The Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (RCP, USA), known originally as the Revolutionary Union, is a communist party formed in 1975 in the United States. The RCP states that U.S. imperialism will never peacefully change and that the only way for the oppressed masses to ever liberate themselves is through waging a people's war and building a new socialist society on the ashes of capitalism.

Formed out of the Bay Area Revolutionary Union (BARU) and collectives that had been rooted in the Revolutionary Youth Movement II (RYM II) faction of the Students for a Democratic Society after the latter fell apart in 1969.There were also discussions with several other Marxist-Leninist formations in the short-lived National Liaison Committee. The party is led by its elected National Chairman and primary theoretical spokesperson, Bob Avakian. It is one of the few surviving direct descendants of the New Left of the 1960s and 70s. It is by far the biggest, most active, and most widely-recognized group in the U.S. that identifies itself as Maoist.

More generally, RCP members and supporters have been active in the groups Refuse and Resist (founded by C. Clark Kissinger) and the October 22 Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation. More recently, RCP members were the forefront in establishing the anti-war group Not in Our Name and World Can't Wait: Drive Out the Bush Regime. Other initiated organizations have included La Resistencia and No Business As Usual.

Young supporters join the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade (RCYB). Prior affiliated youth groups included the Attica Brigade and the Revolutionary Student Brigade.

Historically, one of the group's most notable actions was raising the Red Flag over the Alamo Mission in San Antonio on 20 March 1980. This was done by Damian Garcia, who was killed a month later, 22 April 1980, in a Los Angeles housing project. The RCP claims his murder was a result of his actions at the Alamo, and alleges LAPD involvement. Another notable action was when a member of the RCP's youth organization, the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade, burned a United States flag at the Republican National Convention in 1984, leading to the Supreme Court case known as Texas v. Johnson.

The RCP upheld the 1992 uprising in Los Angeles and nationally as a "rebellion" in the aftermath of the Rodney King verdicts. Then-LAPD chief Daryl Gates alleged that the RCP was involved in the riots. Los Angeles has long been one of the RCP's larger and more active branches. William "Mobile" Shaw was a local leader who recently passed and received public commendation from the party.

As a result of criminal indictments stemming from a protest against Deng Xiaoping at the White House in 1979, Bob Avakian and other RCP leaders fled the United States and have been living in France and England ever since. Mostly as a result of this development, the RCP is active in both the United States and Western Europe. The protest, known colloquially as the Deng Demo, was part of re-aligning the international communist movement to recognize that socialism had been defeated in China, and that a capitalist-oriented leadership had seized power.

The RCP helped found the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, an association of revolutionary communist parties and oraganizations from Afghanistan to Italy. The RCP is the main voice of support in the United States for fellow RIM participants leading People's War, including the Communist Party of Peru (Shining Path) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). The RIM is a significant fraction of the international communist movement that sees the socialist period as one of continuing class struggle, with the role of a vanguard party in government to bring the lower classes increasingly into the administration of society as a whole. Major RIM parties, including the RCP and the CPN-M, argue that while the Soviet Union was essentially socialist under Stalin's government, that "absolutism" hindered the ability of the masses to rule, and to replenish the revolutionary ranks over time. Avakian in particular says that communists must acknowledge the real history, and "do better."

The RCP has been active in a wide variety of social struggles, including but not limited to: the fight against police brutality and mass incarceration of African-Americans, women's reproductive rights, defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal, opposition to the Bush "regime", and government authoritarianism.

Origins[edit | edit source]

Robert Avakian was one of many activists in The Sixties who turned to communist ideas and began organizing in the Bay Area of California. H. Bruce Franklin, Stephen Charles Hamilton, and Bob Avakian together formed the Bay Area Revolutionary Union, or BARU, which was subsequently able to absorb a series of similar local collectives which had developed out of Students for a Democratic Society. The new nationwide structure allowed BARU to change its name to simply the Revolutionary Union. The RCP claims that of the various groups coming out of SDS, it was the first to seriously attempt to develop itself both at the theoretical level, with the publication of "Red Papers 1", and at the practical level, by sinking roots into working class communities and struggles. Notable was Avakian's organizing work at a Chevron plant in the Bay Area as an organizing model to link the insurgent student movements with working people in struggle. This turn to 1970s "point of production" organizing was a broader phenomenon which was expanded throughout the Midwest and into the Appalachian coal fields during the wildcat upsurges through 1980.

Such rapid expansion was not without its problems, however, and in 1971 H. Bruce and Jane Franklin led a section of the RU to fuse with the Venceremos Organization, advocating immediate urban guerrilla warfare and then dissolving shortly thereafter.

After a series of unsuccessful unity meetings with nationality-based communist organizations called the National Liaison Committee, including the Black Workers Congress and Maoist-inspired Young Lords Party, the RU formed the Revolutionary Communist Party in 1975. The new organization stated its goal was the building of a "party of a new type," inducing some other Maoists to criticize it for revisionism. The organization had a strong "workerist" orientation concentrated upon mass line, and many members became engaged in point of production organizing and trade union struggle.

Tensions between this tendency within the RCP and partisans of Avakian came to a head in 1977, coinciding with the death of Mao Zedong and subsequent leadership struggles between the Gang of Four and Hua Guofeng in the People's Republic of China. The RCP's Vice Chairman, Mickey Jarvis, along with an estimated 30-40% of the membership and most of the Revolutionary Student Brigade formally left the RCP to form the Revolutionary Workers Headquarters (RWHq). In subsequent polemics, the RCP has dubbed the RWHq faction "Mensheviks" after Lenin's opponents in the RSDLP.[1]

Among older members of the RCP, there is a high proportion of Vietnam War-era veterans, including participants in the VVAW-AI. Joe Veale, the spokesperson for the Los Angeles area branch, was a former member of the Black Panther Party. C. Clark Kissinger, a writer for Revolution and prominent activist associated with the RCP, was a national secretary of SDS.

RCP today[edit | edit source]

Following the re-election of George W. Bush, the RCP released a statement called "The Battle for the Future". It calls Bush a Christian Fascist and calls on the masses to resist. The document also puts forward Bob Avakian as the party's leader. Several supporters of the RCP initiated a campaign entitled World Can't Wait: Drive Out the Bush Regime to facilitate a political "re-polarization" around the current right-wing shift in U.S. government. Hundreds of protests and rallies, as well as disruption of prominent governmental speakers has ensued. Most recently, World Can't Wait organized a series of nationwide protests on October 5, 2006.

In 2005, the RCP changed the name of its newspaper from "Revolutionary Worker" to "Revolution." According to their website, the May 1, 2005 issue of RW newspaper signaled the end of 25 years of Revolutionary Worker/Obrero Revolucionario and the beginning of Revolution/Revolucion. "[W]e believe that the new name more fully reflects our revolutionary communist ideology and politics, and the enriched vision of a tribune of the people that has been pioneered by RCP Chairman Bob Avakian."

In late 2005 and early 2006 the RCP launched the Revolutionary Communist Speaking Tour, designed to, in the words of its its blog header, "build a communist movement among the people locked on the bottom of society in the current era of Bushite Christian-fascism."

Revolution Books distributes materials related to the RCP, and the revolutionary movement in general. They operate stores nationally, with a large store in New York City and a Spanish-language store, Libros Revolucion, in Los Angeles.

After many years spent in Europe, Bob Avakian released a 4-disk DVD set of speeches called "Revolution" given on the "East Coast" and the "West Coast," presumably within the United States, although Avakian had not been seen in the country for over 20 years. In these speeches, aside from continuing his advocacy of communism, Avakian critiqued dogmatism within the movement, and emphasized the role of thinking and learning in political struggle.

Contentious issues[edit | edit source]

The RCP does not generally attempt to work inside leftist coalitions, preferring to launch independent mass organizations to "repolarize" political movements on a more radical basis. Unlike informal activist groupings, the RCP explicitly states its expectation that members uphold their organization positions, abstain from illegal drugs and habits, and maintain exceptional standards of "revolutionary morality."[2]

The RCP has had an often stormy relationship with the broader political left. From the initial publication of the Red Papers that formed the Bay Area Revolutionary Union, and their highly controversial (and qualified) inclusion of Joseph Stalin as a historical leader, the RCP has cut against the dominant anti-communist political discourse in the United States. Highly critical of the Soviet Union, which they view as "state capitalist" and "social-imperialist," they often traded polemical criticisms with the pro-Soviet CPUSA, as well as Trotskyist groups that have rejected the view of the Soviet bloc as state capitalists to be decried in favor of "deformed workers states" to be defended.

As the RCP evolved as an organization, they came to reject electoral politics, a position they continue to uphold. According to Max Elbaum's Revolution in the Air they contrasted themselves with other self-identified Marxist-Leninst parties in the 1980s who advocated working within or alongside Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition, with the RCP summarizing their position in the slogan, "The right to vote has been won . . . Now we need the political awareness and sophistication not to use it." In the years of the Jackson election, 1984 and 1988 the RCP's Carl Dix ran as an "anti-candidate [. . .]running against the notion that oppressed people could rely on the election arena to accomplish positive change."[3]

The RCP holds that its line against electoral politics has been vindicated by the dissolution of several of the Marxist-Leninist groups in the Jackson campaigns, and others' perceived shifts of line away from open advocacy of revolution with "ultra-leftism." The RCP's critique of what they call the "voting trap" has led many other socialist groups to label them "sectarian" and "abstentionist".

Since the period of Bob Avakian's self-imposed exile, the RCP has been widely criticized on the Left for constructing a cult of personality around the Party Chairman. The literature of the RCP uses the term "culture of appreciation" to distinguish "leadership by poltical line" from doing whatever any given leader says (i.e., "commandism", a tendency discouraged by Mao). Those opposing this have argued that promotion of leaders is wrong on principle, or that they disagree with Avakian's positions and do not think the RCP worthy of support. The debate has taken on renewed life since a fellow affiliate of the RIM, the Nepalese Maoists, have disassociated themselves from this method of promoting leaders.

Partisans of the RCP respond by alleging that critics of Avakian's leadership often steers clear of engaging in either his writings or ideas, particularly those regarding class struggle under socialism, the need for a "solid core" of revolutionaries even in non-revolutionary times, the insistence that political line is "decisive" and their openly stated goal of world revolution leading to communism. Instead, the RCP charges that the main point of criticism is formal: that the RCP exists, promotes its leadership core and doesn't subject their line to the needs of every locality in which they operate.

The RCP is subject to general criticisms made against Marxism-Leninism in general and to the idea of the vanguard party in particular, by anarchists, democratic socialists, social democrats and libertarian Marxists.

Critics have also claimed its organization of mass rallies amounts to engaging in lesser-evil politics, particularly with the World Can't Wait campaign.[4] The RCP rejects these criticisms, its partisans pointing out that while it has shared stages with Democratic Party office-holders, it has never once, anywhere, endorsed Democratic Party candidates in elections or bourgeois democracy in general. The RCP sees the social base of the Democratic Party as distinct and in contradiction.

References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

RCP links[edit | edit source]

RCP support websites[edit | edit source]

Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade websites[edit | edit source]

Archives[edit | edit source]

Articles and news reports[edit | edit source]

Critical opinions[edit | edit source]

Revolutionary Union publications[edit | edit source]



RCP publications[edit | edit source]



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