Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

S. Wallis

“To All Those Who Refuse to Live and to Die on Your Knees”...

Questions on the Revolutionary Communist Party

First Published: Modern Times, Vol. III, No. 6, July-August 1979.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The appearance of Bob Avakian, national Chairman of the RCP, at the end of July seemed to provide a good opportunity to make a contribution to the debate within Hawaii’s left on the nature of the RCP and revolutionary politics. The RCP’s visibility and their style of united front work have won them few admirers among the rest of Hawaii’s left . . . from the religious pacifists to the mass struggle organizations, the RCP is confronted with disdain, mistrust, and, indeed, some fear. Yet, the RCP also provides the most organized “revolutionary” pole in Hawaii and has had continued success in attracting a few militants to it. They are certainly not to be taken lightly.

Avakian appeared as part of a national RCP tour attempting to draw sympathizers toward the RCP, and especially to their newspaper study groups, and to raise funds for legal defense following a series of arrests stemming primarily from their attacks on the current Chinese leadership, Certainly Avakian is relatively charismatic and a rather welcome relief from numerous left speakers who are hollow and unoriginal.

The local RCP tried to do the evening up in fine style, with red banners, metal detectors, radical poetry, etc. Yet at the end of the lengthy program, most of the 150 spectators must have had substantial questions in their minds, and certainly there was not a lot of closeness as the hall cleared quickly once Avakian finished. Perhaps, as members of the RCP have claimed, it was the wheat being separated from the chaff. Or maybe it was a feeling that the RCP was really not up to its self-proclaimed vanguard status.

Avakian spoke for nearly two hours with moments of good humor and touches of drama. He indicated the plight of the RCP now that the Washington, D.C., police have decided to do them in with charges leading possibly to upwards of 100 years imprisonment for their Chairman (Chairperson??) himself, which resulted from the police attack on their demonstration against the recent visit of China’s Teng Xiao-ping.

Avakian emphasized the reasons for working class rage with capitalism, trying to bring home the point that “you are not the only one with hot hatred against the system in your stomach.” And he showed pretty good skill in outlining the historical development of humanity from the age of apes to the rise of multi-national capitalism. Perhaps emulating Fidel Castro’s lessons on materialism before the masses in Havana, Avakian laid the materialist groundwork for proletarian revolution.

Making the Link

However, when it came to the historical and dialectical development of revolutionary politics in the U.S., Avakian had little to say. He drew on the Revolutionary Union (predecessor to RCP) experience with the Black Panthers, correctly indicating the significant role played by the Panthers in bringing the question of armed revolution back onto the political agenda in the U.S.

But from that experience Avakian could only draw the lesson that the Panthers failed to understand the centrality of the workingclass in the revolutionary process, preferring instead the lumpen elements. Yet the key problem with which the Panthers grappled, eventually in failure as main far-left groups have also failed, was how to link revolutionary consciousness to the everyday reality of the mass of the people.

Those of us who had contact with the Panthers saw that with their forthright stand against police and the courts, they struck a deep chord within the Black communities faced with daily intimidation by the capitalist state. However, the translation of this identification into creative political action (the Panthers correctly refusing the voluntartstic excesses of terrorism and adventurism) proved to be impossible for a party with little history and beset by severe repression.

In the end the Panthers turned to “Survival Programs” which became enmeshed in the Democratic Party. The RCP draws much of its history from that of the Panthers, yet does not show it has the ear, let alone the heart, of any significant community.

So, what is the program of the RCP? What is the means for combatting the threat of international war (presumably World War III, with the U.S. and China against the Soviet Union)? Simply calling for CPs to turn their guns around? What do we do for the youth of Waianae, or the memory of Fiti Moe? How about inflation and unemployment? Where do housing struggles lead? If reforms are counterrevolutionary, are street fights and the creation of “public opinion” through propaganda the road to revolution? These were the questions left unanswered by Avakian, continuing the impression of many in Hawaii’s left that the RCP has become messianic and that its practice is totally divorced from a theory and analysis grounded in the concrete conditions of today. The problem of revolutionary politics remains in Hawaii, a problem we must humbly but directly face.