (2005) and the Conversations work with Bill Martin (2005), etc. etc., particularly BA’s discussion’s about epistemology, we get the origins of an intellectual project that is not self-reflexive but is at best Eurocentric, at worst, especially when put into practice, racist and colonialst. for me, it was the RCP’s response in the book “Marxism and Native Americans” (1983) that really made it clear to me.

    as to your reference about “other assorted parasitic critics…” are you serious? un poquito de respeto, porfavor. i can hear a twirling in the graves of our revolutionary elders (from Fanon to Emma Tenayuca to Mariategui and Anzaldua): Who is really living off of whom? in theory and in practice?

  46. zerohour said

    YO-

    You are basically arguing that we accept the Party’s self-image because it’s in print and it’s written by the Party. And yet we should ignore experience that runs counter to it [including our own] because it’s “empiricist.” Strangely, this mirrors the Party’s approach towards the Christian religion: ignore how it is actually practiced in real life and infer everything from the Bible itself.

    Not every ex-RCP member is a parasitic critic [or did you come to that conclusion based on your own scientific research?], and labeling them as such is an attempt to prevent people from having to take their criticisms of the Party seriously.

  47. Iris said

    Where can one find the term ‘moronization’ and it’s implied meaning? Like in text I mean…I’m really curious about this. It seems degrading and maybe a little scandalous….It seems that I had heard it before but I’m not really sure. I didn’t know it was coined to refer to cadre!

    In terms of el Zorro Rojo’s comment on racism: someone mentioned that they thought the RCP’s treatment of Black people and religion (in the Response) was racist–they had said it was a “slave mentality”. What does everyone think of this? Maybe it should be a separate thread. I have heard black people in my (very religious, very segregated) city say that yes, they are slaves–to God. I have watched this cause cognitive dissonance with other black students–some of which reject religion at all on the grounds that it “enslaves the mind”! Then there is liberation theology…and people who will talk about armed revolution, and be down for the whole thing, but who will tell we need to stop goin around telling people god doesn’t exist. It is seriously complicated, and really hard to deal with.

  48. Iris said

    This Response by the RCP and the responses of cadre to my questions about the 9L makes me worry about the way they apply democratic centralism. I’m not trying to reject security needs or the need for a united line out of hand–it just seems like everyone I know around the party is saying the exact same thing–or nothing at all. If the line on homosexuality is ‘wrong’ on Tuesday, but then it is ‘correct’ on Wednesday–well if you’re cadre, you have to agree/absorb/project either way. This is disturbing to me. A friend just found an interview with Mary Lou Greenburg where she defended the Line on Homosexuality. In 1998. Now it seems–and I may be wrong–like a switch was flipped and everyone simultaneously changed their mind. This is not how brains work! What is the correct way to apply democratic centralism–to foster real critical thought while promoting reasonable unity, vibrance and security?

  49. YO said

    Jose, calmado camarada… by parasitic critics I was referring to many of the people that post on this website, claiming or relying on supposed “inside knowledge” about the party — not revolutionaries like Fanon and Mariategui!

    What do you mean by Avakian’s epistemology being eurocentric/racist/colonialist? Do you think the idea of “truth” is eurocentric? Do you think there are multiple “realities”?

  50. Iris:

    I think we should maybe discuss this separately in another section even though i think its all related. I would highly recommend the work of Enrique Dussel, one of the most important revolutionary intellectuals from the periphery (originally from Argentina, he now lives in Mexico). Dussel takes it beyond the praxis of liberation theologists (as it played in the the Americas post 1960’s) and into the origins of the capitalist world-system, 1492.

    what is so interesting in the “New Synthesis” and in discussions I have had with supporters of the Party is their lack of knowledge of thinkers from the periphery (e.g., Dussel, Anibal Quijano, Cabral, etc, etc). If we are to really engage in a “new synthesis” that goes beyond some of the disasters of the 20th century, then take seriously and engage (no pun intended) the espistemologies of folks who have equally engaged with these questions/projects, sometimes with their lives. I agree with Occam, the Party is really intellectually lazy, sometimes not just out some accident, but out a fear of actually engaging with people who have been working/writing on these questions. I have personally given many books, works in progress, zines, audio lectures, etc. to many Party supporters, they don’t read things out of MLM-B.A. Thought.

  51. Iris said

    Thanks, Zorro, you are correct. And thank you for the recommendation: you are absolutely correct in your last post.

  52. Iris said

    Whoops…getting sleepy. Grammar..crumbling! Buenos noches, comrades.

  53. orinda said

    Yo says: “In terms of Mike Ely’s claim that “The RCP does not argue in favor of people’s ability to think critically”… all I can say is: THAT IS in the public documents! Just pick up anything by Bob Avakian.”

    Which is exactly the problem! How can you think critically if all you read is Bob Avakian?!! Of course, occasionally we are encouraged to read Lenin or Mao. But certainly not anyone else. I had never heard of Badiou or Althusser or others until reading this site. I think Avakian should be read. But definitely not just Avakian.

  54. Sean S. said

    Or the literal cornucopia of Marxist thinkers out there; Mario Tronti and Antonio Negri and the whole autonomia thinkers (I recommend Storming Heaven, a book the overviews the development of the autonomist movement). Baudrillard, especially his book the Mirror of Production (which my copy has the best cover ever; Marx crucified to factory gears ). Henri Lefebvre and his three volumes on the the Critique of Everyday Life. A whole world awaits of interesting and contradictory thinkers.

  55. Mike E said

    I think these two writings: the 9 Letters and the RCPs response stand in pretty stark contrast (in method and line) and we can gain a lot by drawing out those differences (in light of reality and our communist goals).

    On the continuing discussion of principles: It has been important to respect the privacy of internal workings. I and I believe it has also been important NOT to allow the RCP to hide (suppress, disguise) key sections of its elaborated line. It is not unprincipled to excavate line — and no one in the world can expect to have their politics discussed only in terms of the framework they choose to establish. And it is worth pointing out that it is not just me who has seen and studied this from the inside — but many people participating in this discussion. And so there is nothing mysterious about the discussions of these line questions for a great many people approaching this site.

    Let me take an example of “moronization” — you don’t have to take my word for it that this has been Avakian’s personal characterization of the state of his followers. Turn it around… Is there anyone from the party who will deny this? No. Because its true.

    we will respect privacy of the internal workings of this party, its structure, and so on. But line is a different matter.

    Put another way: Many of us left because we were told “the train has left the station.” And that it was no longer allowed to criticize “Avakian as the cardinal question” within the party. OK. but then the party says it is unprincipled to criticize “avakian as the cardinal question” OUTSIDE the party either — because they, themselves, have not chosen to elaborate those central theories of the new synthesis.

    It doesn’t take a genius “of a special caliber” to realize that they are arguing that ANY criticism of this cult of personality (inside the party, outside the party, on a flight to the moon) is inherently unprincipled and just shouldn’t be done (anywhere). Well, that wont stand. This elaborate and false assertion of Avakian as “a Mao or a Lenin,” and the flawed new synthesis that undergirds that assertion must be subject to detailed and principled criticism and will be (here and elsewhere).

    this is a part of a much larger set of line struggles now gripping the international communist movement (and revolutionaries beyond that). And it will be struggled through in substance and detail.

    Now, to be clear: I have just returned from several days of travel and have not had a chance to read the RCP’s response beyond a quick skimming. I am eager to read both their response, and your dissection of that response. And I will, after thinking things through, have some things to say of my own.

    The commentary that I find most useful here are those that struggle for an overall characterization of what the response is arguing for and those that take a particular passage to dissect.

    * * * * * * * *
    correction on a point Yo indicated:

    yo correctly says: “In terms of Mike Ely’s claim that “The RCP does not argue in favor of people’s ability to think critically”… all I can say is: THAT IS in the public documents! Just pick up anything by Bob Avakian.”

    Yo is right. I made a typo in that comment he refers to. I meant to say that the RCP does not argue in favor of people’s ability to think INDEPENDENTLY (which was the issue in that part of the thread). The RCP does not uphold the importance of thinking INDEPENDENTLY. Referencea to “thinking for yourself” etc were considered wrong and routinely criticized

    Yo is in fact right that there is (in words) the argument for thinking critically. What we are discussing is the gap between this claim and the reality that has emerged among communists. the call for critical thinking (in words) and the forced march for ideological subordination and singularity among communists. In words a Maoist approach to ideas, in reality a demand for a return to “monolithic” thinking (and even elaborately scripted speaking) on virtually any question.

  56. Iris said

    How does the RCP insist on arguing within its own framework so doggedly? I think my confusion (in the first post on this thread) over the way they mischaracterize Mike Ely’s writings on religion in the Response speaks to this–its like they didn’t even read the letters. And it seems like they might as well not have. They continually catalogue things that BA theorizes about and consider important/required beliefs and methods for communists. This serves as a distraction for the reader–there is practically a strawman on every page! They snidely call the Letters his ‘presumptuous work’

    I get the feeling more and more that it may not be willful distortion, but a symptom of fear or extreme encapsulation. They will address criticisms if they are from a whole ‘nother planet–overtly backwards or bourgeois or capitalist–but I am seeing more and more that in my time around the party, I have built up (from nothing, admittedly) only my most basic understanding of basic communist concepts and principles. I have never been encouraged to read peripheral theorists, opposing authors–even as a matter of interest–and when I compare this to, say, a good low level college course–I am very disappointed.

    I am interested to hear: have many communists internationally criticized BA’s work? Has anyone seen this polemic? What is the direction and framework of these international conversations on line and theory (especially since everyone has to ‘pass through BA to get to revolution’). I’m sure there is restraint, but I don’t want to ‘encapsulate’ my view of these matters to the American communist community, or former RCP folk. I know there are more diverse opinions/persons here than that characterization and I will add that this is the first time–partly because this is really being put into an international context for me–I have been really excited about studying communist theory (and practice). I’ve got my closest friends reading the Letters–we read them out loud to one another (it took like 6 hours) and the RCP responses, and of course the debate.

  57. Cassius Ghost said

    Iris there was a similar malaise back during the late seventies and early eighties when Iranian comrades returned to attempt to implement a rev com line within Khomeini’s crazy fascist religious dictatorship. Some of my best friends in life were captured, tortured and executed … I never really recovered from that experience. I’ll never forget my misgivings about them leaving while the RCP was circulating a big character poster of BA with the slogan “Revolution in the Eighties, Go for it!” Mike Ely should remember that period well.

    I for one can’t forget what the Iranian brothers and sisters had to say, “Be very careful … and good luck.” They were so enamoured to the RCP, as I was, that the spirit of solidarity overcame everybody.

    BA and the RCP have played a very vital role in the closing decades of the last century and I have tremendous respect for all of them, but really … and I don’t blame the RCP for the failings of the experiences of Iran and Peru, but it and I could have done better.

  58. redflags said

    Lee Anne & Yo: Could you post a link to what you view as a principled criticism of the RCP? I don’t believe I’ve ever read a polemic by or about the RCP as substantial as these Nine Letters. I may have missed something. Please share a good example of a criticism you think acceptable. Otherwise, you are demanding people accept the stultifying discipline that has led to the RCP’s diminshed capacities.

    Let me put it plain: people are done with the RCP not because they are economist (or whatever the pejorative de jour is), but because we could not carry out effective communist work. Avakianism has stultified the RCP to the point that this organization has trouble with a conversation, let alone changing the world.

  59. redflags said

    I’d also like to mention that while Mike Ely is the author of this piece, it is plain that the discussion is not simply springing from the mind of one man. There are quite a few contributors here, and we must be clear that this is not about an Avakian and an “Anti-Avakian”. This is about building a fighting communist (and broader) revolutionary movement that will contend in this world.

    I didn’t become a communist to insist people read Avakian’s self-indulgent musings, let alone insist to people how world-historic they are. I see the results of that method, a frightened and brittle organization more concerned with locking people down into obedience to the man behind the curtain than in opening things up and unleashing people. You’ve set your limit as what Avakian can bear, not what the world needs. If we can’t be communists in the RCP, if we can’t deal with people in a productive way within the confines of Avakianism – then what would you have us do?

    Shutting up isn’t going to happen. The failure of the RCP doesn’t set any limit on what we can do. And if we don’t get into deep, sincere and productive criticism then all that work, sacrifice and struggle will have been wasted on the sectarian rump organization Avakian has demanded.

    Communists are rebels, not acolytes.

  60. redflags said

    On the question of Avakian as the “cardinal question” – I don’t need Ely to tell me this as some secret privy scuttlebutt. Neither do you, Yo. Or any of the RCP cadre reading this on the sly (or as assigned minders).

    I applied for membership in the RCP last year in order to contribute to the communist movement. Though I was honest in saying that the cult of personality is a mistake, is wrong, won’t work and that it wouldn’t be good if it did. Even still, I wanted to join with a self-proclaimed revolutionary organization specifically to bring communist ideas and communist practice into the world in a way they (plainly) currently are not.

    For many years I’ve worked in social movement and movement centers, upholding and promoting communist politics while working to open new avenues of popular struggle. But the world is crying out for communist solutions, not mere dissent – so I stepped up to the call. Yet over and over I was specifically directed to work on the Engage Avakian nonsense. The idea was that I should approach the people I know on the left and in the world to “take up and defend Avakian”. You know, APP. To me, this was madness. That campaign is a total and complete flop, which is all the more painful because of how central it now is to the world of the RCP.

    In other words, without being told directly (despite asking) whether this APP was a requirement of membership – I was directed over and over again to work on it until that’s all the discussion we were having.

    It’s like saying to a sailor they have to mop the decks on a sinking ship instead of patching the hole. It accepts that Avakian has it all figured out, except that the only thing he’s really figured out is his surreal self-conception as global messiah. Well, short of the literal hand of god descending from heaven, Avakian will never be more than he has been.

    It is completely intolerable to accept a cult of personality that is RIGHT NOW has already squandered the most important organizational expression of revolutionary communism in the United States. But so it has come to pass, and Avakian is firmly in charge and committed to running the RCP into the ground. That’s there to see if you step back even one inch from Avakian’s march into nowhere.

    This is no telling tales out of school. I agree with Mike (and others) that we must absolutely respect the ability of revolutionary organizations to conduct their business without leaks and gossip. But that is completely different from attempting to stifle debate about cardinal questions of political line inside and outside an organization that purports to lead. That just can’t be done. It would be wrong if it could be, but that day is over in any case. The sunlight is out, so just stop throwing shade. You only hurt yourself and squander the commitment of those who buy into Avakian’s sophistry of obedience.

    So I ask, what is unprincipled about this? I think the political cowardice, the politics of fear that the RCP traffics in is unprincipled. I think it is in essence liquidationist, as the old jargon goes. When you make the point of entry obedience, you confuse the role of a revolutionary party with one man’s PR apparatus – and that is unprincipled.

    Communists are rebels, not acolytes.

  61. Of course, the RCP’s fate has to be placed in the broader context of the history of communism. Redflags hints at this when saying that “communists are rebels, not acolytes,” although his assessment of the communist identity is extremely one-sided.

    There is a deep well of authoritarianism in the communist tradition, one that fosters intolerance, undermines debate, and has produced numerous police states. . Stalin … Pol Pot … North Korea… The list is long… This is a very real part of the history and it makes no sense to ignore it.

    And is it really a surprise that the RCP, whose admiration for Stalin lay at the center of its political identity, is antagonistic to criticism?

    What I find striking is not that the RCP descended into a cultish, irrelevant sect–so many communist groups that emerged during the same period did so–but that it held on for as long as it did. It would be interesting to learn more about the psychological mechanisms that kept people like Mike in the party for decades, despite its obvious failure to meet any of its objectives.

  62. redflags said

    Communists are rebels, not acolytes.

    That is a statement of intent, not an summation of history.

  63. mitch said

    I would like to ECHO the heart felt expressions Cassius Ghost shares here about Iranian comrades. Moreover, I want to underscore the point about doing better. Some of us back then more or less ignored “discipline” and provied real (if perhaps miniscule) support for these companeros. To be clear nobody said not to… We are always free to make choices regardless of membership or supporter status if we accept responsibility for such actions. Choices need to be made about Nepal. Kasama informs us extremely well about events there. As for doing better, perhaps the RCP will take up the challenge of making decisions on the Nepalese struggle. Cassius, I’ll never forget those Iranian comrades… Red Flags, thanks for keeping things real and pointing to RCP contributions
    made over the past six or so years…Also, I forgot who emphasized this earlier, but it really is important to look at the essence of posts, counterposts, and responses

  64. mitch said

    that should read provided not “provied”

  65. Jaroslav said

    The RCPUSA response is very hard to read. It’s just so bratty/childish: mean, name-calling, intentional distortions, evasion of the actual line differences at heart (instead critiquing things like economism or CPUSA directly with no solid logical link to the 9L), etc etc etc. Anyway although I’ve not finished reading it yet — though I will, slowly — I have a few positive comments about it. This is quicker than negative comments, since so far the quality of almost everything in the response is somewhere between llama spit & dog crap in terms of being anything approaching a convincing argument.

    1) Democracy. Yes, we need to get into this issue. How are BA’s views on the matter ‘idiosyncratic’? What is proposed & supported instead?

    2) Religion. I think the RCPUSA is very correct to say that telling people the truth is very respectful. It’s not (from my view) that the 9L is wrong in its critique of RCPUSA analysis of religion, but that it is incomplete & imprecise. There’s a need to say what the proper role for atheism is then.

    Now I’m not saying that the RCPUSA’s line on the above points is overall correct either, just that they raise here legitimate & problematic issues with the 9L.

  66. Anon said

    Anyone else find it at all humorous that for a while there were generally no RCP-supporters around and now they’ve all come in after the public polemic has been released?

    I do.

    “…okay, they said it’s now okay to wrangle with those unprincipled and pathetic dolts!”

  67. Nando said

    It is a positive thing that the RCP responded. It is a positive thing that their supporters are here to engage.

    And both developments are tied to the richness and success of this site (and the 9 Letters).

    And I think having that party line defended by those who still are under its discipline will help deepen the criticism we have started, and deepen the alternative approach we are developing.

  68. the cold lamper said

    Anon (#68): that seems to be the general pattern. Every time a new RCP response comes out, a handful of their defenders (the identities vary, but “Yo” seems to be the point-man of each group) drop by to argue for about three or four days before disappearing again, hit-and-run style.

    The question I have now is if the RCP and their defenders (whatever the exact nature of their association with the Party) can continue in this vein. There was a gap of around two months between the initial whisper campaign and the “Basic Orientation” piece (Revolution #120, week of 2/17/08). But the latter was followed within roughly the same time period by two more responses (“Principle and Standards” in R/R #122, then the first open polemic a few days ago). Might this pattern continue, so that they end up becoming a more permanent presence?

  69. I would really like to second Redflags proposition (#59) that supporters of the Party suggest to us (the readers here) what they consider to be principled critiques of the Party. seriously. Let’s switch things around a bit here and not be so much on the defensive.

    I really would like to know: Are there critiques of the RCP that they would consider “principled”? I mean from all of the criticisms that I and other comrades have been a part of (e.g. the National Question with regards to the National Liberation of Chicano/a peoples) or even more recently, the response by RCP comrades over the K. Venu vs. BA debate in AWTW…etc. etc. I have never heard any RCP comrades actually say that those who challenged their line/methodology were putting forth “principled criticisms.” i think this says a lot, que no? what do other folks think about this?

  70. Cassius Ghost said

    The most determined acolytes for the RCP have for decades insisted that BA was a new Lenin or Mao. They have been saying that for years and years. What’s so new about the current campaigns of the last decade or so? I honestly don’t know. Maybe it was better BA stayed “in the background” since it becomes so apparent when looked at up close that it all seems to be offered; i. e. more BA, more “digging deeper” – digging digging digging to where, when and how?

    “Revolution in the Eighties – Go for it!” 100,000 copies distributed across the country for weeks and weeks – his picture plastered all over the country. Think about that for just a moment. Yes they “lite up the sky” with the campaign for the MTT Defendents, for a few brief few years, but the dear leader returned – silently from an expat existence, why?

    Maybe the presumptious term “vanguard” is being abused here.

    Maybe there were some serious mistakes made about the National United Workers’ Union (NUWO) and killed in it’s cradle? Maybe, just maybe some pretty big mistakes took place, but nooooo – defend our version of an American Mao, a Lenin.

    Maybe the campaign around the line of “Create Public Opinion … Seize Power!” had both positive and negative aspects; especially when the public opinion created deviated from abject support for The Chairman ….

    Alright the objective situation of US imperialism was too strong, too big bad during the time of Reagan’s “revolution” did that mean it was all out for The Chairman.

    How’s the $500,000 fundraiser going? Yes I am being sarcastic.

    This isn’t MLM (Marxism Leninism Mao Tse Tung Thought) more like what is really dominant in America today MLM (Multi – Level Marketing). BA needs a pension fund, good – he deserves it, now let’s get on with a real assessment of the “objective situation” and make some unity.

    The days of endless growth for US imperialism are over, OVER, the country can’t even industrialize it’s home energy and transportation methods fast enough for the crisis.

    It is not a “looming” crisis – it is crossing the door step and in our houses – what will it take wave after wave of rev comms passing through US gulags waving red flags on the way to the chain gangs and lethal injection beds. Speaking in a language that nobody understands until it is too late, help me out, please. How are we to even begin to understand and analyze (yet more analysis) the outright seizure of the garden in Los Angeles a couple years ago?

    Oh, not good – tree sitters, people growing their own food – autonomy in the city. BAD, wave more Avakian posters, “dig deeper.”

    Do you think every revolutiion has to be a cataclysmic blood tsunami of the oppressed before they learn to learn to fight back?

    If you were living in the Social imperialist country of Russia and knew it was going to collapse, from within and of it’s own accord – how would you act? In the interests of the people, for the people, serving the people?

    Well, that’s about to happen … it is happening.

    Oh I forgot, that makes me an economist, or some such blather.

    I’m listening to the BBC talk about how the Maoists were opposed by many countries around the world, but also how isolated the monarchists were and how India is “responsible” for it’s rise to power in Nepal.

    Everyone is chattering and theorizing,GOOD!

  71. Ka Frank said

    Cassius–Cracks about an “Avakian pension fund” only serve to lower the level of analysis and discussion needed to deepen our understanding of the two lines represented in the 9 Letters and the RCP’s response. Even though Yo! will continue to charge posters here with being “parasitic critics,” please don’t carry on like one.

  72. Cassius Ghost said

    I guess the whiplash of the master will make us learn the language, one way or another.

    The self styled “vanguard” can become a “parasite” on the body of the international proletariate, too!

    “Away with all Gods!”

    Good night.

  73. Iris said

    Cassius, could you use some commas so your snarky post read less like a transcript of slam poetry? It is hard to read and even renders your heavy sarcasm less effective.

  74. SS said

    Sean says…

    “Someone in another thread criticized my stance on socialist history by being cynical in relations to having take care of people in dire circumstances. Again, I considered this amusing because I imagine most of the revolutionary communists in the RCP haven’t run a bodega, let alone held a position in a organization that actually deals with these problems.”

    The first sentence I don’t understand but the second is ridiculous considering(!)…

    “I’ve not had much experience with RCP outside of a couple visits to NYC and Chicago,”

    Thanks for more speculation and sweeping assessments! It’s not like I ever do community service or try to help anyone beyond selling them a newspaper (I’m not in the RCP but have circled closely to it and deeply respect the member in my town).

    Can we please either bring the level of discussion up or get back to the RCP response?

  75. SS said

    Sean says…
    “The question to me, SS, is whether the people involved in the “inchoate movements” can give form to it themselves. And while that doesn’t ALWAYS happen, it can, and has. This doesn’t mean not helping out, or not interacting with spontaneous movements until their “up-to-snuff”, but it does mean, that sometimes, people do just fine without individuals who are read up on Marxist (or anarchist for that matter) thought.”

    Can movements form and sustain themselves? Yes.

    Can they form, sustain themselves, and head in a revolutionary direction without revolutionary leadership? Maybe, but I doubt it. I would much rather facilitate that than wait around praying it’s going to happen, or standing on the sidelines cheering for that matter. Plus people who have been struggling hard during non-revolutionary times are usually Communists and Anarchists, and have experienced the pit falls and mistakes of organizing. They have much more experience and can avoid much of the horrible history of social movements. The average person doesn’t know about police repression or other similar things that only come with experience.

    Do we want to be MoveOn or The World Can’t Wait (setting aside the obvious shortcomings of WCW who has a better program?) Do we want Obama speaking at our rally or ex-Panthers?

    “That to me is exciting, and I think forms part of the cheerleading from anarchists, myself included, for spontaneity. People can accuse me of arguing for some sort of “natural” anarchism, but how can you not be excited when “inchoate movements” spring up, and DO sustain themselves? A couple years back, there was a great article written in the Monthly Review, talking about the WTO protests, and the rise of a new surge in leftism that was only tangentially connected to the past, and it welcomed this as a rejuvenation, not necessarily of the old groups and identities, but a fresh new face, wherever it might go.”

    It’s not wrong to be excited when things pop up independently of what we do. In fact it’s fantastic, and I do get excited when people take the initiative. But at the same time I will be in the thick of it pushing for, what I see to be, the best direction. If it doesn’t go where I’d like it to, so be it. That’s a whole new group of people who have become radicalized due to the inherent contradictions of the system. That’s great. That’s a whole new group of people likely to act first, when the next time comes.

    New people bring new ideas. I constantly learn things from people new to activism (not that I’ve been involved a great deal of time). I find it quite exciting. The older folks teach me about how to approach things tactically, how to avoid sectarianism (at least the good ones), and other essentials. But I never cease to be amazed at how much I learn in relation to sustaining organizations, and how to relate to people who are revolutionaries, and creative approaches to old tired situations from those who are “green”!

    Giving form and direction isn’t inappropriate. People can think for themselves and if they don’t want it, they won’t take it (at least if you’re being principled).

    I’m going to start rambling if I go any more.

  76. ulises276/2 said

    Moderator Note:

    I have unapproved several posts not related to the topic of this thread, pending review. Most of these posts were characterized by trolling behavior, and responses to this behavior.

    Sean S. describes his intent as such: “Avakian isn’t in power and so the best that can be done is a bunch of people coming on here and heckling you guys.” This comment exposes both Sean S’ lack of familiarity with the debates of this site (this site is explicitly NOT about putting Avakian in power), and his intent to troll by disrupting the conversation and forcing a debate on the merits, or lack of, of anarchism.

    This debate is best held elsewhere. We will work on creating a post on the issue where people can have such a discussion. If Sean S. or Chuck Morse would like to write an article relating their understanding of the debate between communists and anarchists, and explaining the importance of these issues to a movement for revolutionary liberation today, I encourage them to submit it to this Kasama site for posting. That post can then be the site of that debate.

    We would like to reserve this thread for the analysis and critique of the RCP’s recent polemic, and the interventions of RCP supporters.

  77. Now is a good opportunity to state something that I’ve been meaning to articulate for a while: I’ve always been very impressed with this site’s moderation practices. I have never (ever) felt discouraged in any way from articulating my very frank criticisms of the Maoist perspective and I also appreciate that Mike occasionally steps in to remind us to stay on topic and away from personal attacks. These things have helped keep the dialogue at an usually high level. I’m grateful for that.

    (I know that this comment is off topic too, and a lot of sites try to discourage to discussions of moderation policies, so I’ll understand if you cut it).

  78. […] between the RCP and Kasama. The main documents begind discussed here are Mike Ely’s “9 Letters to Our Comrades Getting Beyond Avakian’s Synthesis and the RCP’s response. (with the title “A FRAMEWORK TRAPPED IN THE BOUNDS OF “THIS AWFUL […]

  79. Sean S. said

    and his intent to troll by disrupting the conversation and forcing a debate on the merits, or lack of, of anarchism.

    I’m not “forcing the debate”, in so much as that IS my position, so therefore when people argue with my statements on x, y, or z issue, it inevitably comes back to that. My opinions and statements on numerous articles on this site are influenced, as I’m sure everyone else is, on the political positions one takes.

    For the most part it seems most people commenting on this site seem to accept, at the very least, a basic set of principles or positions, especially considering since many are ex-RCP. This is not a bad thing. But I am neither ex-RCP, nor do I agree with Maoism or Marxism in general, so when I comment on a specific post, I am coming from an anarchist position. The fact that people want to debate with me my fundamental stance does not mean I am a “Troll”; it just means they disagree with the very position upon which my analysis rests upon, which is fine (despite my snarky comments to the contrary).

    If expressing my opinions, of which come from a different political perspective and tradition, is being a “troll” than I am as guilty as Cain. But if every time I comment, and people disagree with me because they disagree with my core positions, is being a troll than I’m pretty sure I can’t comment ever because I’ll be accused of trying to “Derail” the thread with anarchism.

  80. […] RCP Response Ver. 4.0: The First Officia […]

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