Revolutionary Worker #1203, June 15, 2003, posted at rwor.org
May Day 2001 the RCP released its Draft Programme with the slogan "Looking For A Plan To Change The World?...It's Here!" Since the release of the Draft Programme, or DP, the RCP has learned from the sentiments, thoughts and opinions of thousands of people checking it out. All the while RCP has been popularizing its revolutionary strategy and vision.
Over the past few years a new generation has stepped forward to oppose imperialist globalization. Since 9/11, literally millions more have come into political life and struggle against the juggernaut of war and repression. Mao Tsetung teaches us the fundamental law that "people fight back, then they seek philosophy." Many are asking why things are this way--and do they have to be this way, is another world possible.
Over the next several months the RW/OR will be putting a spotlight on the DP, highlighting important parts of the Draft Programme. Along with this the RW will publish selected comments, criticisms, and suggestions from people studying the DP--including comments from Party supporters, debates from the 2changetheworld website, and letters from prisoners.
Readers of the RW are encouraged to "join the debate" by sending in comments. Comments can be sent to "Draft Programme Debate" c/o RCP Publications, PO Box 3486 Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654. They can also be given to your local RW distributor.
The RW will not be able to publish all the comments sent in. However all such commentary from the debate will aid in the finalization of the DP. So don't hold back--join the debate!
In the past two weeks, we published a number of comments on the RCP's Central Task. In this issue, we continue with more on the Central Task.
The following are two previously unpublished comments from RCP comrades.
Bringing Out the Organizing Role of the Party's Press
I think the Central Task section of the Draft Programme is very crucial and exciting. Overall, it does a very good job of laying out the whole process that our Central Task encompasses. These are a few suggestions that have some to do with form and accessibility, and some also with content.
In the section on the "Pivotal Role of the Party's Press" I think it would be good to say something early on about why our press is pivotal--basically because it is the masses, led by their vanguard, who make revolution; and the masses need the truth to change the world...
In this same section, I think it would be good to develop the point a little more about how the newspaper plays a critical role in developing the vanguard party at the core of the revolutionary army of the proletariat (at the top of the second column on page 47) -- maybe adding something here about how the newspaper is a "collective organizer." I know that later in the section on Revolutionary Organization and on Building the Party Itself (page 49, bottom of the 2nd column, and page 50, top of the 1st column) it talks about the newspaper as "a key link ... not only in `preparing minds' but also in `organizing forces.'" But I think it would be good to develop that a little more--the organization around our press, networks and circles, and the press as a collective organizer--in the section on the Pivotal Role of Our Press or in the section on Building the Party Itself--probably at the top of page 50. I think the question of organization and what kind is needed to sustain the struggle of the masses and lead it in a revolutionary direction--is sharper today than when the Draft Programme was written. Having a vanguard Party and organization centered around a revolutionary press is based on the conscious activism of the masses, and gives the flexibility and continuity to see the masses and the Party through periods of ebbs and flows, all the while preparing minds and organizing forces to be ready, taking into account sharp twists and turns and based on the possibilities of sudden upheavals and developments, and putting the Party and the masses in a position to lead and marshal forces quickly and in a common direction when "masses in their millions will be looking for guidance on how to live and how to die..." (top of page 48, 1 st column). Maybe this is where it could be developed a little more--fleshing out what Lenin meant about building up the organization around the Party's press as the "greater part of organizing for the insurrection." [In What Is To Be Done?,Lenin discusses the role of organization around the revolutionary press as the "greater part of organization for an uprising or rebellion."]
I know part of this [point] is already in this whole amazing section of the Draft Programme (!), but I think it could be developed a little more in a few sentences or a paragraph, where people get the sense of how to do this [building organization around the Party's press], and how important the developing networks and circles around our press are -- as part of building up the tens of thousands of organized ties [as discussed thoroughly in the Draft Programme itself], enabling us to act today, as well as preparing for the future uprising.
Identifying What Is Meant By "Crisis"
One of the [posts on the 2changetheworld website] says that the events of 9/11 should change the feel of the Draft Programme [DP]. I don't really think the feel of the Draft Programme should change, but I do think there should be some changes to reflect 9/11. Certainly the introduction should reflect the latest [atrocities of the ruling class in the wake of 9/11].
Although a [Party] Programme should stand a certain test of time, I think it should also be as immediate as possible. The Nurturing the Seeds of the Future Today section of the appendix on Central Task speaks of "the need to seize on crises," even "mini-crises¼." We are seeing today the beginning of a crisis that may prove far from minor. So I believe this section should be re-written drawing examples from the post 9/11 situation, the anti-war movement that developed even before the war broke out and that is shaking society today, as well as the various movements against the juggernaut.
The most vivid description of minor crisis in this section is the 1992 L.A. Rebellion, which happened long enough ago that there are people in the mix today who were only little kids in 1992.
The same section also says:
When tens of thousands of mainly middle class youth militantly take to the streets to oppose the conditions of the masses in sweatshops around the planet and other effects of imperialist "globalization," we can see not only the irrepressible desire of the youth to fight for a more just world but also how the "normal routines" of millions could be disrupted as they are suddenly drawn into active debate about world affairs.
The anti-globalization movement has changed significantly since 9/11, so I think this needs to be reworked. Now we see a truly global anti-war movement. I think this has implication for the "nurturing" section as well as for training the masses in internationalism.
Aside from all that, I want to urge that the Draft Programme dump the term "mini- crisis." It sounds like trivial, esoteric jargon. The DP seems to use the term to distinguish a minor crisis from a revolutionary crisis. I think we need better terminology. "Minor crisis" is far preferable to the cutesy "minor crisis." And it seems to me there are all kinds of grades and shadings of crisis between "minor" and "revolutionary." Can't there just be a plain crisis? I would say that [minor crisis] describes the current situation with imperialist blocs breaking up and seeming to realign, generals (or retired generals) openly complaining about the Defense Department's strategy, a high-ranking officer in the field telling the press that what they face in Iraq is "not what we war-gamed against," and the broad array of masses in the streets.
Part I of the DP describes the Central Task very well in my opinion, and I like the slogan "Create Public Opinion, Seize Power--Prepare Minds and Organize Forces for Revolution." It is the application and elaboration of the paragraph [on p. 30--see the box "The Central Task of the Party" here] that I want to see strengthened with more timely examples of how the party raises the "consciousness, organization and fighting capacity of the masses" both in the base and in the middle strata, "in preparation for going over...."
The RCP Is "Focusing in Educational Work"
The following is an excerpt from a debate at 2changetheworld.info. In this excerpt, Scott H. replies to a previous post by Dolly Veale, spokesperson for the RCP, San Francisco Bay Area Branch.
From Scott H.:
Dolly Veale wrote:
"Scott, The mass line is indeed the heartbeat of the Party that every revolutionary must constantly deepen our command of in theory and practice.
"I've been in the RCP since 1975. As simply a statement of fact, I just don't recall any period of time when propaganda was our main focus."
Hi Dolly --
The 1981 RCP programme, which I assume is still officially the governing programme for the Party until the finalized new one is adopted, says this:
"The main way that the Party influences the masses and the mass movements, the main way it works to build the leadership of the proletariat and prepare the working class and broad masses-- and the Party itself--for revolution, is to systematically carry out revolutionary agitation and propaganda." [pp. 41-42]
It certainly seems fair to me to sum this up by saying that "propaganda and agitation are principal." (It's true, I left out the words "and agitation" before, but as you know, in some contexts the word "propaganda" is short for all types of political education work, including both propaganda properly speaking, and also agitation.)
So, if you deny that the RCP has really followed this policy over the past 21 years, are you then saying that the Party has been ignoring its own programme on this very central point?
It seems to me that the Party has NOT been ignoring its own programme, but truly doing what it said it was going to do--namely, focusing on educational work, primarily around the newspaper.
"Given you said you have a complete set of the RW spanning these years, it can be readily verified by looking through its pages--all the frontline struggles the Party has joined and carried out through these years. There's not space or necessity to recount all of them here but the major ones are clearly:
"* for Mumia's life and freedom (well over a decade)
"* defending Mao's legacy for which the ruling class tried to send our Chairman Bob Avakian and others to prison for 241 years
"* May Day 1980 and raising the red flag over the Alamo for which our dear comrade Damián García was murdered by LAPD agents
"* to defend women's abortion rights
"* against abuse of immigrants
"* anti-police brutality, including mobilizing the proletarians themselves in this cutting edge struggle (see "Watts a Day of Resistance," RW #1146 at rwor.org)
"* participating in the RIM and its formation since 1984
"* against imperialist world war throughout the '80s
"* in support of national liberation, most especially the Maoist people's wars.
"This last one I'm especially proud of in terms of our Party's deep internationalism, including the RW sending reporters to Nepal and the Philippines, steadfastly supporting the revolution in Peru through its twists and turns."
Dolly, I never said that the RCP has not involved itself AT ALL in trying to lead the masses, only that the Party has made propaganda (and agitation) principal, that it has largely focused its efforts on educational work, and has done relatively little to actually try to lead the masses in their struggles (and especially around their OWN struggles--the ones THEY see as important).
There has indeed been some leadership of the masses on the issues you mention, and on some other issues too. But let's take a closer look at the ones you mention.
First of all, simply running articles on these struggles in the RW does not show that serious efforts are underway to LEAD the masses in struggle around all these issues.
You say, for example, you are particularly proud of the last one, supporting people's wars in other countries. And I agree the RCP has done some very good work in this area. Some of it may in fact be considered leadership work, leadership of RIM and the international communist movement to some degree. But how much actual "leadership" of the American masses has there been on this? Isn't it true that MOST of the effort here too has really been educational work, such as the excellent series of articles on Nepal by Li Onesto? What "leadership" of the American masses has there been around Nepal? (Holding forums too, while good, is educational work, is it not?)
And as for raising the red flag over the Alamo, isn't that basically a propaganda action? It was no doubt worth doing, and I have a picture of Damián García doing it up on my wall. But how is this an example of leading the masses in their struggles?
It seems to me that a lot of what you guys CALL leadership work is in reality educational work.
Second, only a few of the struggles you mention can really be viewed as ones the broad masses in this country are especially concerned with at this point. Of course it is true that we should try to mobilize the masses on issues like the defense of political prisoners (Mumia and others), and the defense of the revolutionary leadership when it is attacked (including the RCP leadership itself). But it is ALSO true that we have to take up the struggles which the masses themselves consider most important. And on the whole, leadership of the struggles the masses think are important (provided of course that they truly are in the masses' real interests) is where the bulk of our leadership efforts should be concentrated. From the list you provide, it seems clear that this is not the case with the RCP.
It seems to me that during the 1980s the focus of what leadership the RCP provided to the masses was in opposition to a possible world war. (And again, though this was clearly an important thing to be doing, it was not something that most of the masses were very concerned about. In fact, that was the biggest problem we had to contend with.)
Since the beginning of the 1990s, the focus of what little RCP mass leadership work that has occurred has been on issues of police brutality and murder. That is a very important issue for a relatively small number of the masses, but way off the radar screen for most of them. Again, I would never deny that this is important work to be doing. But once again, it is not focusing on issues of the broadest concern to the masses.
Over the past couple decades, there has also been some RCP leadership work done on some issues of broader concern to the masses, such as around abortion rights, and here and there on some things in defense of immigrants and around housing issues. But, as far as I can determine, there has not been MUCH real leadership of mass struggles on these or any other issues. Few demonstrations, for example. Few organizations build around such issues. Little actual mass activity.
Yes, there are articles in the RW , but little evident leadership of the masses around most of the issues discussed in these articles. As I say, it really does look like you guys are calling a lot of your educational efforts "leadership"--because, of course, you know that communists must also try to lead the masses as well as educate them about the need for revolution. You seem to be fooling yourselves about how much mass leadership you are really providing.
"I think an excellent example of our Party's concrete application of the mass line is the statement we issued on September 14 about the 9/11 events in New York (see rwor.org). The masses loved that leaflet and so do I! I learned a lot from that statement's profound and poetic application of the mass line in handling the acute contradiction in our two "90/10" strategy [see Draft Programme p. 55]--in not pitting the interests of the majority of the world against the majority in this country, as the bourgeoisie works to do."
Well, here we have yet another false example of "using the mass line." Putting out a leaflet, no matter how good it might be, is (in itself) not an example of using the mass line.
Remember that the mass line is a method of leadership, as your own draft programme says twice. Putting out a propaganda or agitational leaflet, such as the RCP leaflet about 9/11, is clearly an educational action, not a leadership action.
It is true that when there is some actual attempt at leading the masses to do something or other, that a leaflet or newspaper article can be part of the means of carrying out step 3 of the mass line process [the party's four step method is: make plans, carry them out, sum up what has been learned through the first two steps, and then make new plans]--taking the line back to the masses for them to act on. Even then, the leaflet is only a part of the overall process of using the mass line. But in this case, the Party was not even attempting to get the masses to engage in any particular action in the wake of 9/11, so how can this possibly be considered an example of "using the mass line"?
It is also true that mass line techniques can be used in propaganda work. (See the section of my mass line book on "The Use of the Mass Line Within Agitation and Propaganda", near the end of chapter 11 at: http://members.aol.com/TheMassLine/MLch11.htm ) But this is a very secondary application of the mass line, and not at all the basic point of it. Moreover, there is no indication in the RCP leaflet of 9/14/01 that mass line techniques were used to prepare this propaganda leaflet.
The leaflet, in fact, is not very good. It is very rhetorical, like much of the RCP writing for the masses. It does not address the key negative ideas that were then arising among the masses, many of which have proven to be troublesome in the anti-war movement since then (especially in NY). It is a classic example of preaching to the choir.
But the main conclusion I draw, Dolly, from your incredible claim that this leaflet was a good example of using the mass line is, once again, that nobody in the RCP seems to have any idea about what it really means to use the mass line! It is really puzzling to me that y'all seem to misunderstand the correct (if excessively brief) description of the mass line in the draft programme in the bizarre way that you do (although below I think I get into part of the explanation). I am not trying in insult anybody here, I really do find this very strange how you guys so distort the concept.
Reform vs. Revolution
The following is an excerpt from an exchange between two members of the Communist Party USA, Cord Macguire and RedNed, and a reply by a supporter of the RCP, Rosa(rl), posted at 2changetheworld.info.
From Cord Macguire:
Honestly Rosa, do you think that this line of approach is going to reach anyone beyond a tiny fringe of workers who can even understand what RCP is saying?
Although these archaic debates [on 2changetheworld.info] were often compelling, I'll assert that they are virtually irrelevant in today's circumstances.
I no longer think that state socialism is a plausible option for even the most advanced workers to consider. As a CPUSA member, we believe that socialism in this country must be achieved thru democratic struggles (reforms).
Building a popular united front is crucial. US workers will not accept a revolution that appears "undemocratic," period. Somehow, we have to create a democratic, progressive working class- led majority coalition that can confront Capital on an equal footing.
Only then, largely determined by Capital's reaction, will we be able to figure a revolutionary line of march.
However, it's way too early for that at this point. We are in a terribly defensive position. We need to build bridges to the mainstream center, not to mention get our own Left act together, before we can even hope to challenge the Right/Corporate beast that's run wild since the collapse of Soviet power.
The kind of rhetoric you have above is out of time and inappropriate in the current weak situation we find ourselves in.
Cord Macguire wrote:
"As a CPUSA member, we believe that socialism in this country must be achieved thru democratic struggles (reforms)."
I too, am a member of the CPUSA, however am a "newbie." I too think that Socialism must be achieved through democratic struggles. Because I don't think that Americans will ever support an all out revolution, especially when it has that dreaded "C" word, Communism.
I feel that we must strive in the system we have now, seeking and demanding reforms...using the rights we have to vote, however flawed that system is.
I believe that the voting system in use now is unfair and flawed, but it can be fixed to work . If we educate the American public, you will be surprised at the progress Communism will make!
Which brings me to a final point. Why don't Communist Parties such as the CPUSA, or the RCP get out there and advertise, educate and incite?
The only recognition the Communists have in this country are misguided McCarthy era propaganda! You have to change that, before you can EVER think Americans will support any move toward Socialism, and ultimately, Communism.
IMHO! [In My Humble Opinion]
I want to address a few of the things that you brought up, when you wrote, "I too, am a member of the CPUSA, however am a `newbie.' I too think that Socialism must be achieved through democratic struggles. Because I don't think that Americans will ever support an all out revolution, Especially when it has that dreaded `C' word, Communism."
One of the big things that people have to do is not to just accept this situation. If you really look at it, why do all this ground work just to get people to support THIS system by voting?
This anti communism has to be overcome and I think that it can be overcome --but why do all that work to just go half way? Why leave state power in the hands of these oppressors and their bloody system to keep on doing what they have been doing? I don't think that they are going to change.
I also don't think that Communism is as dreaded as it might seem. A lot of people hold wrong views about the things that happened in the Soviet Union and in China and they are against what they think happened, not really against what actually DID happen.
Deep down I feel that a great number of people would support Communism if they knew what it was. They would be like-- shit--that's how I always thought things should be! They don't want the power-- the state power--in the hands of these oppressors. They see every day what comes from this, they see the brutality on the streets and in their very living conditions. They don't feel that they are any part of "we the people"! They know all that shit is a lie and they are dying for the options, dying for someone to shed some light on why the fuck life sucks the way it does in what is supposed to be--if you listen to these oppressors tell it--the greatest place on earth to live with all this wealth that we never get to see ever except across some iron gate.
So, deep down inside I think people really DO want revolution--they just don't know that it IS what they want.
As far as fixing the voting system we have now--it isn't broke. It works just fine. It works like it's supposed to!
How can I say that? Because it is, and always has been a tool of the ruling class. It's a tool that they use to create the illusion that you have some control over what is going on in this society and no matter how much you reform it or dress it up--it won't change a thing. It will leave you just as powerless in the end because you still wont have state power and you still won't have control over what is going on. You will just have a prettier voting system, a more fine tuned illusion than you have now. It won't really change anything.
And on educating people on this--it's happening!
To quote at length [from the DP]:
The Party does this through carrying out its Central Task: Create Public Opinion, Seize Power! Prepare Minds and Organize Forces for Revolution. The Party Chairman, Bob Avakian, has described this as "an all-around process and all-around struggle through which the consciousness, and also the organization and fighting capacity of the masses is raised in preparation for going over to the armed struggle to seize power when the revolutionary crisis breaks out."
This process and this struggle has a definite aim--simply put, we are working to bring the masses to the position where they are willing and determined to put everything on the line for revolution, where they grasp both the necessity and the possibility for this. This, in essence, is the "public opinion" we are creating.
This should not be understood as a process of "patient education." It is an all- around process with different dimensions--it encompasses mass struggles in various forms and building organization, both the Party itself and mass organizations of various kinds, as well as exposing the system, bringing to light its ugly features, its utter worthlessness, and the necessity of overthrowing it. And all this goes into preparing the masses and the Party itself for the all-out struggle to seize power.
Connecting with the Masses
The following is a letter received by the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF).
Yes, I read the appendix on the Central Task of the Party. Here is my commentary on the section.
Preparing and organizing the masses in these days of crushing oppression is a monumental task for the Party. One can never predict "when the time is ripe," constant vigilance must be maintained.
If the Party seeks to lead the revolution, it must be totally aware of the sickness that has a death grip on the masses. This sickness is called consumerism. The proletariat work to acquire goods that they don't truly need. Since the birth of print advertisement, the masses have been besieged by the advertisement apparatus; that promises them the "good life" if they buy this product or pay monthly installments on that product. Unfortunately, the proletariat seeks relief through escapism, the sugar-coated bullet is more preferable to them. Here in the US commitment comes from the box of frosted flakes, or some pasty-faced politician who is either a dixiecrat or a robpublican... Some, if not most, protest because it is the fashionable thing to do. For many, a few slogans shouted, then its back to work as wage slaves. Before the Party can seize power, it must first seize minds.
By seizing the minds of the masses, you must help them develop a revolutionary consciousness. Revolutionary consciousness occurs when you first notice the repressive barricade within your existence. You stand from afar mouthing earnest recriminations against the obnoxious structure, trembling in rage and fear. Then a commitment of will overtakes you, you step forward, not looking to go around the obstruction or under it, but to smash straight through the oppressive barrier. This is revolutionary consciousness, it comes in stages like a progressive attack. Like armed conflict, revolutionary consciousness can be disjointed or it can come with the sharpness of a scalpel. This revolutionary consciousness has to be directed by a skilled and committed leadership.
The Party's newspaper must be a focal point for developing the revolutionary consciousness. The newspaper must not commit itself to emotional diatribes or political illusions of grandeur. The masses must be honestly informed on the constant struggles on a national and international level. This should occur without the over intellectualizing of world struggles. It will be virtually impossible for the proletariat to be the backbone of the revolution if the propaganda arm of the Party fails to communicate effectively with the masses. How many Blacks, Latinos, and other minorities truly comprehend the theme of: struggle-unity- struggle, socialism and communism? They've been severely poisoned by the government controlled media outlets. If you mention communism to the average minority, you will get a likely response like: "Ain't that the thing in Russia that collapsed?"
Communism is a personal bridge that must be built between the Party and the masses. This can occur by two methods. One, by being more persuasive in the Party's press. Explaining in a comprehensive manner the themes of socialism, communism, etc... Build the people's level of awareness, by providing historical perspectives of worldwide struggles. Two, gain the people's trust by active participation in the depressed communities. Providing political education in the issues that directly affect them. Instruction on how to fight the bourgeois interests and their repressive regimes.
Many people desire to fight the imperialist, but they're seriously wanting for proper instruction. The party must fill this void if it desires to lead minorities to a revolution.
Resist and Live, xxx
The Pivotal Role of the Party's Press
In short, the newspaper
is pivotal in carrying out our Central Task as an all-around process, an active
process of exposing the system and of engaging the enemy in struggle, and building
up the revolutionary organization of the proletariat and its allies-all as preparation
for waging the revolutionary war, with the prospect of winning, when the time
The role of the newspaper will assume even greater importance as the revolutionary situation develops, when events clatter with machine-gun speed and public opinion goes through rapid shifts and turns, when masses in their millions will be looking for guidance on how to live and how to die, and when the changing shape of public opinion will have very direct implications for the timing of a revolutionary uprising.
From the Draft Programme, pp. 47-48
The Party's paper also brings out how the different sections of the working class are part of the single multinational proletariat in the U.S. and, further, how the proletariat in this country is one with the proletariat worldwide. It gives people a vision of the communist future and a sense of the experience of the proletariat worldwide in making revolution and carrying out the socialist transformation of society toward the final aim of communism.
It plays a key role in educating the masses with the internationalist stand of the proletariat and training them to actively apply this in supporting the revolutionary struggles of the proletariat and oppressed masses throughout the world. It takes on the dog-eat-dog ideology of the enemy in many different ways and explains the communist outlook and method for understanding, and changing, the world.
Draft Programme, p. 47
[Return to article]
The Central Task of the Party
The central task of the Party is to Create Public Opinion, Seize Power-Prepare
Minds and Organize Forces for Revolution. This central task describes an all-around
process and all-around struggle through which the consciousness, organization,
and fighting capacity of the masses is raised in preparation for going over
to the armed struggle to seize power when the revolutionary crisis breaks out.
Through carrying out this central task, the Party brings the masses to a position
where millions see that the whole system is worthless and must be overthrown,
and are ready to put everything on the line for revolution.
From the Draft Programme, p. 30
[Return to article]
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