Revolutionary Communist Party:

Revolutionary in Name Only

Reprinted from Young Spartacus pages of Workers Vanguard No. 823, 2 April 2004.

We reprint the following leaflet issued on March 18 and distributed nationwide at the March 20 anti-occupation demonstrations.

On March 20, as protesters take to the streets against the U.S. occupation of Iraq, we in the Spartacus Youth Clubs and Spartacist League will march under the slogans: “U.S. Out of Iraq! Israel Out of the Occupied Territories! Break with the Democratic Party of War and Racism—For a Workers Party That Fights for Socialist Revolution!” The official leadership of these protests seeks to channel the outrage against the imperialist war against—and subsequent colonial occupation of—Iraq into the dead ends of moral-witness pacifism and electoral pressure politics. For our part, the SYCs seek to win militant activist students and youth to take a side with the peoples of Iraq against the imperialist occupiers, as we did during protests against the Iraq war, when we built revolutionary internationalist contingents that raised the call: “Defend Iraq Against U.S. Imperialist Attack! For Class Struggle Against U.S. Capitalist Rulers! Down With UN Starvation Blockade!”

Sponsors and spokesmen for the Not In Our Name (NION) coalition, the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) and its affiliate the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade (RCYB), also had substantial contingents in the antiwar demos, including youth attracted to the red-flag-waving, “street-fighting,” “anti-imperialist” posture of the RCP/RCYB. No doubt many youth around the RCYB felt revulsion at the blatant arrogance of U.S. imperialism in its drive to exert its dominance over the globe, and RCYB contingents included many black and Latino youth, who are daily treated with racist contempt by the ruling class. But for all its militant anti-imperialist posturing, the RCP/RCYB refused to defend Iraq when the U.S. imperialist rulers, commanding the largest military machine on the planet, geared up for and carried out a war of depredation against neocolonial Iraq, already ravaged by over a decade of United Nations-imposed sanctions. Instead, the RCP/RCYB opted to “unite all who can be united,” not least open representatives of the bourgeois Democratic Party and the Green Party, in the NION coalition.

It is no accident that the NION “Pledge of Resistance” does not mention capitalism—the system which is the root cause of imperialist war and which must be uprooted and replaced in order to bring an end to such carnage. Rather, appealing to “peace patriots,” NION announced: “We want to build this campaign broadly. It needs to include people who want to ‘cleanse the U.S. flag’ as well as those who would never under any circumstances fly the U.S. flag” (“Million Globes Campaign,” undated, posted at Lest it repel the Democrats like Maxine Waters who appeared on NION-sponsored platforms, NION spoke the language of bourgeois hypocrisy, mouthing empty pacifist slogans and building illusions that “our own government” can be stopped from “this course of war and repression” through pressure politics.

Predictably, despite large numbers of people taking to the streets, such “moral witness” as organized by NION and other class-collaborationist lash-ups like Workers World Party’s ANSWER and United for Peace and Justice did not stop the war against Iraq. RCP leader Bob Avakian served up the following solace:

“Let’s be real clear: if it weren’t for our protests—in unity with people around the world—then Bush would probably be marching into Iraq with the UN fully behind him, draped in an aura of righteousness and legitimacy. Public opinion would be eating out of his hand and believing his every lie.... Bush has not been stopped, but his freedom of action has been constrained by the people’s struggle.”
— “The Challenge Ahead: We Must Stop This War,” Revolutionary Worker (RW), 30 March 2003

Bush’s sagging poll figures may warm the hearts of those in the other party of American capitalism, but his dip in bourgeois “public opinion” is cold comfort for the Iraqi victims of mass murder and occupation.

As Marxist revolutionaries, we stand in the tradition of V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky, co-leaders of the 1917 Russian Revolution, the only successful workers revolution to date. Trotsky observed how it is impossible to stop war short of shattering the imperialist order in his “Declaration to the Antiwar Congress at Amsterdam” (July 1932):

“To condemn war is easy; to overcome it is difficult. The struggle against war is a struggle against the classes which rule society and which hold in their hands both its productive forces and its destructive weapons. It is not possible to prevent war by moral indignation, by meetings, by resolutions, by newspaper articles, and by congresses. As long as the bourgeoisie has at its command the banks, the factories, the land, the press, and the state apparatus, it will always be able to drive the people to war when its interests demand it.”

Carrying the “unite all who can be united” line to its logical conclusion, on 5 April 2003 NION-Los Angeles co-sponsored a campaign rally for Democratic Party presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich. And the RCP’s Revolutionary Worker newspaper appealed for a “resounding NO!” in the California recall election last autumn, which its readers logically concluded meant voting against the recall of, thus giving backhanded support to, the justly unpopular Democratic governor Gray Davis. We advocated a “yes” vote to recall Davis as a vote of working-class opposition to the capitalist Democratic Party and extended critical support to the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) candidate Joel Britton, whose campaign drew a crude class line against capitalism and war. Now, in the run-up to U.S. presidential elections, the pressure to “unite all who can be united” in order to elect a Democrat will be, if anything, more in play at protests against the occupation of Iraq. In its February 9 posting on the March 20 protests, NION consciously tailors its statement for the anti-Bush bandwagon: “March 20 is a day to build our strength for the future—for the most massive resistance ever, more than a million people in the streets of NYC at the time of the Republican National Convention to say NO to the whole Bush agenda!”

Supporters of the RCP/RCYB who consider NION a “revolutionary” alternative to the (other) reformist-led coalitions formed against the Iraq war may discern a contradiction here. On the one hand, there is the red flag waving, calls to “break out,” acts of civil disobedience and rhetoric in the Revolutionary Worker such as: “The precious resources and organized energy of our resistance must not get channeled and drained into a electoral black hole that is fully dominated by the imperialist ruling class” (“Delivering the NO to Bush and All That He Stands For,” RW, 21 March, posted at—emphasis in original). On the other hand, in reality and not in rhetoric, is the namby-pamby pacifist pablum that serves as very thin cover for NION’s very own contribution to channeling and draining the anger of youth and others into...the electoral black hole.

NION: The RCP’s “People’s Front”

Despite the RCP’s appropriation of trendy “anti-globalization” jingles such as “another world is possible,” there is nothing new in its strategy and practice in today’s antiwar movement. It is a strategy not of class struggle but of class collaboration, the subordination of the proletariat in the name of the broadest “unity.” In this, the Maoist RCP has taken a page from the “People’s Front” (against war, against fascism) policy of the Stalinist Communist Party (CP). Indeed, Earl Browder’s report to the Central Committee of the CPUSA on 4 December 1936 may ring a familiar bell: “We can organize and rouse them [the majority of ‘the people’] provided we do not demand of them that they agree with our socialist program, but unite with them on the basis of their program which we also make our own.”

Anticipating that the CP’s class collaborationism would eventually lead it to outright social-patriotism in World War II, James Burnham, then a revolutionary Trotskyist, wrote in The Peoples’ Front: The New Betrayal (1937):

“Most significant of all is the application of the Peoples’ Front policy to ‘anti-war work.’ Through a multitude of pacifist organizations, and especially through the directly controlled American League against War and Fascism, the Stalinists aim at the creation of a ‘broad, classless, Peoples’ Front of all those opposed to war.’ The class collaborationist character of the Peoples’ Front policy is strikingly revealed through the Stalinist attitude in these organizations. They rule out in advance the Marxist analysis of war as necessarily resulting from the inner conflicts of capitalism and therefore genuinely opposed only by revolutionary class struggle against the capitalist order; and, in contrast, maintain that all persons, from whatever social class or group, whether or not opposed to capitalism, can ‘unite’ to stop war.... The truth is, of course, that through the Peoples’ Front, the Stalinists are making ready to support the government, and to recruit the masses for such support, in the new imperialist war.”

Such was the case. In line with the popular front, the American CP directed its supporters, many won through courageous campaigns to organize industrial unions and the fight for black rights, into support for the Democrat Roosevelt in the 1936 elections. When Hitler launched the attack on the Soviet Union (putting paid to Stalin’s attempts at a pact with Germany), the CP wrapped itself in the Stars and Stripes, jingoistically goading Roosevelt to prosecute the imperialist “people’s war.” Once the U.S. was in the interimperialist war, the CP hailed the no-strike pledge of the CIO union tops and engaged in outright strikebreaking at the same time as it removed from its ranks its ethnically Japanese members being sent to the internment camps. Entangled by its “unity” with the Democrats, the CP went so far as to welcome the A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In contrast, the Trotskyists were imprisoned for their refusal to support any of the imperialist combatants in the war. Where the Stalinists sold out the fight for independence from imperialism in order to form a bloc with the allied “democratic” imperialists, the Trotskyists championed the liberation of all colonized peoples. Above all, at great personal risk, the Trotskyists fought for and acted on their program for the unconditional military defense of the Soviet Union.

While the RCP today lacks the working-class base of the Stalinist CP, and lacks association with any workers state power, the fundamental differences between us Trotskyists in the SYC and the Maoist RCP/RCYB remain: the road of class independence and proletarian revolution vs. the road of class collaboration and betrayal. For RCYBers who consider themselves revolutionaries, it is necessary to understand the history of how the Communist parties throughout the world were transformed from instruments of international proletarian revolution to those of class collaboration. The October Revolution of 1917, led by the Bolshevik Party, was not only the first and only workers revolution in history, but a beacon for the world’s working people and oppressed. The Bolshevik leaders were under no illusions that “socialism” could be built in a single, backward country; they looked to and worked for the extension of the revolution to the advanced countries of the West. But the young Soviet workers state reeled under the blows of imperialist encirclement, a bloody civil war and the failure of the German Revolution of 1923. Under these conditions, a conservative, nationalist caste—of which Stalin was the leader—usurped political power, brutally purging the Soviet Communist Party of those, like Trotsky’s Left Opposition, who sought to maintain the revolutionary internationalism which animated the October Revolution and the early Communist International. The “theory” which accompanied this Stalinist political counterrevolution was “socialism in one country,” which would translate into bloody betrayal of revolutionary opportunities internationally via the popular front, in which the workers were subordinated to their class enemy in “broad fronts” and/or coalition governments. In 1935, the Seventh Congress of the Communist International formally adopted the anti-revolutionary popular front schema. Dimitrov’s report to the Congress was explicit: “Now the toiling masses in a number of capitalist countries are faced with the necessity of making a definite choice, and of making it today, not between proletarian dictatorship and bourgeois democracy, but between bourgeois democracy and fascism.” Indeed, by 1943 Stalin drew the logical conclusion in yet another concession to the “democratic” imperialists and dissolved the Communist International. Further material on this history and the struggle between Trotskyism and Stalinism—including its Maoist variant—is contained in the Spartacus Youth League pamphlet The Stalin School of Falsification Revisited.

The RCP’s Bogus Anti-Imperialism

Avakian, in “United With All Who Can Be United, in the U.S. and Throughout the World” (RW, 7 April 2002), said: “There is the very acute contradiction between maintaining a bedrock position and activity based on proletarian internationalism and still seeking to unite the broadest number possible....” Just what form does the RCP’s proclaimed “proletarian internationalism” take? It was over the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan that the RCP tried to cover its blatant refusal to take a side and call for the military defense of the victims of U.S. imperialist aggression by invoking “revolutionary defeatism.” Thus, Revolutionary Worker (28 April 2002) carried an article titled “The Meaning of ‘Revolutionary Defeatism’” which intoned: “Revolutionary defeatism does not mean that you should actually support the enemy of your government if that enemy and the war it is waging is equally reactionary.”

For Marxists, revolutionary defeatism is the policy of revolutionaries in interimperialist wars or any wars between qualitatively equal capitalist states (such as the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s). In such wars, the working class has no side and the working class of each belligerent country should desire the defeat of its “own” ruling class. But this was not the case in the neocolonial military operations led by the U.S. against Afghanistan or the war against Iraq. There is a qualitative difference between an imperialist power like the U.S., which in its pursuit of profits and spheres of influence exploits the world’s dependent countries and is an enemy of the oppressed everywhere, and a tinpot dictatorship like Hussein’s Iraq. Imperialism props up blood-soaked regimes all over the world, and Saddam Hussein was an on-again, off-again beneficiary of U.S. imperialist backing for years. Moreover, the RCP instinctively equates military defense against imperialist attack with capitulatory political support to any given force or regime on the receiving end. While giving not an ounce of political support to the reactionary regimes of either the Taliban or Saddam Hussein, the correct Leninist position, and ours, was to militarily defend Afghanistan and Iraq against the imperialists. As Lenin wrote in Socialism and War (1915):

“For example, if tomorrow, Morocco were to declare war on France, or India on Britain, or Persia or China on Russia, and so on, these would be ‘just’, and ‘defensive’ wars, irrespective of who would be the first to attack; any socialist would wish the oppressed, dependent and unequal states victory over the oppressor, slave-holding and predatory ‘Great’ Powers.”

Given the overwhelming U.S. military superiority, we stressed that the chief defense of Iraq was through pursuing international class struggle against the imperialist rulers, first and foremost in the U.S. Just as we fight for the complete political independence of the proletariat within the imperialist centers, so too throughout the Near East there can be no emancipation of the women of the region, of oppressed national minorities, of exploited workers short of thoroughgoing socialist revolutions which sweep away the imperialist occupiers and the sheiks, colonels and Zionists, and which link up with proletarian revolution in the West. This is the perspective of permanent revolution as opposed to the failed Maoist-Stalinist formulas for “two-stage revolution” and the “bloc of four classes.”

Many of the “progressive” Democrats who campaigned from antiwar platforms made no secret of their preference to put the arsenal of U.S. imperialism to work against the North Korean deformed workers state. Revolutionary Trotskyists stand foursquare for the unconditional military defense of the North Korean, Chinese, Cuban and Vietnamese deformed workers states, where capitalism has been overthrown and proletarian property forms remain, despite the bureaucratic Stalinist regimes that undermine these gains. Trotskyists stand for proletarian political revolution to oust the Stalinist bureaucracies. This defense includes upholding the right of these states to take any measures to protect themselves against the imperialists, including their right to possess nuclear arsenals. We stood in defense of the former Soviet Union and fought tooth and nail against the capitalist counterrevolution in 1991-92 which destroyed that military-industrial powerhouse of the non-capitalist world. This is an acid test for any would-be revolutionaries, as those who cannot defend the hard-won gains of anti-capitalist revolutions will not lead new conquests. The world we confront today, as the U.S. ruling class detects little hindrance to its vicious attacks on the workers and oppressed at home and abroad, is greatly conditioned by the final undoing of the October Revolution.

The RCP’s Draft Programme (Part I, p. 14) speaks of the “great revolutionary achievements of our class in this past century—especially in the Soviet Union between 1917 and 1956 and then in China, where the proletariat seized and held power between 1949 and 1976 and made great advances on the socialist road.” The RCP coyly omits the fact that its slavish following of the Beijing Stalinist regime led it to denounce as “social imperialist” the Soviet degenerated workers state, which the Maoists claimed turned capitalist following a 1956 speech made by Khrushchev in which he exposed some of the crimes of Stalin. Afterwards, the RCP tailed every grotesque twist and turn of Maoist China’s bloc with U.S. imperialism against the USSR—epitomized by Mao’s welcome to Nixon in 1972 as U.S. imperialism rained terror upon the heroic Vietnamese workers and peasants. Such “anti-imperialism,” particularly when Washington geared up for Cold War II against the Soviet Union, exposed the Maoists of various stripes within the U.S. as mouthpieces for their “own” rapacious rulers and led to a richly deserved decline of those organizations. As for China, the RCP went from fawning obeisance to Beijing to writing off the gains of the 1949 Revolution because its preferred faction in the Chinese bureaucracy (the “Gang of Four”) lost an intra-bureaucratic power struggle in the mid-1970s. This is not ancient history to be easily dismissed: today Washington longs to open China to unfettered imperialist exploitation and plunder, exerting both economic pressure aimed at strengthening the forces of internal counterrevolution and military threats against China. No amount of Avakian-speak can obscure the fact that the RCP, here in the “belly of the beast,” is virulently hostile to the defense of China. And while individual RCPers would argue that they would defend North Korea on the basis of defense of a small country against a big imperialist power such as the U.S., the fact is the RCP recognizes no class difference between North Korea and capitalist South Korea. Indeed, capitulating to the imperialist hue and cry over North Korean nukes, Revolutionary Worker (25 May 2003) wrote: “Nevertheless, after the death of Mao Tsetung, North Korea mainly relied on the social-imperialist USSR. Now, it has been applying the same tactics of nuclear blackmailing, nuclear gambling and playing with nuclear bombs that Khrushchev developed after he restored capitalism in the USSR.”

As for the working class, it says a lot about the preoccupations of the RCP/ RCYB that during the recent UFCW grocery workers strike in Southern California—a strike which aroused the solidarity of workers around the country, including a work stoppage and mass picket line by longshoremen last November—the so-called Revolutionary Worker said nothing until over four months into the battle, when a perfunctory article appeared in its 22 February issue. Those in the RCP/RCYB disturbed by such apathy in the face of a key class battle should understand that this shows that, despite its ritual mention of the proletariat as the gravediggers of capitalism, the RCP’s practice relegates the struggle of the workers to one of many “fronts” and offers no perspective for the necessary political struggle within the trade unions against the sellout policies of the pro-capitalist trade-union bureaucracy.

We in the SYCs campaigned for student strike support and financial aid to the UFCW workers, as part of our struggle to win youth and students to the understanding that the working class has the social power to do away with the capitalist system, its wars, racist terror, oppression of women and homosexuals, once and for all. At bottom, what is crucially necessary to unleash this power is a revolutionary program for the working class, a program brought to the class and fought for within the class by a Leninist vanguard party which can break the proletariat and oppressed from their class enemy. The SYCs are dedicated to forging such a party, as part of an international party of world revolution, and the conquest of new October Revolutions. Our road is that of Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolsheviks; the RCP/RCYB’s is that of Chairman Avakian’s bankrupt, reformist, Mao-oid shell game. Join us!

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