Workers Vanguard No. 901
26 October 2007
Why They Can't Wait 'til 2008
RCP Maoists "Serve the People" ...Up to the Democrats
(Young Spartacus pages)
Every few months, yet another desperate statement proclaims that the world can wait no longer to “drive out the Bush regime.” The author of these statements is the World Can’t Wait (WCW) campaign of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). Not coincidentally, WCW held its first major event a year prior to the 2006 midterm elections and staged rallies around the country in October 2006, right on the eve of those elections. The WCW, among others, proposes that Bush should be driven out through impeachment. Impeachment by whom, one might ask? Answer: by the Democratic Party majority in the House of Representatives.
World Can’t Wait’s “fight the right” preaching is laced with perfunctory warnings such as the one in WCW’s “The Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime”: “There is not going to be some savior from the Democratic Party.” Translation: the WCW wants to mobilize people to put further pressure on the Democrats to end Bush & Co.’s reign in the upcoming presidential elections. In a nutshell, WCW is all about dressing up pro-Democratic Party pressure politics with outraged rhetoric and orange bandannas. These politics were already amply demonstrated in the RCP’s earlier work in the antiwar “movement” via its Not In Our Name (NION) organization, which we have exposed in numerous articles, including in “Revolutionary Communist Party: Revolutionary in Name Only” (WV No. 823, 2 April 2004). Refusing to stand for the military defense of Iraq against the U.S. imperialist war, the RCP opted to “unite all who can be united,” not least open representatives of the bourgeois Democratic Party and the Green Party, in its NION coalition. Protestations of the RCP’s membership, who claimed a blazing response would be forthcoming, to the contrary, there was no response to our polemic. Not surprising; as we will show below, the RCP has a long track record of refusing to take a forthright stand against the depredations of U.S. imperialism. Moreover, the RCP is not just a garden-variety reformist organization in thrall to a wing of its “own” bourgeoisie. It has a particularly sordid record as Maoist apologists for the most venal acolytes of Washington across the globe.
Lacking anything to politically distinguish itself from the left-liberal swamp, and since apparently the world will in fact wait, the RCP has amped up its quirky cult of personality around RCP chairman and founder Bob Avakian. Voluble speeches from “Chairman Bob” occupy vast swaths of their paper. RCP chapters organize showings of excerpts from his eleven-hour DVD. And if that isn’t enough, you can sign on to “Engage! A Committee to Protect and Project the Voice of Bob Avakian.” But the effusive emptiness that is the RCP’s current stock in trade doesn’t stop at their great leader. WCW co-founder and RCP spokesperson Sunsara Taylor recently wrote a breathless “Reporters Notebook from Coachella,” gushing that the reunited lineup of Rage Against the Machine at the festival “will certainly play in favor of humanity” (Revolution, 27 May). And if music isn’t your thing, then you can always get excited about secondary colors. Thus the WCW’s initiative, “Declare It Now,” hopes “a groundswell of orange can turn into a groundswell of hope and danger—a groundswell that rises up from below and has the potential of sweeping Bush from office before his term is up” (www.declareitnow.com). Given that they’ve claimed black and neon green in the past, it seems the only color the RCP doesn’t want to be associated with is red.
Making this crystal clear, not only the RCP’s WCW but also the reformist, anti-Communist International Socialist Organization (ISO) signed a petition to Bush and Cheney advocating that: “The most effective way to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons would be to closely monitor its nuclear energy program, and to improve diplomatic relations—two tasks made much more difficult by threatening to bomb Iranian territory” (see “ISO, RCP to Bush: Disarm Iran, ‘Lead the Way to Peace’,” WV No. 870, 12 May 2006). Confronted with this petition at the Los Angeles stop on this spring’s “Mission of a Generation—Stop the War Now: Drive Out the Bush Regime” speaking tour, Taylor spluttered that what the petition was about was the “most effective way to defend Iran from developing nuclear weapons,” and of course in her personal view “nobody should have nuclear weapons.” Well, we think that nuclear weapons are a part of the necessary defense of those countries in which capitalism has been overthrown—China, Cuba, Vietnam and North Korea—as well as for those dependent capitalist countries in the cross hairs of U.S. imperialism, such as Iran. We say that Iran needs nuclear weapons to deter imperialist attack. In the event of a military attack by the U.S. or any country acting on its behalf, we call for military defense of Iran while giving no political support to the mullah regime.
The RCP/WCW invokes the spectre of “fascism,” claiming that Bush & Co. could “remake society very quickly, in a fascist way, and for generations to come” (“The Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime,” undated, 2005). Such bombast is a very cynical tactic, and by no means a new one, to pimp for the capitalist Democratic Party (presumably the “anti-fascist” wing of the ruling class). There can be no doubt that Bush & Co. have done much to shred such gains as were won, through social struggle, over past decades. But their impulse toward bonapartism is nothing new for bourgeois rule—in fact they have used many of the laws and practices of the imperial presidency introduced by Democratic administrations before them.
In any case, this is hardly fascism—a form of bourgeois rule requiring the destruction of all workers organizations, often accompanied, as in the case of Nazi Germany, by the genocide of whole peoples and minority populations. Moreover, the fight against fascism requires the mobilization of the working class, including armed workers defense guards, to smash that threat, preferably in the egg, and to struggle for the seizure of state power against the capitalist rulers whose system spawns fascism, just as it does war, racism, poverty, national and racial oppression. The strategy of allying with a wing of this ruling class is treacherous, and historically has been proven to be so. (For more on this see the Spartacus Youth League pamphlet The Stalin School of Falsification Revisited.)
Should there be any doubt about the RCP’s “anti-fascist” (read: anti-Bush) “unity” with the supposed enlightened bourgeoisie, we can report that at the Columbia University stop of the “Mission of a Generation” tour, Sunsara Taylor grotesquely concluded her speech by proclaiming a desire for unity with those who stand for the principles on which America was founded. As one of our comrades pointed out at that meeting, one of America’s founding “principles” was chattel slavery.
It is embarrassing to have to point this out. Black oppression has its roots in the earliest days of slavery. After the Civil War, the second American Revolution, smashed the slave system, in 1877 the promise of black equality was betrayed by the Northern bourgeoisie in favor of an alliance with the former Southern slavocracy. The special oppression of the black population serves the interests of the capitalist rulers, who use black workers as a reserve army of labor, last hired and first fired, and use anti-black racism to divide and weaken the working class as a whole. The native fascists of the Ku Klux Klan are the legacy of the betrayal of Radical Reconstruction. Their terror, which has helped keep the South an open shop region, has also made an imprint in the recent proliferation of nooses threatening black people at workplaces and schools across the country. Clearly, calling for the unity of the workers movement with the racist American capitalist class is like calling for unity between slave and slave master. The Spartacist League has organized to interdict fascist provocations through the united-front mobilization of labor/black power, requiring a political struggle against the Democratic Party and its labor lieutenants within the trade unions. We have produced a series of publications on this strategic question for the third, socialist, American Revolution, along with many articles in Workers Vanguard. (For reference, see our Black History and the Class Struggle series.)
As revolutionary communists, Spartacus Youth Club members seek to break leftist youth from the illusion that capitalism can be reformed to serve the interests of working people and the oppressed, and to win them instead to the fight for socialist revolution. The Democrats, like the Republicans and the Greens, are a party of the capitalist class, competing in the elections to administer a government that is nothing but the capitalists’ executive committee. No matter which capitalist party is in power, the rule of the capitalist class is defended by the capitalist state—an apparatus of repression made up of the cops, courts, prisons and military—which is wielded against all the oppressed and exploited. By posing as a friend of labor, minorities and other oppressed groups, the Democratic Party plays an important part in preserving illusions in capitalism. For the same reason, it has historically been the preferred party to administer the imperialists’ wars and adventures, from World Wars I and II, to Kennedy’s machinations against Cuba, to the Vietnam War.
Our model is the Russian October Revolution of 1917. In that revolution, the working class, under the leadership of the Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Trotsky, seized political power in its own name, expropriated the capitalists and landlords and established workers rule over one-sixth of the globe. Through the imperialist-backed capitalist counterrevolution in 1991-92, we stood for the unconditional military defense of the USSR and for proletarian political revolution against the ruling nationalist, bureaucratic caste that undermined that defense through its policy of “peaceful coexistence” with imperialism. (For further explanation, see “The Development and Extension of Leon Trotsky’s Theory of Permanent Revolution,” page 6.) Today, we defend the bureaucratically deformed workers states of China, Cuba, Vietnam and North Korea. We fight for new October Revolutions in the capitalist countries. For its part, the RCP has written off those states in which capitalism has been overthrown as “capitalist” countries, as it earlier wrote off the Soviet Union as “social imperialist” and sided with reactionary forces against the USSR—from CIA-backed mullahs in Afghanistan in the 1980s to apartheid South Africa-backed mercenaries fighting heroic Cuban troops in Angola in the 1970s.
Old Garbage in New Pails: RCP’s Roots of Class Betrayal
Who are these RCP people, so rhetorically bombastic and so tamely in the wake of the “Anybody but Bush” pro-Democratic politics? For a start, far from undertaking the necessary study and assimilation of the lessons of the Bolshevik Revolution, the RCP’s leadership and program were founded in hostile rejection of such a revolutionary, proletarian and internationalist road. “Chairman Bob,” now enervating more young people with his warmed-over liberal-Maoist double-talk, is a product of the New Left, and among the more unsavory of its products. We can only provide here a capsule description of the RCP (formerly Revolutionary Union), which emerged from Students for a Democratic Society. As we noted in the introduction to the 1976 Spartacus Youth League pamphlet China’s Alliance with U.S. Imperialism:
“New Leftists were attracted to the Maoism of the Cultural Revolution period [1966-1976], not because it seemed the continuity of orthodox Stalinism, but because it seemed the highest expression of ascetic repudiation of the spoils of imperialism and of the ‘Third World’ nationalist-populist fervor toward which the student New Left looked as the impetus for the world revolution. People’s China was seen as the vanguard of the non-white, ‘Third World’ poor struggling against the advanced white nations—a category that definitely included Russia.
“There is no doubt that the New Left’s preference for Mao’s China over Khrushchev/Brezhnev’s Russia was based largely on a healthy subjective impulse. The Russians’ frank espousal of ‘peaceful coexistence’ was condemned as a cowardly attempt to conciliate American imperialism at the expense of the insurgent colonial peoples
. The New Leftists drawn to Maoism wanted passionately to create an egalitarian and just society; the apologists for the Kremlin did not.”
However, Mao shared the Stalinist dogma of building “socialism in one country,” which has always meant opposing proletarian revolutions internationally in an attempt to conciliate the imperialists. In 1972, Mao welcomed Nixon to Beijing while the U.S. bombed Hanoi, cementing an alliance with U.S. imperialism that manifested itself in China’s increasingly nakedly counterrevolutionary foreign policy moves. Those who followed Mao through the increasingly transparent and immediate betrayals now lined up behind U.S. imperialism against the USSR, undergoing a corrosive process which made them much different political animals than the subjective anti-imperialists who formerly inhabited the New Left zoo. As revolutionary Trotskyists, we fought against the betrayals of both the Beijing and Moscow bureaucracies, calling for internationalist unity, demanding that China not act as a cat’s paw for the U.S. imperialists.
Meanwhile, Maoists in the U.S., hopelessly compromised over China’s alliance with their “own” rulers, underwent a series of splits and implosions following the death of Mao and, in 1977, the ascendance of Deng Xiaoping, twice purged as a “capitalist roader.” The RCP would later split itself, and would come to regard the former “socialist” China as capitalist. As we wrote at the time of the RCP’s split:
“It is notable that both Avakian and Jarvis [Avakian’s factional opponent in the RCP] understand that China’s foreign policy—defined first and foremost by the alliance with U.S. imperialism against the USSR—is Pandora’s box. Had they undertaken a conscious conspiracy to divert attention away from the atrocities which have shaken the American Maoist movement (Peking’s support to U.S./South Africa in Angola, its courting of the bloody Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, China’s scandalous backing of the Shah of Iran, and its repeated calls for a strong NATO), the silence could scarcely be more complete
. Of course, this discretion is indeed the better part of valor for the RCP, which like any other Maoist sect would have an uncomfortable time determining where to locate a ‘degeneration’ of Chinese foreign policy. From Sukarno’s decimation of the [pro-Chinese] Indonesian CP to Bandaranaike’s massacre of Ceylonese youth rebels, the Maoists never allowed bloody repression to dampen their enthusiasm for ‘anti-imperialist’ dictators so long as they maintained friendly state relations with China.”
—“RCP Splits!” WV No. 190,
27 January 1978
This left the RCP without a country. The winds of Cold War II were blowing hard against the Soviet Union, as the U.S. rulers rearmed under Democrat Jimmy Carter’s “human rights” crusade. The RCP was bankrupt in the face of such reality: it had taken a stand on the serious question of the class nature of both China and the Soviet Union not on the basis of any Marxist analysis, but rather simply on the basis of anti-materialist and increasingly cynical loyalty to Mao’s wing of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) bureaucracy. Thus, it wrote off the gains of the 1949 Revolution on the basis that the Gang of Four did not prevail in an intra-bureaucratic fight within the CCP, just as it had parroted the line following the Sino-Soviet split that the Soviet Union became capitalist due to a speech by Khrushchev criticizing the bureaucratic “excesses” of J.V. Stalin. This is a cruel parody of scientific socialism, of revolutionary Marxism.
RCP Today: Fruits of Betrayal
The RCP has evolved into essentially a “death of Communism” left-liberal outfit which likes to indulge in “revolutionary” rhetoric, having long ago jettisoned any pretense to revolutionary purpose. It has even sunk so low as to denounce the heroic victory of the Vietnamese workers and peasants against U.S. imperialism, writing that: “When the NLF did ‘win,’ when the U.S. was driven out, when the government led by the Vietnamese Workers Party consolidated power over the whole country, the result was not good. It was not good for the people of Vietnam, because the influence of the Soviet Union and of revisionism increasingly exerted itself” (Bob Avakian, “Reaching for the Heights and Flying Without a Safety Net,” www.revcom.us, 2002).
In the face of the U.S. occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, and war moves against Iran, the RCP has repeatedly refused to take a side against U.S. imperialism and for the military defense of its victims. They have been justifying this in part by borrowing a line from liberal academic Benjamin Barber’s book, Jihad vs. McWorld, which argues that ethnic and religious fundamentalism (“Jihad”) and global capitalism (“McWorld”) are both threats to (capitalist) democracy. Bob Avakian argues, “What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata
. If you side with either of these ‘outmodeds,’ you end up strengthening both.” (“Why We’re in the Situation We’re in Today...and What to Do About It: A Thoroughly Rotten System and the Need for Revolution,” quoted in “America’s Fascists Call for ‘Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week’,” Revolution, 16 September).
Chairman Bob will recall, however, that the RCP sided with Islamic reaction—and the U.S. cold warriors—when it counted. In 1979 Soviet troops went into Afghanistan to defend the regime of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, which was besieged by the forces of Islamic reaction because it had instituted reforms for women, including lowering the bride price. The U.S. imperialists ramped up their aid to the Islamic fundamentalists, in what became the largest covert CIA operation in history, on the Soviet Union’s southern border. They funneled massive aid and military support to the mujahedin, barbaric champions of feudalism, illiteracy and the enslavement of women, in order to kill Soviet soldiers.
As a cover for its siding with U.S. imperialism, the RCP claims to have supported a mythical third force opposed to both the mullahs and the Soviets, while slandering the Soviet-backed government as a “tottering police state” engaged in “top-down brutality.” But the RCP’s real enemy was the liberating Soviet troops, as made clear in a retrospective article in Revolutionary Worker (“The Hidden History of Women in Afghanistan,” 10 March 2002): “Revolutionary and progressive forces, including the country’s Maoist organizations, threw themselves into the fight against the Soviet invaders.” No doubt, if such existed. What we wrote in “Afghanistan: Hell for Women” (WV No. 654, 25 October 1996), immediately after the Taliban took power, remains powerfully the case: “The blood of every unveiled woman butchered by the Afghan fundamentalists is also on the hands of those leftist organizations internationally which lined up behind U.S. imperialism’s anti-Soviet dirty war in Afghanistan!” (emphasis in original)
As for Iran, prior to its open call to the imperialist rulers to disarm this dependent country, the RCP has had various positions, none of them remotely Marxist. As part of China’s alliance with U.S. imperialism, in 1971 the Beijing bureaucracy began to cozy up to the Shah of Iran for a Sino-Iranian rapprochement. While not as obsequious as some other (now defunct) U.S. Maoist outfits at the time in embracing this line, the RCP undertook the thankless task of simultaneously thundering against the Shah while covering for/denying China’s blandishments.
On the eve of the mullah-led Iranian Revolution in late 1978, the RCP was busy covering for Khomeini, writing that “the Iranian people do not burn banks, porno theaters and Pepsi trucks because they oppose everything ‘modern.’ What they oppose is the U.S. domination of their country—and they attack all those things which symbolize this bloody tyranny.” Supposedly, across the board, leftists and clerical right-wingers alike were “rebelling against everything reactionary in Iran: imperialism and the Shah’s regime.” (“Lies We’re Fed About Iran,” Revolutionary Communist Youth, 7 December 1978). Once in power, Khomeini made good on his promises, slaughtering untold numbers of leftists (many of whom supported his rise to power) held in the former dungeons of the Shah; women, gays and religious minorities were also on the chopping block. Uniquely on the left, we of the ICL called for a class-independent way forward and raised the call: Down with the Shah! Down with the mullahs! For proletarian revolution in Iran!
Now Sunsara Taylor, writing in the RCP’s newspaper Revolution (formerly Revolutionary Worker—spot the difference?), intones:
“As part of coming to power in 1979, these [the Ayatollah Khomeini’s] theocratic forces presented themselves, and drew mass appeal, from an ‘anti-imperialist’ pose. While they had real conflicts with a particular U.S. regime (the Shah of Iran), Khomeini and his forces were reactionary theocrats, not leaders of an anti-imperialist struggle. The real tragedy, and lesson, of the Iranian revolution was that revolutionary forces joined in spreading the illusion that these were anti-imperialist forces to be aligned with and tailed.”
—“U.S. Imperialism, Islamic Fundamentalism
and the Need for Another Way,” 10 June
Paper really will take anything written on it! We can only paraphrase a comment attributed to Oscar Wilde: Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue.
Against the imperialist-backed counterrevolution in the former Soviet Union and East Germany, we Trotskyists struggled for our program—we stood at our revolutionary posts and fought tooth and nail. We did not prevail, and the destruction of the Soviet Union represented a massive defeat for the world’s working class, destroying the industrial-military powerhouse of the non-capitalist world and throwing consciousness back. Today, we seek to prevent such a counterrevolutionary outcome in the deformed workers state of the People’s Republic of China: the entire world working class has a stake in this fight! But the RCP has no such stake.
Rather, it has made peace with the capitalist rulers here in the belly of the U.S. imperialist beast, channeling youthful militants into its NIONs, WCW campaigns and other assorted devices aimed at “driving the Bush regime out.” Those youth who seek a revolutionary road, that of workers revolution to destroy this system of racism and war once and for all, who seek to learn from the lessons of history rather than from the mind-numbing pontifications of Bob Avakian, should seriously examine the politics and work of the Spartacus Youth Clubs. We have a world to win!