Running aground: The Revolutionary Communist Party (US) and Stalinism

Reposted from Cosmonaut Magazine, June 2, 2022.

Emerging from the social upheavals of the 1960s, the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) counted many dedicated organizers in its ranks who were inspired by the ideas and the example of Maoist China. The party used Maoist theory not only to plan for a future socialist revolution, but also to grapple with the complicated history of Stalinism and its impact on the international communist movement and the USSR. While the RCP did confront some of the dogmas and myths of Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy, in the end they were unwilling and unable to effectively understand Stalinism.

The RCP’s roots can be traced back to the Bay Area Revolutionary Union (BARU), formed in 1968, which was led by Bob Avakian, Bruce Franklin, Stephen Hamilton, and Leibel Bergman. At the center of the BARU was Avakian, who had worked with the Black Panthers and in the anti-war movement. Hamilton was a former member of Progressive Labor who had been active in the Berkeley Free Speech Movement. Bergman was a veteran of both the Communist Party (CPUSA) and Progressive Labor. The BARU was a dynamic group involved in organizing, most notably providing strike support for oil workers in nearby Richmond.1 In addition, the BARU was aggressive in promoting communism as championed by Mao Zedong.

I. Red Papers

In the spring of 1969, the now-renamed Revolutionary Union (RU) published Red Papers, an early manifesto of the New Communist Movement. According to historian Max Elbaum, Red Papers was one of the most influential radical texts of the period.2

Red Papers elaborated a statement of unity centered on Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought. The document also argued that radicals should create new communist collectives to engage in common study and practice. For its long-term goal, Red Papers wanted to lay the foundations for a new communist party to replace the pro-Soviet CPUSA that was widely reviled by activists.

When it came to the question of Stalin, Red Papers considered him to be the “bridge” linking Lenin and Mao together.3 The RU considered their defense of Stalin to be based upon “Marxist (materialist) and (working) class standards” as opposed to others who utilized “bourgeois criteria of his imperialist, Trotskyite, and revisionist assailants.”4

In general, Red Papers repeated China’s positive evaluation on Stalin, commending his leadership for developing the USSR’s planned economy, collectivizing agriculture, purging enemies of socialism, and defeating Nazi Germany in World War II. When it came to Stalin’s mistakes, Red Papers saw his chief error was combating bureaucracy through administrative and coercive means rather than by mobilizing the masses. This neglect by Stalin meant that the Soviet people were left ideologically disarmed and politically passive. Furthermore, Stalin’s approach failed to stop the entrenchment of revisionists in the USSR, who managed to restore capitalism after his death.5

Red Papers asserted that the majority of Stalin’s mistakes were inevitable since the Soviet Union had no prior socialist experience to draw upon. They concluded that the failure of Stalin and the USSR to stop the restoration of capitalism proved the necessity for a cultural revolution under socialism.

Almost immediately, Red Papers’ defense of Stalin elicited controversy inside the RU, particularly in the East Bay branch.6 The ensuing struggle with anti-Stalinists dissenters helped to consolidate the RU around Red Papers and its defense of Stalin. According to Aaron Leonard, the RU’s subsequent position was strident and involved “a great deal of posturing, even machismo, in invoking Stalin, which seems to have stood in for (or stood in the way of) a more critical understanding of his role and legacy.”7

II. Red Papers 7

The next major RU statement that dealt with Stalin was Red Papers 7: How Capitalism Has Been Restored in the Soviet Union and What It Means for the World Struggle (1974). Since the Cultural Revolution, the People’s Republic of China and Mao claimed that the Soviet Union had restored capitalism and was now social-imperialist. However, they had presented little in the way of historical or theoretical evidence to flesh out these claims. Red Papers 7 attempted to fill this gap by explaining both how the USSR restored capitalism and providing a Maoist analysis of the Stalin era.

According to Red Papers 7, under Stalin the Soviet Union was socialist since the proletariat ruled society. Stalin’s errors were said to be “far outweighed” by his achievements, which included the “building of socialism and strengthening of the dictatorship of the proletariat through a very complicated series of struggles inside and outside the Party, the step-by-step collectivization in agriculture, a monumental task carried out successfully with no historical precedent, the heroic defeat of the Nazis and the many contributions to the cause of world revolution.”8 In addition, opposition groups such as the Trotskyists and Bukharinists were condemned as “traitors and wreckers.”9 While Red Papers 7 stated that the purges had some “weaknesses and excesses,” they defended them overall as a “greater victory for [Stalin’s] proletarian line.”10

While Stalin had built socialism, Red Papers 7 said that a new bourgeoisie emerged from the ranks of managers, technicians, army officers, and intellectuals. This new bourgeoisie were not old Tsarists, but originated from among the working class and peasantry, who were promoted into new positions. While they were loyal to the revolution, these social groups were “trained by the very bourgeois experts they replaced, picking up not only their expertise, but often their world view as well.”11 For instance, Red Papers 7 noted that the Stakhanovite movement – which they defend on the whole – was motivated by material incentives. This had detrimental effects on working class solidarity.12

As time wore on, trends toward bourgeois relations gained ground and were not combated by the party which grew complacent and feeling that “they could now rest a bit on past laurels.”13 By the late 1940s, Red Papers 7 claimed that Soviet planning was more bureaucratic and that the party failed to exercise control over administrators. This was due in part to Stalin’s focus on developing the productive forces, which caused him to make concessions to economic administrators. At the same time, workers were shut out of the planning process. As a result, Stalin and the CPSU failed to effectively fight these bureaucratic and revisionist tendencies. For Red Papers 7, this weakened the USSR’s proletarian character and set the stage for the “more or less peaceful restoration of capitalism.”14

Red Papers 7 argued that Stalin did oppose these revisionist ideas on the primacy of productive forces in Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR (1952). In this work, Stalin said that it was necessary to not only develop the productive forces, but to transform the relations of production to overcome capitalist survivals and the old division of labor. Yet Red Papers 7 observed that Stalin failed to locate the proper means to accomplish this task, which was to “mobilize the masses in a great campaign of criticism and struggle. This, however, was not done…. Nevertheless, no movement did emerge, and during the entire post-war period the struggle basically remained within the upper reaches of the Party leadership. When Stalin died in March 1953, the wolves were still loose.”15

For Red Papers 7, Stalin did not launch a mass campaign against the emergent bourgeoisie because he failed to understand that class struggle continued under socialism. Instead, Stalin believed that socialism contained no internal contradictions. Rather, he viewed the main danger to socialism coming from foreign agents, spies, and individual traitors who must be fought with police methods. This left him unable to recognize that forces of capitalist restoration came from within socialism.

Red Papers 7 concluded that the sources for capitalist restoration in the USSR came from the internal contradictions of socialism, noting the survival of bourgeois ideas and social relations. The persistence of bourgeois ideas and culture created both the subjective and the objective conditions for a capitalist restoration. In the Soviet Union, several groups formed the basis for this new bourgeoisie: (1) the kulaks; (2) the new managers, intellectuals, and technicians; (3) party members who adopted bourgeois and revisionist ideas.16 It was the last category who were decisive in overthrowing Soviet socialism since party leaders were “the only ones in a position to lead society back down the capitalist road, and to actually organize production along capitalist lines.”17 According to Red Papers 7, this was exactly what happened when Khrushchev came to power and he proceeded “toward a fascist dictatorship without many of the difficulties associated with the transition from a “democratic” bourgeois republic.”18

Avakian hailed Red Papers 7 as a pioneering work: “In some important ways Red Papers 7 broke new ground for the movement and put the criticism of the Soviet Union on a much more materialist footing.”19 However, a more sober analysis notes that Red Papers 7 contained an unresolved tension. On the one hand, the USSR was considered socialist under Stalin, but also observed that the working class had no control over the planning process. Martin Nicolaus, a rival Maoist argued that “on the basis of these and similar evaluations given in the text, it would be justified to conclude that Soviet socialism failed to meet… the authors’ definition of socialism.”20 This led Nicolaus to conclude that the RU had adopted Trotskyism instead: “[Red Papers’] basic approach is very near in spirit and method to the Trotskyist view of Soviet socialism.”21

Contrary to Nicolaus’ rhetoric, there was nothing Trotskyist about Red Papers 7. Its understanding of Soviet history is, by and large, a simple retelling of old Stalinist orthodoxy.22 By adopting this Stalinist view, Red Papers 7 failed to provide a distinctive Maoist account of the USSR’s internal contradictions and the material basis for the different political lines in the CPSU. Lastly, the restoration thesis advanced by Red Papers 7 does little more than repeat the basic Maoist premise that the dictatorship of the proletariat can only be preserved or destroyed in the ideological realm, placing the emphasis on ideas and not socio-economic relations. This leads them to ignore that, despite the differences between Stalin, Khrushchev, and Brezhnev, social allocation in the USSR was done by the plan and not according to the dictates of the market or profit-motives.23 Despite its efforts, Red Papers 7 is not a serious historical materialist understanding of the USSR, but superficial, idealistic, and sometimes downright false.

III. Charting the uncharted course?

Over the course of the 1970s, the RU continued to grow and implanted its members among the industrial working class, most notably in the coal fields of West Virginia.24 In September 1975, the RU officially transformed itself into the Revolutionary Communist Party USA, proclaiming itself to be the true vanguard party of the working class. At a certain level, there was some legitimacy to this claim since the RCP outdistanced its Maoists rivals with a membership of 1200-1500 by 1978, and could mobilize many more.25 As if proving true Mao’s dictum that “to be attacked by the enemy is a good thing,” the FBI declared that the RCP was one of the greatest dangers to national security: “The RCP, RSB, and its front groups, identified as the VVAW, UWOC, and USCPFA, represent a threat to the internal security of the United States of the first magnitude.”26

After the death of Mao in 1976 and the arrest of the Gang of Four, the RCP was thrown into crisis. For Avakian, these events were signs of a capitalist coup, leading him to oppose the new Chinese leadership of Deng Xiaoping.27 Other leaders inside the RCP, notably Bergman and Mickey Jarvis took their stand with Deng. The existence of these two lines inside the RCP proved untenable and the organization split in early 1978. Forty percent of the membership left to form the Revolutionary Workers Headquarters, while Avakian remained in control of most of the RCP.28 In line with their rejection of post-Mao China, the RCP protested Deng’s visit to Washington DC in January 1979. The resulting protests led to dozens of injuries and the arrest of seventy-eight demonstrators. Avakian faced major felony charges and fearing political persecution, he fled into French exile.29

Following the Deng demonstrations, the RCP changed its political strategy. They ended efforts to form a bastion in the industrial proletariat, instead believing it was necessary to go “lower and deeper” into the working class, immigrants, and the youth under the slogan “create public opinion, seize power.”30 It is beyond the scope of this essay to discuss the RCP’s later political strategy at length. However, a few words here will suffice. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the RCP made a series of shifts toward developing base areas among the oppressed in the hopes of organically fusing with the people. Drawing upon the Peruvian Maoist experience in urban dwelling of Raucana, they hoped to develop mass combativity among the people. While the RCP was active and did mobilize people around many short-term campaigns, they never succeeded in creating a durable social base among the people of any appreciable size.31

In the 1980s, the RCP also began fostering a cult of personality around Avakian. This was partly to build broad-based support for Avakian’s legal defense, but also served as a new source of legitimacy for the party to replace Mao. It seems that Avakian was a driving force behind these efforts at self-promotion.32 In time, the Avakian personality cult would consume the RCP itself.

Considering the major political shift in China, Avakian believed it was necessary to systematically defend Mao as a banner for revolutionaries to rally around. This was the main point of Avakian’s work, Mao Tse-tung’s Immortal Contributions (1979), which claimed that “Mao Tse-tung was the greatest revolutionary, the greatest Marxist-Leninist leader, of our time.”33 In this book, Avakian performs the double task of explaining and upholding Mao’s contributions to philosophy, economics, military doctrine, and his leadership of both the Chinese Revolution and the Cultural Revolution. Regarding Stalin, Avakian repeated both Mao’s criticisms and those of Red Papers 7.34 He concluded that Stalin was a great Marxist-Leninist who made significant errors, but these were corrected by the experience and insights of Mao.

In looking to a future revolution, Avakian argued that it would be imperative for revolutionaries to move beyond mechanically following previous formulas whether from Marx, Lenin, or Mao:

It can further be said that it is even a law of revolution, and especially of proletarian revolution, that in order for it to succeed in a particular country, the struggle in that country and those leading it will have to depart from and even oppose certain particular conceptions or previous practices which have come to be invested with the stature of ‘established norms’ in the revolutionary movement. This is an expression of materialist dialectics, because every revolution arises out of the concrete conditions (contradictions) in the country (and the world) at the time it is occurring, and every new revolution inevitably involves new questions, new contradictions to be resolved. It is the basic principles and the method of Marxism-Leninism that must be applied as a universal guide for revolution – but these, too, are constantly being developed and enriched, just because scientific knowledge is constantly being deepened, including the Marxist-Leninist comprehension of reality in the fullest sense and because reality is constantly undergoing change, which requires and calls forth the continuous deepening of this knowledge.35

Therefore, it was necessary for the RCP to “chart the uncharted course” since the previous communist movement had not solved the strategic questions about how to make a revolution in an imperialist country like the USA. Instead, communists needed to be creative in their approach since the future remained to be unwritten.36

While the RCP “opened the door” in certain respects to theory and practice, this should not be exaggerated. As we shall see, the RCP’s rethinking of previous conceptions stayed closely within the boundaries of Marxism-Leninism. As time passed, the RCP advanced a “new synthesis of communism” that became identified with the promotion of Avakian’s work itself.

IV. Conquer the World

After Avakian moved to Paris, he began a major study of the communist movement from the Bolshevik Revolution to the death of Stalin.37 The fruit of his efforts were two major works: Conquer the World? The International Proletariat Must and Will (1981) and Advancing the World Revolutionary Movement: Questions of Strategic Orientation (1984).

In Conquer the World, Avakian stated that after Lenin died, “Stalin represented the most correct and principally the correct position at that time.”38 He observed that Stalin’s conception of socialism was based on a “mechanical approach to the economic transformation of ownership as being the alpha and omega of socialist transformation” which neglected the task of transforming social relationships. When it came to the collectivization of agriculture, Avakian said Stalin’s approach was done by “soaking the peasantry.”39 By the 17th party congress in 1934, there was “political exhaustion, on the part of the advanced elements inside the Soviet Union.”40 Afterwards, Stalin’s leadership amplified erroneous tendencies that resulted in the political demobilization of the people. By the end of the 1930s, Avakian concluded that “large sections even among the advanced in the Soviet Union were confused, demoralized and somewhat passive politically.”41

From the mid-1930s onward, Avakian said that “wrong lines and policies were increasingly in command in the Soviet Union and in the international communist movement” most especially following the Comintern’s Seventh Congress of 1935. The rightist character of this political line only deepened during the Second World War. Avakian declared that the Soviet pursuit of collective security and the united front against fascism were “frankly a rationalization for and an attempt to make the communist movement’s policy an extension of the international policy and line of the Soviet Union.”42 He criticized the Soviet Union’s political strategy in World War II where “internationalism was flushed down the drain on a pragmatic and nationalist basis in order to defend the nation and beat back the attacks on it at all costs.”43

In Conquer the World, Avakian noted that the experience of the USSR and the Comintern proved that there is a contradiction between the interests of socialism in a single country and the world revolution. He explained this contradiction as follows: “Well, the position of the proletariat is that it has nothing to lose but its chains, but if it has a country does it have nothing to lose but its chains?”44

In almost heretical words for a Marxist-Leninist, Avakian argued that “socialism in one country” is not a settled question since “it’s been possible to do it in certain countries in certain times doesn’t prove it’s possible to have socialism in every “one country” at all times.”45

In Advancing the World Revolutionary Movement, Avakian continued his critique of Comintern strategy under Stalin. Much more strongly than before, he said that the popular front strategy “was an attempt to rally that section of the workers who were more bourgeoisified and…still maintained a lot of the bourgeois-democratic prejudices and a longing for a more privileged position based on the historical position of their countries as imperialist exploiters and plunderers.”46 Avakian believed that the adoption of the popular front entailed an abandonment of Leninist positions of internationalism and revolutionary defeatism. During World War II, he argued that the popular front between communists and bourgeois democracies served to ignore the crimes of imperialism since they were both united against the main enemy of Nazi Germany: “To justify the kind of all-encompassing alliance that was built with the “democratic” imperialist states in World War 2, you would have to show that even without changing their nature it was possible to change the essence of the actions of these imperialists for a certain period. But that did not happen, and in fact it is not the case that it was possible to do so.”47 Avakian concluded that this wartime popular front alliance was based on a fundamental error of “subordinating the interests of the world revolution to the defense of the Soviet Union.”48

Additionally, Conquer the World criticized the export of revolution into Eastern Europe as not creating a foundation for socialism. Avakian does not dismiss the possibility of exporting socialism from without, but asks: “with that view of imposing a social system by that means, what kind of social system can be in fact imposed?”49 He stated that “socialism never existed in these Eastern European countries (Albania is a different case whose history needs to be looked at separately) and it was never created through class-conscious struggle of the masses there with a proletarian vanguard, and that’s the only way it’s possible—without that it obviously couldn’t exist.”50 For Avakian, this showed that the socialist camp was already in advanced decay before Stalin died.

In 2006, Avakian described Conquer the World as an “epistemological rupture with a lot of the history of the [International Communist Movement]” and providing a Marxist look at the history of Marxism itself.51 Clearly, Avakian does not merely repeat Stalin’s verdicts from the 1930s and even questions the doctrine of socialism in one country and Soviet foreign policy. However, his epistemological “rupture” is very superficial. Far from providing a materialist analysis of the communist movement and the USSR under Stalin, Avakian’s explanations are impressionistic at best. His insights may be innovations to those who operate within his milieu, but far more profound analyses of Soviet history were offered decades earlier by Leon Trotsky, Victor Serge, Isaac Deutscher, E. H. Carr, and Fernando Claudín to name just a few figures.

V. Marxism-Leninism, Maoism, or a new synthesis?

In both Advancing the World Revolutionary Movement and Conquer the World, Avakian asserted the necessity of defending Leninism as the main element tying together Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought. In echoes of Red Papers, he considered Leninism to be the bridge between Marx and Mao: “By that I mean that in today’s situation Leninism is the key link in upholding and applying Marxism-Leninism, Mao Tse-tung Thought. To put it somewhat provocatively, Marxism without Leninism is Eurocentric social-chauvinism and social democracy. Maoism without Leninism is nationalism (and also, in certain contexts, social-chauvinism) and bourgeois democracy.”52 For Avakian, Leninism with its ideas on the vanguard party and the state provided a revolutionary thread tying together the contributions of both Marx and Mao.

Avakian’s defense of Leninism was directed in part against the philosopher Alain Badiou and les Maoïstes in France, who claimed that a vanguard party had been superseded by the experience of the Cultural Revolution.53 For Avakian, a defense of Lenin and Stalin as bridges to Mao was essential to maintain the revolutionary character of Marxism-Leninism. By contrast, Badiou advanced a rival understanding of Mao, seeing the Cultural Revolution as an anti-Stalinist rebellion against the Leninist party-state.54

In Conquer the World, Avakian offered an alternative self-designation to “Maoism,” coining the clunky “revolutionary communist/proletarian internationalist trend.”55 This label did not find much support in either the RCP or among anti-revisionists internationally. Many pro-Mao parties insisted that Maoism was a new and higher stage of Marxism-Leninism. For example, the Communist Party of Peru (aka the Shining Path), under the leadership of Abimael Guzmán, said in 1982: “we are before a third stage of the ideology of the international proletariat, and therefore it has transformed into Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.”56 In addition, Guzmán’s defense of Stalin was far more rigid and orthodox than found in Avakian. In the October 21, 1983, issue of the Revolutionary Worker, the RCP disagreed with the Peruvians on Maoism, stating that there was no new stage: “We have stressed the importance of learning from and advancing on the basis of Mao’s qualitative advances in that science, which represent, in that sense, a new stage in the development of Marxism-Leninism. We think Maoism is fine and necessary. But as Mao himself emphasized, we are still living in the era of Leninism, of imperialism and proletarian revolution. Without a Leninist understanding of imperialism and revolution, Maoism is ultimately distorted and turned into its opposite.”57

Yet in Harvest of Dragons (1983), Avakian found himself defending a more orthodox version of Mao Zedong Thought than he had a few years previously. This was likely done as an ideological concession to Guzmán and the PCP to convince them to join the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM). The RIM was a new communist international meant to regroup Maoist forces internationally around a common banner. Considering that the PCP was waging its own guerrilla war and was one of the leading Maoist parties in the world, it would significantly boost the prestige of the RIM if they joined. However, Guzmán refused to join any international that did not adopt his formulation of Maoism. Avakian and others in the RIM ended up conceding on this point.58 In 1984, the RIM was formed and counted both the PCP and the RCP among its membership. Later the RIM’s 1993 statement Long Live Marxism-Leninism-Maoism! announced its adherence to Maoism as the highest stage of Marxism: “Today the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement declares that Marxism-Leninism-Maoism must be the commander and guide of the world revolution.”59

However, the capture of Guzmán in 1992 did not mean Avakian reverted to his earlier semi-heterodoxy. Over the coming years, Avakian developed the idea that a new synthesis of communism was needed beyond Maoism. In 2003, Avakian launched a “self-coup” inside the RCP to transform the party into an organ devoted to promoting his own cult of personality and his “new synthesis of communism.” Now, the RCP presented Avakian as a leader on a level comparable to Lenin and Mao, who basically held the salvation of humanity in his hands. His “new synthesis of communism,” however, was characterized by incoherence and banality that provided no pathbreaking insights on Marxism, Stalinism, or socialist revolution.60

VI. One step forward, two steps back

A. Spanish Civil War

Following the “opening” in Conquer the World, the RCP showed a greater willingness in scrutinizing many periods of communist history. In 1981, the party’s journal Revolution looked at the Spanish Civil War with a critical eye. The RCP elaborated on a 1964 philosophical discussion between Mao and Kang Sheng that touched on the Spanish Communist Party (PCE) and the Civil War. In the conversation, Kang tells Mao that the PCE followed a rightist policy.61 Mao was aghast and voiced agreement with Kang’s criticism of the PCE.

The article follows Kang and Mao by arguing that revolutionary opportunities in Spain were sacrificed for the sake of the Soviet Union’s pursuit of an alliance with Britain and France against Nazi Germany.62 Not only does the article observe that the popular front was a repudiation of Leninism, but blame was laid at the feet of Stalin himself for the defeat in Spain: “Stalin had more than a little to do with the eventual triumph of counter-revolution.”63

While the RCP’s analysis on the Spanish Civil War does break with certain myths surrounding the conflict, when it comes to the quasi-Trotskyist organization Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista (POUM), their view is decidedly Stalinist. The suppression of the POUM and radical anarchists following the May Days of 1937 marked the end of the Spanish Revolution. However, the RCP discussed the May Days in an almost agnostic manner and appeared willing to believe the falsehood that the POUM was in the pay of Franco: “We cannot here settle the argument as to whether [the May Days] was a deliberate provocation by the PCE to create an excuse to wipe out the forces opposed to it in Catalonia, as anarchists and Trotskyites claim down to today, or whether it was a provocation by a section of the anarchists who sought the immediate overthrow of the Republic and especially the POUM, with some egging on by Franco agents.”64 The RCP repeated the Stalinist slander that both the POUM and anarchists were not in the revolutionary camp: “The point is this: the anarchist and POUM line (for similar reasons) was counterrevolutionary.”65 In the end, the RCP is unwilling to admit that the PCE was on the wrong side of the barricades (even if it is implied at times) and denied that the party was actively involved in quashing the Spanish revolution. For all its criticisms of the PCE and the Comintern, the RCP’s perspective remained that of a friendly critic counseling how the PCE should have acted differently.

B. General Crisis

It was not only in the realm of history, but also in political economy that the RCP challenged Soviet dogma on capitalist dynamics. In America in Decline (1984) by Raymond Lotta and Frank Shannon, the Comintern’s “general crisis theory” was subjected to heavy criticism. The general crisis theory was adopted at the Comintern’s Sixth Congress in 1928 claiming that capitalism was moribund, decadent, and on the verge of collapse. If the claims of the general crisis theory were correct, then reforms of capitalism were no longer possible, making every proletarian struggle inherently revolutionary.66 In fact, the general crisis theory condemned any reformist strategy as both sterile and counterrevolutionary. According to Lotta and Shannon, the general crisis theory was not only mechanical and anti-Leninist, but “fed an evolutionist (and economist) political strategy; the forces of revolution would gradually accumulate against the backdrop of a static environment and, the general crisis. The system would break down and the working class would more or less ‘step into the breach.’”67

Mike Ely of the RCP looked at the impact of the general crisis theory on the CPUSA’s political strategy in a 1981 article Slipping Into Darkness: “Left” Economism, the CPUSA and the Trade Union Unity League (1929-1935). Ely argued that the CPUSA saw capitalism in such a deep crisis that it was incapable of granting any reforms. This caused the CPUSA to view every economic struggle as revolutionary. Moreover, the CPUSA’s political line fostered economism which “assumes that workers don’t care about anything that doesn’t touch them personally, and don’t aspire to anything more than a full belly and a secure, peaceful life, even the line of the CP in this period where it was expecting revolution any minute, led to political work that viewed the world through the grimy windows of the factory.”68 The CPUSA’s approach meant they ignored how social democrats and liberals still had roles to play as reformists. To combat social democrats, the CPUSA saw their task as “being the most militant and consistent defenders of the economic needs of the masses.”69 As a result, the Communists mimicked the social democrats, albeit sounding more “left” and militant. Ely concluded that the CPUSA abandoned Leninism since “the only way communists can successfully compete head to head with reformists within the limits of the trade-union struggle is by becoming reformists themselves-and even there, the old, original, proven reformists often have the advantage.”70 After the turn to the popular front, the CPUSA dropped “left” from its “left economism” and became nearly indistinguishable from other reformists.

The RCP’s rejection of the general crisis theory went so far that they edited it out of The Shanghai Textbook (a Chinese work on political economy originally published in several editions in the mid-1970s) in 1994. In their version of The Shanghai Textbook, the RCP only published the second part dealing with socialism and left out the first part on capitalism since it was based on the general crisis theory.71

In its criticism of the Comintern’s general crisis theory, the RCP correctly noted that capitalism is not in a state of permanent crisis and was not only capable of expansion, but often flexible enough to provide reforms. Their analysis was innovative in noting the connection between the general crisis theory and the reformist politics of the CPUSA. Yet in discarding the general crisis theory, Lotta and the RCP adopted their own flawed apocalyptic “spiral/conjuncture” theory that said World War III between the USSR and USA in the 1980s was inevitable.72

C. National Nihilism

Another aspect of the popular front that the RCP criticized was its abandonment of internationalism. In the August 1980 article, “On the Question of So-Called “National Nihilism”: You Can’t Beat the Enemy While Raising His Flag,” the RCP condemned the CPUSA for their embrace of American patriotism. The RCP said that this rot extended far beyond the CP leadership of Earl Browder: “It would be nice to pretend that revisionism started and stopped with Earl Browder. But this “easy target” method of struggle leaves too much dirt in the old CP unwashed and, even more importantly, leaves untouched many of the roots of revisionism and decay that have damaged all and destroyed some of the international communist movement over the past 50 years.”73 According to the RCP, the source of this rightist turn could be found in George Dimitrov who said at the Comintern’s Seventh Congress that in the interests of anti-fascism, communists must take up the mantle of patriotism from the bourgeoisie.

In his report, Dimitrov condemned “national nihilism” whereby communists cut themselves off from the people by belittling patriotic sentiments and ignoring national achievements. The RCP argued that the deviation of “national nihilism” did not exist, but served as an excuse for the Comintern to embrace reformism by denigrating previous commitments to proletarian internationalism: “When all is said and done “national nihilism” is a straw man; the real danger has historically been shown to be falling into siding with one’s own bourgeoisie, especially when war approaches. In the imperialist countries, the banner of the nation can lead you there and nowhere else, no matter if, on the surface, this flag is raised in competition with the imperialists.”74 For the RCP, the turn to patriotism in imperialist countries meant tailing liberals and forsaking internationalism.

In the United States, the RCP concluded that Browder’s slogan of “Communism is 20th Century Americanism” proved that the CPUSA had “completely taken up the program and outlook of bourgeois democracy.”75 This patriotic line was entwined with a number of rightist and anti-Leninist turns within the CPUSA that included the following: indifference to black liberation; support for American imperialism during the Second World War; a capitulation to the Democratic Party and liberalism; curtailing labor militancy in the interests of the union bureaucracy; and downgrading of any vision for socialism that involved revolution. The RCP correctly observed that the CPUSA’s defense of the stars and stripes effectively marked the death of the party as a revolutionary organization: “Such a stand may be American and definitely is bourgeois, but for a communist it is a thoroughly counter-revolutionary one, especially here in the imperialist USA in this, the era of proletarian revolution.”76

While RCP forcefully rejected many of the policies associated with the popular front, their approach was not particularly new or original. Going back to the 1930s, one need only read oppositional Marxists who exposed the CPUSA’s counterrevolutionary behavior. During the 1960s, segments of the New Left along with the Black Panthers and Students for a Democratic Society offered their own challenges to the “respectable” legacy that saturated the Old Left. Yet the biggest failing of the RCP’s approach was what they left unsaid. While Dimitrov and the Comintern were denounced for the popular front, Stalin was not indicted.


While the RCP continued to uphold the Soviet Union under Stalin, they did deepen some of their criticisms. In 1984, during a debate over whether the Soviet Union was socialist or social-imperialist between Raymond Lotta and Albert Szymanski, new criticisms of Stalinism were advanced. For example, Lotta criticized the adoption of Taylorism by both Lenin and Stalin. He said that Stalin was motivated by the idea of a “fortress socialism” where socialism was identified with developing the productive forces in order to overtake the advanced capitalist countries. Lotta observed that this idea of socialism meant that “mass mobilization and revolutionary politics were subordinated to that approach and that orientation.”77 He concluded that “Stalin was actually attempting to secure socialism, but the means and methods used to do that actually had the effect of disarming large sections of the masses.” Implicit in Lotta’s remarks is a much more critical view of the Stakhanovite movement than was found in Red Papers 7.

In his introduction to The Shanghai Textbook, Lotta argued that Mao broke with Stalin on the primacy of productive forces in constructing socialism:

The mere increase in productive forces (economic development) will not in and of itself eliminate exploitative relations and other oppressive social and ideological relations (like patriarchy). There is, Mao emphasized, a dialectical relationship between economic development and ongoing and deep-going social and ideological transformation: “if a socialist society does not promote socially collectivistic aims, then what of socialism remains.” The key issue confronting socialist society, and what determines its overall character, is the road on which it is traveling.78

Yet the RCP’s overall approach to Soviet history was fearful. They were reluctant to hear anything that would overturn their received wisdom on Stalin. During the 1980s, Mike Ely planned to write a Maoist analysis of the Soviet Purges but was “shut down” by the party for pursuing the “wrong line.”79 After the Soviet archives were opened, the RCP refused to view any of the documents or reassess their views on the USSR. In fact, Avakian suggested that documents in the Soviet archives detailing crimes under Stalin were forgeries!80 As Ely said years later, the RCP’s understanding of Soviet history was

…focused heavily on the ideas, motives and ideological/philosophical shortcomings behind Stalin’s actions. (Is the problem with Stalin really that he suffered from mechanical thinking?) The overall assessment of real living revolutions (where classes collide, where people act, where consequences are measurable) is replaced by a schematic chronology of conflicts and ideologies at the very top of the state. Meanwhile, all the insights, methods and controversies of modern history-writing have gone unacknowledged and unexplored — however much some of us tried to raise or pursue them.81

VII. Aground

As we have seen, there were moments when the RCP appeared willing to debate and throw down the historical gauntlet. This did produce a few genuine works of insight. Yet why were these first steps by the RCP not taken any further?

The main reason was the RCP’s adherence to the dead weight of their inherited Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy. Genuine debate and inquiry within the party about many topics, including Stalinism, was discouraged. Rather, discussion stayed within strict boundaries and never seriously challenged most of the sacred cows of Stalinism. This ensured that no serious Maoist analysis of the Soviet Union during the Stalin era could ever be produced. Ultimately, the RCP’s approach reeked of theoretical and historical poverty leaving them unable to understand Stalinism.

  1. Aaron J. Leonard and Conor A. Gallagher, Heavy Radicals: The FBI’s Secret War on America’s Maoists The Revolutionary Union / Revolutionary Communist Party 1968-1980 (Washington: Zer0, 2014), 12-33. See also Max Elbaum, Revolution in the Air: Sixties Radicals turn to Lenin, Mao and Che (New York: Verso, 2002), 95-100. See also Steve Hamilton, “On the History of the Revolutionary Union (Part One),” Marxists Internet Archive. ; Steve Hamilton, “On the History of the Revolutionary Union (Part II),” Marxists Internet Archive.
  2. “Within a year of its publication, Red Papers 1 had gone through several printings and 20,000 copies were in circulation. The document made its way to every large city and college town and became “must reading” among Marxist-leaning activists. Red Papers 1 combined an accessible writing style with a skill at elaborating Marxist-Leninist doctrine that was unusual for the time.”

    Elbaum 2002, 99. Mike Ely, then a young activist describes the impact that reading Red Papers had on him:

    “When I received (from afar) a copy of Red Papers 1, I was a seventeen-year-old college freshman. I read it over and over until the print started to fade — and until the many strange and difficult concepts were burned into my brain. It left me as a fierce partisan of its proposals. And I worked to circulate Red Papers 1 and 2 with everyone I met.” Mike Ely, “Red Papers 1: Calling for communist collectives,” Kasama Project, September 6, 2011.

  3. “The Stalin question: Stalin is the bridge between Lenin and Mao theoretically, practically, and organizationally. The successes of the world proletarian and people’s movements are a part of our history, and they are our successes, they are the successes of our class. The mistakes and errors must also be ours. We admit the mistakes of our class and its leaders, try to correct them or, failing that, try to avoid repeating them. But we will not disassociate ourselves from these errors in the opportunist manner of many bourgeois intellectuals and armchair “revolutionaries.””

    Bay Area Revolutionary Union, “Red Papers 1,” Marxists Internet Archive.

  4. Ibid.
  5. “Although information and propaganda were carried to the masses, and their approval won, mass ideological struggle did not progress to that necessary degree so that the masses could recognize, and thus prevent, the revisionist takeover.” Ibid.
  6. An official RCP document by Bill Klingel and Joanne Psihountas described the dissenters as follows:

    “A handful of petty-bourgeois radicals who had joined up with the RU because it seemed like “the thing to do,” argued that the dictatorship of the proletariat was fine in backward countries, filled with ”ignorant peasant masses” like Russia and China–where you had to have a “forced march” to achieve rapid economic development. But it was unnecessary in an already developed country like the United States and would be rejected by the “more cultured” people of this country. In other words, they put forward the theory of the productive forces and really saw the dictatorship of the proletariat as a dictatorship over the people. And they “couldn’t support” Joseph Stalin–“that butcher.”” Bill Klingel and Joanne Psihountas, “Important Struggles in Building the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA,” Marxists Internet Archive.

  7. Leonard and Gallagher 2014, 77.
  8. Red Papers 7: How Capitalism Has Been Restored in the Soviet Union and What It Means for the World Struggle (Chicago: Revolutionary Union, 1974), 22.
  9. Ibid. 16.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid.
  12. “Not only did this tend to cultivate bourgeois ideas of self-interest among the Stakhanovites themselves, but also had the effect of setting the more advanced Stakhanovites apart from the masses of workers. In a few instances this even created a certain degree of hostility toward the Stakhanov [sic] movement among the workers.” Ibid. 10.
  13. Ibid. 17.
  14. Ibid. 12.
  15. Ibid. 20.
  16. Ibid. 12-13.
  17. Ibid. 13.
  18. Ibid. 103.
  19. Bob Avakian, From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist (Chicago, Insight Books, 2005), 304.
  20. Martin Nicolaus, “Critique of Red Papers 7: Metaphysics Cannot Defeat Revisionism – RU Document Fails to Show Essence of Capitalist Restoration,” Marxists Internet Archive.
  21. Ibid.
  22. In a self-criticism written years later, RCP supporter Mike Ely acknowledged that Red Papers 7 was marred by its acceptance of official Soviet verdicts on the Moscow Trials: “The RCP’s Red Papers 7 (“How capitalism has been restored in the Soviet Union and what this means for the world struggle” written 1974)— did some state-of-the-art communist analysis of Soviet social imperialism. But one of the truly disappointing parts of it was the crudely uncritical insertion of official Soviet verdicts on the line struggles of the 1930s. This stuck out like a sore thumb — as a lapse in both scientific methodology and integrity.” Mike Ely, “Nando on Kasama: Engagement and Audience,” Kasama Project, January 5, 2009. ; Later RCP discussions on Trotsky were little better than cheap caricatures. See Lenny Wolff, The Science of Revolution: An Introduction (Chicago: RCP Publications, 1983), 200.
  23. Spartacus League, Trotskyism versus Maoism Why the U.S.S.R. Is Not Capitalist (New York: Spartacus Youth Publishing Co., 1977), 66-76. For more background on the Soviet economy see Alec Nove, An Economic History of the USSR 1917-1991 (New York: Penguin Books, 1992).
  24. For more background about the RCP work in the coalfields, see Mike Ely, “Miners Right to Strike Committee,” Against the Current No. 217 (March/April 2022). ; Mike Ely, “Communists and the Miners’ Upsurge with Mike Ely,” Cosmopod.
  25. Figures in Leonard and Gallagher 2014, 221.
  26. Ibid. 183.
  27. See Bob Avakian, Revisionists Are Revisionists And Must Not Be Supported, Revolutionaries Are Revolutionaries and Must Be Supported (RCP, 1977).
  28. Elbaum 2002, 233.
  29. See Leonard and Gallagher 2014, 224-228; Mike Ely, Miles Ahead and Land, “1979 Maoist streetfighting: We waved the Red Book in Deng Xiaoping’s face,” Kasama Project, March 2, 2011.
  30. Leonard and Gallagher 2014, 228-229. See also Revolutionary Communist Party, “New Programme and New Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA,” Marxists Internet Archive. ; Among those whom the RCP did not seek to liberate were homosexuals, which the party considered a form of “bourgeois decadence.” On this shameful history of gays in the RCP and other homophobic left groups, see “Out of the Red Closet: Gay and Lesbian Experiences in the Previous Communist Movement,” Kasama Project, January 2012.
  31. For more on these efforts, see Mike Ely, “Nine Letters to Our Comrades,” Kasama Project: 11-18. ; On the Peruvian Maoists and Raucana, see Simon Strong, Shining Path: Terror and Revolution in Peru (New York: Random House, 1992), 260-263.
  32. “I remember, for example, being challenged by someone interviewing me—I believe this was on a college radio station in Madison, Wisconsin—who asked insistently: ‘Is there a “cult of personality” developing around Bob Avakian?’ And I replied: ‘I certainly hope so—we’ve been working very hard to create one.’”Avakian 2005, 393.
  33. Bob Avakian, Mao Tse-tung’s Immortal Contributions (Chicago: RCP Publications, 1979), 1.
    Later, Avakian described Mao to be an irreplaceable leader and genius who should not be subject to the whims of democracy:
    “To give an extreme example, if the masses in socialist China had had the right to vote Mao out of office, and if they had exercised that right foolishly and voted him out, they would have been confronted with the stark fact that there wouldn’t have been another Mao to take his place. In reality, they would find themselves in a situation where someone would have to play a role which, from a formal standpoint, would be the same as that of Mao; that is, someone would have to occupy leading positions like that, and the division of labour in society – in particular between mental and manual labour – would mean that only a small section of people would then be capable of playing such a role. Voting Mao out of office would only mean that somebody less qualified – or, even worse, someone representing the bourgeoisie instead of the proletariat – would be playing that leadership role. You can’t get around this, and adhering to the strictures of formal democracy would be no help at all.”
    Bob Avakian, “Democracy: More Than Ever We can and Must Do Better Than That,” A World to Win 17 (1992).
    According to Mike Ely, Avakian thought about himself in a comparable manner to Mao as a special leader:
    “And Avakian is (in such discussions of Mao) laying a foundation for his own ascension to “special, rare, unique, and irreplacable” and of the “caliber” reserved only for Marx, Lenin and Mao. It was a theory trotted out first in regard to Mao, but certainly (already then in his own mind) applicable to himself.”

    Mike Ely, “A Defense of the Party-State, Part 3: Limits of Formal Democracy & Popular Will,” Kasama Project, October 5, 2010.

  34. Avakian 1979, 88-93 and 146-9, 264-80.
  35. Ibid. 312.
  36. See RCP, Charting the Uncharted Course: Proletarian Revolution in the US! (Chicago: RCP Publications, 1981). ; See also Bob Avakian, “The Question of Stalin and “Stalinism”,” Revolution 60, (Fall 1990): 13-17.
  37. According to his memoir: “My approach was, in a real sense, to look at this history anew, applying a critical approach to everything I was studying, even those things written by communists, while at the same time applying the fundamental outlook and methodology of communism to draw, from all this, the most essential lessons, positive and negative.” Avakian 2005, 421.
  38. Bob Avakian, “Conquer the World? The International Proletariat Must and Will,” Revolution 50 (December 1981): 17.
  39. Ibid. 19.
  40. Ibid. 20.
  41. Ibid. 21.
  42. Ibid. 22.
  43. Ibid.
  44. Ibid. 17. According to Mike Ely, Avakian was likely quoting the Chilean Maoist Jorge Palacios. See Mike Ely, “The RCP’s Debt to Louis Althusser: Why It Matters,” Kasama Project, January 13, 2009.

    Maoist Internationalist Movement argues that Conquer the World was proof that Avakian was a Trotskyist. See Maoist Internationalist Movement, “The Revolutionary Community Party-USA and Trotsky: A Literal Comparison,” Marxists Internet Archive.

    In his memoirs, Avakian claims that he saw a similar contradiction between state power and the world revolution playing out when it came to China and the Three Worlds Theory. See Avakian 2005, 304-309.

  45. Avakian, “Conquer the World?” 37.
  46. Bob Avakian, “Advancing the World Revolutionary Movement: Questions of Strategic Orientation,” Revolution 51 (Spring 1984): 8.
  47. Ibid. 11.
  48. Ibid.
  49. Avakian, “Conquer the World?” 25.
  50. Ibid. 28. See also “Mao comments (in two separate places) in his Critique of Soviet Economics that, although the People’s Democracies in Eastern Europe were established as the outcome of class struggle internationally (that is. World War 21, a good job was not done in leading class struggle there in the period after the war. Thus, no solid basis for socialism in those countries was ever laid, even though significant steps were taken in transforming the ownership system. As a result of all this, the socialist camp, even as it was reaching its “height” in the early and mid-50s was already disintegrating from within. And in general the conditions were ripening for the triumph of revisionism in most of this camp and more broadly for the complete degeneration of the majority of the parties that had been part of the Third International.” Quoted in “Outline of Views on the Historical Experience of the International Communist Movement and the Lessons for Today,” Revolution 49 (June 1981): 6-7.
  51. See Bob Avakian, “On Epistemology: On Knowing and Changing The World,” A World to Win 32 (2006): 26.
  52. Avakian, “Conquer the World?” 38. The Indian Maoist Ajith says that Avakian’s emphasis on Leninism meant he undermined the advanced nature of Maoism: “Avakianism’s demand to take Leninism as the key link in upholding and applying MLM, his understanding that Leninism is what makes the synthesis of MLM possible today, denied Maoism its position as the cutting edge.” See Ajith, Against Avakianism (Utrecht: Foreign Languages Press 2017), 49.
  53. “…there are those so-called and pretended “Maoists” who think that because of the experience of the Cultural Revolution in China the basic principle of the Leninist party, of democratic centralism and so on, has been superseded and surpassed and is no longer correct and applicable, and that some new form, that is, a new bourgeois-democratic form, can be found in which to eliminate in fact the role of the party.”Avakian, “Conquer the World?” 41. According to Mike Ely, les Maoïstes were the UCFML which Alain Badiou belonged to. See Mike Ely introduction, “Defense of the Party-State, Part 1: Leninism as the Bridge,” Kasama Project, October 1, 2010. ; Of late, the RCP has condemned Badiou as a Rousseauist. See RCP, “Why Alain Badiou is a Rousseauist… And Why We Should Not Be,” Revcom.
  54. Badiou described Mao’s position in Cultural Revolution as contradictory since he championed both insurgency and stabilization. It was a situation that Mao could find no means to escape from: “[Mao]wants [the party-state’s] renovation, even a violent one, but not its destruction. He knows full well in the end that by subjecting the last outpost of young revolting “leftists,” he liquidates the last margin left to anything that is not in line (in 1968) with the recognized leadership of the Cultural Revolution: a line of party reconstruction. He knows it, but he is resigned. Because he holds no alternative hypothesis—nobody does—as to the existence of the state, and because the large majority of people, after two exalted but very trying years, want the state to exist and to make its existence known, if needed with rude force.” Alain Badiou, “The Cultural Revolution: The Last Revolution?” in Polemics (New York: Verso, 2006), 317.
  55. Avakian, “Conquer the World?” 47. See also Mike Ely, “RCP Constitution: Control, Cult of Personality & Revealing Silences,” Kasama Project, August 12, 2008.
  56. See Collected Works of the Communist Party of Peru: Volume 1 – 1969-1987 (Utrecht: Foreign Languages Press, 2016), 364. In 1988, the PCP formalized their synthesis of Maoism. See Communist Party of Peru, “Fundamental Documents: On Marxism-Leninism-Maoism,” Foreign Languages Press. On Marxism-Leninism-Maoism
  57. “Revolutionary Warfare in Peru,” Revolutionary Worker 227 Vol. 5, #25, October 21, 1983, 8.

    Many of the other parties that would joined the RIM had their own contending versions of Maoism or Marxism-Leninism distinct from the PCP and RCP. For instance, the Communist Party of Turkey Marxist-Leninist insisted on unity around Marxism-Leninism not Maoism. See “On the Joint Communiqué”, Open Letter to the Coordinating Committee of the International Journal A World to Win,A World to Win Preliminary Issue #2 (May 1982): 36-38. ; Mohan Bikram Singh, writing on behalf of the Communist Party of Nepal (Masal) condemned Avakian’s approach to Mao and Stalin. See CPN (MASAL), “Note of Dissent presented to the 2nd International Conference of Marxist-Leninist parties and organizations held in 1984,” in Mashal’s Struggle Against Trotskyism within RIM. (Kathmandu: CPN (Masal) Central Office, 1996), 16.

    In addition, the Chilean RCP preceded the PCP by adopting Maoism in 1972. See Mike Ely, “PCR de Chile in the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement pt 2,” Kasama Project, September 24, 2011. ; For more on the PCP and the “codification” of Maoism via the RIM see Joshua Moufawad-Paul, Continuity and Rupture: Philosophy in the Maoist Terrain (Washington: Zer0, 2016), 1-16.

  58. See Ely, “RCP Constitution: Control, Cult of Personality & Revealing Silences.” See also Strong 1992, 245.
  59. Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, “Long Live Marxism-Leninism-Maoism!” A World to Win 20 (1995).

  60. See Ajith 2017 and Ely, “Nine Letters to Our Comrades.”; On the self-coup, see RCP, “A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA,” Revcom. September 2008.
  61. “In their country, they did not concern themselves with the three points: army, countryside, political power. They wholly subordinated themselves to the exigencies of Soviet foreign policy, and achieved nothing at all.’) … ‘They say the Communist Party organized an army, and then turned it over to others.’).” Mao Zedong, “Talks on Questions of Philosophy,” in Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung Volume IX (Paris: Foreign Languages Press, 2021), 118.
  62. “The strategy of the Soviet leadership called for an alliance with the Anglo-French bloc against Germany. Nothing, including revolution, could be allowed to jeopardize the possibility of that alliance, as a Soviet-backed revolution in the British junior-partner Spain certainly would.” “The Line of the Comintern on the Civil War in Spain,” Revolution vol. 6, #1 (June 1981): 4.
  63. Ibid. 61.
  64. Ibid. 42.
  65. Ibid.
  66. Raymond Lotta and Frank Shannon, America in Decline: An Analysis of the Developments Toward War and Revolution, in the U.S. and Worldwide, in the 1980s, Volume 1 (Chicago: Banner Books, 1984), 241-265. Avakian himself criticized the general crisis theory in “Conquer the World?” 18-19.
  67. Lotta and Shannon 1982, 262.
  68. Mike Ely, “Slipping into Darkness: ‘Left’ Economism, the CPUSA and the Trade Union Unity League (1929-1935),” Revolution 47 Vol. 5, #2-3, February-March 1980): 46.
  69. Ibid. 44.
  70. Ibid.
  71. “Maoism (even at its best) never had a sophisticated theory of capitalist political economy — and some Maoists even dredged up the worst of Comintern theory (like the General Crisis theory) to fill that gap. When we published the Shanghai Political Economy textbook we deliberately didn’t publish the second [sic] volume (on the political economy of capitalism) — because it was terrible and our intention was allow [sic] it to drift away forgotten.” Mike Ely, “Finding our own communist symbolism & presentation,” Kasama Project, December 7, 2011. ; See also Maoist Economics and the Revolutionary Road to Communism: The Shanghai Textbook (New York: Banner Press, 1994), i.
  72. Lotta and Frank Shannon 1984, 127-137, 148-149 and 162-169. It was only in 1999 long after the predicted World War III did not occur that Lotta criticized the spiral/conjuncture theory. See Raymond Lotta, “Notes on Political Economy,” Revcom. ; According to Mike Ely, the ideas of Louis Althusser were an unacknowledged theoretical debt in America in Decline. See Ely, “The RCP’s Debt to Louis Althusser: Why It Matters.”
  73. RCP, “On the Question of So-Called “National Nihilism”: You Can’t Beat the Enemy While Raising His Flag,” Marxists Internet Archive.
  74. Ibid.
  75. Ibid.
  76. Ibid.

    Criticism popular front found its way into the 1984 Declaration of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (1984) that seemed to bear a decided RCP influence:

    “First the distinction between fascism and bourgeois democracy in the imperialist countries, while certainly of real importance for the Communist Parties, was treated in a way that tended to make an absolute of the difference between these two forms of bourgeois dictatorship and also to make a strategic stage of the struggle against fascism. Secondly, a thesis was developed, which held that the growing immiseration of the proletariat would create in the advanced countries the material basis for healing the split in the working class and its consequent polarisation that Lenin had so powerfully analysed in his works on imperialism and the collapse of the Second International. While it is certainly true that the depth of the crisis undermined the social base of the labour aristocracy in the advanced capitalist countries and led to real possibilities that the Communist Parties needed to make use of to unite with large sections of the workers previously under the hegemony of the Social Democrats, it was not correct to believe that in any kind of a strategic sense the split in the working class could be healed. Thirdly, when fascism was defined as the regime of the most reactionary section of the monopoly bourgeoisie in the imperialist countries, this left the door open to the dangerous, reformist and pacifist tendency to see a section of the monopoly bourgeoisie as progressive.” “Declaration of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement,” Bannedthought. Recently, the RCP has embraced the same politics of liberal tailism that they once condemned by supporting Joe Biden and the Democratic Party in the 2020 elections. See Bob Avakian, “On the Immediate Critical Situation, the Urgent Need to Drive Out the Fascist Trump/Pence Regime, Voting in This Election, and the Fundamental Need for Revolution,” Revcom, August 1, 2020.

  77. Raymond Lotta, “Concluding Remarks,” in The Soviet Union: Socialist or Social Imperialist? Part II: The Question Is Joined, Raymond Lotta vs. Albert Szymanski (Chicago: RCP Publications, 1983), 80.
  78. The Shanghai Textbook 1994, xxv. Lotta’s introduction contains an extensive Maoist criticism of Soviet/Stalin methods of planning. In addition, see Raymond Lotta, “Socialist Planning or “Market Socialism”?” Revolutionary Worker 1166, September 15, 2002.
  79. Mike Ely, “How Communists Do Their History: With Truth or Myth?” Kasama Project, July 12, 2009.
  80. “I know someone who studies these things who told me that now that they have Putin in there [heading up the Russian government], and now that they’ve dropped the mask of socialism altogether, and the Soviet Union is no longer in existence, well, now we’re supposed to believe that everything that these people claim to dig out of the archives from the old Soviet Union is the gospel truth. Before when they were KGB agents, everything they said was a lie. Somehow now they’re “disinterested” people and everything they say about the past—which they’re interested in discrediting themselves to a significant degree—somehow that’s the gospel truth and shouldn’t be questioned or looked at critically. So we need a more critical approach than that, and it is difficult to sort out, but we need to sort out more what actually did happen.” Bob Avakian, “On Communism, Leadership, Stalin, and the Experience of Socialist Society – June 21, 2009,” Revcom.
  81. Ely, “How Communists Do Their History: With Truth or Myth?”