The Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) is an embarrassment. It shows no respect for the actual people who make up the working class. Their party chair, Bob Avakian, is less interested in the needs of the working class and more interested in creating a personality cult around himself. The RCP’s cultish behavior has been well documented since Avakian became the party chair in 1979, but what is most repulsive about this group is their invasive and disrespectful behavior which humiliates the left and risks turning socialism into a marginalized idea once again.
What is the RCP?
The Revolutionary Communist Party can trace it’s roots to the split of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in 1969. Multiple activists from California created a group called Bay Area Revolutionary Union (BARU). This was a collective of SDS members from Oakland, San Francisco, and Berkeley who were posing as challengers to the non Maoist wing of the SDS at their convention.
Once the SDS collapsed many members found themselves joining BARU, leading to the organization’s development of a national structure outside of the bay area. BARU officially became the Revolutionary Communist Party in 1975, and by 1979 one of their pluckiest and loudest members became the party chair. That member’s name was Bob Avakian.
Bob Avakian was one of many alumni of the New Left movement along with people like Noam Chomsky or Angela Davis. Unlike Davis or Chomsky, instead of dedicating his life to the development of theories and programs that would answer the material needs of the working class, Avakian became dedicated to developing a cult of personality around himself.
The requirements for party membership all revolve around his theories and accepting his leadership without question. Everything on the RCP website that is about their platform revolves around his name, his work, and his identity as the party leader.
On their About Us page they make their dedication to Avakian quite clear;
There is an actual plan for a radically different—and radically better—society, on the road to wiping out all exploitation and oppression, and emancipating humanity. There is a strategy to draw forward the millions and millions needed to make that happen. There is the leadership, in Bob Avakian (BA), the architect of the new communism and the leader of the revolution.
Immediately they make it clear that they are not interested in hearing the working class’ current material needs but rather are more interested in selling a doctrine, more specifically they are selling the doctrine of Bob Avakian. The purpose of socialism is democracy, and democracy is about allowing the working class to choose its leaders, it’s priorities, and it’s platform. Because the RCP has it set in stone that Avakian is their “chosen” leader, they have no avenue to allow growth for a mass movement, so they must invade spaces to tell the working class why Avakian should be their leader.
Avakian argues for what he calls “New Communism,” and the entire RCP program can be summarized in one statement, that capitalism and the US government, “must be overthrown, not voted out.” However, “New Communism” is nothing more than a regurgitation of Maoist Marxist Leninism. According to the RCP, post Stalin Russia and Post Mao China were the ends of socialist states in the world. There is virtually no difference in the jargon or rhetoric of Avakian’s work and that of the most hardline Stalinists, “New Communism” is nothing more than “Old Stalinism.”
All the information I gathered on the RCP I gathered from personal experience and from researching their website. A webpage is the most forward facing instrument of any organization in the 21st century and it should be presentable and useful to both an organization’s members and to the public. The RCP webpage, revcom.us, is unnavigable and literally painful to read because of it’s poor layout. The text is often too small to read and the layout of the pages are just plain sloppy. Articles, text, and graphics are almost always off center and the website overall just looks plain cheap. It looks like a self made website from the late 90s or early 2000s, and in all likelihood no one has probably bothered to develop their website since that time. After all, the RCP is less interested in meeting the working class where they are at and is more interested in demanding members adhere to the party line with Avakian as their leader.
Webpages are the primary source of information people use when researching what organizations to join and if you are not showing an interest in making your own webpage presentable and navigable, you are clearly not interested in meeting the masses where they are at in order to build them into a mass movement.
Unlike most other socialist organizations, the RCP is one that is lucky enough to have their own book stores, with two locations! They have one in New York another in Berkeley, and the Revolution Book Stores are a confusing piece of the RCP puzzle.
Store front rental in Berkeley and New York is by no means cheap, so I am wondering where the profit from their stores go. Their shoddy and impossible to look at website makes it pretty evident that funds are not being directed towards developing the organizational infrastructure. These funds are definitely not going toward mutual aid projects either. The RCP explicitly rejects anything it considers charity, including the “anarchistic” idea of mutual aid.
According to their atrocious website they are currently raising funds for their ongoing “Revolution Tour” claiming they will be using the money to send their “Revolution Club” around the country to participate in direct actions. None of the actual actions they will participate in are listed on the website and at no point is their any detail on how the money raised will be actually be used. They do not even mention what they hope to accomplish by sending their members on this so-called “tour.” Based on the behavior that I have witnessed, they will probably just be invading other peoples events. ( I will explain this later in the article.)
What is even more appalling is that the RCP is clearly aware of the criticisms against them. This is an actual quote from their FAQ page:
Who are you to say what the masses of people need?
Answer: We are people who represent, on a scientific basis, the fundamental interests of the masses of humanity, the great majority of the 7 billion people on this planet; who understand what the problem and the solution is to the situation that faces the masses of humanity; and who have taken on the responsibility of leading people to fight to bring about, through revolution, the solution that is urgently needed.
This is just gibberish. It means nothing. It is by no means an explanation for their top down behavior nor does it explain anything about their actual program. It is all flighty words with no substance and it in no way answers the actual question. The worst part is that they actually go out of their way to justify their cultish method of operating.
This all manifests in a technique of agitation that embarrasses the left, it leads to them invading and co-opting the events of other organizations, even if that event is about honoring a victim of the police state.
What does the RCP do?
RCP members like to invade and co-opt other organizations events, including trade unions, anti police organizations, and even Black Lives Matter.
The behavior of the RCP at events hosted by other organizations demonstrates their lack of respect and integrity, and further demonstrates that the organization is in no way interested in actually helping the working class. The fraud that is the RCP can be summed up with a single sentence, “Revolution is not an end, it is a means to an end.”
Every event or march that the RCP shows up for they scream the same thing, “This government cannot be voted out, it must be overthrown!” It is all well and good to call for an end to the American imperialist state, but one cannot act like revolution by itself is a pallet cleanser. So many leftists are quick to scream, “REVOLUTION NOW!” with no actual ideas in hand for a program that would come after the fact. This usually leads to them copping out and settling on an older, outdated doctrine, such as Stalinism or Maoism. This is the case with the RCP.
Socialists have the obligation to not only work towards overthrowing capitalism but to build alternatives at the same time. The RCP never bothers to do this but instead uses newer language to regurgitate old talking points. They like to think they are offering alternatives however there is nothing in Avakian’s work that cannot be found in the works of Stalin or Mao. There is nothing original about Avakian or his so called theories.
In 2010 Bob Avakian released the “Constitution for a New Republic in North America” which is not so much a constitution for a socialist republic but is a regurgitation of tired, over used, ultra left talking points. The Preamble of this so called constitution alone is nothing more than a run on sentence of gibberish that has leftist buzzwords sprinkled throughout.
The New Socialist Republic in North America could only have been brought into being as a result of heroic, self-sacrificing struggle carried out by millions and millions of people who had been forced to live under a system of exploitation and oppression in the former United States of America; who could no longer tolerate the continual outrages and injustices perpetrated by the system of capitalism-imperialism and the structures and institutions of power and repression which enforced all this with violence and brutality as well as lies and deception; who refused to any longer accept that…
The opening sentence goes on like that for 5 more lines and the rest of the preamble is 7 pages long. The RCP think that revolution apparently can be achieved with long winded, inaccessible babbling.
What is even more disgusting is that the RCP will bring this garbage platform everywhere without ever being invited to do so. They have invaded multiple events organized by multiple other groups including Anti Police Terror Project and Black Lives Matter chapters. They have even gone out of their way to disrupt an event organized by the surviving relatives of Stephon Clark.
At an event marking the anniversary of Clark’s death, his family co-hosted and invited Al Sharpton to come and speak. The RCP made haste to travel from the bay area to Sacramento (there is no RCP chapter in Sacramento) and disrupt the event with cries of “Don’t believe Sharpton!” And “Electoral bourgeois bullshit!” showing no respect for the wishes of the Clark family.
Say whatever you want about Al Sharpton, it will not change the fact that he was the invited guest of the Clark family and since they are the victims who have to live with what happened to Stephon, their wishes should always be honored and respected first and foremost! Disrupting their event because you do not like their speaker of choice is the exact opposite of respecting the wishes of the family.
The RCP’s tendency to invade and co-opt other people’s events is an insult to the working class and embarrasses the name of socialism. Their approach makes the left look invasive, hostile, and inconsiderate, and it is even more so when they behave like this at explicitly anti racist events.
In Sacramento 2018, back when Jeff Sessions was still the Attorney General, an event was organized outside of the Sawyer Hotel in order to disrupt his visit. The event was organized by multiple unions and immigrant rights groups. In attendance was the immigrant solidarity collective known as Nor Cal Resist and immigrant SEUI members, as well as the Democratic Socialists of America, Answer Coalition, and liberal groups such as Save DACA and Indivisible.
Without any invitation, or hesitation, the RCP showed up with a series of banners, loud speakers, and chants, as well as multiple members ready to take the stage and speak on their megaphone about the need to overthrow the government. Despite the intimidating police presence defending Jeff Sessions, at no point did anyone in RCP take time to consider that using such inflammatory rhetoric could be putting the lives of undocumented or black attendees of the event at risk. When police presence is so large, as it was at this event, attendees must take into consideration what will happen if the situation escalates. Who will the cops take out their aggression on? More likely than not it is going to be any black or brown person they can get their hands on. To ignore that reality is to ignore the reality that non-white members of the working class face an extra degree of oppression and risk. To ignore that is to ignore the status of the 21st century working class.
The RCP has already been warned about this behavior. Bay area chapters of the Anti Police Terror Project have already banned the RCP from attending their events for constantly attempting to co-opt them as they did at the Jeff Session’s direct action in Sacramento and at Clark family’s event.
Black Lives Matter Sacramento have also had to deal with the insistent brattiness of RCP members. On the one year anniversary of Stephon Clark’s death, just hours after they had insulted the Clark family, they attempted to co-opt an event that had been organized by BLM Sacramento.
They showed up marching and yelling, banners and all, even with someone banging on the drums as if the eight of them present were about to march into battle. They were screaming about overthrowing the presidency. It took at least five of the organizers from BLM Sacramento to talk the RCP down and make them realize that this was about honoring and respecting Stephon Clark, and that making it about anything else would be a direct insult to a murdered man and his family.
But their deescalation was all for not because that did not stop the RCP from continuing to chant and scream. They even attempted to chant over the members of BLM who were leading the march, screaming about revolution nonstop instead of screaming the name of Stephon Clark. Clearly they were not there to honor the 22 year old who had been murdered by the Sacramento Police Department. They were only there to advance their own agenda, even if it meant disrespecting the members of BLM Sacramento and the Clark family.
To scream revolution without listening to the working class is to insult the working class. All the RCP does is scream “revolution” like a baby begging for its bottle without any consideration for the status and needs of the working class as they are now.
Why are they so invasive?
The RCP is so disrespectful and invasive for one simple reason, they are incapable of rallying people on their own. The RCP is dependent on using front organizations in order to make them more palatable to people who are hesitant to trust self identified Marxist-Leninists and Maoists outright.
The RCP also operates front organizations in order to maintain a larger public relations presence and to ease recruitment. The current and most notable of their front organizations is Refuse Fascism. Refuse Fascism is the front organization for their anti Trump platform. While it sells itself as a “coalition” the majority of it’s leaders and members are simply senior RCP members.
The RCP has no chance to gain legitimate attention without operating a front organization like Refuse Fascism. Their doctrine and program is unappealing to the modern working class and lacks in nuance because it is an outdated rehashing of state socialist theories from the previous century. This is why they resort to invasive tactics. They will not get attention unless they steal attention for themselves, and the RCP has demonstrated they will do so even if it means insulting people like the family of Stephon Clark or the immigrants who face the risk of deportation and state violence.
The more one looks into the alleged doctrine of the RCP on their hideous website, one can see that their is no way they can gain public attention without being invasive. What their doctrine also represents is their adamant hypocrisy.
Their website features the guiding principles of their chapters, what they call “Revolution Clubs.” The first principle of their chapters is clearly an attempt to exonerate themselves of accusations of personality cultism. “We base ourselves on and strive to represent the highest interests of humanity: revolution and communism. We do not tolerate using the revolution for personal gain.”
This completely counters their statement that self proclaims Avakian as the leader of their movement while also intentionally ignoring the self serving rhetoric of his doctrine and the actual actions of RCP members. If they do not believe in using revolution for “personal gain” why do they invade and disrupt other organizations events?
Another blatant lie can be seen in principle number five of the Revolution clubs. “We search for and fight for the truth no matter how unpopular, even as we listen to and learn from the observations, insights and criticisms of others.” This is just 100% false. According to one of the past organizers of Black Lives Matter Sacramento, when one of them approached an RCP member asking them to refrain from their behavior and honor the name of Stephon Clark, the RCP member responded by saying “You guys are just as bad as Trump and the rest of the fascists.”
If we allow organizations like this to exist unchallenged then the name of socialism is at risk of becoming a marginalized voice once again. Socialism has gained momentum in the last decade, we are gaining attention at a speed not seen since the turn of the 20th Century. Membership in socialist organizations such as the DSA has exploded and socialists are infiltrating elected offices on both the local and federal levels. In short, we are winning, and if we want to continue to win we cannot let intentionally sectarian organizations like the RCP to exist unchallenged. There is a time and place to agitate and insist on revolution, and the RCP has demonstrated that they have no concept of when and where that is actually appropriate. They have shown that they are not interested in developing an applicable socialist program for the contemporary working class. When you wave the red flag you have a duty to represent socialism in the best of ways, to forsake that is to forsake the cause of the working class.