On the Road Toward the Finalization of the Party Programme! During World Historic Times--We Need World Historic Answers
Revolutionary Worker #1208, July 27, 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 web site, and letters from prisoners.
Readers of the RW are encouraged to contribute to 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 issues #1200 to #1203, this series dealt with the question of the Central Task of the RCP. The DP appendix "The Party and the Masses" appeared in #1204. This week we are excerpting two exchanges from the 2changetheworld.info website on the question of the vanguard party and revolutionary leadership.
The following are two sets of exchanges excerpted from the 2changetheworld.info website.
I don't think there is any guarantee that revolution within the U.S. borders will happen all at once. Historically, revolutions always happen in a piecemeal way--certain areas are liberated before others. Considering the diversity of the cultures within U.S. borders, the size and diversity of the geography, I think it is a big assumption to think that there is a single revolutionary strategy and single vanguard for all those who live within U.S. borders. Just because the capitalists have carved up the world this way doesn't mean our revolution has to follow along their lines.
One might accuse the RCP's draft of being informed by a colonial mentality. In many communities in the USA, Mexicans are the majority--soon, within a few generations, they will be the majority nationwide. Yet, the RCP's draft hardly mentions Mexico, except one brief note that acknowledges the connectedness of the revolutions north and south of the border. This is a major oversight. Marx was very aware that revolutions did not stop at borders. He considered it possible that an Irish peasant revolution might even spark a workers' revolution in England. Revolution in Mexico will have profound effects on revolution in the USA--yet you would barely know this from reading the draft program. I live in the Southwest, what some call "occupied Mexico," and it's hard for me to take seriously any revolutionary strategy for the U.S. that doesn't take on the revolution in Mexico and its effects as one of its central focuses....
Another big assumption RCP makes is that there will be a single vanguard, a single organization, that will lead the revolution in the whole of the USA. Again, this totally downplays the role of revolutionary Mexican organizations and their role in the revolution within the U.S., especially the Southwest. As far as I know, the RCP is limited to a couple of major cities: NY, Chicago, Berkeley, etc.
It is quite a pretension to see yourselves as the only vanguard force within U.S. borders. Again, I can't help but think that this pretension goes back to your model of revolution following along imperialist national borders. I think your model reflects a general ignorance of the situation in the Southwest and rural parts of the U.S. Even if revolution in the USA was limited only within its borders, the RCP still has a long way to go before it can claim to represent the masses of the USA. I suspect that the RCP's extreme centralized nature has insolated it and prevented it from really branching out across the U.S.
The question of the Southwest, the history of resistance and current condition of the Chicano people, are spoken to in great depth in the paper for discussion "The Chicano Struggle and Proletarian Revolution in the U.S." It is clearly a very important issue for revolution in the U.S.
Being a vanguard Party is not a declaration of what you deserve, or a proclamation of what you are. It's a declaration of what you're taking responsibility for doing. The point isn't that everyone has to listen to us, but we feel we understand the problem and the solution, that we have a scientific world outlook and methodology (Marxism-Leninism-Maoism) for knowing the world and to learn what we don't know, in order to take the responsibility to lead the way. If we look at what we're up against, the power of the U.S. government/system, the thousand ways it oppresses, we need to confront what it'll take to throw them off our backs. It means confronting the need for organized, conscious leadership, a vanguard that's based on MLM. We can't and don't aim to replace the role of the masses but to organize them to make revolution.
It doesn't mean we know everything or don't make mistakes. As opposed to the religious notion of infallibility, in any science people make mistakes. But what we don't know, we'll learn. It's a process. We have a Draft Programme and a view of how to fight for that plan to change the world, to lead the masses in becoming conscious of that. It means we're taking responsibility to address revolution in the belly of the beast in basic strategic terms. We are setting about doing that, and the question is do you want to join us. That's what it's about.
Let's argue over the problem and the solution: do you need a vanguard Party? What should it be based on? What ideology, programme? If you think reform can fix the system, let's talk about that. If you think the vanguard should be based on another ideology, like nationalism, anarchism or feminism, let's talk about that. If it's just a small group competition, then who cares who wins the argument? But if we're trying to proceed from what's the problem and solution to our oppression, then let's get into that.
What we don't know, we can learn, if not today, tomorrow, if not this generation, then the next. We will always keep learning--to know and change the world. If anyone knows how to do it better, let's hear it. If you're correct, we'll adopt it. But we have to stick to the fundamental terms of what's in the interest of the masses of people, not only in this country, but throughout the world.
Taking vanguard responsibility is also accepting the challenge of what this vicious ruling class/government will throw at you. It means being really serious.
First of all, I think that to say that the revolution will only happen by "piecemeal" is lowering your sights. Proletarians, the most revolutionary class in society, have the most revolutionary outlook and expectations. Which is why we say, "We only want the world."
To do this we, of course, need a vanguard. I won't get into what this is 'cause I think Dolly Veale already gave a good explanation. I do, however, want to get into BrightRedLight's arguments against the RCP being a vanguard, because I feel they are coming from a nationalistic viewpoint, (or at the least Southwestern-centric).
I walk around (where I live at) and all I see is Raza (Xicanos, Latinos, Mexicanos) too! But that doesn't mean that the rest of the U.S. looks like this too. The fact is that the majority of U.S. population is white. The fact is that the majority of people on welfare are white. The fact is that if you go into rural areas in this country, like the Appalachian Mountains, you will see nothing but poor whites. What I'm trying to say is that to say that "In many communities in the USA, Mexicans are the majority," is very incorrect.
Yes, it is true that for racist capitalists a large influx of Mexicans coming into the U.S. is something to be worried about. (That fucker Buchanan just published a whole book about it.) But it would be a bigger fear for ALL capitalists if all proletarians got together to realize their historic mission. What if--now imagine real hard --proletarians, despite their diverse cultures and ethnic backgrounds, all got together? How powerful would they be? Who would be able to stop them?
Re: The Mexican border. I think that it would be very stupid and irresponsible if the RCP didn't take into consideration what kind of role the border plays, but the fact is they do! It's not just in the Draft Programme but in "The Chicano Struggle and Proletarian Revolution in the U.S." paper as well. Here's a powerful paragraph from it:
"The history and present-day struggle of the Chicano people is inextricably bound up with the domination of Mexico and the super exploitation of the Mexican immigrants forced to come here as a result. Even though the paths to revolution are different on the two sides of the border, the people of the U.S. and the people of Mexico have a common enemy and a common struggle to overthrow the criminal rule of the U.S. capitalist imperialist system. Already we have seen in recent years the ways in which struggles on either side of the border have reverberated across `la linea.' For this reason, the growing struggles of the Chicano and Mexicano people in the U.S. are important in their own right and at the same time represent a potentially powerful force linking--and strengthening--the revolutionary movements on both sides of the border."
Now this isn't just some brief note that the RCP wrote to pretend to acknowledge the importance of the border. That statement is saying a whole lot fuck'n more! (And i'm not even talking 'bout that "read between the lines" bullshit.) Basically, it says--here are some facts, now think about the positive possibilities it could give birth to for proletarians (again, the most revolutionary class in society) when for the imperialists "shit hits the fan."
Lastly, I want to get into BrightRedLight's statement of "One might accuse the RCP's draft of being informed by a colonial mentality." This statement couldn't be farther away from the truth. You have to ask yourselves, "Who makes up the RCP?" (And I ain't talking 'bout names or what skin color they are.) The RCP is made up of Maoists--revolutionary internationalist Maoists. What does that mean? It means NOT upholding one race superior over any other; looking out for the interests of proletariats; and using a Maoist ideology to guide the masses to the quickest way possible to overthrow the bourgeoisie. Here I want to say that Maoism is NOT a European (or colonial) ideology. It is an ideology that belongs to proletarians (the most revolutionary class in society) who will use it to liberate humanity.
LET US BE STARS, NOT FLASHLIGHTS, FOR A BRIGHTER FUTURE
A revolutionary upheaval in Mexico would definitely have an impact on the situation here in the "belly of the beast." It is something that the ruling class is aware of and that's why they continue to militarize the border from Texas to California. And while a revolution in Mexico is something the imperialists fear, the revolutionary multinational proletariat on the other hand actually welcomes it. The Draft Programme clearly states: "The revolutionary struggles in the U.S. and Mexico will be closely intertwined, as people north and south of the current border strive to defeat our common enemy. Advances in each country will spur forward the struggle in the other, at times spilling over the border, pounding at a crucial fault line and potential great vulnerability of U.S. imperialism--its close interconnection with Mexico in a relation of imperialist domination and oppression. All this will greatly strengthen the revolutionary struggle overall." (p. 89)
We've already seen how what happens on one side of la linea can effect the political terrain on the other side. The uprising in Chiapas, for example, has been one of the key political events that has politicized a new generation of Chicano fighters. This has further led many to take up and dig deeper into the questions of what is the "source of" and "solution" to the oppression of Chicanos and others oppressed by this system. Again, the RCP is very aware that "revolutions do not stop at border" and everyone should check out the Draft and the related paper for discussion on this crucial matter.
Next I want to dig into what BrightRedLight said that "considering the diversity of cultures within U.S. borders, the size and diversity of the geography, I think it's a big assumption to think that there is a single revolutionary strategy and single vanguard for all those who live within U.S. borders."
First, I agree with Y Tu Comrade Tambien that the proletariat in this country is made up of people from diverse cultures and ethnic backgrounds and what a powerful force it would (and will) be if they got together to fight the common enemy.
Bob Avakian wrote in relation to the question of the dual oppression of Black people that "There are not separate proletariats in the U.S.--a Black proletariat, a white or European proletariat, a Latino proletariat (or Mexican, Salvadoran, Guatemalan, Nicaraguan proletariat), a Filipino proletariat, and so on, within the U.S. All proletarians in the U.S. are objectively part of one multinational proletariat, even while there are differences and inequalities within that proletariat--very pronounced and sharp ones."
The RCP is also aware that when the time comes there is going to be many armies out on the field with different programmes. But ultimately there can be only one army led by the revolutionary multinational proletariat, otherwise other class forces would be leading it for their own class interests.
My impression is that the RCP says that during the revolution there will be "many flags in the field"--meaning that many organizations and parties will play important roles in making revolution happen. And at the same time, they think it is really necessary for someone, in a serious organized way, to think through, at every stage of the struggle, at every important juncture and decision "what represents the overall interests of the struggle?"-- "what represents the future within the present?" --"what represents the highest revolutionary interests within each eddy or advance of the immediate conflict?"
I have never gotten the impression that the RCP is a "self-proclaimed vanguard" in the sense that they say "we call ourselves the vanguard so you must do what we say."
Actually I get a very different feeling. In my experience it is a very different dynamic, where the concept of vanguard is a demand they make on themselves--meaning it is a challenge they make on their own decisions and practice, to try to see all of this "from the revolution backwards." And this idea of vanguard is a challenge they make to all kinds of other forces--what standard are you going to make your politics by? Where are you leading the struggle? How do we decide what to do now?
I've been following this discussion concerning the national/racial background of revolutionary leadership. It is a cop out for Dolly Veale to dismiss this critique as mere identity politics.
She claims the "Maoist revolution has produced the highest quality leaders of any revolution, because ours is `the most radical rupture with traditional property relation & traditional ideas.'"
However, this process does not happen automatically, but only through conscious facilitation by revolutionary forces. A revolution that is in the interests of the working class, oppressed nationalities, and women should constantly bring forward members of these groups into positions of leadership. This itself is an expression that the oppressive divisions from this society (where the oppressed are trained to be slaves, not organizers, theoreticians, and future heads of state) are being overcome in the very process of preparing for revolution.
The movement should reflect as closely as possible the future society that we are trying to bring into existence.
Dolly Veale says "[i]t's a bourgeois outlook of ranking the oppressed, chalking up oppression like poker chips to bargain for organizational positions/careers" to promote leadership from among the oppressed.
How does this square with the movie "Breaking With Old Ideas" (not to mention support for affirmative action)? To those who are not familiar, it is a movie produced in China during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution that dramatizes the struggle of workers and peasants to gain access to higher education. They face resistance from capitalist roaders who don't want to transform society and break down divisions between mental and manual labor.
Of course the criteria was not simply "class origin" (analagous to national/racial origin). It was also the attitude of the potential students towards serving the people.
Would these students from peasant backgrounds hoard their knowledge like private property, or use it to foster the all-around development of society?
Likewise, the RCP needs to consider both the political line AND the national origin and gender of new forces coming from the younger generation when deciding who to promote into positions of leadership. The most oppressed won't step forward in a serious way to support an organization that is seen as predominantly white and/or male.
Bob Avakian has acknowleged this problem ("What Difference Does Line Make?", RW #1102 and the interview in RW #1160), but not adequately addressed it. Concrete problems demand concrete solutions.
That said I believe that one, multinational, revolutionary vanguard organization is necessary to overthrow this system. But this organization must be truly multinational, in actuality, not just in name.
This does not mean excluding white comrades from middle class, and especially not from working class, backgrounds.
An organization that was truly multinational would inspire much less distrust from nonwhite peoples, and many would probably join once the process was seriously underway.
If there is a question of political line involved in this discussion, it is not "revolutionary MLM politics" vs. "identity politics." It is a political line of refusing to acknowledge an inability to overcome oppressive social relationships.
Dolly Veale quotes Avakian as saying we need an antiwar movement that does not get "caught up in sectarian...interests." We also need a revolutionary movement that does not get caught up in sectarian interests.
The younger generation is on the front lines against the system. The outrages of the system spontaneously fosters movements of resistance. The RCP needs to find ways to relate to these movements, rather than condemn them as representing non-revolutionary political lines.
This does not mean liquidating the necessity for political leadership, but having a more dialectical approach of integrating newly arising grassroots movements of the younger generation into the revolutionary movement.
The younger generation of activists has a lot to learn from the RCP's theory and practice, especially in regards to the necessity for a vanguard leadership. It would be a shame if the younger generation "tuned out" the RCP, because of a high-handed, sectarian attitude.
That's all for now. I look forward to a response.
Greetings! I wanted to throw my two cents into this discussion.
One of the main points you make is, if I understand you right, that the RCP has been unable to overcome a very real division in society that we revolutionaries have to deal with. I'll quote from the Draft Programme on this:
"The ideology that represents the outlook and interests of the proletariat, Marxism- Leninism-Maoism (MLM), is a scientific outlook--the science of revolution. And like all sciences, it is generally first grasped by those with the time and opportunity to develop an interest in and to become familiar with the realm of intellectual inquiry, theory, etc.
"In a society based on exploitation and with a division of labor embodying great inequalities--including the division between mental and manual labor--those who are first able to do this will mainly (though not only) be students, intellectuals, and so on. The task of those who do first embrace this ideology is to bring it to the class that it represents and that can and must take up this ideology as its own."[From the Party and the Masses section.]
I agree with you that this division of labor is a problem that must be overcome. But there are two big mistakes that a group could make in attempting to overcome those. You promote one of them, below:
"A revolution that is in the interests of the working class, oppressed nationalities and women should constantly bring forward members of these groups into positions of leadership. This itself is an expression that the oppressive divisions from this society (where the oppressed are trained to be slaves, not organizers, theoreticians and future heads of state) are being overcome in the very process of preparing for revolution."
I know that you say you don't believe in a "rigid" quota system (but perhaps a looser one? you don't say specifically). But establishing a quota system or certain minimum percentages for membership will not make that contradiction go away. Neither does putting people in positions of leadership or high visibility just because they rank higher on the oppression scorecard. This smacks of tokenism and seems pretty damned patronizing to me.
I also see a certain assumption here that I want to get into: you seem to be putting out that the mere presence of all of the different oppressed nationalities in a group guarantees...what exactly I'm not clear but perhaps it guarantees that the line will remain correct, especially lines having to do with national oppression.
Again, I think we need to subject that idea (whether or not it's yours) to some criticism and historical materialism...
Deng Xiaoping was Chinese too, and he represents revisionism to the core. So [did] the Chilean Communist Party, (not to be confused with the Revolutionary Communist Party of Chile!) which responded to the U.S.-led coup in 1973 by disarming the Chilean masses and telling them NOT to fight, even when tens of thousands of people were being murdered and thousands more tortured. You might say that one has to look at both things: they had the right ideology (add one point) but the wrong line (minus one point). So- -are both of those factors equally important? What if the leader of the Chilean Communist Party at the time had been someone with the wrong nationality, but who correctly led people to fight the coup? Would you have followed such a person?
Another reason I draw from [Debate about] why you must have lots of members of people of color in a party, is, to quote: "The most oppressed won't step forward in a serious way to support an organization that is seen as predominantly white and/or male."
I have two things to say here--the less important point is first, but I want to get it out there. As far as the composition of the RCP, I'm not sure how you would be in a position to know what the membership is or who the core supporters are, since the Party is a national organization.
But let's look at the composition of the various spokespeople and public supporters: the National Spokesperson is a Black man, the Seattle spokesperson is a white woman, in Houston one of the staunchest supporters is a Chicano, in L.A. the spokesperson is a Black man, and in the Bay Area and Chicago the spokespeople are Asian women. And all but one of those are from proletarian backgrounds.
So where are all your white men??
Here is the more important point, though, and one that I don't think any serious revolutionary organization should be putting out--your point that oppressed people won't join a predominantly white/male organization.
First of all, that completely liquidates line from the equation. There is a grain of truth in the fact that national oppression runs very deep, including in an initial distrust of white people. But things are not static- -they change. And part of bringing the oppressed masses forward is leading them to grasp the line and science of MLM, including friends and enemies.
There are organizations, on the other hand, that seem to use that initial phenomenon as your bargaining chip--a sort of "hey, come to our organization--we have lots of oppressed masses AND the correct line."
They actually don't have an interest in leading the masses to really analyze the importance of line, who are our friends and enemies, what classes exist in the U.S., etc, because it would take away their edge.
Finally, I would like to say that I have done work with the Party and have taken out the Revolutionary Worker to youth of all nationalities, to proletarians, activists, etc etc, in many parts of the country. And I have never once had anyone open up the paper and say, "man, you're cool but you have a white chairman." Nobody, that is, but activists. Hmmmm.
I would like to know what your thoughts are on all of this.