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Letter 2: A Gaping Hole Instead of Partisan Bases

JB ConnorsNine Letters to Our Comrades

Letter 2: A Gaping Hole Instead of Partisan Bases

by Mike Ely

A painful place to start: The RCP has not developed, ever, a mass partisan political base for revolutionary communist politics anywhere, among any section of the people.

The RCP has no partisan base.

Any synthesis that doesn’t solve this has a gaping hole at its core.

This political current has won recruits, in ones and twos, from people whose life and study gave them a inclination toward communism. But the language and banners of this movement have never connected. Revolutionary communists have never found the ways to fuse revolutionary politics with the aspirations of the masses. They have not created the thousands of “organized ties” or the “political base areas” that they worked for decades to build. The RCP never succeeded in transforming its racial or class composition — it has not trained or recruited significant numbers of new communists from the proletariat and oppressed nationalities despite all the efforts in that direction.

The RCP tried to take up the responsibilities of a vanguard force. But it has never succeeded in becoming a “party” — in the sense of actually leading a section of people that consciously supports its cause. [16]

Any synthesis that does not solve or even acknowledge these basic problems has a gaping hole at its very core.

The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) criticizes a trend within the international communist movement (ICM):

“What seems to be their regular routine is not to concentrate on how revolutionary struggle can be developed in one’s country by developing correct strategy and tactics but to talk more of world revolution, enjoy classical debate, eulogize strategy and tactic of the past successful revolutions, teach other fraternal parties as if they know everything about the concrete situation in that country and stick to what Lenin and Mao had said before. This trend represents dogmatism.” [17]

Dealing with Errors and Failure

Since we are talking bluntly here about failure, we need to talk about context. Reading an essay by the philosopher Slavoj Žižek recently, I stopped hard on this sentence:

“The greatness of Lenin was that in this catastrophic situation, he wasn’t afraid to succeed — in contrast to the negative pathos discernible in Rosa Luxemburg and Adorno, for whom the ultimate authentic act is the admission of the failure which brings the truth of the situation to light.” [18]

Yes! There is far too much of this “negative pathos” around, as if we communists should chant, “We’re not worthy,” alongside Wayne and Garth. As if a shuffling, round-shouldered self-hatred would be the only possible proof that we communists “get” the lessons of our own past. That would be exactly wrong.

We need to excavate our shortcomings and listen to the criticism of others. But we will do so because the people of the world need a radically reconceived communist project. They need revolutionary internationalists in the U.S. to do our part well, here and now. We have something worthy to bring to this passage of history. And for that we must emulate Lenin’s hunger to win and his focus on grabbing the chance within the maelstrom.

This is a matter of intention, but not just intention. New truth emerges from the currently inexplicable — after practice reveals fissures in previous conceptions. We are at such a moment, not just around our own specific political practice, but at several levels of the human adventure.

Up Against It

How much of this failure of the RCP comes from the difficult objective conditions in the U.S.? How much is rooted in flaws of the RCP’s line and approach?

We excavate shortcomings because people need a reconceived communist project.

Clearly both are involved and intertwined.

These have been “awful decades” for communist work here. The plunder of a whole world has nurtured a corrupt political stability. The people are deeply affected by illusions, pulls of passivity and dreams of advancing within this system.

Here is one sign that these objective difficulties are very real: The RCP is hardly the only organized trend to have had trouble. No radical, left or revolutionary forces have gotten durable traction since the ‘70s — not revolutionary Black nationalists, not anarchists, not soft-socialist trade union organizers, not the Greens. Various left trends have also had their moments of influence, but all failed to develop ongoing support for their larger programs. Most have fared far worse than the RCP. Oppositional politics has flowed into loose social and cultural movements that are often organized around pressuring for reforms.

The objective conditions are the main reason why there has not been either a mass revolutionary movement or the basis for any actual revolutionary attempts. And these conditions have acted back on the subjective factor (the lines within the party itself) exacerbating now one or another “pull” — sometimes toward non-revolutionary tailing of the mass movements, sometimes toward a sectified acceptance of “puny thinking,” and now increasingly toward rampant wishful thinking.

These are errors made by sincere and dedicated revolutionaries operating under frustrating political conditions — but they are errors nonetheless. While the RCP tried to “wrench” all it could out of each moment — practice has fallen very far short of their hopes, and also — I believe — short of what could have been done with different methods and plans.

There have been long-standing problems of method and approach in the RCP’s work — how it viewed itself, the masses and the revolutionary process — that have all contributed to the overall failure.

Communists have not yet charted the uncharted course.

Communists have not successfully “charted the uncharted course” or mastered how to “do revolutionary work in a non-revolutionary situation.” [19]

The RCP’s failures in practice were not for lack of trying: This party fought from many sides to create a revolutionary movement around its politics. At one time or another over 35 years, the RCP tried to dig in among industrial workers, farm workers, Black proletarian youth, various immigrant communities, the homeless in major cities, the social movements of radical activists, punk street youth, progressive artists, outraged scientists and more. The party launched itself into militant trade unionism, then later into building proletarian bases around “mass combativity,” and then building broad mass movements around police brutality, imperialist war and the rise of the Christian fascists.

This work was carried out under an evolving strategic plan: In the 1970s, we told ourselves that “taking Marxism-Leninism to the workers is taking it home.” But we discovered that this “home” (among the unionized workers of basic industry) was already well stocked with other ideologies. The workers were apparently quite attached to them. The RCP then concluded that the real home for Marxism was “lower and deeper” in the ranks of the “real proletariat” — who are less privileged and conservatized. [20]

The RCP’s failures were not for lack of trying.

By 1980, the RCP rejected a previous emphasis on trade union struggles and the workers in heavy industry. It adopted a new central task called “Create Public Opinion, Seize Power” (CPOSP). This was intended to pursue doing “revolutionary work in a non-revolutionary situation” — in preparation for “the Time.”

From the beginning there was tension (and real line struggle) within the framework CPOSP. How much was communist work rooted in agitation and propaganda (centered around the newspaper)? How much was it focused on leading the masses in struggle (along key social faultlines)? How much do we focus on exposing the outrages of this system, and how much on the need for a new system? How does a communist movement accumulate forces, train revolutionary organizers, develop mass organization under communist leadership, and raise consciousness of the need for a new society and change-through-revolution?

There were real controversies over how, and even whether, to use the party’s press among the people. Formally the communist press was seen as the key way of connecting the people to an explicitly communist movement, and “diverting” their understandings. But at various times and places over the decades of the ‘80s and ‘90s, the What-Is-To-Be-Done-ist work around the newspaper took a distant second place behind efforts to lead people in political struggles.

After the late 1980s, and then especially after the 1992 Los Angeles rebellion, the party made a series of shifts toward developing base areas among the most oppressed sections of the population — focused on selected housing projects and sweatshop districts. Two things were asserted as part of those shifts: First, that it was important to “come from within.” There had not been much success in acting as “revolutionary ambulance chasers” — showing up as unknowns, with leaflets and newspapers, whenever some atrocity or struggle went down.

Going “lower and deeper” did not solve the problem.

And second there was an emphasis on building the organized “mass combativity” of people — taking the 1917 Viborg district or the Peruvian experiences of Raucana as rough models of how a mass radical oppositional movement could be built [21] — especially among oppressed youth. This took distance from an early trend toward “advanced actions” where the party and a few individuals combatively stepped out — to burn flags or obstruct the destruction of housing projects — in hopes of inspiring others to follow.

This was a plan to create partisan political base areas — where the party would lead combative mass political struggle, build wisely-constructed party organization around the communist press, and publicly set radical new terms for how people related to each other. And there remained a view of building a broader revolutionary united front — in many ways that would be energized and radicalized around an emerging proletarian core. [22]

There was much value to this orientation toward the youth, toward the oppressed, toward the protracted work of “coming from within” and toward polarizing society around an emerging revolutionary core.

Experience reveals a continuing gap between communist politics and the advanced.

These changes were an assertion of the importance in accumulating forces, leading struggle and “developing the muscles” of a real social force. And the importance of actually organizing people was incorporated in a new formulation of the central task (in the 2001 draft program): “Create Public Opinion, Seize Power — prepare minds and organize forces for revolution.”

The organizing projects associated with these “shifts” played an important role in training the next generation of communists. But the RCP never succeeded in creating the much-desired base areas for the party’s politics. The U.S. has no Red Wedding District, Raucana, Kreuzberg or Putilov Works. [23] There were never multiplying circles of newspaper readers creating an ongoing basis for the party’s influence and leadership. [24]

At the same time, this practical work was never characterized by simple isolation. At times, the RCP has been able to unite with significant numbers of people to wage struggle — from the 1970s coalfields, to antiwar resistance, to the 1990s marches in LA against police brutality. Those have been moments when the “crown lay in the gutter” and a bold political force could give shape to grievances. Still, the influence built around important short-term demands and the “felt needs of the masses” did not develop into a partisan base of support for the party itself or its program of proletarian revolution.

Like it or not, the RCP’s experience reveals a real and continuing gap between communist politics and even the advanced among the masses.

We either bridge that gap or we don’t.

There are significant numbers of people curious about revolutionary politics. We meet them whenever we walk out the door. But even the most

advanced, discontented, restless, conscious sections of the people, even those who CRAVE a revolutionary change, are often not particularly inclined toward a revolutionary communist pole. It is a gap that is objective to us. It has deep roots — in how politics in the U.S. developed, in the international position of U.S. imperialism, in social mobility, in the privatization of American life, in the dynamics of racist oppression — and in the general verdict that alternative societies have sadly “failed.”

This is a gap that a communist movement either learns how to bridge or doesn’t. This needs to be much more deeply summed up in order to be transformed — a process the RCP has shied away from in regard to its own practice.

Real disappointment within the RCP over the protracted failures of base-building encouraged currents of orthodox dogmatism that seemed resigned to puny marginalization — content with political work in tired familiar circles, in ways that never lit the sky or dared to actually lead. It also fanned a tendency to tail whatever promised traction — content to become administrators of mass movements and willing to lower sights in a reformist way. “Build the sea to swim in, bring in an independent role.” Or so it was said in the 1990s — but far too often the second half of that slogan evaporated. An unspoken verdict gained influence: “We have seen all the revolution we are going to see.”

The wind of life gusting around the Mumia campaign, the national movement against police brutality, and the post-911 antiwar activities actually caused intensified stresses. These problems demanded line struggle and new theoretical work — grounded in a materialist accounting of all that previous work. That did not happen. In particular: There has been no summation of the last twenty years of work in building base areas in the “real proletariat” — at least no serious summation known to the membership, or those involved in this work, or that emerged to be discussed as part of the larger Draft Programme process. And silence still surrounds those important experiences. The spiral from theory to practice back to theory has been broken.

No serious known summation of seeking political base areas over 20 years.

In the last few years, a new leading line in the RCP argues that the problem over decades has been that the party (as a whole) was gripped by a “revisionist package,” in opposition to Avakian. The party itself “got in the way” of its own chairman’s ability to reach and transform the masses. Such a simple-but-unlikely explanation makes summation of real work and real shortcomings less necessary.

In theory and practice, this new line has pointed in a very different direction. The old tension between newspaper agitation and leading mass political struggle has been superseded: Both are now overshadowed (and redefined by) the work of promoting Avakian as the central leader of the revolution. Communist work must now be centered around the task of “appreciating, promoting and popularizing this rare, unique and special leader, his body of work, method and approach.”

In the absence of materialist summation, a project of multiple fantasies can take hold. There is the fantasy of “re-polarizing” the society around one leader, linked to other fantasies of “vaulting” to mass influence in a crudely voluntarist way. [25]

Summing up decades of precious experience is crucial for the forging of new practice and a new communist synthesis. Whoever among us is willing, let’s dig in.

Previous Letter | Next letter…


[16] Lenin remarks in passing that a revolutionary party “will not deserve the name until it learns to bind the leaders with the class and the masses into one single indissoluble whole.” “Left-wing” Communism, An Infantile Disorder, marxists.org

[17] The Worker 10, May 2006, “International Dimension Of Prachanda Path” by Basanta. I believe this comment is directed at Avakian’s method and approach.

[18] Slavoj Žižek, Revolution at the Gates, Verso, 2002. The “catastrophic situation” he mentions is the disaster that enveloped Europe during World War 1 – including the collapse of widespread belief in linear progress, and the continent-wide failure of Social Democracy.

[19] The new communist movement that emerged in the U.S. after the 1960s was often gripped by the notion of emulating the methods and strategies from a “good period” of the old Communist Party. By 1980, after external experience and internal struggle, the RCP summed up that the road to revolution in countries like the U.S. had not ever been developed by the previous communist movement. The task of “charting the uncharted course” remained an immediate theoretical challenge for communists.

The Report of the RCP’s 1980 Central Committee meeting said:

“The general question here is one of rising to the tasks that are required of our party, rising to the unprecedented task of carrying out a revolution in an advanced imperialist country like this. To rise to this task means that we have to destroy still further remnants of economism, remnants of 40 years and more of revisionism in the international communist movement. But even that is not enough, because destroying all this is inseparably linked with making further advances in the revolutionary science and its application.” (See Charting the Uncharted Course – Proletarian Revolution in the U.S., pamphlet, 1981)

[20] This was a central thesis of the 1980 Central Committee report (published as Charting the Uncharted Course – Proletarian Revolution in the U.S.).

[21] Viborg was a working class neighborhood that had been an important early center of Menshevik organization, but developed into a key political base area of the Bolshevik Party for launching the 1917 October Revolution in St. Petersburg. Raucana was a shantytown outside Lima that became a militant political base area of Peru’s Maoists during the 1980s and 1990s.

[22] At the time, Avakian and the RCP spoke about what was needed in order to “really have a basis for making a Beginning”:

“These can be called the ‘three needs’ (or the ‘three what-do-we-needs’). These are: (1) A revolutionary movement and a politicized, radicalized atmosphere among our social base, the proletarian masses; and in society generally; (2) A strong party organization and a solid organized base of support for the party, especially among the most bedrock solid social base, and (3) Leaps in forging the multinational unity of the proletariat and leaps in forging the solid core of the broader united front, under proletarian leadership.” (Bob Avakian, “Some Thoughts,” Revolution magazine, Summer/Fall 1988)

This issue of Revolution is a good place to get a sense of the RCP’s political line at that point. It goes on to say that other strata in society need to “see a revolutionary movement with a conscious political expression — not an ‘intellectualized’ political expression, but a conscious, clear political revolutionary thrust — coming out of our basic social base.” That is in sharp contrast to the current line.

[23] The Wedding District was a famous, pro-communist, working class neighborhood in 1920s Berlin. Kreuzberg is a district in Berlin where radical immigrant workers and native-born German radicals created a revolutionary mix starting in the 1980s.The Putilov factory complex in early 1900 St. Petersburg emerged as an important political fortress for the Bolshevik revolution.

[24] These problems emerged early in the effort. By 1989, Avakian was mentioning arguments (arising from within the party) that “we’re making no real progress among the basic masses so even if the situation should erupt we would be totally unprepared and it would be a disaster.” This was discussed in “Making New Leaps in Preparing for Revolution” (Revolution Spring 1990). It was a rare public acknowledgement of the problems, shortly before the party would launch renewed efforts in the wake of the 1992 Los Angeles rebellion.

[25] Voluntarism is thinking you can overcome problems and obstacles based on will and subjective desire. It is an underestimation of the need to systematically transform material constraints and necessity — and (as part of that) carefully identify necessary stages, prerequisites and (of course) openings.

Published: December 2007Available online at mikeely.wordpress.comSend comments to: kasamasite (at) yahoo (dot) comFeel free to reprint, distribute or quote with attribution to Mike Ely and a link.This website and all contents are licensed under a

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11 Responses to “Letter 2: A Gaping Hole Instead of Partisan Bases”

  1. Blackstone said

    After the late 1980s, and then especially after the 1992 Los Angeles rebellion, the party made a series of shifts toward developing base areas among the most oppressed sections of the population — focused on selected housing projects and sweatshop districts. Two things were asserted as part of those shifts: First, that it was important to “come from within.” There had not been much success in acting as “revolutionary ambulance chasers” — showing up as unknowns, with leaflets and newspapers, whenever some atrocity or struggle went down.

    If this was the position in the late 1980s, then not much as changed since then, or to put it in better terms, their change of strategy has failed and they have remained “revolutionary ambulance chasers”.

    Why do i say that? It goes back to the topic of this letter, which is the critique of RCP’s inability to create partisan political base areas and organized ties to the community.

    Now, I am not denying the fact that RCP stands in solidarity with the struggles with those whom live in urban areas, the ghettos, barrios, or who are of oppressed nationalities. For many RCP supporters, as well as, other activists, can contend that RCPers are visible at rallies, marches, etc. Yet, RCP needs to stop being as the letter puts it , “revolutionary ambulance chasers” — showing up as unknowns, with leaflets and newspapers, whenever some atrocity or struggle [goes] down.

    In order to establish base areas or organized ties, RCP needs to get involved into the day to day life and struggle of the community it claims it serves. Though, this is less glamorous than marching, shouting at police and selling newspapers, it is more important not only to serving the community but creating the old within the new.

    It’s a fact that you cannot establish ties in the community if you are only there for a few hours for a rally, never to return.

  2. The other things about ties in the community is that they cannot be built exclusively on the basis of talking revolution to folks (or inviting them over to your place to show them videos of Avakian speeches).
    What’s more, most of the time, real ties can’t even be developed simply by engaging in ongoing struggles or attempting to strike single sparks based on the felt needs of the masses. Why? Because life in poor communities is hard and folks don’t spend it all in collective struggle. And the issues that come up aren’t always clear cut or fraught with obvious revolutionary content.

    Are the po-po harassing the owner or staff (possibly undocumented) of the convenience store for selling loosies to folks who can’t afford a whole pack of cigarettes at one time? How do you fight that, especially when other folks in the hood might suspect that the place is selling them to their underage kids (beer and rolling papers too)? Must tactics like helping find a Legal Aid lawyer or dealing with the staff of the city councilcritter for the district be ruled out as a matter of principle? Or do we just stand aside from the whole thing even if that’s what folks on the street are talking about this month?

    And even this is not sufficient. I would argue that you have to get involved with the actual institutions, formal and informal, that exist in the neighborhood–the social clubs, senior centers, soup kitchens, veterans clubs, crews that play video games, neighborhood gardens, sports teams, even–the horror!–church groups (which tend to overlap with a lot of the others). ‘Cause that’s where the people are. They may be poor, but they aren’t actually blank. They have lives, jobs or hustles, hobbies, circles, belief systems (which probably do map onto ours in significant part).

    To come from within, you have to be within, and you can’t get there overnight, and you can’t get there by trying to transplant a piece of your own “without” into the community.

    [I’ll stop here, but note that there are important issues of privilege and of using the mass line that have to be addressed here as well.]

  3. Marc Luzietti said

    Comrade, this letter is about the revolutionary movement in this country as a whole. In fact, it could be about almost the whole world movement. This letter, and letters like it from other groups are increasingly common. Only sixteen years after the fall of the USSR, we’re finally beginning to truly re-evaluate our failures and look for a new way forward. The fact that so many groups are having the same discussion all at once is not a coincidence.

  4. Joseph Ball said

    I am writing as an individual and I cannot comment on the whole debate on the RCP and Bob Avakian’s leadership as this would really need to come from an organisation with a collective line.

    Mike Ely has 2 main criticisms. Firstly, that the RCP has failed to create a mass revolutionary movement in the US. Secondly, that it is now retreating from practical struggle to promote Bob Avakian’s thinking and writings.

    The second point is an organisational decision (assuming Mike’s characterisation is correct) and I won’t comment on it.

    The second is a general problem of leftists everywhere. As Mike says,

    ‘These have been “awful decades” for communist work here. The plunder of a whole world has nurtured a corrupt political stability. The people are deeply affected by illusions, pulls of passivity and dreams of advancing within this system.’

    Right, so the question has to be ‘What are you blaming Bob for?’ The fact is that US workers are paid about 10 times the average income in countries like China (even taking into account the lower cost of living in China). The real incomes of US workers are boosted by cheap imports from the Third World(think what would happen to the US standard of living if Chinese workers were paid the full value of their labour!). In addition US workers benefit because they no longer have to do the hard, repetitive manual labour that has been farmed out to the Third World. Super-profits made from the exploitation of Third World labour pay for the expansion of US employment in retail, finance, real estate etc. The Third World worker works hard so the US worker can live soft.

    Now, Bob is aware of all this as his ‘Tony Soprano’ line indicates (he said that the people in the US were ‘living in the house of Tony Soprano-i.e. living in surroundings made rich and affluent by the proceeds of extortion and gangsterism). I have disagreements with Bob’s line, but I am not going to go into the issue of ‘McWorld vs. Jihad’ (or indeed the line of the Iranian RIM party) here. But I have never understood the criticism made by MIM that Bob priviliges the struggle of US workers over the interests of the Third World proletariat. That’s something it makes little sense to criticise RCP-USA for doing.

    I think where RCP-USA has gone wrong is not following this insight through to its logical conclusion.
    Why keep talking as if revolution (or civil war) is just around the corner when you are aware of the enormous problems put in the way of revolution by the affluence created for the US people by its plunder of the Third World?

    I think Maoists in the imperialist countries have to turn realist and pragmatic. I’m not sure its a question of declaring that all First World peoples are the enemy (as MIM/IRTR/MSH etc. do). The art of revolution is about splitting your enemies and getting part of them to unite with the proletariat. The MIM etc. line seems to be about uniting all your enemies against you-a sure recipe for disaster.

    The MIM etc. line does exagerrate things rather as well. If global income was equalised, those on the minimum wage in the US and UK might not benefit very much but they would not lose out much either. They are therefore ‘middle forces’, not the enemy, and we should try to unite them with the global proletariat.

    But they’re not going to make any kind of revolution without pressure from the proletariat of the Third World. Only under the pressure of proletarian revolution do the middle forces unite with the proletariat. Once this happens in the First World, it may be possible to bring other forces in-some intellectuals, some other stratas of the First World’s extensive petit-bourgeoise. Then you might be able to create a movement that can provide some assistance to the Third World proletariat in its world-changing role. But that’s not now-that’s for the future.

    Talking as if a First World revolutionary movement could be brought into being if only people like Bob weren’t in charge is just not realistic. To coin a phrase revolutionaries in the imperialist countries need to use a bit of ‘epistemology, to evaluate the revolutionary potentialities of the situation they find themselves in and act accordingly. Then it might be possible to end the pervaisive demoralisation that has afflicted Mike Ely along with many others.

  5. tellnolies said

    Joseph Ball raises an important question, but I don’t think he fairly characterizes Mike’s position on it. Mike doesn’t simply “blame Bob” as if the his errors are the only reason there isn’t a stronger revolutionary movement in the US. rather I think he takes the view that it is precisely because the objective situation is such a difficult one that it is so critical to challenge bad lines that make the prospects even worse.

    Understanding tha, I think we need to be critical of what seems like a mechanical understanding of the relationship between the average standard of living as reflected in national income statistics and the possibilities for developing revolutionary consciousness.

    The question of what conditions lead people to join in social protest or revolutionary movements is a very complex one. The social scientific literature on this is generally highly problematic, but still worthy of close study given the impoverishment of revolutionary theory.

    In general, people are driven to embrace revolutionary politics when their normal lives are profoundly disrupted and possibilities for redress within the existing system are cut off. The upsurge of the 1960s which radicalized millions and drove many to embrace revolutionary politics is a good example of this. For all the real suffering and oppression in peoples lives this was actually a period in which the living standards of most people were RISING. But they were rising in a context of enormous dislocation (principally in the form of the urbanization of large numbers of Black folks under the pressure of the mechanization of Southern agriculture and later the pressures caused by the Viet Nam war).

    Culture and ideology can also play an enormous role in the transformation of a set of grievances into mass revolutionary discontent. Again looking at the 60s in the US, the impact of the discrediting of Nazi theories of racial superiority in WW2 and the impact of the revolutions and anti-colonial movements in the Third World predisposed a layer (initially a minority) of Black folks to consider their situation in a revolutionary light. This found expression in forms of cultural expression (Be Bop, R&B and Rock ‘n Roll) before it emerged in more clearly political forms.

    The point of all this is that we can’t simply determine the revolutionary potential of different sectors by locating them within the global distribution of income. We live in a country that has enjoyed a generally high average standard of living, but also a high degree of inequality which continues to rise. It is a very heterogeneous society, which is both productive of profound cleavages that produce militant response, but is also often an obstacle to unity among the oppressed.

    Our responsibility is to keep our ears to the ground, to be constantly reassessing the shifting social structure of this country searching for likely lines of cleavage and areas where people are getting into motion, and figuring out creative ways in which explicitly revolutionary politics can be infused into expressions of mass discontent. There is no formula that will tell us if our work is likely to bear fruit in ten years, fifty or never. We need to do it because we can’t afford to squander the possibility of a breakthrough, but we should take a long view that carefully nurtures the people we have rather than burning them out by keeping them constantly tense. Living movemenst of the people will compell us at times to greatly accelerate our work. Hyping the urgency of everything we do without reference to the actual degree of mass movement (as the RCP does) doesn’t prepare people for revolution, but rather prepares people to be manipulated or burnt out. I think this is where your point about being attuned to the reality of our situation in the US is so important.

  6. BobH said

    I have to agree and disagree with Joseph Ball on the Avakian question. I agree with the overall view that material conditions in the USA don’t lend themselves to any kind of revolution or mass radical movement anytime soon. There’s no shortage of oppressed and exploited people in the U.S., but there’s a general demoralization and the struggle for survival that’s hard to get around. Undocumented workers have a lot of fighting spirit but that’s not something that can necessarily be channelled into revolutionary struggle.

    That being said, I believe there’s a lot more that can be done in terms of both mass struggle and internationalism. Since the RCP is the house that Avakian built, it would seem its practical failures are largely his failures.

    I’m sure other people here can document how promising attempts to do mass work have been pissed away by disorganization, etc. Surely that’s worth critiquing from the point of view of line and leadership?

    On the international question, I see a very cavalier attitude towards other struggles, e.g. suppressing news and documents when there are line differences. I’m fairly certain that there’s almost no interest in sharing useful information that’s easily available here to help to those on the receiving end of u.s. military ‘aid’. The attitude seems to be: Why would the comrades in country X want to read the latest doctrine on LIC when they can read Avakian’s new ramblings?

    I think that when it comes to the question of doing broad solidarity work for other Maoist struggles, it would be much more effective if it were not under the tight control of the RCP and subject to the whims of autocratic control. Solidarity work is not a substitute for revolutionary work, but it is not useless either.

  7. As I see it there is an ideological problem reflected in methods and who leadership and politics is exercised. What is really needed here is summation of experiences in the ideological, political and organizational fields. I am seeing snippets of criticism from comrades. There is a need to do serious organizational work here, massline, united front building, mass base building, leadership etc… It is also important to see our work here in the US in the broader context of doing world revolution. Let us continue to discuss these issues and work within a broad anti-imperialist front.- Kalovski

  8. Nando said

    It would be good if you would elaborate — because what you are saying is still rather unclear to me (and perhaps others).

    What is the ideological problem you are seeing ‘reflected” — and are they reflected in the methods here on this site (in your opinion)?

    Are you saying that the 9 Letters are only “snippets of criticism”? Because they seem like a rather substantial beginning of some summation in several key areas — and indicate lines of thought for deepening such criticisms.

    Are you assuming that the comments in these threads are “all there is” — so that you can judge the whole political project by the comments on blog threads?

    Serious organizational work? sure. But what does that mean to you? Are you assuming a particular form that is already known and assumed? You don’t mention party building, is that an accidental omission, or part of your conceptions?

    You say “we need to see our work in the context of world rev” — sure, but what does that mean to you? Do you not think that taking up internaitonalist work around important rev struggles is part of that? Are there other aspects of this that you think need more emphasis? (Part of the theoretical project John outlined including taking up a renewed analysis of the changing structure of the world system, with an eye toward seeing the political strategic implications of this…. is that part what you are talking about?

    There is a larger theoretical project getting off the ground, precisely to push forward in ideological and political fields (and lay the basis for organizational fields) as well.

    And, part of that is to take this moment to think through what each of these things is:

    “united front building” — perhaps that is a clear concept to you, but it has different meanings embodying different lines and experiences.

    We should “work within a broad anti-imperialist front,” you say. Perhaps it is clear to you what that means or implies, but I am not at all clear what that means to you. Certainly such a thing would have a different meaning in a semi-colonial country from a country where the ruling class itself is usually described as “monopoly capitalist — i.e. imperialist.”

    What I am thinking is that we need to develop a discussion forum and other means to work such things through. And that part of your comment i agree with… even as we all understand that the practical side of this is also pressed forward (including offline).

  9. […] 2 […]

  10. Otto said

    I’m glad you are doing this kind of analysis. It has been badly needed. The RCP’s writings are long on vision and short on how to achieve that vision

  11. […] Nine Letters started it all and “A Gaping Hole Instead of Partisan Bases” (Letter #2) is that one that really got my attention and made me stick around. Since the […]

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