Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Where is the RCP Going?

First Published: Young Spartacus, #50, January 1977.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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At the height of the “anti-rightist campaign” against deposed Chinese Vice Premier Teng Hsiao-ping this year, the reformist Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) stated in the first issue of its theoretical journal,

“As the recent political campaigns to strengthen the dictatorship of the proletariat in China graphically reveal, the key to understanding the class struggle under socialism is to grasp that this is fundamentally a political struggle aimed at suppressing the bourgeoisie.” – The Communist, October 1976.

At that time the RCP and its youth group, the Revolutionary Student Brigade (RSB), certainly could not be reproached for failure to recite Maoist rote.

But no sooner had the RCP penned the above words than the so-called “radical” leaders behind the “anti-rightist campaign” in China were unexpectedly purged, as their “political struggle aimed at suppressing the bourgeoisie” boomeranged. The so-called “gang of four” – Chiang Ching, Yao Wen-yuan, Wang Hung-wen and Chang Chun-chiao-were viciously denounced as “capitalist roaders,” and the Peking regime launched a “political campaign” to mobilize popular support for the purge.

The jailing of the four top-ranking “radical” leaders stunned Maoist groups around the world. While the ever-servile American October League (OL) hailed the purge the moment Peking made it official, the RCP/RSB has maintained a stonewalling silence on the “political struggle” in China which allegedly is “key to understanding the class struggle under socialism.” Revolution, the “monthly” press of the RCP, simply failed to appear in November. Comes the December and now the January issues of Revolution and the RCP has still failed to even mention the power struggle which has raged in China for more than ten weeks!

As long as it maintains an agnostic position on the post-Mao regime ruling in the Heavenly Palace, the RCP/RSB places itself in an untenable political limbo outside the realm of Maoist legitimacy. After following the Chinese Stalinist bureaucracy for a decade through all its counterrevolutionary betrayals, the RCP leaders – at least for the moment – have de facto placed a question mark over their loyalty to the Peking regime. Their hesitation to publically solidarize with the purge of the “gang of four” poses the question – Where is the RCP going?

Nativism and NATO

From its origins in New Left factory collectives in the Bay Area the RCP (formally the Revolutionary Union) has been singularly characterized by its elevation of “macho” workerism and reformist “fightback” militancy to the level of dogma (see “Maoist Fusion Fizzles,” Young Spartacus, December 1974). Its workerist appetites and strongly nativist orientation has decisively shaped its relationship with the Chinese Stalinist bureaucracy. In contrast, the OL has set its political sights above all on winning the Chinese “franchise” as the recognized pro-Peking organization in this country.

Thus, as the Chinese alliance with U.S. imperialism against so-called “Soviet social-imperialism” has become ever more naked over the past several years the RCP, while fundamentally identifying with the Chinese bureaucracy, has tended to be less vociferous and shameless than the OL in championing the counterrevolutionary foreign policy of the Chinese Stalinist bureaucracy. For example, when China sealed its “detente” with the Shah of Iran by renouncing aid to the guerrilla insurgency in Oman, the OL at once fell in step with Peking policy, attacking the slogan “No Arms to the Shah” and denouncing the Omani guerrillas as “Soviet puppets.” Yet the RCP, unwilling to sacrifice its recruitment opportunities in the large Iranian student milieu, continued to oppose the Shah and cynically attempted to obfuscate the Mao-Shah “detente” with “two-line” double talk.

Likewise, the OL has shamelessly parroted the most criminal pro-NATO exhortations of Peking Review, at one time last year warning against any revolutionary upsurge in Portugal which might remove the cou n try from the imperialist military alliance. Recognizing that the reactionary pro-NATO line of Peking would be disastrous especially in its student work, the RCP flatly denied the fact that China supports European militarism against the USSR and continued to abstractly oppose NATO.

But the most telling recent test for Maoists came during the Angolan civil war last year, when China actively allied with American and South African imperialism against the USSR-backed/ Cuban-led Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola forces. While the OL line followed Peking Review to the letter, warning that so- called “Soviet social-imperialism” was the “main danger” in Southern Africa, the RCP attempted to be “more Maoist” than the Maoist OL; it rationalized this counter-revolutionary policy of the Chinese bureaucracy by announcing that not only was the USSR “social-imperialist” but the Cuban troops in Angola were a so-called “imperialist” expeditionary force from a country which allegedly has always been “capitalist.” Since China has never claimed that capitalism has been restored in Cuba, this RCP position represented a first step in the direction of Maoist heterodoxy.

What “Unites” Mao Tse-tung and Louise Day Hicks?

Although correctly accusing the OL of “flunkeyism” toward China, the RCP at the same time has a political line in this country that is no less reformist and cravenly opportunist than the politics of the OL. In its domestic work the OL pursues “soft” liberal-populist politics no different than the class-collaborationist “antimonopoly coalitionism” of the pro-Moscow Communist Party (U.S.A.).

Unlike the RCP, which recruits with a “hard” workerist appeal and empty r-r-revolutionary rhetoric, the OL, which contains a layer of former pro- Moscow Stalinists, consciously competes for the same political niche and periphery as the American Communist Party. For example, after displacing the Communist Party from the leadership of the Southern Conference Educational Fund, the OL simply took over the entire organization and continued to run it with the same liberal politics.

Especially given the relative quiescence within the American labor movement and the rightward drift in the national political climate over the past several years, the consistent workerism of the RCP has produced only the most rank economism and philistine opportunism. Most scandalous has been the RCP/RSB’s opposition to busing, which is a means however limited to enforce the democratic right of equal access to public educational facilities. Accommodating to racist opposition to integration among white workers, the RCP has called for the “smashing” of busing in Boston and hailed the so-called “progressive aspects” of the white racist mobilizations in Boston and Louisville.

Likewise, the RCP has pandered to the most backward male workers in its refusal to fight the special oppression of women and its opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment. Similarly, the “macho”-Maoist RCP has reveled in swinish anti-homosexual bigotry, ranting about the “deviant sexual behavior” of homosexuals (and other sexual non-conformists) and refusing to defend their democratic rights.

Basing its trade-union work on a lowest-common-denominator “mass, line,” the RCP has vacillated between “jamming the unions” and capitulating to out bureaucrat fake-oppositionists. Recently the RCP has come out in support of “insurgent” Ed Sadlowski in the United Steelworkers of America (USWA), who supports the Democratic Party, who calls upon the capitalist courts and Labor Department to “democratize” the USWA, who refuses to oppose the no-strike ENA (Experimental Negotiating Agreement) and who now says that there should be fewer jobs in the steel industry!

Although workerist Maoism has led it to take numerous reactionary positions, especially regarding the struggle against the special oppression of black people and women, the RCP nevertheless has demonstrated a political capacity at times to swim against mainstream petty-bourgeois radical opinion. In contrast to the “critical Maoist” Guardian, which seeks simply to be the voice of mainstream “Third World” radicalism, the RCP has been willing to adopt positions which may be unpopular (such as its line on Cuba). In this sense the RCP has more political integrity than the Guardian.

Where To Now?

Insofar as it still aspires to orthodox Maoism the RCP has demonstrated that it cannot compete with the OL for the Chinese “franchise.”

At its “Conference on the International Situation” held in New York City on November 20 the RCP could rebuff the OL speakers and panelist William Hinton only by claiming that they do not understand the “errors” made by the Stalinists in allying with imperialism against fascist Germany and Italy during the Popular Front period and that they can’t claim to really speak for the Chinese leadership anyway (see “Alliance With U.S. Imperialism Bedevils Maoist Conference,” Workers Vanguard, 26 November 1976).

Its political instincts and appetites may well keep the RCP from sinking into State Department Maoism. At the same time, however, the RCP is well aware of the consequences of embarking upon a course of “Stalinism without a country.” About eight years ago the Progressive Labor Party (PLP) broke with China, but attempted to substitute optimistic workerism and mindless militancy for a coherent reevaluation of Stalinism. But Stalinist reformism without a guiding bureaucracy led PLP to ever greater political disorientation and demoralization. Today PLP raves about “rising fascism” in America and openly expresses profound historical pessimism. A recent issue of Challenge (25 November) admits:

“Many Challenge readers, PL members, and friends do not believe in the possibility of revolution in our lifetime. Since state power resides in the claws of the bosses today, many of us believe that is how it will always remain.”

Today the RCP is very conscious of the political and organizational disintegration of PLP; the last two issues of Revolution for the first time contain prominent references to the “Trotskyite” PLP. But seeking to discredit Trotskyism by falsely labeling PL “Trotskyite” will not resolve any of the contradictions which the RCP today faces.

The RCP is headed for political trouble. Yet the current power struggles in China may serve to sow some seeds of doubt which cause subjectively revolutionary elements in the RCP/RSB to break with Maoism.

Confronting the RCP is the revolutionary program and practice of the Spartacist League/Spartacus Youth League. Those who aspire to make a proletarian revolution in this country must break with Stalinist reformism and embrace Trotskyism – the continuation of Leninism.