Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Revolutionary Workers’ Headquarters

Red Papers 8: China Advances on the Socialist Road: The Gang of Four, Revolution in the US, and the Split in the Revolutionary Communist Party


This book, Red Papers 8, documents the recent split in the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. The break-up of what had been the largest and most influential Marxist-Leninist organization in this country reflects the general turmoil and new alignments among conscious revolutionaries, on a national and a world scale.

The split took place because Bob Avakian, the RCP’s chairman, and his followers were hell bent on adopting and implementing a thoroughly counterrevolutionary line in the RCP. Their point of attack was China. Avakian claims that the defeat of the Gang of Four, a band of would-be New Mandarins, was in fact a rightist coup which signaled the triumph of revisionism in China and its inevitable plunge down the capitalist road.

This is an anti-Marxist, subjectivist line which is in many ways a new version of an old perversion–Trotskyism. It does the bourgeoisie’s work of slandering socialist revolution –in this case from behind the banners of revolution and socialism and serves to sow demoralization and confusion among the masses as to the possibility of revolution anywhere.

This line on China was directly related to and served as a cover for an overall line on revolutionary work in the United States which amounted to sounding a scrambling retreat from the class struggle.

Rather than accept the sectification of the RCP and put down the red flag, a large portion of the leadership and rank and file of the RCP rose in rebellion. The documents in this book stem from the period in the first six weeks of 1978, when this rebellion was spreading inside the RCP. The center of the revolt, the Revolutionary Workers Headquarters, undertook to answer the RCP’s new Central Committee and its two documents.

The Papers Of The Split

This collection opens with a brief call entitled “Rush To Judgement.” Written by a veteran communist, this was an introduction to the RWHq papers when they were circulated wherever possible within the RCP.

The main body of this book deals with China. It begins with an overall criticism of the anti-Marxist method and approach Avakian displays in the Central Committee report attacking China. It continues with the RWHq’s’ position on the class struggle in China in recent years, entitled “Smashing The Gang Of Four Was A Great Victory For The Working Class And Socialism,” Then four short pieces criticizing key points of Avakian’s paper are reprinted. His spacey, metaphysical diatribe against working class rule in China appears in full at the end of the China section.

There are a number of appendices. The first contains documents by the Avakian Center and the New York district, which were written during the period of the rebellion. They are included because they reveal a great deal about the nature of the struggle and the Avakian clique’s perversion of democratic centralism.

The second appendix consists of some preliminary thoughts on the development of Avakian’s treacherous retreat into abstract “revolutionary purity” and its effect on the work and line of the RCP. This document was prepared in large part as a response to the brief ”rectification” bulletin from the current Central Committee, which is the final appendix, and to some lines they pushed and charges they raised during the inner-Party struggle.

The documents from the current RCP leadership are printed as they were distributed throughout the RCP. Both the China and US papers from the Revolutionary Workers Headquarters incorporate certain changes. The most important of these are the result of the deeper understanding of questions relating to both China and the US which has been developed in the course of study, discussion and struggle within the RWHq over the last few months. In particular, the original version included errors concerning the nature of class struggle under socialism. These were manifested in antagonistic characterizations of Teng Hsiao-ping, in effect negating the fact that he is a leading figure within the collective leadership of the Chinese Communist Party which is giving correct leadership to the continuing revolution there.

Some sections were omitted or rewritten because they commented on points which were appropriate for internal discussion within a Marxist-Leninist organization but not for public distribution. Likewise the internal character of the US section required reworking so that readers who had not had close contact with the RCP could follow it. Finally, some points were changed because they were factually inaccurate or called into question by new information.

The publication of Red Papers 8 is a big broadside in what must be an extended battle to hold up, expose and drive the RCP’s reactionary line on China and on everything else the hell out of the Marxist-Leninist movement. And it should not be forgotten that there are others who openly or covertly advocate the same line. This is not a task of the RWHq alone. The negative example of the RCP holds many lessons for all revolutionaries. This book should hopefully be of value to people trying to become clear on the question of China, to people fighting to defend it against slander and attack, and, most importantly, to people trying to make socialist revolution in the USA.

The documents reprinted in this Red Papers form the basic positions in the current two line struggle. While they are important in themselves, ,they cannot be separated from the general process of development of the American revolutionary movement. In the rest of this introduction we will sketch out the historical context in which this split and the formation of the Revolutionary Workers Headquarters has occurred.

At the heart of the split is the question of making proletarian revolution in the United States and the nature of the present stage in the revolutionary struggle. The last ten years have been characterized by the birth of a new communist movement which is still in its infancy, by the stirrings of the too long dormant workers movement and by the fact that as yet only tenuous and shallow links exist between these two movements. For communists it is not enough to strengthen the communist forces or build the workers movement. The ways of fusing the two while building them both must be developed and deepened through practice.

There is no by-the-numbers formula which will guarantee success in making revolution. The basic approach which must be applied is well summed up in a passage in “Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party,” Can appendix to Mao’s article “Our Study and the Current Situation”): “The Communist Party of China, ever since its birth in 1921 has made the integration of the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete practice of the Chinese revolution the guiding principle in all its work.” Only this approach enables communists to unite with and lead the struggles of the masses of people, who are the makers of history–and revolution.

This general principle, summed up through long years of revolutionary practice, serves as a guiding light in resolving the major contradictions that Marxist-Leninist revolutionaries face in the US at this time. (The separation of the workers and communist movements and the lack of a single multi-national Communist Party are two of the main contradictions that define the present period and our tasks.)

Holding firm to the principle of the application of the science of Marxism-Leninism to our concrete situation will not make these contradictions go away, but will ensure that the correct line and tactics will be developed to resolve these contradictions consistent with the interests of the working class and its struggle.

To deal with fusion, ideological struggle and political line are needed to break down the separation between the two movements, taking full account of the objective situation and what can be done at any one time. In spite of slow general progress in this situation and correct lines worked out on many issues, the setback in the RCP shows major obstacles remain around these contradictions.

In the relatively short history of the “new communist movement” in the US these major contradictions have wrecked havoc with attempts to develop a correct political line. While right deviations have arisen, as segments of right-left flips, and some groups have gone right and stayed right (like the Panthers) the main deviation in the present period has been “left.”

This has been the case of the RCP, which represents nothing but the latest round of what happened in the polemic over struggle and consciousness with the Black Workers Congress and the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization and over the flurry of party building attempts in the middle 70’s. In all of these instances developing political line to break down the separation of the two movements has been sidetracked in the name of the struggle against all forms of “rightism.” This is nothing more than the failure to get your hands dirty in the class struggle that presently exists and break through–all in the name of up in the sky revolutionary purity which elevates the science of Marxism-Leninism above the needs of the class struggle and in fact negates both. It is a metaphysical, dogmatic line that pits struggle against consciousness, ideology against politics (like on the ideology of nationalism) and theory against practice.

The degeneration of the RCP, which in the past championed the struggle against many of these tendencies, represents nothing but the newest form of this madness. But the entire revolutionary movement has much to gain in understanding and exposing this metaphysical dogmatist trend and in the process moving forward on the revolutionary path.

The Roots and Orientation of the Revolutionary Union

The Revolutionary Union (RU), the predecessor organization of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, was born directly out of the mass struggles of the 1960’s. The Black liberation movement, the struggles of other oppressed nationalities, the anti-war movement and the general upsurge of rebellion among students and youth, the women’s movement–these and others raised in varying degrees the questions of revolution in the United States.

Activists in all the social movements of the Sixties came to see that they were up against more than a particular abuse or outrage, in fact an entire system. In the course of summing up their practical experience in struggle, people developed or adopted all sorts of ideological and political lines to try and understand the nature of that system, sort out friends and enemies, and discover the ways to overthrow it and plan what was to replace it.

It was inevitable that many of these lines would directly reflect the level and the character of the struggle at that time. The “New Left” and the Black liberation movement, even when they successfully recognized the enemy as the capitalist system, tended to a more immediate perceptual analysis of the forces lined up against it. The struggles of the oppressed nationalities were widely viewed as the decisive ones which would bring the monster down. Similarly, there was a line that there would be no revolution in the US but the system would crumble under blows struck by national liberation movements elsewhere.

The relatively high standard of living and low level of political activity in the US working class led even many who saw society as divided into classes astray. They failed to see the proletariat’s crucial role in society, how completely its real interests were opposed to those of the capitalist class, and the first stirrings of a revived workers movement. Instead, they proposed views which proclaimed the “lumpen-proletariat” as the revolutionary vanguard or the “new working class” theory which proclaimed almost everyone to be a worker and professionals and intellectuals as the most important of them. The working class itself was often written off as objectively counterrevolutionary!

Without an understanding of the central role of the working class in the revolutionary process, the view of the future could not help but be blurred as well. This accounted for the popularity of Utopian lines like separatism, anarchism and social democracy, in the form of schemes to reform the system out of existence. One of the strains common to all of these trends was a hatred and fear of the disciplined Leninist Party, reflecting the organization and discipline of the working class, and an essential tool in its struggle. This objection was the sharpest manifestation of a more general opposition to Lenin’s theories reflecting the position of the working class in the imperialist era. This included opposition to his theories of imperialism; of revolutionary strategy and tactics as embodied in the October revolution; his theories on building a movement of the working class with both the deepest connections and revolutionary consciousness; of the necessity of the struggle against opportunism on all fronts; the state and other questions.

All these trends, which represented efforts of the rebellious petty bourgeoisie to formulate a road ahead, flourished in no small part thanks to the revisionist Communist Party (CPUSA). This outfit gutted the revolutionary content from Marxism, attempted to tie every struggle of the people to the capitalist system, and covered for the crimes of the USSR. The CPUSA was so obviously non-revolutionary, bureaucratic, and slavish toward Moscow that it served to discredit Marxism-Leninism, democratic centralism and even proletarian internationalism in people’s eyes.

Nevertheless many in the student and national movements did turn to communism. One factor was the example of the Vietnamese, who were using Marxism-Leninism to wage a national liberation struggle and were defeating the seemingly invincible US. Even more important was China, which was truly a great beacon of world revolution. The Chinese Communist Party had given new life and meaning to communism in the polemics it aimed at the New Tsars whose revisionist line had won out in the Soviet Union and who showed their true colors in the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. The greatest inspiration of all was the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, waged by the Chinese people to keep their country from following the USSR down the road to capitalist restoration.

A Revolutionary and Proletarian Orientation

Among the forces who turned toward communism at the end of the Sixties, the Revolutionary Union was characterized by two genuine and closely linked advances. It grasped the banner of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Tsetung Thought, forged in struggle against modern revisionism and representing the further development of Marxism-Leninism and the onward march of the international working class toward socialism. The RU studied it, upheld it proudly and propagated it as the science of making revolution. The other important step the RU took was to adopt the stand of going boldly into all the struggles of the American people and uniting with them.

Adhering to and applying Marxism-Leninism enabled the RU to see the role and potential of the working class in the struggle, to grasp its multinational character, and to go into the proletariat as the main focus of its work. Taking this orientation marked one of the earliest conscious steps in fusing the communist movement with the workers movement, at a time when both were relatively far weaker than they are today.

Upholding and applying Marxism-Leninism and entering into the struggles of the working class and masses and carrying out the mass line in their struggles continued to be characteristics of the RU. This orientation enabled the organization to keep its bearings and make advances in a historical period of great change.

From the beginning the RU hammered out its line in the furnace of day-to-day struggle, and by fighting incorrect lines (both historically progressive lines like petty bourgeois rebellion and revolutionary nationalism, and counter-revolutionary ones like the revisionism of the CPUSA).

The RU also had to polemicize against another enemy. Among the forces turning to or claiming to be adherents of Marxism-Leninism, many fell into dogmatic deviations.

Although the mass upsurge of the 1960’s had spurred such forces to look to Marxism-Leninism, in doing so they displayed an infantile approach by turning their backs on the mass struggle in the name of revolutionary principle and purity. Dogmatism and sectarianism go hand in hand, and their most serious crime was to erect new barriers between the socialist movement and the working class movement, not to mention the struggle among other sections of the people. As Mao Tsetung pointed out, “Who are our friends? Who are our enemies? This is a question of the first importance.”

For instance, the Progressive Labor Party (PL) was a group which found the Black Liberation struggle to be dominated by nationalism. Since nationalism was not “pure,” not Marxism-Leninism, it was therefore reactionary, they argued, and the movement itself could not be supported! To this swill the RCP counterposed the materialist analysis that the situation of Black people in the US has two key aspects. Their struggle is a national struggle for freedom from oppression and discrimination. But Black people also are overwhelmingly part of the single, multinational US working class and this provides the strongest basis for uniting the struggle of Black people with the revolutionary workers movement.

There were also groups and individuals which denied the need for the working class to ally itself with any other forces. Since the working class is the only thoroughly revolutionary class and, in the US, the largest one numerically, there was no need, they reasoned, for it to try and achieve such unity. The RU, in contrast, upheld as the strategy for revolution in the US the United Front Against Imperialism–a realignment of different classes, strata and sections of the people around the proletariat to the greatest extent possible at any given time. Not only was this an elementary rule of Marxism-Leninism, but the actual experience of the 1960’s demonstrated irrefutably that there were all sorts of social forces with interests fundamentally opposed to those of the ruling class and with a willingness to fight the high and mighty.

The dogmatists even wrote off the struggle of the working class itself. Since it was, at that time, mainly over wages, working conditions, discrimination and the like, rather than big revolutionary political questions, and at a relatively low level to boot, they said there was nothing to be gained by uniting with it. Such dogmatists cherished their purity the more because it was all they had. They functioned as small study and propaganda sects. They counterposed theory and consciousness to practice and the class struggle itself and, in essence, denied the dialectical relationship between the two. They trumpeted the importance of consciousness yet did not grasp that it was born and transformed precisely in the course of struggle.

Among Marxist-Leninist forces these “left” errors were so strong in part because of the objective situation. Part of coming to Marxism-Leninism had been the realization that despite their revolutionary thrust, the anti-imperialist student movement and the Black liberation struggle alone were not going to topple imperialism and build socialism. But the weakness of the working class movement tended not to encourage the development of full-blown rightist or tailist lines. For those who quailed at the difficulties of fusion, a retreat into dogmatism and sectarianism was a more natural course of action, or rather, inaction. This was also true because the lines between the masses and the bourgeoisie were sharply drawn in this period; mostly big stick and little carrot, few phoney progressives and lots of Nixon. At the same time rightism and reformism was a major problem in some groups and an influence on everyone, particularly on the shop floor.

Although the situation has changed sharply since the late ’60’s, the repeated recurrence of “left” dogmatist and sectarian errors attests to the importance of maintaining a firm orientation toward the actual struggle of the working class and masses. (A stronger basis for right errors, “uniting” with the workers movement by tailing behind, was to develop in the next period, the early 1970’s.)

Deep Into the Working Class

The RU had to fight these erroneous tendencies not only in the general revolutionary movement, but within its own ranks. A long battle took place in 1970-71, which helped consolidate the RU’s orientation, line and practice. A section of the organization’s leadership was unable to break with the movement of the 1960’s. They put out the line that the main revolutionary force in the US was the oppressed nationalities. And this was at a time when that movement was perceptibly entering a period of ebb.

Although giving lip service to the importance of the working class, they proposed a strategy for the US revolution which contained no place for the workers movement. In fact, this “strategy,” protracted urban guerilla warfare, reflected nothing but petty bourgeois romanticism and impatience. The defeat of this line and the departure of its advocates accelerated the RU’s movement into the working class.

Cadre in the organization grasped and set out to implement the policy of integrating ’ with the struggles of the masses, and particularly the workers, on a revolutionary basis. This meant uniting with and building the actual day-to-day struggles people face, aiming them more sharply at the bourgeoisie and in doing so “bring light to them”–presenting a revolutionary class analysis of what they are about.

This period saw a whole new wave of people turning to Marxism-Leninism and the formation of numerous independent collectives. Many had turned to communism from summing up the high tide of mass struggle, in which they had just taken part. In particular, a great many new communists came out of the movements of the oppressed nationalities, including Pan-Africanism and other forms of cultural nationalism centered on campus, insurgent workers caucuses, and openly revolutionary youth and lumpen-based groups.

Conditions were favorable for the RU and other revolutionaries to begin to sink roots in the working class. Although the student, anti-war and Black movements were beginning to recede by the early 1970’s, the effect of the social movements of the ’60’s were penetrating deeper into the working class. More and more union locals took official stands against the war. The use of the Ohio National Guard on striking truckers and Kent State students in the same month was an eye-opener. The spirit of “It’s right to rebel” was percolating among working people and a radicalized layer developed among younger Black and white youths who worked but identified with the youth culture. An even larger number of workers were beginning to change some of their basic ideas on the ability of the system to deliver, of the unions as battlers for a better standard of living. A few veteran fighters came forward to take the science of Marxism as their guide and joined communist organizations.

This coincided with the developing economic instability of the capitalist system, which prompted the heaviest attacks on the living standards of working people over a decade, most sharply indicated by Nixon’s wage freeze. The wage freeze and the Phase II package that went with it indicated the end of the post-World War 2 “boom” and the return to a more crisis laden and openly declining period–that of the post-Vietnam era. The class struggle began to heat up: insurgency in the miners union, the farmworkers organizing drive, a six month strike in auto, post office workers wildcatting against a sell-out national contract, caucuses forming in many unions, often around issues like discrimination or sellout union leadership.

The growing motion in the working class had two important effects. One was that it encouraged a bold, active outlook on the part of organizers and made possible certain successes in carrying out revolutionary work among the masses. RU members learned a great deal in building shop floor battles and some broader campaigns among the whole working class, like the Farah strike support movement.

In the course of such struggles, the RU worked to unite with and to build the overall struggle and consciousness of the class. Caucuses and other organizations of advanced workers were formed, some of which exist to this day. RU led local newspapers with a working class line developed a regular following in more than two dozen cities. May Day was revived as a working class holiday.

Many workers looked with respect and pride on the communist fighters who worked alongside them. Some came to work closely with the RU, took part in study groups under its leadership and were themselves won to communism.

Nor were the RU’s efforts confined to the employed working class and the struggle on the job. The Unemployed Workers Organizing Committee took on the task of giving a voice and leadership at a time of record joblessness. The Revolutionary Student Brigade became a national organization, a major headache to college administrations and government officials and a source of hundreds of dedicated new revolutionary fighters. The RU contributed to the formation of the US-China People’s Friendship Association and did work among various sections of professionals.

It was very active in building struggle against U.S. imperialism’s aggression abroad, especially in Indochina, building large coalitions of communist, revolutionary, workers, student, national and community organizations in some instances. The RU exposed the fraud of the bourgeoisie’s elections, and actively united with other forces outraged by Watergate to deepen the bourgeoisie’s political crisis and demonstrate what lay behind it.

The RU was also very active on the theoretical front. It’s major contributions came from the summation of concrete practice as well as investigation and study–the need for fighting workers organizations intermediate between the trade unions and the Party, the particular character of the Black nation as one which has been dispersed from its national territory and is made up largely of proletarians, the social-imperialist nature of the Soviet Union.

Some of the dogmatists of the late sixties, having won few adherents to their propaganda line and seeing from the work of groups like the RU that developing ties in the working class wasn’t impossible, executed a flip-flop. They went into the mass struggle, but without the revolutionary orientation that characterized the RU. Instead, looking for short cuts to recruits and influence they tied themselves uncritically to the apron strings of bourgeois reformists, whether to would-be trade union officials like Arnold Miller and Ed Sadlowski or to self-styled leaders of the national movements like Hosea Williams of the SCLC. (Disappointed at the minimal results of their wooing, these forces would later turn on their one-time heroes and make the reformers the target of their “main blow.”) The other effect of the motion in the workers movement mentioned above was a tendency among communist forces toward idealism about the situation and the course things would follow. This is hardly surprising. The new communists had had little direct experience except that in the big upsurge of the 1960’s which had developed very rapidly among volatile social groupings like students. They had little indirect experience because the collapse of the CPUSA into revisionism in the Fifties had ripped away much of the theoretical heritage, forcing Marxist-Leninists to start from scratch.

The economic crisis was seen as developing not in fits and starts in a downward spiral, but plunging lower at an accelerating pace. The glimmerings of class consciousness were seen as presaging the rapid smashing of the bourgeois illusions of the workers on the anvil of crisis. In short, the road to revolution was going to be smooth, straight and fast. Practice soon tempered such enthusiasm among most people.

However, in the absence of a scientific analysis of the particular situation and of what was and was not possible, incorrect evaluations continued to be a problem. In the RU a tendency to underestimate the difficulties continued to be the primary tendency. Among other forces the difficulties loomed large, and so did the tendency to withdraw from the struggle into dogmatism.

This last trend coincided with and had a great deal of influence in the period of Party building which the Marxist-Leninist forces entered in the mid-Seventies. The need for a disciplined vanguard Party of the working class has been a fundamental principle of scientific socialism since Lenin’s time. The proletariat needs a single, centralized general staff made up of its best fighters, with deep roots in the class. Such an advanced detachment can sum up the situation through its channels and deploy the forces at its command to best create favorable new conditions through struggle.

The burst of Party building activity in the mid-Seventies stemmed not just from this general principle but the objective situation in the communist movement. A number of Marxist-Leninist organizations now existed on a national level. They had sunk some roots in the working class and summed up some line on major questions facing the movement. This provided a basis and a need for moving ahead, to consolidate the gains that had been won. It also provided a basis for different groups to struggle and unite with one another.

But while there was a desire for unity, there was a stronger countervailing trend of organizational chauvinism and small mountain mentality. In many ways this was a disease reflecting the infancy of the movement. People did not know how to unite. Because the application of Marxism to the US wasn’t worked out deeply and proven over years of practice each group held tightly to its own ideas and experience, sometimes out of a desire to hold on to principle, but more often out of narrowness and localism. This often drew lines between Marxism and opportunism incorrectly, viewing disagreements as questions of revolution versus counterrevolution.

There was also another and less excusable disease in operation–careerism and opportunism. The leaders of some organizations were more concerned about who would be on the central committee of a merged organization than what its line would be. Particularly noteworthy was the behavior of those who had followed a rightist course earlier. Having gone into the workers movement on a non-revolutionary basis to beef their numbers and give the impression of deep ties with the masses, they shifted left again with their Party building calls. The shift was to a mild dogmatism, a contentless Marxist orthodoxy, designed to establish theoretical credentials and unite individuals without having to struggle over line with other organizations.

Within the Party building motion there was a strong tendency to make it a justification for retreating from the class struggle. Dogmatically seizing on the actual need for a Party, this line insisted that nothing could be done until one was built. Its advocates also put forward that the principle aspect in forming the Party was the study of theory, and in particular, of Lenin, old Comintern documents, etc. on Party building. All this in effect presented the view that while it was tough or impossible–some even argued that it was incorrect–to do work among the masses at that time, the formation of the Party would transform everything and then it would be smooth sailing.

Among the forces who retreated into dogmatic Party building schemes were some of the Marxist-Leninists who had come forward out of the national movements in the previous period. Organizations like the Black Workers Congress had made their way to Marxism-Leninism from revolutionary nationalism with great difficulty and many fierce line struggles and splits. By the time they did, the national movements that had thrust them forward were at low ebb and they were daunted by their isolation and the big tasks that faced them.

Before these forces settled into a purist dogmatism, they broke the close ties they had developed with the RU in a final burst of intense nationalism. The struggle against this Bundism (a deviation which upholds separate communist organizations for different nationalities within the working class, in this case upholding nationalism as Marxism) helped the RU further clarify its line on the national question in the United States and its relation to the class struggle. At the same time, it fed a tendency toward e one-sidedness in the RU’s attitude to the national question and a tendency to negate the importance of the struggles of the oppressed nationalities.

The struggle against Bundism also helped the RU understand more clearly the correct approach toward Party building. It could not be a retreat from the class struggle, but a way to advance in it. The RU carried on polemics with a number of groups who contended that until a Party was formed and consolidated the central task of all communists was to build it.

When the RU did in fact make its central task the building of the Party for a period of over a year, it was able to do so precisely because of the experience it had acquired carrying out revolutionary work in the class struggle. This experience provided the basis for the most important part of forming the Party–the development of a Programme which could serve as a strategic and tactical guide to making revolution in the US. To do this the Programme had to make a class analysis of American society, point to the goal of the struggle, show who the working class could ally with and lay out the methods and forms of building the unity, consciousness and organization of the class in the course of struggle, and so on.

Such a document could be developed only on the basis of revolutionary practice. At the same time the development of the RCP’s Programme marked a qualitative leap. The practice was summed up and synthesized, by applying Marxism-Leninism, Mao Tsetung Thought, into an overall guiding line. This process was the heart of Party building and was one of the reasons that literally hundreds of workers around the RU at the time became actively involved in discussing the questions of building the Party and the revolutionary workers movement.

The formation of the Revolutionary Communist Party was a big leap forward for other reasons than the Programme. By uniting all the cadre on a higher level, around an overall plan of battle, by breaking down federationism, allocating forces scientifically, and bringing forward new people tested in the actual struggle into leadership, it became an organization better able to serve the class struggle than the old RU.

In the course of this important leap forward, however, some of the same retrograde trends the RU had criticized in other groups surfaced within its own ranks. Many members of the newly formed Party tended to view it as a talisman that would magically remove all the obstacles, recognized and still serious, that lay in the path ahead. But rather than countering this natural tendency toward over-optimism, the RCP Center encouraged it and thus set people up for inevitable demoralization.

This approach also bred sectarianism: “We are THE PARTY.” This resulted in an arrogant approach to other conscious revolutionary forces and, even more damaging, toward the masses.

The same process was at work in the rest of the Marxist-Leninist movement. Little of the “unity” spoken about in the Party building period proved achievable. Instead, the US now boasts at least a half dozen Marxist-Leninist “Parties,” “Parties-in-waiting,” “pre-Parties,” etc. The process of Party building did not resolve or break down the different tendencies in the Marxist-Leninist movement, but rather consolidated them. This helped set the stage for the present situation where Marxist-Leninist forces are once again in turmoil and realignment, once again taking a look at the big tasks which present themselves, and once again talking about Party building.

The Development Of The RCP

The foundation of the RCP in 1975 represented a big leap for the revolutionary struggle. In the struggle over the Programme, which was adopted at the Founding Congress in 1975, the work of the RU and to a small degree other forces was consolidated into a correct line at a higher level than before. In this process the correct orientation of the RU to the struggle of the working class, to theory and to the task of Party building itself, all paid off. In particular, the Founding Congress represented a victory over a dogmatist line in the RU, a victory which was reflected in its Main Political Report and its first CC report.

But with its founding, the RCP’s correct orientation, the political advance the Programme represented,- and the initial overcoming of some federationism in organization all had to be further translated into line and policy. The conditions demanded it and the tasks set at the Founding Congress demanded it. Motion on these questions had begun at the Congress, the new Center now faced the task of implementing and deepening the line–and further consolidating the leap of the formation of the Party.

Avakian and his present bunch never really made the leap, they had difficulty in understanding the nature of the tasks of a period of relative ebb (compared to the Sixties) and faltered in the face of new tasks and new contradictions. They failed to translate the correct orientation of the RU toward the working class, which was positive in the struggle against the “new lefters,” into political line to go from building the Party to being the Party.

The tasks demanded to truly move the RCP forward as a revolutionary party among the masses did nothing more than repel Avakian to his petty bourgeois soul–they were too mundane and too demanding. It was one thing to state that the major battles of the working class at this time are concentrated around lowered living standards, deteriorating working conditions, contract battles, etc. It’s another thing to lead a revolutionary party to unite with and lead the battles of the workers against mere attacks which mainly come down shop by shop–and lead them in a revolutionary direction. It’s one thing to state that the struggle for liberation among minorities has ebbed and for the present time has ceased to be a powerful social force against capital. It’s another thing to concentrate forces of the Party in the very battles of minorities at this time and develop their struggle against national oppression and for liberation–building up as best we can this part of the United Front Against Imperialism.

Avakian was repelled by these tasks because they demanded going deeply into the particularity of contradiction. The low level of social movement among the masses consciously against the bourgeoisie and the fragile ties of communists with the masses meant that a party could not just give general sweeping calls–or struggle to simply politically steer a movement already in progress. Instead it meant that communists must go deeply into the particular battles of the workers and oppressed people–whether in the shops or the communities–pay attention to develop line that will promote those struggles and lead them to hammer at the bourgeoisie.

Avakian found himself incapable and unwilling to take on this task. It was too difficult, too boring and lacked the glory which he deems himself worthy. Within months after the Party’s formation and the Party starting to take up the task of leading the struggle of the people off the contradictions they actually faced–Avakian suffered an emotional collapse. The pressure catapulted this self-proclaimed “high roader” into emotional disorder and psychiatric care for several months, during which extensive struggle was required, for example, to get him to leave his house, even for a walk.

Avakian’s breakdown effectively crippled the whole Party Center. This meant that there was only minimal national guidance to the RCP’s work at the time it most needed it to insure that the qualitative leap forward that the formation of the RCP represented was tested in practice and consolidated.

When Avakian finally did begin to emerge from his collapse in mid-1976 it was not on the basis of recognizing the period and its tasks but with the summation that he had freaked out because of the “rightism” which had dominated the RCP since the Congress.

Avakian came back from his depression filled with the seeds of a Trotskyite interventionist line. The objective struggle of the working class demanded that communists go deeply into the particular battles of the people. Avakian would have none of it. He started to promote his determinist line that there was to be little struggle among the masses in this period and not much could be gained by communists standing among the people and leading them forward. His call was for communists to mainly prepare for the great battles that would come some day in the future.

This meant a retreat from the present struggles of workers and oppressed people to mainly the promotion of general truths and controversial ideas among the masses. Someday, he argued, all the people would agree with them–after the objective conditions of struggle in the US had changed (through major crisis, war, etc.)–and people would see the RCP had been telling the truth all along.

An increasing interventionist approach was promoted where the immediate struggles of the people were sneered at in the name of communist propaganda around the “final goal.” This was the “political,” “thrilling” “high road” that Avakian longed for. Where the orientation once was to promote the struggle, it increasingly became to oppose struggle with “revolutionary ideas.” The retreat was on and the separation of the socialist movement from the working class movement was now being promoted rather than broken down.

But Avakian’s line was not yet the line of the RCP. Despite the malignant neglect which left them without any guidance, the cadre, who were dedicated to making revolution, struggled to apply the Programme in the battles of the workers and masses of people and to apply the mass line. Their successes were not summed up and popularized. When RCP leaders who did not quail at the immense and painstaking responsibilities of communists in this period built a particular struggle or when an area of work or district were making breakthroughs, Avakian resented it. “Everything has two aspects. Advances can turn into their opposites.” Such platitudes were used to justify the failure to propagate any of these advanced experiences or even to investigate them. Revolution, the organ of the RCP’s Central Committee (headed by Avakian’s main sidekick) was full of lefty concepts but virtually nothing that showed how to build revolutionary struggle in this period.

Naturally, with no guidance coming from the Center, rightist tendencies developed in many places because people weren’t sure what it meant to do revolutionary work. Those who followed Avakian’s line seized on these symptoms of his sabotage. The cadre’s rightism was the main problem in the RCP’s work, they pontificated, and it had to be cured by a heavy dose of tense consciousness. And, as it had in the past, this kind of dogmatism appealed to some honest communists confused by the difficulties they faced.

In the process of developing this line of retreat in the. name of revolution, and trying to impose it on the RCP, Avakian and his followers found themselves a set of ideological mentors–the Gang of Four in China. Like them, Avakian and his followers adopted a “left” idealist position, which pitted the pure abstraction, “revolution,” against the actual tasks of advancing the class struggle at any time. Their contempt for objective conditions and the views of the masses, their insistence that they and they alone were the repository of revolutionary ideas and that those ideas were the real world-changing force fit right in with Avakian’s thinking. In both cases, the “left” idealist line served to cover an inability to change and deal with the nitty-gritty contradictions history had placed on the agenda–a total lack of interest in practicing the mass line and building the actual struggle as it presently exists.

Avakian’s admiration for the Gang and their metaphysics was so great that when they fell, it marked an important step in the development of the struggle in the RCP. Avakian chose to become their main defender and, since there would be no further development of their line, accepted it as it stood–a now-consolidated counterrevolutionary approach. Avakian now took up the study of Gang of Four Thought. It was during this period that his increasingly strong interventionist’ line on leading struggle leaped to a full-blown counterrevolutionary world view. And it is here that he started his step by step offensive within the Party on its student and youth work; the trade union work; and its overall functioning as a Party. Once again in the short history of the new Marxist-Leninist movement the difficulties of revolutionary work and fusion had driven significant forces into “left” idealism, and off the stage of history.

In fact, mere support for the Gang was only the beginning of the problem. Avakian’s subjectivism grew so great, his identification with the Gang gripped him so intensely, that it became a material force. He and his close cohorts viewed everything through Gang-colored glasses, drawing constant analogies between events and personalities in the Chinese Communist Party and the RCP. This supporter was “appointed” Yao Wen-yuan, that opponent cursed as Hua Kuo-feng. His wife was put in charge of the Party’s cultural work. At times it became difficult to tell whether a conversation was really about China or the US.

Around the time of the Gang’s fall, Avakian’s attempts to steer the RCP away from its revolutionary orientation was beginning to trigger resistance, even though most of it was relatively unconscious. Fearful of sharing the fate of his opposite numbers in the People’s Republic, he decided to do them one better and levy a preemptive strike against RCP leaders who didn’t line up behind him.

Furthermore, the question of the Gang of Four became the club with which Avakian decided to impose his line and consolidate his grip on the RCP. He picked China as his battlefield for a number of reasons. Line differences on how to conduct the struggle in the US had not yet reached a stage where they could readily be painted as irreconcileably antagonistic. China was different. On a question of the magnitude of whether or not revisionism was dismantling the Chinese revolution, Avakian could readily declare his opponents to be on the other side of the line between revolution and counterrevolution, in the camp of the enemy. Also, a debate over China would be much easier to keep on the lofty theoretical and ideological level where Avakian preferred to operate, without the intrusion of the depressing reality of practice.

Because the questions raised by the fall of the Gang of Four and the subsequent summation of their role by the Chinese Party were of the gravest importance, most members of the RCP were concerned, eager to investigate and reluctant to make snap judgments. Avakian operated in this situation to buy time while he set up for the kill and to create public opinion for the Gang in the meanwhile.

In the year following the Gang’s fall, the RCP Center released three internal bulletins on China for discussion. Neither the second nor the third summed up anything from the preceeding bulletins or bore any relation to them. From the beginning they cautioned cadres against “drawing conclusions” on the class struggle in China. The third bulletin, which came out in the late fall of 1977 blatantly stacked the deck on the Gang’s behalf. Still cautioning against the drawing of conclusions and explicitly stating that the Gang and their line were not to be discussed, his bulletin ran out their positions on bourgeois right and the bourgeoisie in the Party, almost word for word, as the yardstick to use in judging the current Chinese leadership.

During this last year before the split, 1977, serious degeneration set in throughout many aspects of the RCP’s work and functioning. Battle lines were more sharply drawn as the Gang supporters brought their general line out more overtly. For instance, Avakian and his cohorts waged a bitter and partially victorious fight to reduce the RCP’s student group, the Revolutionary Student Brigade, an organization which had built many successful campus battles and was growing rapidly among students of all nationalities, to a doctrinaire sect which would exist to harangue other students about communism.

The stakes in the developing two line struggle came out very clearly at the conference to build a national workers organization which was held in Chicago, Illinois on Labor Day weekend, 1977. This was the last major campaign the RCP took part in before the split. From the start, it was handicapped by a metaphysical approach of uniting workers around good ideas rather than real struggles. The RCP leader responsible for the campaign, Bob Avakian, himself, gave no particular guidance about developing it to cadre engaged in the work.

Despite the difficulties, the conference drew over 1500 workers. This was because the RCP cadres working in the shops’ had gone among the masses and been able to develop good ties. It showed that the decay in the RCP’s orientation had not rotted their outlook toward the workers, yet. It also showed the determination of increasing numbers of workers to build the unity and organization of their class and figure out the best ways to take on the rich and powerful. In short it underlined the need for and possibilities of fusion.

The Split

Even as the third bulletin on China was being distributed through the channels of the RCP, Avakian was putting the final touches on his lengthy paean to the Gang. He was now ready to launch his attack at a Central Committee meeting. The agenda was limited to China, lest any of the underlying questions about strategy for the US revolution interfere with his preemptive strike. For instance he spent the weeks before the meeting factionalizing extensively, ensuring the loyalty and preparation for debate of his followers.

Despite all of Avakian1s efforts, he had a great deal of trouble getting this line through at the CC meeting. Many Central Committee members had seen the attack on China for the anti-socialist, counterrevolutionary trash that it was and a few had been able to do some serious study and research which enabled them to take Avakian on, point by point. Nevertheless, after a bitter struggle of several days duration, Avakian’s clique succeeded in winning the vote and forcing the adoption of the anti-China position as the line of the RCP.

Quickly following up on his advantage, Avakian announced a “new contribution” to Marxist-Leninist theory–the discovery that the bourgeoisie exists in the Communist Party before the seizure of state power. Proceeding to apply this theory, he said he had discovered a bourgeois headquarters in the RCP, comprised, unsurprisingly, of the leading members who had opposed his line on China. The last days of the CC meeting consisted of a massive purge of this “bourgeois headquarters” from their positions and responsibilities.

Despite the adoption of the incorrect line and the factional purge, the leaders who opposed Avakian did not leave the Party immediately, but decided to stay and fight. They were not alone in wanting to fight. When Avakian’s magnum opus was released in slightly edited form (the version which appears here) in early January, 1978, and word of the purge spread, many cadre were outraged. They were not about to let an organization which had done so much to serve the interests of working class revolution be turned into a Trotskyite sect without resistance.

Large sections of the RCP rose in rebellion, refusing to accept the China line, the leadership changes or the bureaucratic centralism with which they were being imposed. A Revolutionary Workers Headquarters of the RCP was formed and issued a call to rebel, followed by papers on China, Avakian’s paper and the question of the US, which were distributed to RCP members wherever possible.

The first move by the Avakian clique was to attempt to crush the rebellion by bureaucratic methods. He and his henchmen visited cities around the country, appealing to loyalty to the RCP and waving democratic centralism like a club. They refused to discuss China, the purge or any other issues until the rebellion was stopped, that is, until their line was accepted.’

Not only did the rebellion remain undaunted by this, it continued to spread. Seeing that their line was incapable of holding the adherence of more and more rank and file RCP members, Avakian’s CC moved to cut their losses. All rebelling areas were summarily suspended from the RCP and new leadership appointed. To remain in the RCP, members were told they would have to “reenlist” with these new leaders and pledge loyalty to the Avakian clique.

When this “re-up” campaign was rebuffed completely, the RCP leaders stepped up their wrecking activities. First, they split the RCP’s student and youth organization. Then they turned their attention to the national mass organizations in which the RCP had significant influence. One example should serve for all, the National United Workers Organization, founded at a convention of 1500 workers in Chicago in early September, 1977.

Avakian’s crew rushed to seize what they could, and the rest be damned. As two of the four members of the NUWO national leadership were members of the Revolutionary Workers Headquarters, they were charged with a series of “crimes” which ranged from the ridiculous to the absurd–drinking beer in a meeting, opposing the miners’ strike, etc. No mention was made of the split in the RCP, the real reason for the attack. One of Avakian’s underlings announced that a phone vote of the steering committee of the NUWO had been late (although many steering committee members were never contacted) and the two had been deposed.

When many NUWO chapters refused to recognize this farce, they were declared expelled from the organization. This created a situation where two groups with the name National United Workers Organization now exist. Avakian’s antics display utter contempt for the organizational integrity, the democratic principles and the very existence of these mass groups. He made a clear choice–better to reduce real mass organizations to a hollow shell than risk exposing the cadre still under his control to the virus of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Tsetung Thought.

With the split in the RCP an accomplished fact, the acting leadership of the Revolutionary Workers Headquarters proposed that it was no longer correct to define the RWHq in terms of (or orient it around) the RCP. Discussion among the rank and file supported this and the Revolutionary Workers Headquarters, consisting of over 40% of the old RCP’s membership, concentrated in the Midwest and on the East Coast, became an independent communist organization.

The Revolutionary Workers Headquarters

As a new organization, born under very particular circumstances, the RWHq is faced with a number of important tasks. The publication of this Red Papers is the first blow around one of them: exposing, criticizing and driving out of the Marxist-Leninist movement the traitorous anti-China line of the RCP (which has other advocates, both open and covert, among those who call themselves Communists). This is not just a task for the Headquarters, but for all those who support socialist China. The RWHq hopes to continue to contribute to this, using such forms as discussions, forums and the publication of a pamphlet series on the recent two line struggle in China focusing on specific topics like military line, the Gang’s “force theory,” foreign trade, etc. In addition, if the RCP ever gets the guts to drop its fraudulent “support” of China and put out and defend its line in public, the RWHq challenges them to public debate.

At the same time, the Revolutionary Workers Headquarters is trying to criticize and root out the subjectivism, sectarianism and metaphysics which were increasingly problems in the RCP and since the split have become its hallmarks. This is part of a rectification campaign designed to cut away the ideological problems which fertilized Avakian’s line and to firmly establish genuine democratic centralism– the chain of knowledge and command by which a Communist Party grasps and changes the world.

This rectification will better enable the Revolutionary Workers Headquarters to carry out its central task: building the struggle of the working class, its class consciousness and revolutionary unity, and bringing it to the forefront of all the struggles of the American people against the capitalist class. Doing this is the only way to develop and deepen the strategy and line for making revolution in the US.

Over the last few years not only the RCP, but revolutionary forces in general have been stalled to a certain extent. There have been no big breakthroughs in fusing the socialist movement with the workers movement. Some people, like Avakian, have retreated from the struggle to fondle their dogmas, lecture the workers, and wait for better days. Some people have been content to make excuses for their failure. Still others have preferred to hitch their wagons to one or another socialist state in lieu of tackling the theory and practice of the US revolution.

The time has come to turn this situation around. The conditions exist for big advances in the revolutionary work in the working class increased attacks on wages, working conditions and the standard of living to the point where “takeaways” and “givebacks” are a regular part of the language; the resistance and increased militance that these attacks have sparked; the decline of illusions about the workability and fairness of the capitalist political system; the growing search for explanations, answers, ways to move.

To take advantage of these conditions, communists must concentrate forces in key shops in large scale industry, working from the outside when required, build rank and file organization and unite with advanced and revolutionary-minded workers to build the struggle. There are many questions to be resolved, but they can be dealt with only in the course of practice.

It is also necessary for communists to focus work in the Black community and among other oppressed nationalities. There are a number of signs, mainly in the form of local battles, that the low point of struggle among Black people has been passed. It is certainly true that the masses feel a great need for correct leadership that can point the road ahead in these struggles.

The same need for practice and developing a better approach and line is needed in the area of united front work. In the recent past this has tended to mean working among various sections of the people in relative isolation, without conscious and scientific efforts to strengthen the real links which do exist. The response the recent miners’ strike stirred among students, the intellegentsia and professionals and in particular among the farmers shows the potential which does exist for strengthening the united front against imperialism at this time.

It is not just the RWHq which must take up these big challenges. The situation demands that all Marxist-Leninists, all revolutionaries shake off the doldrums, enter boldly into the class struggle, and sum up practice to develop the revolutionary workers movement.

Party Building

Integrating with and providing direction to the working class movement is the only way to put both the workers and the communist movement on a durable basis. As was shown by the history of the RU, ties with the masses and the application of Marxism to their struggle is the only basis on which a leading line can be developed. But just as clearly from what happened in the RCP, this correct orientation to the struggle is not enough, but must be extended to the task of uniting all who can be united around a leading line to chart the road ahead. While integrating with and providing leadership to the masses cannot wait for the formation of a Party, the ability to unite the Marxist-Leninist forces around forging a correct line and program to form a vanguard Party has .very real implications as to the extent to which the workers and socialist movements can be combined. In short the question of building the struggle and building a Party are closely connected and both tasks must command the attention of all Marxist revolutionaries.

The RWHq says this not just because the RCP has folded. The growing sectarianism of the RCP prevented it from dealing correctly with the current situation of great turmoil and realignment among forces which consider themselves Marxist-Leninist. Confusion and disagreement exist over many major questions– the role of the trade unions, forms of independent organizations, the nature of Black people’s struggle, etc.

Another area where many views and much unclarity exists is how to view the present international situation. There are some people who fail to see or willfully ignore the importance of the contradictions between– and within–the two imperialist superpowers, the US and USSR; the other advanced industrial imperialist countries of Europe, Japan, Canada, etc; and the developing nations in Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East (the Three Worlds). Understanding the international situation is very important as it affects every aspect of the class struggle as it develops and changes rapidly and moves toward war.

There are certain obstacles to Party building which didn’t exist earlier in the decade. One of the main ones is the consolidation of opportunism as a trend. A notable example is the leadership of the Communist Party (ML) whose unenviable record includes (to focus only on present and not past errors) no self-criticism or even explanation for their previous adulation of the Gang of Four; the most blatant social chauvinism which has even included criticism of the US government as “appeasers” for failing to arm fast enough; and advocacy of the line that workers should aim the “main blow” of their struggle against reformist trade union officials and the CPUSA.

Despite the enhanced and entrenched position of opportunism, the present situation is overall favorable to motion toward building a new Party. In the present turmoil and realignment many groups and individuals are reevaluating their line and approach on important questions. This has resulted in a greater openness to discussion and struggle. Furthermore, the deepening crisis and attacks by the bourgeoisie, the growth of anger and resistance among the people continually raises the question of revolution. Hundreds and thousands of people are thinking about socialism and many are checking out Marxism-Leninism

A final favorable factor for Party building is simple–experience. As was pointed out above, it is easier to become a Party than to actually be one. But there is a relationship between the two. The experience of the RCP shows that how a Party is built affects the kind of Party it is. Much has been learned by various forces in recent years which can be applied to the task of building a new Communist Party in this country.

This task must be carried out in the same way as the fusion with the workers movement called for above–boldly and with patience. Uniting all possible Marxist-Leninists into a genuine proletarian Party will not be easy. There are many obstacles to overcome.

The relatively unstable situation among communist forces calls for firmness in principle so that a clear working class pole can be erected for people to rally around. But adherence to basic principle does not mean rigidity. To try and unite only with forces who are already 90% in agreement with you is to fail to take the task of unity seriously.

The new Communist movement in the United States is only about ten years old. It has made important strides on a number of fronts in that decade. But the situation demands more. The next decade must see even greater advances if the interests of the working class and masses of people are to be served, if the cause of socialist revolution is to be upheld.