Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

2nd Convention of RCYB

Firm Ground For New Advances

First Published: Revolution, Vol. 3, No. 9, July 1978.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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“Youth of America Dare to Say, Revolution Is the Only Way!” The chant rang out amidst thunderous applause as the second national convention of the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade (RCYB) in Austin, Texas, officially came to a close. This Austin location had historic significance. It was in Austin nearly 10 years ago that the Revolutionary Union (which played a major role in the formation of the RCP) first played a decisive part in the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in combatting the reactionary line of Progressive Labor Party (PL) with Marxism-Leninism, Mao Tsetung Thought.

This 1978 Austin meeting was one of consolidation and celebration over the defeat and ouster of a reformist and counterrevolutionary clique in the Brigade. It was a meeting of building off this victory to achieve new advances in leading revolutionary struggle among youth. Within the past six months this clique, part of the Menshevik Jarvis-Bergman gang in the Party, had attempted to turn the RCYB, the youth organization of the Revolutionary Communist Party, against the RCP–after being defeated in their attempt to turn the Party itself from red to white.

The founding convention of the RCYB in November 1977 represented a great advance for the revolutionary movement in this country. The proletariat now has a bold and open communist organization among the youth in the neighborhoods, campuses and plants. But the Mensheviks sought from the beginning to make this organization over into its opposite–a John Travolta-style social welfare club. In their view, American youth, especially working class youth, were too backward and brainwashed to ever be won to fighting for communist revolution. So what the hell, hold a reformist extravaganza or two around a current issue–say, jobs–then get down on the dance floor with the masses, and call that making revolution.

This revisionist line and the Menshevik leaders themselves were first repudiated by the RCYB at a critical meeting in Cincinnati in January 1978. At that time, plans were laid for the next few months to go deeply into this two-line struggle throughout the ranks of the Brigade.

This Communist Consolidation Campaign bore fruit at the recent Austin convention where far more was achieved than simply rejecting the Mensheviks’ Philistine reformism. Plans were made to translate these victories into revolutionary practice. And in the course of this the RCYB took new steps in functioning as a communist organization with all its members struggling to apply Marxism-Leninism on the convention floor, the working class youth making particularly important contributions.

This was not some kind of “performance,” but testimony to the fact that people saw the life and death character of the questions being grappled with–whose underlying common theme was revolution vs. reformism–and the absolute necessity of struggling to achieve a correct understanding of them.

All of this was in stark contrast to the methods of the Mensheviks who sought to leave the important questions to a few hotshot “experts,” while trying to rob the initiative from rank and file Brigade members who they considered capable only of carrying out the line. It must be said, however, that these “leaders” were unable to stamp out the revolutionary thrust of the Brigade nationwide. In spite of their interference, much good work has been done in the last several years, with the RCYB, and the Revolutionary Student Brigade which preceded it, rooting itself on many campuses and, more recently, in the neighborhoods, and leading important struggles.

Important Resolutions Passed

Delegates were chosen for the Austin meeting by all 43 chapters of the RCYB at six regional conferences held before the convention. The RCP had five delegates and the staff of the RCYB newspaper, REVOLUTIONARY COMMUNIST YOUTH (RCY) had one. A large number of other RCYB members also made the trip to be (non-voting) participants in this historic meeting. Several members of the Iranian Students Association (ISA) attended and a rousing solidarity message was delivered by the ISA on the struggle of the Iranian people against the Shah’s fascist regime and U.S. imperialism, and the world-wide struggle against imperialism.

Lively discussion and struggle on the most serious question facing the international communist movement brought the passage of several important resolutions on the international situation. In addition, the convention united unanimously on the need to expose and explain to the American people, especially youth, the growing contention between the two superpowers, the U.S. and the USSR, and their inevitable drives toward war. This was in the context of recognizing that the main enemy of the American people is the U.S. imperialist ruling class, and our own greatest contribution to the revolution is to overthrow these parasites.

The RCYB pledged its active and revolutionary support for all peoples struggling against imperialism, including both the working class worldwide and the national liberation movements in the imperialist dominated countries. In particular, in the coming months the Brigade will be building support for the African and Iranian peoples who are today hitting hard at the U.S. imperialists.

Base of RCYB–Working Class Youth

Though this convention was attended largely by students; reflecting the present development of the organization, the necessity of the RCYB to be based mainly on working class youth was reaffirmed. This was set as a major task in the period ahead. Again, deepening of this line developed in direct opposition to the revisionist line of the Mensheviks who held that youth in America, particularly working class youth, could not grasp Marxism, and in fact universally hated communism because as they said the bourgeoisie “has been beating the s– out of socialism and communism for the past 20-30 years,” as they put it in their “Appeal to the Party Leadership on the Name of the ’Young Communist League” (p. 30 in the pamphlet, “Communism and Revolution Vs. Revisionism and Reformism”).

For the Mensheviks, this one-sided and distorted assessment of the “concrete conditions” meant communist work couldn’t, as they would say, “spin”–and would in fact fall flat on its face and isolate the organization. Their “resolution” to the “problem,” as they saw it, was to promote reformist community groups, engaging in periodic work around particular needs of youth–and consolidating almost nobody as communists. In the months since they’ve been “freed” from the communist organization and line of the RCYB, these low roaders have rushed back in time, renaming themselves the Revolutionary Student Brigade and have for the present largely abandoned even their reformist organizing in the neighborhoods.

Building communist organization among working class youth, though difficult, is made necessary and possible by the whole system of imperialism. The experience of the Brigade where communist youth work has been done, as well as the militant participation of working class youth at this convention, testified to this truth.

The convention moved on to a good and lively debate as to why working class youth must be the base of the RCYB. Is it because these youth are more oppressed and therefore, potentially more revolutionary? Discussion brought out that this is not the heart of the question. While it is true that youth from the proletariat face more oppression than those from the petty bourgeoisie, the essence of the question lies not in a simple measurement of who’s better off and who’s worse off, e.g., the relative difficulty in finding a job, getting into school, and so on. Rather it is the totality of the life of a youth from the working class that is key here. This refers not only to where these youth have been, but where they are headed.

Most grow up seeing their parents slave their lives away in some capitalist’s factory, ending up with nothing to show for it all. They go to schools which are more like prisons, live in neighborhoods which are crumbling down around them, and face the continual tyranny of the landlord or the bill collector. And what future stares them in the face under this system? More of the same and worse–including being cannon fodder in imperialist war. All of this provides the material basis for working class youth to grasp more quickly and firmly the need not just for revolution in some vague sense, but for proletarian revolution, the rule of the working class over the capitalist class and for the goal of communism. In addition, the direct ties these working class youth have with the proletariat as a whole can give added impact to and help spread the flames and lessons of the revolutionary struggles of youth and students which have historically rocked this country.

Plans Set

In accordance with affirming that the base of the organization must be working class youth, plans were set to develop more work in the neighborhoods, as well as workplaces where youth are concentrated. At this time the main campaign of this section of the RCYB will center on a major running sore of the capitalist system–the criminally high unemployment among youth in the cities.

This work must start from the understanding that capitalism cannot provide jobs for everyone–even the government administrators admit that most youth growing up today will be employed for only one-third of their working life. But the chapters must build a revolutionary struggle demanding jobs, exposing the local Jobs for Youth deceptions, fighting rip-offs like nonpayment for the few jobs that do result, agitating at the so-called “employment” agencies where youth are lined up every summer, and building a real fight through neighborhood rallies, forums and other means.

It was also decided that the Brigade’s newspaper, REVOLUTIONARY COMMUNIST YOUTH, should be aimed primarily at working class youth, with more emphasis on agitational articles which “draw blood” by sharply exposing the outrages and contradictions of capitalism behind one particular abuse or event in society. Secondarily, the paper must put out articles with a fuller Marxist stand on broad social questions like religion, drugs, crime, the “youth culture,” for example. And the paper as a whole should help organize the Brigade to carry out all its tasks.

There was general discussion at the meeting about the RCYB’s tasks in doing agitation and propaganda. This work must be taken on in the context of seeing that the battle with the bourgeoisie over public opinion, including how to sum up events in the world, goes on unceasingly–and it is a battle.

A workshop on agitation and propaganda spoke to these tasks in the light of the need for the Brigade to exert a steady communist influence on the masses of youth. While such influence will mainly be developed in the course of leading struggle, propaganda–and especially agitation–play a crucial role. People in the workshop pointed out that around some burning questions it may be more effective to do a sharp exposure (through an agitational leaflet or the newspaper, than to try to build a demonstration. For example, the student section of the RCYB has a long tradition and good experience in setting up “big character posters” on the campuses, covering everything from the execution of Gary Gilmore to the story behind the crimes of Idi Amin.

There is also the related task of bringing Marxism to the masses of youth. There must be organized study of Marxism for the youth around the Brigade if they are to make a leap to joining the organization. In this task, much can be learned from the Black Panther Party and the Young Lords Party of the late ’60s who went a long way towards tapping “the boundless enthusiasm of youth for socialism.” Despite many errors, these organizations set up mass sessions for the study of Marxism–popularizing the science of revolution. This was done at a time when many student radicals and activists of the Black liberation movement considered Marxism out of date, dogmatic or just for “honkies.” Such study brought to life the lessons paid for in the blood of the class struggle, including getting Mao Tsetung’s Red Book out to the masses in literally tens of thousands of copies. This is what the RCYB must aim for–and more.

Going along with taking Marxism to the broad masses is the training of the Brigade members in the science. The convention united around carrying on this theoretical struggle among the members off the great advances made during the Communist Consolidation Campaign.

Basic Tasks

This convention reflected a deeper grasp on the three tasks among the broad masses of youth that were laid out by Comrade Avakian, Chairman of the RCP Central Committee, in his speech to the founding convention of the RCYB last November: leading the masses of youth in the struggle against the attacks and abuses they face; fighting at the side of the working class under the leadership of the Party; and broadly and boldly propagating communism among the masses, especially youth.

Although emphasis has been placed in the recent period on the task of propagating Marxism, this is not the main task of the RCYB. The emphasis has been necessary because of the Mensheviks’ sabotage of ideological work generally, both in the Brigade and in the RCP, and to combat the spontaneous tendency to leave all around political work and study for “later,” while building the mass struggle today.

As the article in the January 1978 REVOLUTION said, “Here we stress ideological tasks because there has been confusion and not enough emphasis given to them in the recent period. Overall, of course, leading the mass struggle of youth is the RCYB’s main task.” This point was brought home strongly by the speaker from the Central Committee of the Revolutionary Communist Party.

The Brigade must, as this speech brought out, seek to promote revolutionary struggle among the masses. This is possible and necessary in this, a non-revolutionary period, exactly because imperialism can never provide a decent life for the masses. And particularly at this time, as the economic crisis of the capitalists deepens, things will not be quiet. We can expect more mass upsurges such as the miners’ struggle and the rebellion of the Chicano people in Huston on Cinco de Mayo.

How the science of Marxism-Leninism is used to turn the rage of the masses at its rightful target, the imperialists and their system, including its armed thugs, will determine whether the RCYB is able to make the big advances possible even in this period of relative “calm.”

The example of Houston is an especially good one in this regard, as the RCYB and other revolutionary forces helped build this battle as a revolutionary fight against the bourgeoisie, thereby strengthening the people’s forces and bringing forward more conscious fighters. For this three activists were rewarded with possible 20 year sentences by the Houston capitalists and many others were arrested during the rebellion.

Plans were made at the convention to continue this communist work around the country in defense of the Houston rebellion and particularly the Moody Park 3. In fact, the Brigade launched this work with a spirited march through Austin, chanting “Moody Park–It’s Right to Rebel, Imperialist System–Go to Hell!”

Enthusiasm and determination ran high as people left this convention–enthusiasm over the fact that the RCYB had persevered on the high road to revolution, refusing to be dragged into the Mensheviks’ swamp. Determination to stretch to the limits the advances that the proletariat can make in today’s situation to rouse the youth of America to fight for the bright future of socialism and communism.