Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Workers’ Viewpoint

RCP Discovers ’Theory in its Own Right’

First Published: Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 2, No. 1, January 1977.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Flipping and flopping, like dying fish on a beach, the opportunist forces of the October League and Revolutionary Union are inevitably inching their way toward one aspect or another of the correct Marxist line of the Workers Viewpoint Organization. Incapable of providing communist leadership to the workers’ and national movements, the opportunists must look to the only organization that can provide that leadership and cop to the lines that WVO has held for years in struggle against them.


One example of this trend is the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). In the latest Revolution, in an article entitled “Theoretical Struggle Crucial Part of Working Class Movement,” the RCP, flipping from its practice-practice-practice line, the “fleshing out of our experience of the past few years,” is now asserting the “crucial role” of theoretical struggle. However, even in asserting the crucial role of theory, the RCP once again betrays its bankrupt pragmatism and sophistry on this question.

Reminiscent of their “theory is principal in the brief period ahead” line when their pragmatic, empirical nature was exposed by the WVO (WVO Journal, Vol 1, No. 2, 1974, “RU: Marxism or American Pragmatism”), the RCP states in their “new” understanding:

In fact, at the present time in this country, although dogmatism mainly characterizes a number of opportunist so-called “communist” groupings and although dogmatism has some influence within the Party itself, within the Party empiricism now represents a greater error than dogmatism. (our emphasis)

What is RCP talking about? First, what do they mean when they say

...within the Party empiricism, now represents a greater danger than dogmatism?” Does that mean that empiricism wasn’t the main deviation in the RCP when they babbled about the key link to building the party was in “summing up” the practical work?

We remind RCP that in the June 1974 issue of Revolution, they said:

A Party which in fact is only a paper party with no real concrete programme because such a programme can only be created by summing up practical work, which these dogmatists have no use for and little personal experience with. (our emphasis)

And again, in the July 1974 issue:

They are trying to drag people back and obstruct the process of building a true vanguard Party that can lead the masses in revolution because it links theory with practice and is formed on the basis of learning from the advances that have been made and the experience that has been accumulated in the last period. (our emphasis)

Second, what do they mean when they say “at the present time in this country” (sort of reminds you of the “brief period ahead”, doesn’t it?). In our analysis of the periods we have consistently pointed out that the main danger in the communist movement in the U.S. as a whole, historically and for the future, is the right empiricist, American pragmatist danger! In fact, RCP, the victory of the leading role of theory line of the second period (1972-1975) has already come and gone and exposed you! Tailing after the WVO isn’t going to drag you out of the marsh, RCP, it only underlines how deeply into the marsh you’ve sunk.


In fact, the RCP in the very next line contradicts their “present” line when they state:

“...the history of the U.S. is one in which pragmatism...is deeply rooted and has been particularly promoted by the bourgeoisie and its philosophers,” – like the RCP!

And here, too, the RCP in its sophistic and philistine wriggling cannot even understand how and where their empiricism comes from. They go on:

Secondly, this tendency toward pragmatism...has some (!) soil to grow in our Party exactly because our Party, from its very foundation (!)...correctly laid stress (their emphasis) on the need to link up with and sink roots in the practical struggles of the working class and masses of people.

Where do you think this tendency comes from – RCP? Does it drop from the sky? You are correct when you say that empiricism and pragmatism has “soil” to grow in the RCP – deep, rich, fertile soil. The soil from which the bankrupt Party of the RCP was founded on “summing up the advances of the last period!” We stated in September, 1974:

For the RU to elevate experience to the level of the ’key link’ and the basis of the party program is to fall into the swamp of empirio-criticism. It is, in essence, to make relativism the basis of the theory of knowledge and the basis of our party program. That is exactly how the American pragmatist, in the disguise of a “Marxist,” comes into the picture, i.e. the old debate between dialectical materialism and revisionism. In the final analysis, the point in question here is whether Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-Tung Thought is the basis of our party program, or “Experience” is the basis of our program.


Further demonstrating their degeneration, the RCP then flips to abstract idealism, the other side of the coin of mechanical materialism. They state:

This points to the need, especially great right now, of studying theory ’in its own right’...While in such study, examples from the mass struggle, economic and political, against the ruling class can and should be brought out to illustrate (their emphasis) the points of theory being studied, this is not the same as studying theory with particular problems in mind, which has the opposite emphasis – concentrating on the particular problems and applying theory specifically to them in order to solve them. The fact that this latter method is, as stated, overall (their emphasis) the main way in which people’s grasp of Marxism is deepened, does not eliminate the need to also pay serious attention to studying theory ’in its own right.’

First, the RCP admits the narrowness of their scope, how they mangled and confused the notion of concrete with immediate, how they objectively implemented the bourgeois traitor’s (Lin Piao) infamous formulation (study proceeds from the objective to the subjective and implementation proceeds from the subjective to the objective in using theory to ’sum-up’ practice and ’formulate’ policies and tactics), how the narrowness of the RCP was reflected in the narrowness of their cadre – things which we have been pointing to and exposing for years. This takes on particular historical significance as it was precisely the struggle between Marxism and American pragmatism (represented by the RU, among others) that characterized the Second Period (1972-1975) in our struggle for the formation of the Party.

Coming fresh out of the practical struggles, with little theoretical training, with eclecticism still running rampant, the key link at that time to solve the burning questions (what is to be done) was to accept the necessity of the role of Marxist theory – as a guide, to our direction, our orientation, to lead the masses. There was universal agreement to deepen our roots among the masses. The question was how.

“Building the struggle, consciousness, and revolutionary unity of the working class and its leadership of the anti- imperialist united front” (as RU saw it) did not answer the question and in fact led away from the correct direction. In sum, it was the understanding that without Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-Tung Thought, the working class and the communist movement could not move forward – that was key. Now that the RCP, which realizes that it indeed has not moved forward and indeed has regressed, now suddenly “turns” to theory, only confirms the concreteness and correctness of our understanding of the Second Period. This is a historical refutation of the RU line as well as a strong refutation of opportunist ATM’s line which says WVO’s “three periods” is our “invention” (!!). RCP’s inevitable road block on the question is living proof that the contradictions of the Second Period, and its resolution, is an objective necessity. RCP cannot run away from it and certainly ATM cannot either. ATM has to either face it or degenerate; there is no third course.


So now the RCP has “found” another “place” for theory – “in its own right.” The RCP “applies” theory to sum up immediate problems and “study it in its own right.” What does the RCP mean by its “own right”?? Having historically, no understanding of the role of theory, conveniently “forgetting” that all things proceed from the objective and the concrete, the RCP is reduced to demagogy: “In its own right” means:

...a guide for the working class to grasp the laws governing the development of all things, in nature and society and to carry forward the world historical task of wiping out capitalism and achieving communism and advancing mankind’s struggle against nature (for production) and its struggle to develop science (scientific experimentation) to a whole new state.

The RCP in its flip from their narrowest former understanding of theory, that it is only good to “serve our immediate experiences,” now wants workers to understand the mysteries of the universe (“...laws governing the development of all things in nature and society ...advancing mankind’s (!!!) struggle against nature (for production) and its struggle to develop science (scientific experimentation), to a whole new state”.)

The RCP, in its hopeless confusion between the concrete and the immediate and the practical, is reduced to truisms and completely general understandings. Marxism is a guide to action in the concrete, a guide to our thinking, a guide to our political line. RCP in running away from its thoroughly exposed line does a completely 180 degree turnaround.

No, RU. There is no such thing as theory “in its own right,” no matter how you explain it. There is such a thing as proceeding from the general to the particular. However, general theory itself is highly concrete. Truth is always concrete. There is no such thing as proceeding from the abstract, for that would mean proceeding from the subjective to the objective.

You are now flipping. And flip you must. Theory guides practice means highly concrete and specific theory concerning major issues, issues which affect our basic orientation, issues where the overall situation is at stake internationally and nationally, issues concerning the line of the international communist movement, issues which affect our day to day work and, in fact, often give it basic content. For example, the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat itself highly concrete. The major issues of the international communist movement are highly concrete and are most significant to our own struggle here. To understand the experience of the proletariat in all countries is indispensible for us to make preparations for the dictatorship of the proletariat here.

But you pragmatists don’t see it as useful for your everyday struggle so you abandon theory or else treat it as abstractions. There is no such large law and theory so general that by studying it we will know “all laws” of “mankind’s struggle against nature”, etc. This will surely lead to scholasticism, intellectualism, and self-cultivation.

This “discovery” of theory “in its own right” is nothing but a flip so that you can take the narrowest scope of your cadre to the “mysteries of the universe” and away from your political bankruptcy caused by your belittling of theory, “to guide your struggle in the last few years.” It is caused by your consistent bourgeois stand in making self-criticism to rectify what once was rectifiable.

We laid out in WVO Journal #4:

RCP has historically belittled the first thing Chairman Mao laid out about the mass line, namely, the necessity to link the ’general’ – the theory and larger historical experience – with the concrete conditions here and our particular experience. We must link the particular demands of the masses with the larger laws of MLMTTT. If we belittle the general – theory – we will inevitably fall into tailism and revisionism.

The RCP now “sees” the general and then divorces it from the concrete conditions internationally and nationally! Then after all this slipping and sliding reversing themselves, acting as though their historical belittlement of theory never existed, their sophistry and complete lack of self-criticism, the RCP then quotes Mao:

Marxism-Leninism is a science, and science means honest, solid knowledge; there is no room for playing tricks. Let us, then, be honest.


The truth is, the RCP, running dry and running scared, is attempting to liquidate its history by covering itself with superficial understandings of the correct line of the leading circle: WVO. And in the process exposing themselves even further.

Thus, the RCP, stagnating in its pragmatism, haunted by its bankrupt lines, demoralized by its failure to fuse with the working class movement, has “discovered” theory “in its own right.” However its flipping around has only confirmed the correctness of our Marxist-Leninist line and orientation. The Party is strengthened by the struggle against these opportunists and the working class moves ahead more determined toward proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the Proletariat as these dried “beached fish” are relegated to the garbage heap of history.