Its a Sin

Young Revolutionary hitting some Reactionary 

[Recently I came across a polemic of a former RCYBer’ from Atlanta, a veteran of the YB and committed Maoist who I know as Com.Andrei. Com. Andrei use to be the administrator of the once active and happening forum known as Another World Is Possible, which was frequented by many Party supporters and fellow travellers. I found his polemic on the well known forum RevLeft Forums, and specifically Here the polemic can be found. It gives his reasons for leaving the Revolutionay Communist Youth Brigade and diagnosis to the symptoms of the new trajectory of RCP politics. I am glad to say Andrei has given me permission to post up this document on this site, I hope people enjoy.]

It’s A Sin:

My Experiences and Thoughts on the Current Line of the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade

I am a Communist, and have always (at heart, at least) been one across my very young life. I believe that Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is the only ideology that can bring us to a better world, and that revolution is the only solution to breaking all chains of oppression, exploitation, and tyranny in the world. I believe this from the bottom of my heart, and that is why I have spent the past 5 years in the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade and actively supported the Revolutionary Communist Party and Chairman Bob Avakian for slightly longer. However, recently I have stepped back from the RCYB in order to take care of some personal issues and have time to think about why, for the past 6 months, my work with the RCYB has not set right with me. After months of silence, thinking, writing, and studying, I have decided it is time to discuss why, with heavy heart, I think it is time to part ways with the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade, and why as a Communist I cannot continue upholding the current line of the Revolutionary Communist Party with a clear conscience. I think it’s time to see why the RCP is going on a self-isolating, semi-revisionist, and very tragic path perpetuated by many things within the current line that has arisen across the past 2 ½ years…

1)“We want no condescending saviours”

The second stanza of the Internationale, the international anthem of the working class, states that the workers “want no condescending saviours”. The RCP seems to have sadly forgotten this, as I watch the cult of Avakian grow out of control and out of proportion with each issue of Revolution I read.

I am a Maoist; at the end of the day, I have no problem with a “culture of appreciation” or “cult of personality” built around a leader if that leader is at the forefront of a key revolutionary line. I make no apologies for this. However, Communists must constantly interrogate themselves around the question of leadership and how to exercise it, asking at all times “on what basis and with what methods should we Communists use to promote our leadership”? Even with a revolutionary line, a cult of personality around a great leader can become counter-productive- nay, even dangerous- if it is upheld in a wrong way.

The Revolutionary Communist Party speaks of Comrade Avakian in messianic terms, such as “once in a while, a great leader comes forward…” and sees him as the “single thread” that the International Communist Movement “hangs by”. The RCP speaks of their leadership as the “revolutionary people in a concentrated form”, which has arisen out of this particular epoch in history due to its virtuousness and greatness. The RCP, in its methods of upholding Avakian, hearken back to the capitalist-roaders in China such as Chen Boda, who tried to uphold the cult of Mao on the basis of the “genius theory” (the concept of a leader arising periodically across history that concentrates a great leap in understanding or theory), a theory that Mao criticized deeply. Lin Biao, the revisionist leader who eventually tried to pull a coup d’etat against Mao, put forward unscientific ideas such as “Every sentence of Chairman Mao’s works is a truth; one single sentence of his surpasses ten thousand of ours.” Looking at these quotes and theories, and looking at the way the RCP uphold Avakian (just read through the special issue of Revolution “The Crossroads We Face, The Leadership We Need”!) can one say that the RCP’s method of promoting their leader is any different from the way Lin and Chen promoted Mao?

2)The “humility to be led”

Avakian constantly speaks of the need for a “solid core with a lot of elasticity”, and the need for vibrant dissent in the Party and socialist society. Avakian’s writings on these are very important, and to his credit he has at many key times provided a refreshing view on the nature of dissent under socialism, and brought forward many key questions that were at one point “blasphemous” in the International Communist Movement. His work “Conquer the World?” was groundbreaking in its anti-dogmatic, and anti-religious message to the world’s Communists. He constantly speaks of the need to learn from non-communist forces and from revisionists themselves.

Sadly, my experience in the RCYB has not led me to believe this is true. In theory, the RCP should be a vibrant Maoist party filled with dissent, wrangling, and struggle. In practice, any criticism of what Avakian says is viewed with suspicion, and any cadre who does such is subject to guilt-tripping for “not protecting” and “not appreciating” this “precious leadership”. Avakian is constantly needed to be “defended” at all times from a very hostile world, and anyone who raises genuine or significant criticism of his or his Party’s line is seen as undedicated and defiant against Avakian’s “new synthesis”. It has caused the RCYB to become “chilled” in terms of vibrant debate and dissent, and a very rigid, dogmatic, and unthinking method of upholding Comrade Avakian’s works has come about. In this light, the Chairman’s talks of “a solid core with a lot of elasticity” and the need to “fly high without a safety net [in the realm of ideas]” sound mockingly hollow to a young communist such as myself.

I came into the RCYB hoping for a refreshing, open-minded, and dynamic philosophical and ideological atmosphere, and indeed during my first few years in the Brigade, I found that. Sadly, I have seen less and less of such in the organization. I personally have been (and have seen others) criticized or ostracized for being interested in studying non-communist philosophers and movements. If Avakian speaks so much of the need to hurl ourselves into all sorts of realms of ideas and thinking, why is it that a communist who studies (and not even agreeing with!) Nietzsche, St. Thomas Aquinas, Gramsci, Guevara, Luxembourg, Chavez, etc. looked at with suspicion? Why is there such a distinct lack of comrades who have a decent grasp on philosophy, history, and other realms of knowledge outside of Communist theory? Why have I always felt shamed and guilt-tripped for enthusiastically studying such great (if non-communist) struggles such as Northern Ireland, Chiapas, the French Revolution, and the Basque country or even critically and comprehensively studying reactionary regimes such as the Third Reich or the revisionist North Koreans? Why is studying and understanding what we oppose so dangerous and suspicious? Is the RCP, in reality, terrified of new and different ideas outside of what Avakian teaches?

The Communist Party of Peru, whose 25 year-long people’s war was a great inspiration to oppressed peoples the world over, was greatly compromised by a similar line. In A World to Win #32, we hear of how the leadership of Chairman Gonzalo led to great setbacks for his party:

“At the core of the party’s historical identity was the concept of jefatura, the idea that Gonzalo was more than the chairman of the party’s Central Committee, a jefe (literally chief, but here meant to designate a special category of leader) who played a role not only through the party but over and above it. Party members swore their unconditional subordination to him personally.” (AWTW 32/2006, p. 58)

Because of this, when Gonzalo was captured and began to speak (whether voluntarily or coerced by Peruvian authorities) of “peace talks”, it shattered the PCP and caused major setbacks (for more information, see the article “A Sober Look at the Situation of the Peru Revolution and Its Needs”). Building a firm cult of personality and building blind devotion to a party’s leadership (whether it is explicit or not), while it may seem at first to be a good way of protecting and upholding a leader’s line, can in fact have the opposite effect. The RCP should greatly consider this when they promote their leadership in cultish ways.

3)Blaming the masses, or the “cult of will”

“All this—and the whole experience that is captured with the metaphor of living in the house of Tony Soprano—does come back around to the question of complicity. Now, in this connection I want to say a few things about the mobilization on October 5 (2006) that was called by World Can’t Wait, and the fact that, frankly, in terms of numbers and accordingly in terms of impact, this fell far short of what was needed. Now, as Maoists, we’re not supposed to blame the masses when things don’t go well. But goddamnit—I want to blame the masses a little bit!

BLAMING THE MASSES? What kind of Communist BLAMES THE MASSES?!!!

This quote, by Chairman Avakian in “Bringing Forward Another Way”, encapsulates a great deal of what is wrong with the general line of the Party. The quote goes exactly against what Lenin said in What Is To Be Done? when he said that if the masses don’t awaken, then it is the fault of the communists. The cult of Avakian, the theoretical errors of his work (which I will dig into in later writings), and the dogmatic unquestioning thinking around him has created a “cult of will” within the RCP and RCYB. Instead of looking at the material conditions or at the method of how the party works with the people, the RCP and RCYB separate theory from practice and decides that will and determination alone can build a revolutionary movement and surge it forward.

Because of this idealistic fetishization of “will” and the religiousness of the line concerning leadership, the method in which the RCYB deals with the masses and with its own cadre has become appalling. If something does not go right, does the RCYB sit down, analyze the objective/material conditions of the situation, and analyze our line or our methods? Does the RCYB use Mao Tse-Tung’s “4 Point Method” in a genuinely scientific and multi-faceted way? No. The RCYB instead blames themselves and their fellow cadre, using guilt-tripping and Amish-style “shunning” to coerce their comrades into feeling bad for why an event or action went wrong. Instead of changing our methods or viewpoints around the situation, instead we just beat ourselves up around these things and just believe that “will” alone can solve everything; thus, we inevitably throw ourselves back into the situation, to repeat the same mistakes again, albeit with greater enthusiasm and intensity…

The pushing of people to make the same mistakes repeatedly and- when they achieve no results- criticize them repeatedly is causing deeply personal, cadre-centered problems as well. Such a method burns people out and disillusions them, and causes cadre to become suspicious of, exploit, and abuse each other. It causes a “chill” in the ideological growth of the movement, and makes people frightened of making mistakes or opposing the general line. It has led to an unscientific assessment on such things as health issues; things ranging from carpal tunnel syndrom, depression, pneumonia, alcoholism, etc. are treated as a “line issue” that can be simply struggled away and are to be “criticized” and “rooted out” from a person by political wrangling. It is everywhere in our movement; a comrade has depression and cannot go out and do political work, and instead of their comrades being understanding and supportive, instead they criticize them and talk of how they aren’t “serious” about changing the world. This story has not just happened to me; I have learned that it has happened to many other comrades around our movement as well.

Frankly, the line of the RCYB deeply affected me on a personal level. I had become terrified to voice my opinion in most matters concerning line and method. The constant guilt-tripping, criticism, and fruitless campaigns had led to my self-confidence levels plummeting, my depression and self-injury to intensify, and – on one occasion- a suicide attempt on my part. Yes, I at one point attempted to hang myself because I felt that, despite living my entire life for communism and for the emancipation of humanity, nothing I did was ever good enough for the Party and Youth Brigade, and that thus my existence was useless.

When the “cult of will” has its way, and it does not achieve results, a comrade can eventually feel that no matter what they do, it is never good enough; it eventually leads to burn-out, and then the consequences can indeed be disastrous.

4)Instrumentality, the “Great Leader”, and Leninism

The general line of the Revolutionary Communist Party as of now has in a sense erased the Revolutionary Communist Party from being a sensible organization. The Central Task of the RCP, USA in 2001 was “Create Public Opinion, Seize Power! Prepare Minds and Organize Forces for Revolution”. Officially, it still is, but in my observations I have noticed the Party, Youth Brigade, and Revolution newspaper pushed further and further onto the backburner as the cult of Avakian takes over. Now the Party, Youth Brigade, and newspaper have been reduced to a crude instrumentality; simple tools whose sole use is to use the newspaper and the Party’s literature to promote the Chairman. The RCP is no longer the vanguard party that Lenin spoke of- “tribunes of the people”- instead we have people used as tools to promote the Chairman in the realm of popular culture in a way that does not unleash the masses, but instead places them in the role of being disciples to the “Great Leader”. A Bob Avakian street preacher team, if you will.

Such an attitude towards the Party, Youth Brigade, and the masses lends to people seeing as nothing more than tools for the promotion of the Party’s line; people are not seen as people, and this leads to even more abuse, exploitation, and distrust among comrades. Basic Maoist concepts such as “Serve the People” (a beautiful phrase that was denounced and literally mocked by Avakian in Marxism & the Call of the Future), the Mass Line, and the vanguard party as “tribunes of the people” are thrown out the window with this new synthesis and the methods that surround it. The central task of the RCP, for all intensive purposes, is now the idea that connecting the masses to the Leader will make revolution and push history forward. This idealistic, leader-fetishizing, and rigid doctrine has, for me, begun to reek of something more out of a book by Kim il-Sung than a book by Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, or Mao. Although I have much to agree with and thank Avakian for, at times the “new synthesis” he puts forward has a whiff of Juche to it- more than I am comfortable with.

Thus, I ask: is the Revolutionary Communist Party a Leninist party, or has it finally become the “cult” that so many other leftists have accused it of being after all these years?

5)It’s A Sin… or “Confiteor Avakianus omnipotenti”

We live in dangerous times. Horrific wars have been unleashed upon the world, and there is a deep possibility or a war against Iran on the way. We are at a crossroads and in the great rapids of history, and things could go in either very good or very bad ways. Anyone who considers themselves a revolutionary knows this all too well. Tragically, the RCP and RCYB have failed in their task of building a revolutionary movement capable of emancipating humanity, and I think much of that potential has been greatly compromised by the line that the RCP has taken in the past few years.

The sociologist Dr. Louis Jolyon West describes a cult as “a group or movement exhibiting a great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea or thing and employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control (e.g. isolation from former friends and family, debilitation, use of special methods to heighten suggestibility and subservience, powerful group pressures, information management, suspension of individuality or critical judgment, promotion of total dependency on the group and fear of [consequences of] leaving it, etc) designed to advance the goals of the group’s leaders to the actual or possible detriment of members, their families, or the community.”

Looking at how the Revolutionary Communist Party has operated towards the masses and its cadre, and how it has taken the cult of personality around Chairman Avakian to such extremes, such a definition is uncomfortably familiar. Because of this I can no longer be a member of the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade or support the Revolutionary Communist Party with a clear conscience or without causing myself further psychological and emotional damage.

I am not here to say I can provide a solution to any of these questions. I don’t know, exactly right now, where Communists in the United States should go next in the fight to build a coherent revolutionary movement. It will be in my thoughts though, and I only hope that my comrades in the RCP and RCYB will break out of this suffocating religious, mechanical methodology and bring forward a scientific understanding of Marxism that is worth upholding. It is tragic that it has come to this.

It’s a sin, really.

When I look back upon my life
It’s always with a sense of shame
I’ve always been the one to blame
For everything I long to do
No matter when or where or who
Has one thing in common, too
It’s a, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a sin
It’s a sin
Everything I’ve ever done
Everything I ever do
Every place I’ve ever been
Everywhere I’m going to
It’s a sin
At school (in the YB) they taught me how to be
So pure in thought and word and deed
They didn’t quite succeed
For everything I long to do
No matter when or where or who
Has one thing in common, too
It’s a, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a sin
It’s a sin
Everything I’ve ever done
Everything I ever do
Every place I’ve ever been
Everywhere I’m going to
It’s a sin…

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2 responses to “Its a Sin

  1. Thanks for posting this!

    And thanks to Cde. Andre for daring to go against the tide.

    I was stunned to read the “I want to blame the masses” bit. I flashed back to the SDS (the old one) summer action conference in Cleveland in 1969. I don’t recall Bob being there but surely some Bay Area RU folks were. Bill Ayers of the newly hegemonic Weatherman grouping (they had not yet de-gendered their name) got up in front of us and gave a rap which included the following:

    “The more I thought about that thing “fight the people”–it’s not that it’s a great mass slogan or anything, but there’s something to it.”

    Same shit, different year. Take a Maoist principle and “boldly” reverse it for shock value, while keeping plenty of hedge in your formulation to fend off criticism.

    Sheesh.

  2. Hey comrade, i remember seeing this on revleft. It’s interesting to note that alot of RCP supporters really dodged to tackle these criticisms but still flock to other posts with general criticisms of RCP like the cult of personality or it’s authoritarian nature. i don’t know if there’s a memo passed in RCP saying don’t talk about party business with non-party members or what, but it’s sad that RCP always say they welcome criticism or they want to talk about criticism other than the cult of personalty but when bombs like these are dropped..

    Silence..

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