Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Joshua Moufawad-Paul review of Heavy Radicals - The FBI’s Secret War on America’s Maoists: The Revolutionary Union / Revolutionary Communist Party 1968-1980

During the recent uprisings in Ferguson, members of the US Revolutionary Communist Party [RCP-USA] were arrested as 'outside agitators.' Part of the discourse surrounding their arrest concerned their supposed irrelevance and the 'cult of personality' surrounding their chairman, Bob Avakian.

Indeed, entire memes are devoted to the existence of the Avakian cult. For many, the RCP-USA is a micro-sect that lacks relevance, whose members will never be more than outside agitators: it is treated as a marginal tendency amongst the US left, an embarrassing Maoist-inclined grouplet that is more a punch-line of a joke than a legitimate organization.

For those who care about the New Communist Movement (that is, the period in the 1960s-1970s in which anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninist groups proliferated), though, the RCP-USA and its precursor, the Revolutionary Union [RU], once represented a significant mass movement. As I have argued elsewhere, the New Communist Movement signified a larger anti-capitalist movement than the New Left of the late 1960s, and the RU/RCP-USA was a significant representation of this movement in the United States. That is, despite the cultish weirdness that currently defines this organization, there was a time when it was a significant and vibrant movement.

Heavy Radicals argues for a similar recognition of the RU/RCP-USA’s historical importance: 'The standard script of Students for Democratic Society [SDS] reads something like this: It arose in the early sixties full of youthful idealism, got down to the hard work of joining with the civil rights movement, transitioned to anti-war activism, became increasingly radical, then self-immolated in sectarian squabbling with a small hard core of Weatherman going off into a brief foray of infantile terrorism, while the rest of the organization faded away.

It is a tight narrative, with a strong beginning, middle, and end. There is, however, a problem. Two huge pieces are left out; the emergence of the Revolutionary Union and its critical influence within the grouping, and the FBI’s aggressive and elaborate efforts to destroy the organization' (34). Indeed, as Leonard and Gallagher demonstrate, the majority of the SDS’s most radical forces were channeled into the emergent RU, rather than the Weather Underground, and immediately became the focus of FBI counter-insurgency.

What is most interesting about Leonard and Gallagher’s historiography, though, is that it reveals the way in which a mass organization can destroy itself irrespective of state infiltration.

Although it was indeed the case that the FBI infiltrated the RU/RCP-USA at an early date – working hard to encourage divisions, prevent unity with other anti-revisionist organizations, etc., this organization itself often functioned in a manner that permitted sabotage. For one thing, despite its talk of a 'party of the new type' (a common refrain amongst the New Communist Movement), the RU/RCP-USA tended to function like a 'general staff of the proletariat' and in fact worked, contrary to its professed mass-line, to prevent feedback between the leadership and rank-and-file. An over-arching tendency to rewrite its own history after damaging splits prevented self-criticism: the final split is bizarrely the event the current RCP-USA treats as one of its greatest victories (the 1978 internal struggle about the meaning of China’s change of direction), even though it meant the loss of most of its membership and the enshrinement of the personality cult around Bob Avakian.

By 1978, despite earlier splits (that, according to the authors, had served to make this organization paranoid of losing more cadre and thus helped to enshrine a mistrust for the rank-and-file), the RCP-USA was the largest extreme left organization in America. Not only was its actual membership widespread, with many of its chapters embedded in the working class (160-82), it also counted various mass organizations as party fronts – the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade, the Vietnam Veterans Against The War, and the US-China Peoples Friendship Organization. Unfortunately, the unhealthy internal life of the party that had caused its past mistakes (i.e. its homophobia, its weird position on the Boston Busing Crisis) became accentuated. Faced with the failure of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, the rise of Deng Xiaoping, and the imprisonment of the Gang of Four, the RCP-USA's central committee imploded and, incapable of handling internal struggle and debate in a creative manner, the organization experienced its most catastrophic split.

What the RCP-USA post-1980 conceives as the moment of its greatest triumph – when it upheld the legacy of the Cultural Revolution by defending the Gang of Four and branding Deng a revisionist roader – was simultaneously the moment of its degeneration. Those who were on the other side of this split, who did not fully agree with the Avakian-led faction's characterization of the Gang of Four as a revolutionary force, broke the organization when they left. Indeed, Leibel Bergman, one of the founding members, found himself pushed out of the Central Committee simply because he thought there needed to be a more nuanced analysis of what had happened in China, rather than an open embrace of the Gang of Four. Such nuance was disallowed; Bergman's faction would soon be conceptualized as a 'pro-Deng clique' despite the fact that he had also been opposed to Deng's rise to power (208-9).

Hence, by the end of 1978 the RCP-USA found itself in a decline from which it could not recover. Not only had it lost more than half of its organizational strength, it lacked the ability to understand the deep-seated reasons for this loss and thus could not correct its course: 'On one level the period from 1978 through 1980 was one where [the RCP-USA] attempted to recover from its most serious schism and maintain its vibrancy. On the other, the steps it took to overcome what it had identified [wrongly] as the shortcomings of the pre-split organization would seal its fate as a marginal group in the larger political universe. Along the way it would endure a wave of political repression – including the killing of one of its members – along with the exit of a large number of veteran cadre' (224). This period was also the period in which Bob Avakian, now the sole remaining founding member, would consolidate his position as party chair and launch the eccentric cult of personality that has now become synonymous with the RCP-USA.

If I have any complaints with this thorough exposé of the most significant organization of the US New Communist Movement – the only historiography that has thoroughly traced the rise and fall of an organization that is currently known only because of the characteristics it developed when it began to degenerate – is that it is sometimes hampered by cold war ideology. For example, when it mentions the importance of William Hinton's Fanshen it feels the need to claim that this book, which examined the Chinese Revolution's development in a single village, demonstrates 'an absence of more critical scrutiny' (114) without any arguments as to why this is the case; it feels inherited from a particular historical discourse that the works of Hinton, among others, exist to challenge. (Although, it is worth noting, the authors ended up provided an interesting factoid that I did not expect: Hinton was himself a member of the RU/RCP-USA.)

These tangential endorsements of a hegemonic narrative about Chinese Communism, all of which lack any citations or logical arguments, were somewhat cloying to encounter since they detracted from an otherwise clear-headed narrative.

Despite this problem, though, Leonard and Gallagher's historiography reads as a grand political tragedy: it is the story of an organization that, despite significant state interference, temporarily became the primary force of revolution in the United States, and then, also despite state interference, imploded and became a marginal grouplet. Apprehending this tragedy should provide the contemporary left with several useful lessons.

The first lesson, and one the authors indicate at the outset, is that the possibility of state intervention in anti-capitalist organizing is timely: 'determined, organized resistance and political repression are intimately intertwined … particular actors and repressive agencies have shifted … [but there are] certain things that stand as universal' (3-4). Although the state is not always responsible for the ultimate fate of a resistance movement, it will still work diligently to infiltrate any such movement and accentuate whatever internal contradictions it discovers.

The second lesson is that we might have more to learn from the anti-revisionist New Communist Movement than the New Left, since the former actually produced a larger movement than the latter. I would argue, though similar histories have yet to be written, that the New Communist Movement in other countries also possess a rich and valuable, but no less tragic, trajectory.

The final lesson is that we can learn from the internal deficiencies that led to the RCP-USA's degeneration. This lesson is connected to the second lesson: on the one hand, we cannot discount the significance of an organization that is unified in theory and practice because such a unity leads to the kind of growth that frightens the ruling class; on the other hand, we need to be aware that authoritarianism and dogmatism are always challenges that such organizations will face.

1 June 2015

SOURCE: http://marxandphilosophy.org.uk/reviewofbooks/reviews/2015/1859






Anonymous said...

The RCP USA has not degenerated. Bob Avakian's New Synthesis of Communism has evaluated correctly all these trends and come up with the New Synthesis. Its time that JMP and Nick Glais started taking up the New Synthesis of Communism.

Mike ely said...


I was delighted to see the publication of this book, and after a close read I believe it makes a genuine contribution. And i welcome this review by Joshua Moufawad-Paul -- which seeks to engage issues raised by the book.

There is value simply in putting the New Communist Movement of the 1970s, and the RU/RCP in particular into a process of summation and discussion. Like the larger experiences with socialism in the USSR and China, the experiences of Maoists in the 1970s (both globally and in the U.S.) have a great deal we can learn from.

The RU/RCP has been treated with a kind of "cone of silence" by a number of left historians. And I think the reasons are not hard to excavate. For example, the whole experience of the SDS (a large radical-to-revolutionary student movement with tremendous impact) has been rewritten by socialdemocratic historians as a kind of cautionary morality tale against revolutionary politics. SDS was something wonderful (they report) in its early days (Port Huron statement, early community organizing) -- but then a kind of madness descended on them, and Weatherman (in this narrative) is put forward as the outcome. All of this negates the fact that tens of thousands of student radicals became revolutionaries, and started to seriously engage the problem of how to form serious, effective revolutionary organization. The RU was the most impactful and serious of the efforts that followed -- and so its very existence, popularity and trajectory is a problem for the anti-leftist social democratic narrative.

So I welcome this book as a serious attempt to put the RU/RCP back into the picture, and to make a serious effort to sum up its impact and challenges.

Mike Ely said...


The Revolutionary Union (RU) started as a gathering point for many of the most determined revolutionaries to emerge from the 1960s -- and its main source of recruits were the many different communist forces gathering around the Black Panther Party. And in a way that is worth noting, there were two rather different conceptions of revolutionary politics contending among newborn communist/Maoist forces in the U.S.: One tendency saw the 1930s CP as its model, and wanted to reconstitute a modern version of that previous revolutionary experiment. The other tendency was more skeptical and critical of 1930s CP politics -- and was much more influenced by the Black Panther Party, by the Chinese Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, and by the storms of national liberation struggle around the world. In some ways, the RU drew early strength from both of those sources, but over the 1970s there developed a sharpening conflict between those that wanted the 1930s CP/Comintern politics (gathered around the CPML, and around Leibel Bergman inside the RCP) and those who wanted to created a more ruptured and new revolutionary conception (who were generally gathered around the RU/RCP's main leader, Bob Avakian).

Those of us who awakened in the 1960s found ourselves on a political landscape with few markers or mentors, because the "old left" suffered from so much self-delusion and conservatism. There was little institutional memory inherited from the "old communist movement" -- and even fewer applicable stragetic models.

And, in a certain sense, the RU/RCP developed first as an attempt to create a strong working class and communist current within the 60s upsurge. And then (as that 60s upsurge faced) the RCP became a kind of encapsulated bearer of revolutionary politics seeking to "prepare for revolution" during the difficult times separating one conjunctural upsurge from another.

As we now know, that second conjuncture didn't come, and the radical sixties gave way to a stuttering 70s and then a highly conservative 80s. And the fact that some stable decades followed the sixties more or less guaranteed that the RCP would contract to a cinder -- but that was not their fault necessarily, and nor was it preordained when the RCP was founded in 1975.

If there had been a second political crisis of some kind in U.S. society (in say, 1985) the history of the RCP might well have been much more interesting.

Mike Ely said...

Part 3:

In the midst of my overall support for Leonard and Gallagher, it is perhaps inevitable that I would find various points to contest. It is hard to see your own personal experience converted into "history" -- and there will always be a part of you that complains at various points "Oooooh, that's not quite how it was."

Some points to raise:

1) Leonard and Gallagher state several times that they believe the RU/RCP was penetrated at the top. But I was unable to find in their work any convincing evidence. It may be that DH Wright was an agent (he was certainly toxic in every other way that matters!) -- but he left in 1974, and the RCP went on for another thirty years. I don't believe they were penetrated at that level. And would be curious to see any evidence.

2) There is an assumption that IF the RU/RCP were penetrated (say at the Central Committee level) that therefore all their secrets would be known by the FBI. I believe that is also not true. That organization was compartmentalized in a way our authors don't seem to appreciate. There were many complex operations and project conducted by the RCP that obviously were not known to the FBI -- and that speak to the fact that their penetration was not effective (even if they at various times had operatives at various levels). Certainly their Cointelpro slanders were more effective than their internal penetrations IMHO.

Mike Ely said...

Part 5:

4) A lot of the discussion of the RU/RCP get minor details and facts wrong. That is perhaps understandable in any history, and it is perhaps not particularly distorting if the overall narrative is accurate.

Let me just give an example of these minor details that crop up in the review above:

"Hinton was himself a member of the RU/RCP-USA."

This is half-true. Hinton was a member of the early Revolutionary Union (RU) but never a member of the RCP. He left in 1972 in a dispute over the elections where he (like the BWC, Leibel Berman and the Vietnamese Workers Party) advocated communists working for McGovern.

More troubling for those of us who were there:

Joshua writes:

"Indeed, Leibel Bergman, one of the founding members, found himself pushed out of the Central Committee simply because he thought there needed to be a more nuanced analysis of what had happened in China, rather than an open embrace of the Gang of Four."

Leibel was many things, but not particularly nuanced. If anything it was the RCP majority that demanded an analysis of the Chinese events (and produced one based on serious research and detail) -- while (by contrast) Leibel's forces produced (what was then called) a "tattered flag" that basically asserted a superficial and rather mindless support for "whoever" was in power in Beijing. This too was part of the larger question of whether to adopt 1930s CP habits: since that kind of automatic "whateverism" was precisely what characterized (and helped destroy) the Communist Party in its most influential period.

The "whateverism" of the RWH (in regard to China) was a poison pill for them -- precisely because it was so deeply wrong. Within only a few years the new leading group in China quickly moved to destroy the Peoples Communes, disarm the worker militia, jail or depose figures form the GPCR, open the country to "foreign" (read: imperialist) investment, and more. And that same leading group became utterly disinterested in residual leftwing adherents in other countries.

"This period was also the period in which Bob Avakian, now the sole remaining founding member, would consolidate his position as party chair."

"The 1978 internal struggle about the meaning of China’s change of direction), even though it meant... the enshrinement of the personality cult around Bob Avakian."

First a minor factual matter: Avakian was never the "sole remaining founding member" of the RU -- not in 1980, not now.

But more important, the review above raises the important question of the now-notorious cult of personality around Avakian.

In 1979, the state launched a major set of felony indictments against Bob Avakian, that threatened to put him in prison for many years. And (in response) the RCP launched a massive defense campaign (which included innovative features that are worth learning about). As part of that defense campaign there was, naturally, a summation of the role that Avakian had played (over the previous ten years), and what it would mean (for the revolutionary movement) if the state succeeded in silencing him. and, as part of the campaign, posters of Avakian were put up -- to acquaint people with who he was, and the fact that he was in danger.

Then and now, I have not seen anything wrong with that. We has (over and over) conducted similar campaigns when other revolutionary leaders were under attack (Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver, Erika Huggins, and many more). There was a need to explain why the state was attacking specific people, what they had done, what they represented, and why people should rise to defend them.

Mike Ely said...

Part 6

There was an element of promoting Avakian as the preeminent leader of the RCP -- but this was not a fabrication, it was an actual fact.

It is factually wrong to say (some have written and Joshua repeats) that "consolidate Avakian position as party chair" -- he had been the chairman of the RU's central committee, and has been "consolidated" as party chair in 1975 at the founding congress.

More significantly, I think it is wrong to believe (as has also been written) that this was the start of a religious cultism around Avakian (its "enshrining" to use Joshua's loaded religious terminology).

In 1979, the RCP put forward its leader in public as part of a defense campaign against real attacks. And it publicly explained what this person had done that was of value -- in ways that were quite factual and true (not religious or hyped.)

By contrast, the issue with the RCP is that it became a cult at a future turning point in its history (in an internal convulsion in 2003) -- that marked a serious and pessimistic turn after the shock of 9/11.

Even the most superficial examination of the RCP's work between 1980 and 2000, shows that the "Bob-o-meter" didn't start to peg on "cult" until after 2003 -- with a few exceptions that suggest the internal struggle over these matters.

Why does that matter? Because the proclamation of "The RCP became a cult in 1980" is part of a larger narrative that portrays the work between 1980 and 2000 to be uninteresting and marginalized and sterile -- in other words, it would lead readers of this discussion to miss out on events that were (precisely) among the most important and interesting of the RCP's contributions.

In summation: I just want to end where i started. We should welcome this important history that Leonard and Conor have written. I urge anyone interested in revolution to buy it and read it.

And I look forward to subsequent discussion of the experiences it sums up -- as an important part of our work to build upon that past, to "chart the uncharted course" and develop a communist movement for our times.

nickglais said...

Thanks Mike for as always valued contribution about events of which you have detailed personal knowledge

Mike Ely said...

In another venue, JMP responded to my comments. And I answered him. It is a friendly and constructive exchange, that I would like to share here. I quote most of his comment (embedded in my response). And will give it in parts, since Nick's system has length limits.:


* * * * * * * * *

Mike Ely responds to JMP Part 1:

JMP, my point above was not to rip you for factual errors or mistaken verdicts.

It was something different: I was pointing out how difficult it is to avoid such errors when dealing with historical events -- especially when they deal with little-documented matters, and when they describe events that unfolded in semi-secret (and both the FBI disruptions and the RU/RCP campaigns were carried out quietly.)

Still it is valuable to get it right -- especially on the larger, more cardinal matters. I.e. is there any evidence that the RCP infiltrated at the highest level? And if so, does that suggest that communist security culture is self-deception?

There is a whole generation of communists whose sense of "combating the political police professionally" (Lenin's description) is very primitive -- and one of the political line questions involved is the (false) verdict that "there is nothing you can do, so why pretend."

Also, I just want to repeat that I appreciate the book deeply -- I think it is a sincere, constructive and quite thoughtful excavation of a much neglected experience. If I have disagreements with the authors on this-or-that point, well that is natural and part of the ongoing discussion that the book's authors have now stimulated.

And I appreciate your effort to publicize the book, and inform radical audiences that it exists.

Mike Ely said...

Mike Ely responds to JMP Part 2

With that in mind, let me respond to a few particular points you made in response:

JMP writes "@Mike: a review is limited by the book and the truncated form caused by word strictures."

I suspect that you will recognize that it is not true. My review of Heavy Radicals will not be limited by the book -- and quite often reviewers do the work of research to be able to evaluate a book's verdicts and documentation.

You want to repeat that Leibel wanted a "nuanced" position on the Chinese coup? Well then where is his "nuanced" document? It doesn't exist. At the central committee meeting that debated the events in China, the opponents of the coup presented detailed and sophisticated analysis. The supporters of the coup presented the habits of the old Communist movement: Whatever comes out of the Father party, whoever wins, whatever they say -- we should bow to their authority. It was a very unnuanced point of view that could be (and was) expressed in a paragraph. And this can be confirmed by stepping outside of "the book" for a second, and just looking at the available documents.

JMP writes: " The phrase about Hinton that used RU/RCP was due to the fact that, after the authors mentioned Hinton was a member of the RU, there was no mention of the precise date when he exited."

I suspect the authors don't know when he exited, or what the line questions were. His membership was never publicly announced, and his leaving was never documented in print.

JMP writes: "The comment about there being no more founding members was imprecise: what I meant was the people the book cites as the key founding members (Hamilton, Bergman, Avakian, Franklin)."

Your phrase is a minor inaccuracy, and my point is simply that it is hard to "get things right" without doing the real work. (And that our co-thinkers generally should learn to be cautious about drawing superficial conclusions after reading one book, or one document.)

Here you confront the fact that people often assume that the public faces associated with a revolutionary organization are the core of its leadership. Quite often that is not true, and a serious revolutionary organization should (for reasons that I assume are obvious) have central leaders who are not known publicly.

Mike Ely said...

Mike Ely responds to JMP's comment Part 3

JMP writes: "Finally, my comments about Bergman's "nuanced" line is also, since this is a review, based on the material: the book claims his position was initially more nuanced, and not the way in which it was characterized (and cites evidence in this regard) as "pro-Deng", but became decidedly less nuanced as the debate persisted."

I won't repeat my observatin (above) that a reviewer is not constrained by the material being reviewed, and more, that it is a bit naive to promote specific claims by a book (and assume that they were true).

Let me get into a different matter: You are (unintentionally) confusing two things.

1) Did Leibel enter the disagreement over China's class struggle with a demand for a "nuanced" position? The answer there is no. Leibel was an advocate of adopting the Comintern "package" whole-cloth, and one of the defining(and less-admirable) features of that package was a long habit of mindless "whateverism."

2) Was Leibel's position simply "pro-Dengist"? Meaning: Should we be nuanced in describing what their position actually was. And of course, we should be fair and precise in descibing what their position was.

The counterrevolutionary coup of 1976 was carried out by a set of leading figures determined to reverse the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolutoin, and end Mao's political approach to continuing revolution. Who were they? Well, first, of course was Hua who, after Mao's death, became the chairman of the Chinese Communist Party. He was a weak figure who had previously played little national role in the intense class struggles. Behind him was Ye Jianying, then the head of the military, and the central figure of the coup.

Where was Deng in this? He had been removed from posts in 1974 (after a major counterrevolutionary incident where the demand for the coup was made in public).

So, in one sense, one can say that Leibel (and his circle) were AT THAT MOMENT "pro-Huaist." Including (importantly) they promoted Hua's (rather paper thin) claims that it was Hua and the coup-makers who were really following Mao's path.

There is a famous moment, right after the coup, where some people noticed Deng sitting in a Beijing restaurant, and asked him what he thought they should do. Deng quipped "Keep criticizing Deng Xiaoping." In other words, for the time being, he urged the coupmakers to pretend to be pursuing Mao's path, as they consolidated power, as they jailed the Maoists, as they went though the PLA unit by unit.

Then, in December 1978, the pretense started to just fade away, and Deng Xiaoping (the notorious co-target of the Cultural revolution and author of the state capitalist "4 modernizations" program) was openly reinstated at the height of power. He had been, in ways documented and undocumented, the power behind the new government.

What was the position of Leibel and the RWH on the reemergence of this notorious revisionist at the height of power? They pursued their "whateverist" policy -- they embraced it, they justified it, they pooh-poohed any concerns about "the capitalist road" -- as the peoples communes were dismantled, as agriculture was re-privatized, as the worker militia were disbanded, and as (more and more openly) the post-coup government openly rejected any pretense of following Mao's road of continuing the revolution.

Mike Ely said...

Mike Ely responds to JMP's comment Part 4

So let's be precise: At the time of the coup, Leibel was pro-Huaist. When Hua was discarded by the real power in china, Leibel (and his organization) became pro-Deng. Now (to be nuanced) it was a big problem for them when the Chinese government started openly dismantling socialism, denouncing Mao, reversing verdicts. All over the world, pro-coup forces (who had once been part of the Maoist movement) fell into confusion, disarray, and (above all) silence. And they crumbled as organizations.

Some of them (to their credit) started to call out the more and more open restoration of capitalism. Bill Hinton (who had fallen into some of the worst revisionist madness about a world alliance with U.S. imperialism) suddenly reversed his own verdicts -- and wrote a series of scathing analyses documenting the destruction of socialist relations after 1978.

Leibel himself fell silent, was sick with the disease of alcoholism and died -- and I am not aware what his views ultimately ended up being. But his circle both upheld the coup, and generally tried to uphold Mao, Hua and Deng (in a confused and contradictory mix, that is not so different from the revisionist Chinese party today). Some of them ultimately had to concede that troubling capitalist elements were in power in china (though I don't think they say clearly "how" that happened), and some of them think that China is still socialist (I met one of them for the first time this month at the Left Forum and had a fascinating discussion of how someone can still justify all that.)

So..... to sum up:

Leibel's approach to china was anything but nuanced: It was classic Comintern "whateverism." You were trained to have a rubber mind, and switch views quickly to conform to "whatever" came out of Moscow, and then (after 1963) out of Beijing.

We, on the other hand, should have a nuanced view of Leibel's trajectory: It *started* as a support for the brutal military coup by Hua Guofeng and Ye Jianying, and then (by 1978) shifted to begrudging justification of Deng's emergence at the power-center of the post-coup state.

It was a wrong, and frankly counterrevolutoinary position. It promoted a method that hated critical thinking. When we (at the time of the split) would seek to engage and debate those alligned with Leibel, what stood out was that they were incapable of debating the issues.... they didn't know anything about China, or the coup, or the core issues of capitalist restoration in the twentieth century.... The split was a kind of "voting with your feet" over what kind of communist movement we were going to have. And on the side of the RWH there was a remarkable mindlessness, and blindered focus on the trade union day to day.

My best childhood friend (David Sullivan, who is mentioned extensively in Heavy Radicals) went with the RWH, and in my last exasperated discussion with him (in 1977), he blurted out "What's so wrong with allying in various ways with U.S. imperialism?" (literally, those were his exact words). And I realized that he and I were on very very different roads. The difference was not that subtle or nuanced.... see?

JMP writes: "I was reviewing the book not trying to comment on historical details that I wouldn't know otherwise."

Sure. I understand that. But many people will (like you) be reading the book and not have any way of judging these events OTHER than what they draw from that account. That's why I'm injecting a discussion that is NOT based on "the book" but on the reality we are all seeking to sum up.

This is not mainly about "historical details" -- it is about "how do you make revolution? In China? In the U.S.?" And, importantly, what lessons can we learn from how the RU/RCP dealt with the criminal FBI repression and disinformation?

Anonymous said...

I was fortunate to be separated involuntarily from the circus at the end of 1976. By then the two tendencies were already at each others' throats. The problem, as is always the case in the USA, was the inability to find a social base for revolution.

The inner struggle was concealed from the rank-and-file but you would get glimmers of it. As long as the antagonistic viewpoints were both present, the main direction could lurch on in a more-or-less good direction, but once they separated both went off on a tangent.

It was really tough being at the bottom of the ladder. Incomprehensible line changes, new campaigns constantly, "mass organizations" with no life of their own, constant tiredness from interminable 2 AM meetings after work, etc. No wonder when people burned out, dropped out, or were thrown out than many abandoned politics forever.