The Decline of the RCP [Excerpt]

A Polemic by the Organization for Revolutionary Unity

[This is approximately the first half of the pamphlet published by the ORU around 1983. It includes the introductory overview material and the section on the mass line. The entire pamphlet is available on this site in the form of an Adobe Acrobat document (325 KB) at:   The ORU was a small group which formed around 1982 with the merger of the Committee for a Proletarian Party (CPP) and the Communist Organization, Bay Area (COBA). It announced its existence with a public statement in March 1983. It had members along the West Coast, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area and San Diego. After putting out this and another couple pamphlets ("Nature of Soviet Society", and "Central America: Imperialism and Revolution") the ORU "turned increasingly to practice, in the Rainbow [coalition] and the movement around El Salvador". The ORU merged into the newly formed Freedom Road Socialist Party in 1986. (See the FRSO Page for more information about that group’s view of the mass line.) The endnote references in the excerpt below have been added by Scott H. as part of this posting on MASSLINE.INFO.]

When the revisionists rose to state power in China in the 1970’s, the international communist movement was dealt a devastating blow. It is to the credit of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA that it rose in defense of the historic contributions of Mao Tsetung and the revolutionary left in China.

At that historical juncture the groups that went on to found the Organization for Revolutionary Unity shared some common viewpoints with the RCP, USA on repudiating Chinese revisionism as well as rejecting the "reversal of verdict" by the Party of Labor of Albania on Mao Tsetung and the Chinese socialist revolution. It is these seemingly common views on critical questions that make it necessary for the ORU to explain to other communists and revolutionaries why it has deep and substantial differences with the RCP.

Beneath a superficial unity there were significant differences from the outset on how to assess the setback in China. As has become more evident lately with the RCP’s more comprehensive critique of Mao Tsetung, longstanding ideological tendencies in the RCP ran against the grain of much of Mao’s theory and practice. These tendencies help to explain why when the RCP arose and developed with some significant initial promise, as did many other groups in the anti-revisionist movement world-wide, it has now become an increasingly isolated and opportunist sect.

RCP has grappled with many of the burning contradictions challenging Marxist-Leninists in the USA who have been struggling to forge the necessary strategy and tactics to make a revolution in an advanced capitalist country. This is why examining the RCP necessarily involves us in a much broader assessment of the anti-revisionist movement as a whole.

Although our polemic with the RCP, USA will concentrate on our differences with that organization, we do not mean to imply that it has made no significant positive contributions to the revolutionary movement in this country or that it has ceased altogether to make any further advances. A number of the efforts of the RCP have helped, whether directly or indirectly, to push forward the development of the whole anti-revisionist movement.

In the last few years, the RCP has done much in publications, public forums, and demonstrations to champion the contributions of Mao Tsetung and the revolutionary left in China. At the same time, it has played a key role in exposing the reactionary role of the Chinese revisionists led by Teng Hsiao-ping and Hua Kuo-feng. Not confused by the claims of the Chinese revisionists that Mao authored the theory of three worlds as a strategic line for world revolution, the RCP has polemicized against this theory and exposed China’s counter-revolutionary alliance with U.S. imperialism. The RCP also was quick to rebut the Party of Labor of Albania when it trecherously reversed its verdict and began to openly attack Mao’s contributions, the role of the Chinese Communist Party, and the advances of socialism in China.

There are also some positive aspects to the RCP’s recent efforts to build international unity among Marxist-Leninist parties and organizations, especially its translation and publication of documents from other groups and the sponsoring of tours in this country. Until recently when the direction of RCP became clear with the publication of Bob Avakian’s "Conquer the World",[1] much of RCP’s theoretical work, despite obvious problems, appeared to be more advanced than its practice. This seemed to be the case, for example, with its critical examination of the history of the international communist movement, such as in "On the Outcome of World War II and the Prospects for Revolution in the West"[2] and "The ‘General Line Proposal (1963)’ — A Critical Appraisal".[3]

What is now evident is that these theoretical efforts are culminating in the consolidation of an idealist, ultra-left, and Trotskyite ideological general line within the organization. Whereas before, one of our main criticisms would have been that RCP’s defense of Mao Tsetung in theory was contradicted by its bad practice, we can see now that the theory has been revamped to serve and justify such practice.

To gain a better understanding of why the RCP is fast departing from a Marxist-Leninist ideological and political line on revolution in this country and on world revolution, it may be useful to briefly relate the history of the organization. The predecessor of the RCP, the Revolutionary Union, formed in 1968 in the San Francisco Bay Area. Although a few of the founding members had been members of the Communist Party, USA, most of its membership were young students and intellectuals new to the communist movement. While the early RU tended to fight for a Marxist-Leninist perspective on the revolutionary struggle in the USA, it was still heavily influenced by many New Left ideas and practices. It still tended to accommodate a Marxist stand with the prevalent adventurism and counter-cultural approach of the revolutionary youth movement. The most important influence in the early development of the RU was the Black Panther Party. Although the RU followed some of the positive motion of the Panthers in calling for armed revolution and popularizing the works of Mao Tsetung, it also tended to conciliate to the negative aspects. Prominent among these were narrow nationalism, glorification of the lumpen-proletariat, and blatant male chauvinism.

We are not implying that RCP should be criticized for some of its unorthodox views and practices in the early years, just that these origins shed light on some of the deeply ingrained ideological tendencies in the history of the organization—tendencies that seem to be shooting up again in full force. In some interesting ways, the RCP appears to be vainly trying to recapture some of the spirit of its youthful experiences. Those experiences occurred in the context of a period in which millions of people world-wide were propelled into revolutionary motion, sparked by the Vietnamese liberation struggle and the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Here in the USA, the Black and Latino liberation movements added impetus to this motion.

Given the fact that this revolutionary movement was still in its early development, much of the "leftist" excesses of the period were understandable. And the Revolutionary Union was no stranger to such excesses and unrealistic expectations. But in the 1980’s it seems a cruel irony to find what should be a mature Marxist-Leninist organization trying to rekindle some kind of lost or misplaced revolutionary spirit of the 1960’s.

White Chauvinism and Trotskyism: Some History

In the early years, the Revolutionary Union played a generally progressive role in upholding and propagating Marxism. Thus, it was not unexpected that the incompatible mixture of Marxism and New Leftism would lead to some form of political and organizational split. In 1970 a faction within the RU split away and formed a short-lived group called Venceremos. The positions that the Venceremos group were advancing represented a reworking of the Weatherman position that the oppressed nationalities were the most revolutionary force.

Venceremos charged that the oppressed nationalities in the USA were living under conditions of fascism and that the correct strategy for revolution was the model of urban guerrilla warfare. Venceremos probably came closest to representing the general world-wide strategy of People’s War as advocated by the anarchist ultra-left wing within the Chinese Communist Party during the period of the Cultural Revolution. This position postulated that the world was gripped by a high tide of revolution and that the principal revolutionary forces were the oppressed peoples of the colonial and dependent countries.

The majority of the membership of RU repudiated the line of Venceremos and upheld the leading role of the multi-national industrial working class and the strategy of armed insurrection in a developed imperialist country like the USA. On the whole, the split with Venceremos was positive, with the RU able to identify and reject anarchism on these major line questions. However, one unwelcome by-product of this split was the development of a position on the relation between proletarian class struggle and the national movements which tended to liquidate the independent revolutionary character of the latter.

While the RCP had repudiated the anarchist ultra-leftism of the urban guerrilla warfare strategy, its struggle with the revolutionary nationalist position of Venceremos propelled it in the direction of a Trotskyite stance on the national liberation struggles. The primary ideological source for this Trotskyism was the strength of while chauvinism within the organization, with the great majority of the RU cadre coming from white and middle class backgrounds. These cadre are to be censured not for their background but for their relative lack of success in overcoming its ideological baggage.

The RU’s deviations on the national question were the main factor which precipitated the second major split in its organization in late 1973. Since 1972 the RU had been meeting with the Black Workers Congress and the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization in a National Liaison Committee, which was to lay the basis for the formation of a new communist party. Within the committee, the RU waged a correct struggle insofar as it pointed out that Marxism-Leninism is not to be confused with the ideology of revolutionary nationalism. But this correct struggle turned into its opposite when it eventually led to the position that Bundism, or narrow nationalism, was the main danger and had been for some time within the new communist movement. This led to an irreversible split with the BWC and PRRWO; and a small grouping, including a significant number of its Black members, left the RU.

The RU’s new stand on the great danger of Bundism provided a convenient cover for the organization’s longstanding problem with overcoming white chauvinism within its own ranks. This problem with white chauvinism very soon bore fruit when in 1974 the RU put out the call to smash the Boston Busing Plan. In calling for this action, the RU objectively put itself in the camp of the reactionary forces who were opposed to busing for racist reasons. This was the result of RU’s general line which pitted its false idea of working class unity against real multi-national unity.

In subsequent positions on busing in other cities, the RU backed off from full-scale opposition to busing as a means for redressing educational discrimination and generally tried to soften its Trotskyite liquidation of the revolutionary aspects of national struggles. But this change represented only a half-hearted political retreat, for as we can see now, Trotskyism has rebounded to full favor within the present RCP. While Bob Avakian once railed against Bundism as the great danger within the communist movement in the USA, in his recent pronouncements in "Conquer the World" he has elevated nationalism to the principal problem of the international communist movement since its beginning. This is Trotskyism returned with a vengeance, Trotskyism masquerading under an increasingly thin "Maoist" facade.

Economism and Chinese Revisionism: Some History

Following the split with Venceremos back in 1970, the RU plunged headlong into the task of attempting to fuse Marxism-Leninism with the working class. Not surprisingly, much of their practice in this period could be characterized as rightist in essence; economism, pragmatism, "workerism" were typical deviations. Still, this rightist practice involved in trying to fuse with the working class was forced into a shotgun wedding with much of the ultra-left rhetoric, techniques, and tactics left over from RU’s New Left period.

The rightism of this middle period is not unexpected for such a young, inexperienced revolutionary organization facing such a difficult task. In the 1970’s the U.S. working class as a whole and the industrial workers in particular were still relatively backward in terms of their political consciousness. Having come off an unprecedented period of economic prosperity and a rising standard of living which had lasted through much of the 1960’s, the workers in the U.S. were not ripe for revolutionary struggle and not even very militant in defense of their narrow economic interests. There seemed to be a common assumption underlying RU’s practice at this time that if its members integrated themselves well enough into the level of economic struggle of the working class, they would be well positioned to give leadership to the imminent revolutionary struggle into which this same working class was about to throw itself.

With the formation of the Revolutionary Communist Party in 1975, rightism in the organization reached a whole new stage of development. Although RCP was making some progress in understanding the economist nature of its past work and was struggling to overcome it, its line that economic struggle was the center of gravity of the party’s work still boxed the organization into economist positions and practices.[4]

This struggle against right opportunism intensified and became a full-scale battle with a "revisionist headquarters" within the party after the death of Mao Tsetung in 1976 and the seizure of power in the CPC by revisionist elements led by Hua Kuo-feng and Teng Hsiao-ping. When a majority of the leadership of the RCP, led by its chairman, correctly summed up the events in China as a defeat for the Marxist-Leninists and tried to arm the organization with this understanding, a faction within the central committee split from the organization and took with it approximately a third of the membership. This faction formed itself into the Revolutionary Workers Headquarters[5] and distinguished itself by defending the revisionist leadership in China and wholeheartedly embracing much of the economist practice which had plagued the RCP for the previous few years.

While at the time this split with the Revolutionary Workers Headquarters seemed justified and necessary, it also tended to unleash with full fury some of the longstanding ultra-left tendencies within the RCP. In what seemed to be a generally correct struggle against revisionism, opposition to ultra-leftism was apparently disarmed. The Revolutionary Workers Headquarters was able to foretell some of the impending degeneration of the RCP when it focused its criticism on what it called RCP’s "left idealist" line. Sure enough, RCP entered upon a new stage of development in which its main weaknesses assumed the form of left opportunism.

It is not pre-ordained, of course, that every split in an organization like the RCP has to assume the form of a pitched battle between Marxism and revisionism. There is always the alternative that the slings and arrows that each faction hurls at each other could be on target. In the case of the RCP, ultra-left lines, policies and practices have gained in such strength in recent years that the positive contributions it has made in defending Mao Tsetung and the revolutionary left in China are fast being undermined.

One of the more absurd although sadly predictable manifestations of this ultra-leftism was the emergence of an infantile cult of personality devoted to the RCP’s chairman, Bob Avakian. The cult seemed to spring up rather spontaneously during the period of the split with the Revolutionary Workers Headquarters. This probably represented, at least in part, the confusion of cadre poorly prepared ideologically, searching for some sort of idolatrous certainty. If the cult of personality was initially spontaneous, it was soon to be consciously manipulated by the RCP during the Mao Tsetung Defendants campaign. At that time, the patently ridiculous assertion that a U.S. revolution was impossible without the leadership of Bob Avakian became commonplace among RCP cadre.

With much of the impetus apparently coming from its chairman, the RCP is rapidly constructing a new ideological edifice for what is described as a "revolutionary communist/proletarian internationalist trend". One of the chief new tenets of this trend is that "Maoism without Leninism is nationalism... and bourgeois democracy". (Conquer the World, p. 39) Mao is criticized, among other things, for a tendency to view world revolution as a process which happens principally country by country. Instead, RCP is now emphatic that revolution is conditioned mainly by what happens in the world as a whole and that we are dealing with an integral world revolutionary process which assumes a spiral development leading up to the decisive global conjunctures.

In the present conditions in the world, RCP argues further that the principal contradiction is no longer that between the great imperialist superpowers and the peoples of the colonial and neo-colonial countries, but instead has become the contradiction between the two superpower blocs headed by the USA and USSR. (Basic Principles for the Unity of Marxist-Leninists and for the Line of the International Communist Movement, RCP-Chile, RCP-USA, p. 2 and 7.[6]) This situation heightens the danger of world war, and thus dictates a more intense struggle against nationalism, especially social chauvinism.

When this analysis is translated by RCP into a political line and practice, the effort to fight national oppression and unite the working class movement with the struggles of the oppressed nationalities is pushed into the background. As evidenced by the 1980 May Day actions and since, RCP’s attempts to mobilize and organize the class-conscious proletariat customarily assumes the form of super-revolutionary elitism, adventurism, and anarchist propaganda by the deed. With the highly charged campaign around boosting the distribution of the Revolutionary Worker, RCP exhibits still another full-blown deviation, committed by an abundant number of other so-called anti-revisionists, of an idealist revolution-by-rhetoric line which tends to absolutize the role of agitation and propaganda and belittle the leadership role of communists in mass struggles for reform as well as for revolution.

We in the ORU believe that this is a period in which mass political consciousness must be developed by patient and consistent work among the masses together with the broad dissemination of revolutionary agitation and propaganda. While it is not impossible that a revolutionary situation might emerge from some cataclysmic change in conditions during the 1980’s, we consider this very improbable. Ours is a protracted struggle within the strongest bourgeois fortress on earth. The development of objective conditions at home and the collapse of the imperialist system abroad will create the revolutionary opportunity, not the actions of a handful of rebels.

In the rest of this paper, we will attempt to expand on these points. The polemic will be divided into four main sections, covering the topics of the mass line, the united front, the nature of communist work in trade unions, and the relation between proletarian revolution and the national movements.

The Mass Line

One of Mao’s greatest contributions to the international communist movement in both theory and practice was the development of the mass line. There are many related aspects to the mass line, but its essence involves the struggle to achieve a revolutionary relationship between communists and the masses. If communists carry out the mass line correctly, they will remain inseparably linked with the masses while leading them to struggle for their genuine revolutionary interests.

When we recognize the particular historical context for Mao’s efforts in developing the mass line approach, we can understand why the major thrust of what he is advocating emphasizes that communists must be good at integrating with the masses. Within China, Mao had to be most concerned with the historical task of combatting Confucianism and the heavy weight of the traditional Mandarin bureaucracy. In addition, Mao was in a position to sum up the experiences of several decades of building socialism in the Soviet Union and concluded that a major source of degeneration of the communist party and the proletarian dictatorship was their increasing bureaucratization, overcentralization, and the use of commandist methods in relation to the masses.

Hence, in order to combat these deviations from the mass line, Mao felt obliged to affirm and stress the revolutionary role of the masses themselves. In other words, what was important for communists to recognize was that before they could put themselves forward as teachers of the masses, they had to first learn how to be good pupils. To be good puils, they had to adopt the orientation, as Mao says, that "the masses are the real heroes while we ourselves are often childish and ignorant..." (Preface and Post-script to Rural Surveys[7]).

Since the split with the Revolutionary Workers Headquarters, the main thrust of RCP’s activities appears to be cutting in the opposite direction from that of Mao. Whereas in the middle 1970’s the RCP could have been justifiably accused of believing that the economic militancy of the U.S. working class would spontaneously intensify into full-scale political struggle, in recent years it seems to have become increasingly cynical about the revolutionary potential of the basic industrial proletariat of this country. It has gone in search of what it calls the "real proletariat" and resorted more and more to bold "vanguard" actions which will shock, jolt, and propel the masses into revolutionary action.

The chair of the organization, Bob Avakian, has even been so bold as to question the applicability of the mass line to the conditions of this country. He is ready to concede that the mass line might have made some sense in China where the revolutionary movement could draw on the national sentiments of the people. But in the USA with such a large bought-off and bourgeoisified sector of the working class and the apparent necessity of going against the tide of nationalism in order to seize the opportunity of revolution out of the danger of world war, trying to put the mass line into practice would probably mean capitulating to imperialism.[8]

Of course, this new ideological twist only serves to justify the kind of practice that RCP has been prone to, in one form or another, since the early years of its predecessor, the Revolutionary Union. For example, one of the more well-known tactics of the RCP for a long time has been the so-called "Single Spark Method". In its 1975 program, RCP describes it as the method to "seize on every spark of struggle, fan and spread it as broadly as possible throughout the working class and among its allies" (p. 107). RCP further characterizes it as one of the key methods for building the united front against imperialism and one of the main weapons for both the party and the working class.

This single spark method of operation has usually taken the form of RCP cadre scurrying around to find out where the action is and intervening from the outside into an arena where there happens to be a high level of mass struggle. When the struggle dies down, they move on. This kind of method has always been a dead give-away for detecting the basic orientation of a group of petit-bourgeois revolutionists who prefer to avoid the protracted and mundane work of educating and organizing the masses on a daily basis to integrate their battles for reforms with the struggle for revolution. Of course, given the RCP’s subsequent disdain for reform struggles, not even full-fledged prairie fires could attract their attention. Only global conflagrations need apply.

This seems to be one of the underlying reasons that RCP’s overall activities typically take the form of one big, exhilarating public relations campaign after another. For a while it was Revolutionary May Day; then it was 100,000 Revolutionary Workers a week; and every new campaign is billed as a big qualitative leap in the revolutionary movement in the USA. Slower quantitative development is not exciting enough; RCP seems bent on making revolution in this country almost solely on the basis of flying leaps.

As Avakian puts it, the RCP is the "Silky Sullivan of the proletarian revolution"[9] straining to catch up with the rapidly ripening conditions for world war and revolution. The party will have to make a lot of radical ruptures and dramatic leaps forward to meet the challenges of the coming conjuncture. On the face of it, it is difficult not to regard this approach as voluntarism run amuck. The results seem predictable: a lot of cadre end up taking a flying leap into a self-constructed brick wall, get burned out, demoralized, disorientated, and leave in disgust.

If we take a close look at the history of the RCP going back a few years, we can see that it has been grappling with some very real problems and contradictions involved in trying to link the day-to-day struggle of the masses with the revolutionary goal of socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat. It has struggled to stick to what it calls the "high, hard road" and carry out revolutionary work among sectors of the U.S. working class that have been only marginally responsive to the RCP’s clarion call to take up such struggle.

We are not trying to argue that such a task is easy, only that we don’t need a line, method, and policies which make a hard task that much more difficult. This task is definitely made more difficult by RCP’s distorted understanding and implementation of the mass line.

The very real contradictions that have to be resolved in carrying out the mass line follow from the fact that the mass line is not supposed to just mirror the spontaneous level of consciousness of the masses at any given time, but is supposed to enable communists to give political leadership that the masses themselves have the potential to see is correct. The masses are not a "blank slate" but are predisposed to take certain actions based on their ideological preconceptions and perceived needs. Under capitalism, where the dominant ideology is bourgeois, there will always be a contradiction between what the masses are conditioned to perceive as their needs and what their actual needs are.

The role of communists is to help the masses sum up their own understanding, initially unsystematic and contradictory, of what their real needs are. This task is accomplished by revolutionary agitation and propaganda in conjunction with giving leadership to the day-to-day struggles of the masses for reforms. Periodically, mass struggles will develop which have an inherently revolutionary thrust, but it would be a grave mistake for communists to try to manufacture or concoct some kind of "revolutionary struggle". The task of "following through" on agitation and propaganda and trying to integrate the struggle for reforms with the struggle for revolution is necessarily a protracted process with many twists and turns, setbacks and advances, wherein the masses learn from their own experience in struggle and are thrust into motion by the ripening objective conditions.

The RCP abandons such a materialist approach in favor of an idealist, semi-anarchist line which glorifies the model of a small, bold group of super-revolutionary heroes, pure and uncorrupted by reform struggles, who engage in isolated vanguard actions that are supposed to serve as electrifying examples for the masses themselves.

The RCP appears convinced that when it heroically goes against the tide and even gets itself isolated and scorned with thought-provoking slogans like "Red, White and Blue, We Spit on You", that in the end the masses will recognize that it was right all along. This is one of the principal reasons that it is undaunted in proselytizing the value of propaganda by the deed, shocking actions that will shake the masses from their bourgeois slumber. An example of this orientation can be found in its sum up of the 1980 May Day campaign: "In the same way that May First was a manifesto—jolting people awake, reawakening feelings and yearnings for a way out of this madness, and posing the alternatives sharply to millions—many of the actions that built for May First were themselves a powerful form of agitation." ("Welding of a Class-Conscious Force", p. 18 of Revolution, July, 1980.) Among the actions it lists are "slapping the May Day manifesto on George Meany’s coffin as it was carried into the funeral" and "the splashing of red paint in the faces of U.S. and Soviet UN representatives".

Not surprisingly, these actions elicit a counter-attack from the ruling class. Having elicited the counter-attack the RCP desires, it then attempts to capitalize on its plight to manufacture greater publicity for its organization and its leadership. This whole media-grabbing tactic is justified by the RCP on the grounds that "revolution proceeds by giving rise to a strong and united counter-revolution" (ibid., p. 19). What the RCP should seriously ask itself is whether its actions are doing more to unite and strengthen the counter-revolutionary forces than they are doing to build the revolutionary movement. To be attacked by the enemy is a good thing only insofar as the attack is in response to a successful effort to educate, organize, and mobilize the masses for revolutionary class struggle.

When other groups criticize RCP for adventurism and impetuosity, RCP usually responds that these groups are hopelessly reformist, "advising these workers to have more patience and accept the slow death of preoccupying themselves with struggles around ‘the immediate concerns of the masses’".[10] The RCP betrays its petit-bourgeois elitism and arrogance by not being at all troubled about the immediate concerns of the masses. RCP justifies this "revolutionary" indifference by pointing to the necessity of diverting the struggle of the masses around their immediate needs onto the high, hard road of revolutionary struggle for state power. As Avakian expressed it bluntly in his speech "Coming from Behind to Make Revolution",[11] "I’ll even say that we’ve got to have a conscious determination not to link up with all the struggles of the masses." (p. 14.)

While Avakian qualifies his statement to assure his listeners that the RCP would support all genuine outbreaks of mass protest and rebellion, what his advice has led to in practice is a retreat all along the line from the immediate struggles of the masses, a disdain for winning reforms, and such fear of tailing the working class movement that little real linking up with its day-to-day struggles is now taking place.

Of course, this aloofness only fuels the anti-communist prejudices of the masses who have been well conditioned to view communists as being hopelessly impractical utopians who have little concern for people’s needs but only want to use them for their own ends. RCP may fancy that it is heroically going against the tide of the bourgeois prejudices which are influential among the masses, but it is really only reinforcing them.

Consciousness and Struggle

RCP activities in recent years are clear evidence of a general retreat from giving any real leadership to the spontaneous struggles of the masses. This retreat has been justified on a number of different bases. RCP will commit itself only to "genuinely revolutionary struggles", not run-of-the-mill spontaneous mass struggles for reforms. Confining their attention to revolutionary struggles considerably narrows the scope of their activities, especially when these struggles are defined usually as the semi-anarchist, adventurist, isolated actions of their own members and close supporters. For RCP, advocating organizing the masses to struggle for reforms of any kind smacks too much of a Menshevik, economist line of trying to "reduce the ranks of communists to promoting struggles for immediate, palpable results." ("Create Public Opinion, Seize Power!", p. 30.[12])

Instead of trying to provide revolutionary direction to the spontaneous mass movements, RCP borrows a phrase from Mao, "Create Public Opinion, Seize Power!", to elaborate a line which focuses on revolutionary agitation in a newspaper as the central task of communists. The trouble with phrases when they are taken out of context and mechanically applied is that they do not often give very dialectical advice about the complicated task of making a revolution in an advanced capitalist country like the USA. If it is not obvious from RCP’s theory, it should be crystal clear from its practice that it severs the dialectical relationship between struggle and consciousness.

RCP is correct in asserting that people’s consciousness is incredibly important in preparing to seize state power. But what it fails to solve is how to build up people’s revolutionary consciousness during what can be a very long preparatory period typified by non-revolutionary conditions. Developing such revolutionary consciousness is affected by revolutionary agitation and propaganda, but to isolate these two factors as cause and effect is to lapse into an idealist analysis. What is missing is the living link established between agitation and propaganda and the experience of the masses gained directly in struggle.

When the role of communists is effectively eliminated in giving leadership to the struggle of the masses for reforms, their role as effective agitators and propagandists in creating public opinion is drastically diminished. What RCP fails to realize, even in being able to win the advanced, is that public opinion will be created in proportion to the success of its protracted and varied preparatory work of organizing the masses to fight for their interests. The masses learn principally through struggle and the summing up of this ongoing struggle against oppression.

When RCP makes revolutionary agitation the center of gravity of its work, it may be successful in combatting past economist errors, but it is certainly not assuring itself of developing beyond a small and irrelevant propaganda sect. This fate is being realized by the RCP largely because not only is it still groping in the dark to relate consciousness to struggle, but also it still only has the faintest idea about how to integrate the struggle for reforms with the struggle for revolution.

[End of excerpt]


[These citations and explanatory notes have been added by Scott H. for this posting of the ORU document on MASSLINE.INFO.]

1   "Conquer the World? The International Proletariat Must and Will", by Bob Avakian. This 50-page speech took up an entire issue of the RCP’s journal Revolution [vol. 6, No. 2 (Whole number 50), December 1981].

2   "On the Outcome of World War II and the Prospects for Revolution in the West", by "C.R.", The Communist, vol. 2, #2, Summer/Fall 1978, pp. 61-113.

3   "The ‘General Line Proposal (1963)’—A Critical Appraisal", unsigned article, Revolution, vol. 4, #6 (June 1979), p. 24ff.

4   The RCP’s "center of gravity" formulation appeared in Bob Avakian’s article "The Day to Day Struggle and the Revolutionary Goal", Revolution, May 15, 1976. This was the third article in a three-part series that was later published as the pamphlet The Mass Line (1976). The entire pamphlet is available online on this site at:

      Later on the RCP abandoned and criticized this "center of gravity" formulation. See: "‘Center of Gravity’ Repudiated: Economic Struggle and Revolutionary Tasks", unsigned article, Revolution, vol. 3, #10 [called "vol. 3, #9" on the the cover], July 1978, pp. 3, 16-17.

5   The Revolutionary Workers Headquarters group split off from the RCP early in 1978. It operated as an independent organization for several years, and then merged with some other groups to form the Freedom Road Socialist Organization in 1985. Ironically, despite the ORU’s criticism of the RWH in this pamphlet, the ORU also merged into the newly formed FRSO in 1986.

6   Basic Principles for the Unity of Marxit-Leninists and for the Line of the International Communist Movement, by the RCP, Chile and the RCP, USA. This document was published as a pamphlet by the RCPUSA early in 1981.

7   Mao Tsetung, Selected Works, vol. III, p. 12.

8   Unfortunately the ORU pamphlet does not provide a citation for the remarks against the applicability of the mass line in the U.S., which it attributes to Bob Avakian. It would be interesting to know his exact words on this matter.

9   Bob Avakian, Coming from Behind to Make Revolution, [pamphlet], RCP Publications, 1980. This document was originally published as a supplement to the RCP’s newspaper under the title "Is Revolution Really Possible this Decade and What Does May First Have to Do With It?", Revolutionary Worker, issue #49, April 11, 1980.

10   [Citation to be added.]

11   See note 9 above.

12   "Create Public Opinion, Seize Power!" [Citation to be added.]

— End —

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