Saturday, July 10, 2010

The "Revolution" we really, really DON'T Need...

A constant for those of us in Arizona who have been in the streets since the passage of SB 1070, has been the troubling presence of political opportunists, or "the hacks" as we're now accustomed to calling them. A "31 Flavors" of Left-wing political groups, most of them looking to jump on the anti-SB 1070 band wagon as a means to get their name out there, recruit new members, and/or using the human rights disaster we face to raise funds to build their presence.

For months now, the Trotskyist sect, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), have shown up at pro-immigrant/anti-Arpaio demonstrations hawking their paper, "The Militant," and setting up a table to sell their books. Meanwhile, the ANSWER "coalition" has appeared overnight and called for a demonstration the day before the law goes into effect. As it's been documented over the years, ANSWER is a front for the Party for Socialism and Liberation, a Leninist group that broke away from the Stalinist line of the Workers World Party a few years back. From where we stand, these groups, who parachute in with their own agenda, offer no answer from any of their party building, paper selling militants, or disingenuous front organizations for the crisis in Arizona.

With the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), there are plenty of opportunities for a well meaning person to get caught up in their web of front groups. Whether you're looking to fight police brutality, stop the U.S. military occupations abroad, free political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, or (perhaps their most bizarre attempt at recruiting through fronts) join the international supporters of the murderous Shining Path guerrillas in Peru, the RCP has it covered. The last time the RCP poked around the valley it was during the heyday of the anti-war movement and the birth of the immigrant rights movement, and they didn't stick around for long. A small group would attend demonstrations, in their World Can't Wait attire at anti-war marches, and as the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade at an immigrant rally, but were told off each time they surfaced by valley anarchists. As they were unable to intervene, or uninterested in the political situation in Phoenix four years ago, the RCP has returned to the valley, sans front group...sort of.

Paying homage to the 1964 Mississippi civil rights campaign, groups from across the state have called for a Freedom Summer in Arizona, a campaign of activism and awareness, most prominently reflected in the campaign organized by No More Deaths and Tierra Y Libertad down in Tucson. The Freedom Summer name has also been put into use by the aforementioned Workers World Party's Stalinist youth group "F.I.S.T.," who are calling for more of the same, a united front to combat the far right-wing, while their Maoist competitors at the RCP have their own ideas on what this summer should look like.

The RCP's "Arizona Freedom Summer" is a particularly unique brand of left intervention, because unlike the other Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist-Maoist tendencies, the RCP's activists are building their organizing around one objective, promotion of their leader, Chairman Bob Avakian. In the call for "Arizona Freedom Summer" the authors(s) state:
Arizona Freedom Summer is about radically changing this whole dynamic, defying this whole direction, and setting new terms. "The days when this system can just keep on doing what it does to people, here and all over the world… when people are not inspired and organized to stand up against these outrages and to build up the strength to put an end to this madness… those days must be GONE. And they CAN be." (from "The Revolution We Need… The Leadership We Have," A Message and A Call from the RCP, USA)
Their "Freedom Summer" project is being treated as another opportunity to roll out the latest mass line from Avakian, this being one of two paragraphs in the article that outlines the type of organizing the RCP wants to bring to the table, the other is once again an opportunity to promote Avakian as the leadership the RCP thinks we all need. A selection from the second paragraph (below) embeds more of the Avakian worship within their otherwise banal political rhetoric:
There needs to be a broad and defiant resistance that refuses to comply with this law, and there need to be many thousands of people in the course of building this resistance finding out about the revolution we need and the leadership we have, coming to see that it is this system and the rulers of this country that are totally illegitimate and that another world is possible. (Emphasis added)
Let's not forget their fundraising either, one of the RCP organizers, who has moved into town, let it be known that they are planning on printing up one million copies of their new poster. What poster could be so important that they need one million copies? It's the latest bilingual statement from Avakian "The Revolution We Need...The Leadership We Have." Unbelievable. The grassroots groups on the ground have very little money, as in virtually none. We have comrades who are struggling to stay out of the clutches of the state, neighborhood projects that are entirely self-funded, community spaces for youth and indigenous people that struggle to keep the lights on, and indigenous initiatives against the border and destruction of traditional lands here in occupied O'odham land. It's outrageous that they can spend tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars on their latest piece of propaganda, while the projects I've listed, and many more, are fighting for survival.

The cult-like devotion to Avakian, should be of major concern to anyone swept up into one of the RCP's front groups, and it's a worthwhile exercise to call this out, but we at PCWC aren't interested in correcting their errors. As anarchists we're naturally opposed to their centralized leadership and promotion of the "mass line" of the Maoist organization, but this alone is not where we break with many of the Marxist, Leninist, and/or Maoist persuasion.

We believe that the radical possibilities of total liberation from authority are far more transformative and intoxicating than any steps to a revolution as prescribed by any so-called revolutionary chairman. Take their stance on Arizona as an example, one of their demands "No more troops! Demilitarize the border!", this is not only a conservative stance amongst revolutionaries, but it shows that once again the people are ahead of their revolutionary "leaders." The RCP, like many on the left, are afraid to state the obvious, that millions of people have already disregarded the legitimacy of the border line, they have to move across it every day, regardless of the law. Further more, by solely opposing the militarization of the borderlands they join in a colonial tradition that attacks the indigenous people of these occupied lands, as tribes are indeed separated by the border wall. By holding the legitimacy of the state over those of the individuals and communities struggling to preserve their ways of life, the RCP become de facto ideological enforcers of the border.

Their other slogan for their Arizona Freedom Summer is "We don't gotta show no stinkin' papers!", this slogan, if in fact reflective of their actual political stance, is similar to their call for a demilitarization of the border in that they do not call for an end to these movement controls. As anarchists, we do not hesitate to call for the complete abolition of all borders and identification papers, these are tools the authorities use to repress, genocide, and maintain power over people. We want to leave no ideological room for the defense of the state, something the RCP is unwilling to do, because in the end, like all statists, they recognize that they too will make use of the same apparatus of control. A world with out borders is a stateless world, one in which the walls of the rich and powerful have fallen, thus signaling an end to the movement of people for the extraction of the surplus value from their labor. So why is the RCP reluctant to advocate for such a vision, here and now?

As anti-capitalists and anti-authoritarians we say there is no better time than now!

We in PCWC believe in the potential of a revolution, one that can transform our day to day social affairs, as well as our relationships to power, and what that power means for all of us. The Revolutionary Communist Party, like all authoritarian left formations, offers none of these things, but more of the same: lifetimes of work, misery, and obedience (to the state, the party, the chairman, etc).

*For some interesting history on their inability to build a revolutionary communist movement, check out dissident former RCP member Mike Ely's "9 Letters to Our Comrades" a critical analysis of the failures in their mass line, the cult of Avakian, and their inability to draw any level of consistent mass participation in their Maoist outfit.

*Finally, for the second installment of our week of anti-RCP posts, I'd like to turn to an older piece written by our own Phoenix Insurgent on his old blog. Although the piece is five years old, it's a good refresher on the RCP, specifically when it comes to their long history of using front groups to manipulate and recruit.

Understanding World Can't Wait and the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP)by Phoenix Insurgent

The rise of the most recent RCP front group, The World Can't Wait, provides a good opportunity for me to offer some links to criticisms of the RCP, its strategies and leader, Bob Avakian. In the past, the RCP has attempted to utilize front groups like Not In Our Name and the October 22nd Organization (O22).

Its strategy is similar to that of another Stalinist sect, the Workers World Party, which for several years has operated through its front group International A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now To Stop War and End Racism). Both groups hope to use their fronts in order to manipulate folks who honestly oppose the policies of the Bush regime and the war. In the case of World Can't Wait, the steering committee - apparently self-appointed - is stacked with RCP members, disproportionate to their numbers and influence in the anti-war movement as a whole.

People who care about the future of the anti-war and other movements are right to start looking for alternatives to the stale, boring local scene, dominated as it is by Democratic electoralism and liberal candle-holding. But World Can't Wait brings us nothing that we can't do for ourselves. And it brings several disadvantages we can ill afford.

Four things we can do instead: (1) Break out of the vigil, anti-Bush rut - let's start picking meaningful targets that get to the root of the problem; (2) Focus on militant direct action aimed at targets that have a real impact on the war and its supporters; (3) Link up and support local struggles, especially those of the poor and people of color; (4)

Ditch the political parties - our demands are clear and can be articulated and accomplished without the mediation of a third party.

For some good reading on the RCP and its history, consider the following articles:

This October 22, the RCP follows the anarchists
This short piece, from the Anarchist People of Color website, looks at some of the current changes in the RCP and why they may have made them. It also cautions anarchists and others to be skeptical of coalition work with them.
Mythology of the White-Led "Vanguard": A Critical Look at the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
This is a classic piece, though it focuses on the RCP as it was a few years ago. It's is worth reading to see where the RCP came from. Highlighted are its homophobic roots, amongst others. Though the RCP has reorganized some since this came out, most of the criticisms are still very valid. In an interview here, the author updates his criticism.
The Maoist cultism of the RCP is anti-Marxist
This is a pretty good analysis, though it comes from another authoritarian communist group. Not all of it's criticisms are valid, especially the more sectarian ones. However, the points about the cultish nature of the RCP and its pro-middle class orientation are worth reading.
These are three good places to start. In the end, though, the RCP is a deceptive, centralized and authoritarian organization. If we want to bring the war to an end and, eventually, bring about revolution in this country, we need to stick to decentralized and democratic forms of organizing because those reflect the world we want to replace the current one. And we need to keep our eyes on the real cause of the war, which goes beyond particular politicians or particular business interests. It's time to start talking about capitalism, the State, white supremacy, imperialism, patriarchy and the other systems that have brought us this and every other war. To stop them, we need a new direction in Phoenix, but we don't need World Can't Wait or the RCP.

There's an old anarchist saying, "If you want to know what a communist is saying, look at his hands." That means, the rhetoric is just that - rhetoric. Forget the words, look at what they are doing if you want to know what they really mean. We need to keep an eye on the RCP and WCW.


For the book readers out there, check out Daniel Cohn-Bendit's "Obsolete Communism: The Left-Wing Alternative" for a good treatment of communist parties as they operate in modern technological societies on the verge of revolution. Cohn-Bendit was a major player in the May Days of 1968 in Paris and had plenty to say after the communists sold the revolutionary movement out in France.


tropicalstream said...

By the RCP calling for the demilitarization of the border, they are upholding colonialism by not recognizing the border? You lost me way before there, but despite some of their deficiencies, this is just twisted logic.

Jon Riley said...

The RCP are defending the legitimacy of the borders by not calling for their abolition, but the demilitarization. This is a logic that places the sovereignty of the indigenous people along the border (Yaqui, O'odham, Apache) second to the territorial demands of the state.

wcstrong said...

Right on. Chairman Blob can eat it. Its all a scheme with the RCP anyways, Bob claims to be "exiled", but really, he is overseas by choice and many suspect he is living in a nice comfortable villa off of RCP funds. He is just trying to bolster his ridiculous image while the RCP parachutes into places (happened in pittsburgh, too) and destroy (along with other groups) organic organizing in the area.

tropicalstream said...

how is fighting aginst the militarization of the borders and racist attacks against immigrants not part, and especially not a principal aspect, of this battle being waged to defend our immigrant brothers and sisters. The RCP, who I am not a member of, have a political line that calls out national oppression and borders that reinforce it.


Cracks in the Concrete Distribution said...

Thanks for continuing to slam Avakian and the RCP... My first interaction with one of Avakian's sheepish followers (no offense to sheep) came at a demonstration in DC years ago during which conversation led to me being told that "after the revolution" my "counter-revolutionary" concepts (anarchism) would have to eradicated. I asked him what, specifically, he meant, by eradicated, to which he fell silent. I knew, of course, with the little knowledge of the history of his ideology that I had, what exactly he meant.

Sorry to hear they've invaded AZ. Good thing they're mostly a joke to my friends and I, at least... -Luke

Anonymous said...

This whole post, particularly the poster, sounds a lot like Ronald Reagan to me (the "dictatorial communists" with their sinister intentions to bring labor camps over the freedom-loving Americans.....oops... I mean anarchists!)

You're fucking kidding yourself! If you even did some basic research you'd realize that the statement that is being printed wasn't even written by Avakian.

But the crucial thing is that if you've critically read anything Avakian has written, if you have any shred of moral and intellectual integrity toward the truth and changing the world, then you'd see, whether you agree with his conclusions or not, that he is dealing with some of the most important contradictions that humanity is facing. And if you saw that, then maybe you could start substantive and constructive discourse.

Without that, you're just playing at revolution, and worse, repeating anti-communist convictions that have come out of the mouths of the imperialist dogs themselves and attacking the only revolutionary communist party in any imperialist country, the only leader that actually confronting the task of making revolution in the USA and one of the very few groups with a principled and critical approach to changing the world.

Revolution is NOT a tea party! So don't take up the same individualist rhetoric as the fascist tea-partiers.

Phoenix Insurgent said...

We know our history: fuck the RCP, fuck the authoritarian Left. I reject your simplistic argument that either we engage with Bob's flatulent tomes or else we are only "playing at revolution". Likewise fuck this childish analysis that claims if you criticize the authoritarian communist left that you are a Reaganite. That's just pathetic reverse red-baiting. That shit don't float around here. We want human liberation, not another work camp and certainly not another personality cult. How many times must a tragedy play out before we are allowed to call it like we see it? Funny how the pro-RCPers can't defend the party without evoking Chairman Bob. Not a good sign for the level of critical thinking going on.