In Defense of Bob Avakian and the Revcoms
Part 1 of 3
Dear readers: this and my next two Paul Street Reports address the work of Bob Avakian and the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (the “Revcoms”) and the sadly vicious, slanderous, ignorant and reactionary response of much of “the left,” whatever “the left” is anymore, to Avakian and the Revcoms. Please make time to listen to the six recently (today) released and short Avakian video/audios I put in the first endnote at the bottom of today’s essay.
For the Revolutionary Reconstitution of Society
Avakian is the chairman and leading theoretician and strategist of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA., also known as the Revcoms. He’s been a prolific writer, pamphleteer, author and speaker for half a century. He has spent this time advocating a sweeping communist revolution – a revolution that seeks to emancipate not just this group or that group, not just this country or that country, but all of humanity from all forms of exploitation and oppression. Imagine that – the “revolutionary reconstitution of society” that young Karl Marx and Frederick Engels called for in 1848 as the only alternative to “the common ruin of all.”
Avakian’s consistent committed to an actual communist-led revolution (imagine) in the United States, the leading capitalist-imperialist aggressor state on the planet by far is not shared by the American left in its various lame forms. The majority of US left “intellectuals” have shunned, ridiculed, and in some cases abandoned the notion of a vanguard Marxist/revolutionary communist party leading a mass revolutionary movement to take and wield state power to radically replace capitalism with revolutionary socialism. Many if not most of these deep thinkers are reflexively anti-communist and anti-revolutionary, mired in different combinations of reformist, identitarian, economist, electoralist, localist, laborite/workerist, conspiratorialist, anarchist, libertarian, religious, postmodern, and other reaction- and capitalism-serving delusion.
Avakian is right to have remained steadfast for “Revolution Nothing Less” (the name of the Revcoms’ weekly Thursday night YouTube show). “The common ruin of all” is well underway under capitalist-imperialism in 2024: see my recent essay on how that United States (US)-led system has now produced “four mutually reinforcing and multiplying apocalyptic horsemen”: ecocide, pandemicide, potentially terminal nuclear war, and fascism.
On top of hundreds of articles, commentaries, and speeches, Avakian is the author of at least 20 books, including The Loss in China and the Revolutionary Legacy of Mao Tse-tung ;Conquer The World? The International Proletariat Must and Will (1981); For a Harvest of Dragons (1983);Democracy: Can't We Do Better Than That? (1986); Phony Communism is Dead—Long Live Real Communism (1992); Preaching from a Pulpit of Bones: We Need Morality But Not Traditional Morality (1999); Observations on Art and Culture, Science and Philosophy (2005); From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist: A Memoir (2005); Away with All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World (2008); Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy (2008); Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon (2010) and The New Communism: The Science, the Strategy, the Leadership for an Actual Revolution, and a Radically New Society on the Road to Real Emancipation (2016)
Avakian has also authored a draft Constitution for the Socialist Republic of North America and thereby shot down the common elitist sneer that revolutionaries are only “antis” who complain about the reigning order but have no concrete ideas or plans for an alternative society – for what the Revcoms calls “a whole different way the world could be.”
Something Terrible or Something Beautiful
Avakian, by the way, has been warning since the 1990s about the rise of a US version of fascism rooted in a toxic mixture of capitalism-imperialism, white supremacism, male supremacism, hyper-nationalist American supremacism and fundamentalist Christianity. His warnings have been richly borne out with the Amerikaner-fascist takeover of one of the nation’s two dominant capitalist-imperialist parties (the Republican, now Republi-fascist Party) and the ongoing exposure of the dismal capitalist-imperialist Democrats as the Republi-fascists’ Weimar-like enabler and conciliator. With the doddering imperialist warmonger “Genocide Joe” Biden running well behind the orange fascist maniac in the handful of contested states that absurdly determine presidential election outcomes under the archaic US Electoral College and with the monstrous ogre’s sweeping victories in the Iowa Republican Caucus last week and the New Hampshire Republican primary last night, the die is cast: the now openly Hitlerian Donlad “Take Down the Metal Detectors” Trump is sitting pretty for a return to power atop the world’s most dangerous nation. His second fascist administration will be much worse than his first presidency in numerous ways, as discussed in my last Paul Street Report.
Here we are now looking straight into the ugly face of what Avakian has been saying for years. The center cannot hold amidst the new right-tilted polarization. Radical outcomes are already in the works. Previously normative US bourgeois democracy and rule of law are severely damaged and nearing their final days. We must choose between one of two radical outcomes: radically horrific neofascism or radically liberating revolutionary socialism. As Avakian put things a few years ago, “The crisis and deep divisions in [US] society now can only be resolved through radical means, of one kind or another—either radically reactionary, murderously oppressive and destructive means or radically emancipating revolutionary means.”
We are living in a time when, as young Marx and Engels wrote in their stunning and poetic 1848 critique of “the bourgeoisie” (of capitalism), “all that is solid melts into air.” Good portions of both the US populace and the US ruling class are ready, willing, and quite possibly able to sweep previously normative US bourgeois electoral and rule of law “democracy” (such as they are) into Marx’s proverbial “dustbin of history.” Sadly, as the poet WB Yeats wrote in a passage that Avakian likes to quote, too many of “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” That needs to change.
The “New Communism”
Out of all his work, Avakian has fashioned what he and his followers call a “new synthesis of communism” or simply “the new communism.” By this Avakian and the Revcoms mean (by my understanding, which ought to be checked with knowledgeable longtime Revcoms) a number of things, including:
+ A rejection of historical determinism, of the notion that human and historical development have been predetermined to follow a certain pathway, and an emphasis instead on the dialectical interaction between underlying material forces and conscious activity and struggle.
+ A rejection of subjectivist relativism and post-modernist “truth as narrative” and an emphasis instead on a scientific approach to objective truth as determined through the testing of theses against evidence.
+An understanding of Marxism as an open-ended science, with a paradigm subject to empirical and historical testing, and not the “end of philosophy.”
+ Advance of a “solid core with a lot of elasticity” – the notion that “Marxism embraces but not replace” scientific, aesthetic, and philosophical truths achieved by others not working with or through historical materialism/Marxism.
+ A rejection of the notion that “might makes right” combined with an understanding of how identitarian and postmodernist relativism fuels “might makes right.”
+ A rejection of the insidious trumping of scientifically determined truth by partisan and class truth and a determination to link partisanship for revolution to and not against science.
+A rejection of the religious, “populist,” and subjectivist/relativist belief that the oppressed have a special hold on truth because of their exploited and oppressed condition and place in society
+ A consistently scientific, historical materialist understanding of capitalist political economy, emphasizing the dialectical interaction of the economic base with the political and ideological superstructure.
+ A consistent rejection of bourgeois notions and forms of democracy, rights, and equality.
+ A rejection of the notion of revolution understood as revenge and inversion (“the first shall be last and the last shall be first”) and a call instead for “the emancipation of humanity, ending all exploitation and oppression throughout the world.”
+ A determination to examine and learn from the very real accomplishments, limits, and mistakes of the first socialist states in 20th Century Russia and China.
+ Communist internationalism combined with the understanding that socialist revolutions take place in individual nations.
+ A sharp anti-economistic separation of the communist movement from the labor movement and a reorientation of our understanding of where the basic bedrock base of revolution will be found.
+A rejection of the reified fetishization of “the working class” and a firm grasp of the necessary role of intellectuals in the making of revolution.
+ A many-sided grasp of the inner contradictions of capitalism-imperialism, including but hardly limited to the conflict between labor and capital and placing renewed emphasis on the conflicts between capitals (very strong in Marx) and between capitalist states.
+ Numerous innovations on the strategic approach to the making of a revolution built for the creation of a new society and a new way of living beyond all oppression and exploitation and “might is right.”
“They Go Low”
What’s the response of left/leftish/progressive/”socialist” intellectuals (real and pretend) to this significant body of work and “the new communism”? All too often, it is reflexive and conceited anti-communist and anti-revolutionary dismissal, fallacious accusation, gutter slander, and elitist snark. The big left thinkers commonly go incredibly low, sometimes even crossing over into neo-McCarthyite and COINTELPRO-like space.
They commonly show that they haven’t read one of Avakian’s 20-plus books or even one of his pamphlets or essays – interesting conduct when it comes to folks who identify as intellectuals
Here below are some of the comments I’ve gotten from anti-communist/anti-revolutionary “left intellectuals” and “activists” who have written me to criticize my occasional references to Avakian and the Revcoms and to question my involvements in Refuse Fascism, an organization Revcoms sparked after Donald “Poisoning Our Blood” Trump was first elected US president (and a group on whose editorial board I sit), and in Rise Up for Abortion Rights, an organization that a leading Revcom (Sunsara Taylor) helped form in January 2022 to oppose the ongoing and partially successful Christian Fascist movement to reimpose the female enslavement of forced motherhood across the United States:
“Why do you align with Revcoms and Chairman Bob and by connection their front-group Refuse Fascism?...Avakian was ass backward on gay rights up until the 90s and took awful positions in the past, like opposing the Boston bussing plan… He opposed the bussing plan b/c he thought it was an affront to (white) working class unity. The list of Avakian's bad takes is long and not worth the trouble. The RCP has historically been very reactionary. If they changed, it's because they HAD to change to stay relevant.”
“The RCP is a leftish Maoist cult.”
“The RCP is anti-democratic.”
“The RCP and Avakian abandoned the working class and class struggle.”
“The RCP’s description of the Republicans as fascist marks them as tools of the capitalist and imperialist Democratic Party. They showed that they are a front for the Democrats when Avakian recommended voting for Biden in 2020.”
“The RCP is just a grift to make money for Avakian and a few others.”
“The RCP set up Rise Up for Abortion Rights (RU4AR) as a front group to try to take over the abortion rights movement and subordinate it to cult control.”
“The RCP is a proponent of violence” (an accusation contained in a legal document submitted by a semi-prominent Christian leftist).
“The RCP shirks from the need for proper rageful violence.”
“ ‘Scientific communism,’ which the RCP embraces, is bullshit.”
“The RCP is disqualified from radical leadership because its leader is an older white male. He’s got not business crossing race, gender and generation lines to tell us about revolution!”
“Avakian is a reactionary because he doesn’t support the abolition of the police.”
“Avakian doesn’t follow the discursive and citation modes of academics and therefore isn’t read by the professional class intellectuals that socialist movements require.”
In Parts 2 and 3 I will dig into each of these “criticisms” and snarks. In the meantime, take the time to listen to the Avakian audios (35 minutes or so altogether) posted in my first endnote.
Notes to Part 1
1. By remarkable coincidence, this short series of mine begins on the exact same day that the Revcoms are launching a campaign to get regular short audios from their longtime leader Avakian out on multiple social media platforms. (See the Appendix to Part 1, below). I have just listened to the first six audios: (i) Avakian introduces himself and the need for a revolution and our responsibility to undertake one (5 minutes):
(ii) “BA” takes apart the notion that monstrously criminal America was ever “great” or is “great now” (4 minutes):
(iii) BA digs into how US capitalism-imperialism has long exploited, murdered, and oppressed humanity at home and abroad (7 minutes):
(iv) BA argues that the system of capitalism-imperialism is the force behind the ongoing US-backed genocide in Gaza and is the same system creating misery and delusion for masses of people inside the US and around the world (4 minutes):
(v) BA digs into the tragic historical irony of a Jewish state carrying out racist genocide and apartheid, compares Israel’s apartheid oppression of the Palestinian people with South African apartheid, and talks about how and why “Genocide Joe” Biden, the Democrats, and the whole US ruling class are backing Israel’s horrific genocide (6 minutes):
(vi) BA takes apart the horrible excuses that US and Israeli propagandists advance to try to justify the mass slaughter of Palestinian civilians and argues that Israel is an illegitimate racist, Jewish-supremacist state that must be replaced by “a revolutionary state in which the government and the laws do not promote any religion and do not favor one people over another…” (9 minutes):
2. One really shouldn’t have to add “revolutionary” to the word communist (!), but doing so is required by the deeply conservative/revisionist history of Western, Soviet-affiliated Communist parties in the last century and their much smaller post-Soviet versions
3. “Turning and turning in the widening gyre/The falcon cannot hear the falconer/Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;/Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,/The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/The ceremony of innocence is drowned/The best lack all conviction, while the worst /Are full of passionate intensity.” From WB Yeats, “The Second Coming” (1919).
4. As leading Revcom Sunsara Taylor characterized a common “US left” response to Avakian and the RCP, USA during a recent presentation in Chicago.