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
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.
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.