Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Criticism of the RCP’s draft programme

First Published: In Struggle [Canada] No. 213, August 20. 1980
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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Earlier this year, the Revolutionary Communist Party of the United States published a new draft Programme and Constitution, replacing the documents adopted when their Party was founded in 1975. They say this was done mainly to prepare for a revolutionary situation in their country in the 1980s. As well, the new programme reflects some new positions of the RCP, based on the lessons they have drawn from the recent set-backs in China, the current debates in the International Communist Movement (ICM), and the struggles in the RCP against reformism.

It is positive that the RCP has published its new positions in programmatic form. The questions of political programme are too often secondarized or even ignored in the ICM. It is also very good that these documents are being circulated widely as drafts for discussion. In fact, there are some important positions within this draft programme that merit serious debate.

This new draft programme contains little in terms of analysis of the world situation or the historical development of capitalism in the U.S.A. Nor does it speak of the immediate struggles or demands of the workers and their allies. Most of the document is devoted to explaining how the future socialist society will be organized in the U.S.A. The main thesis of the programme is that U.S. imperialism is moving rapidly towards a period of total crisis, domestically as well as internationally; and that the communist party must begin agitation and propaganda directed toward the seizure of political power as a practical question in the next years.

One question that comes to mind in studying this programme is the problem of correctly understanding what creates a revolutionary situation. It is very clear that the crisis is deepening rapidly in the United States: economic crisis, political instability and repression, preparations for imperialist war. But the RCP programme seems to see this process as automatically producing a revolutionary situation: that is, one in which the rulers cannot govern in the old way, the masses cannot live in the old way, and the proletariat is ready to fight and die for revolution. As well, the RCP programme argues that it will be possible to seize political power in the next few years because their party is prepared to do so in the situation of general crisis that is developing. But this schema leaves out one essential factor: the conscious participation of an important part of the working class in the struggle to seize and hold political power. Now, it is well known that the many decades of relative prosperity within the U.S.A. have greatly held back the revolutionary consciousness of the American proletariat – the RCP documents themselves speak to this problem. In fact, the influence of the RCP and other Marxist-Leninist organizations in the United States is still very limited among the labour and popular movements. So, it is difficult to see how the domination of reformist or even pro-imperialist ideology in the American working class will be changed qualitatively within only a few years. A programme based on such speculation can lead to disastrous adventurism.

Directly related to this problem is another: that of the relation between immediate struggles and the battle for socialist revolution. If the MLOC IN STRUGGLE! has immediate demands in its programme, it is not by accident. It is because we believe that the communists must participate in the day-to-day struggles of the workers and their allies, including the economic and democratic struggles, in order to transform these struggles into a conscious struggle for socialist revolution. The RCP-USA, since it began to fight against economist deviations, has abandoned the immediate struggles and demands: this is clearly reflected both in the draft programme and in their practice. But will this really strengthen the battle against reformism in the U.S.A.? If the masses are still fighting mainly partial struggles which the communists ignore, then won’t this leave the opportunists with an undisputed hegemony in the mass movement, while the communists act as an isolated “vanguard” trying to accelerate the revolutionary process through their own actions?

Concerning the building of socialism, the RCP draft programme is based on the detailed application of the teachings of Mao Zedong and the experience of the Cultural Revolution to all aspects of American society. This approach is very questionable in two regards. First, because a serious historical summation of the experience of building socialism in different countries remains to be done by the ICM. Until it is done, a little more prudence in relation to the so-called “principles” of specific socialist experiences may be called for. Secondly, because most of the planning of the development of socialist society can really only be done titer the seizure of power, in relation to the objective and subjective conditions at the time. Any other approach leads us into speculation and dogmatism, whether we take Mao’s China, or another country, as our “model”.

But this problem of very detailed and somewhat speculative analysis runs throughout the new draft programme of the RCP. In fact the document is more of a political manifesto for the next few years, than a party programme in the Leninist sense. Our Organization rejected this kind of programme because it would, compromise the unity of the party, basing the conditions for accepting members on secondary detailed formulations and short-term questions rather than the fundamental questions of principle. What will happen to the RCP’s programme if the expected revolutionary situation does not materialize, for example, or if they discover some new errors in their positions? Will the party programme be re-written once again?

All of these problems are serious and difficult problems – our own experience with these questions has shown that. A real discussion of these problems, both in the communist movement in the U.S.A., and in the ICM, could only help to strengthen the capacity of the Marxist-Leninists to correctly lead the proletariat and its allies in the struggle for socialist revolution.