Thursday, June 14, 2018

U.S. Maoists in 1978: which bureaucratic clique to defend?

For most people today the Revolutionary Communist Party is this.  

Or this.

But in the 1970s the RCP, thousand-strong and with cadre getting jobs in unionized steel, textiles, and mining, it looked to be a formidable opponent in the struggle for political leadership of the U.S. working class.

But then Mao Zedong died, China invaded revolutionary Vietnam, and the whole Stalinist spectrum of U.S. Maoism went phut.


14 June 2018


Behind split in the RCP: Rifts in Peking bureaucracy tear apart US. Maoists
By David Frankel

[Published in The Militant, 1978. Vol. 42/No. 22]

During the 1960s, Maoism became
an influential current among radical
youth around the world. Over the past
few years, however, the Maoists have
been beset by a deep political crisis.
Many of their earlier gains have been
eroded as a result.

The most recent indication of this
crisis here in the United States came
this January when the Revolutionary
Communist Party (RCP) split. The
RCP had been the largest Maoist orga-
nization in the country, but the split
took 40 percent of its membership (or
"somewhat less than one third," de-
pending on which side one believes).
The RCP also lost the majority of its
youth organization.

Similar factional struggles and splits
have been taking place in Maoist
groups all over the world. The explana-
tion for this development is to be found
in the policies of the Chinese regime.

Pro-imperialist policy

Under Mao's direction, the Peking
regime began to follow an openly pro-
imperialist foreign policy in the early
1970s. This was symbolized by Mao's
warm reception for Richard Nixon in
Peking in February 1972, at the same
time that U.S. warplanes were raining
death on Vietnam.

After Mao designated the Soviet
regime as the main enemy of the
people of the world, the right-wing
character of Peking's foreign policy
became increasingly apparent.
In the name of opposing the sup-
posed Soviet threat, Peking has backed
imperialist war spending and called
for strengthening the NATO alliance.

The Maoist regime has also backed
many of the most repressive capitalist
dictatorships, such as those in Iran
and Chile, on the basis of their strong
opposition to Moscow.

These reactionary policies have been
hard to swallow for groups that were
originally built up on the basis of
opposition to imperialism during the
Vietnam War. In the United States,
Mao's course finally led to a debate
within the Maoist milieu when the
Guardian newspaper criticized Pek-
ing's policy in Angola. (Together with
Washington, Peking focused its fire
against the Soviet and Cuban presence
in Angola.)

While the Guardian became more
and more critical of Peking's foreign
policy, Mao's betrayals were defended
up and down the line by the October
League [OL-now called the Commu-
nist Party (Marxist-Leninist)].

The RCP took a third course. It tried
to squirm out of the dilemma by claim-
ing to defend Peking's policy while
misrepresenting that policy, which
was to join hands with the imperialists
against the USSR. The RCP tried to
maintain its anti-imperialist image by
attacking OL's version of the Peking

Thus, a major article in the January
1977 issue of Revolution charged that
the OL was falling into "objective
unity with U.S. imperialism" because
of its focus against the Soviet Union.

The article continued:
"And how, we must ask, does OL's
agitation around the USSR as the
main source of war differ in substance,
once it is stripped of its flimsy 'Marx-
ist' cloak, from the agitation and pro-
paganda of the U.S. bourgeoisie it-

A good question. However, the RCP
should have addressed it not to OL, but
to the Maoist regime in Peking. This
must have become clear to many RCP
members in July 1977, when Peking
formally recognized the CP(ML)-OL's
successor-as its chosen representative
in the United States.

But if the CP(ML) remained true to
Mao's foreign policy, which was not
changed after his death, it is the RCP
that has been loyal to the domestic
policies of the "Great Helmsman."

'Gang of four'

In October 1976-only six weeks
after Mao's death-the Chinese Com-
munist Party officially announced the
purge of the "gang of four." The
"gang" included Chiang Ch'ing, Mao's
widow, as well as three other top party
leaders who had been most closely
associated with the dead tyrant.
It soon became clear that the attack
on the "gang of four" was really an
attack on Mao himself. An article by
Les Evans in the December 31, 1976,
Militant summed up the situation less
than four months after Mao's death:

"Now the Chinese press has
launched a massive campaign to ex-
pose the 'towering crimes' of the four.
The campaign has turned into a broad-
side attack on the economic and cultu-
ral policies of the Mao regime over the
last decade."

The disgrace of Mao's closest follow-
ers and the rehabilitation of his chief
enemies in the party hierarchy has
been accompanied by the rapid dis-
mantling of the remnants of Mao's
"Cultural Revolution."

Thus, Maoist groups around the
world, which had originally been built
around opposition to imperialism and
unquestioning loyalty to Mao and glor-
ification of his personal leadership,
have had their foundations pulled from
under them.

Under these circumstances,. the
CP(ML) chose to retain its identifica-
tion with  the Peking regime at all
costs-even if it meant repudiating
policies that it had defended unflag-
gingly for years.

RCP sympathizer C. Clark Kissinger
had some justice on his side when he
remarked in November 1976 in regard
to the purge of Mao's faction, "If a
chimpanzee had been elected chairman
of the Chinese Communist Party, he
would have gotten a telegram of con-
gratulations from [CP(ML) Chairman]
Michael Klonsky."

RCP shuts up

However, the RCP is hardly in a
position to flaunt its supposed dedica-
tion to principle. For a year and a half,
the RCP maintained total silence on
the purge in China and on the new
internal policies being followed by the

As in the debate on Peking's foreign
policy, RCP Chairman Bob Avakian
thought he could cheat his way out of
political difficulties. When Avakian
was no longer able to evade the politi-
cal issues within his own organization,
he proposed that the RCP adopt a
position in support of the defeated Mao
faction, but that its backing for the
"gang of four" be kept secret from all
but the RCP's most trusted supporters.
Not even all those in the Revolution-
ary Communist Youth Brigade, the
RCP's youth organization, would be
told the truth, according to a report by
Avakian to the RCP's central commit-
tee. "Only those closest to the party
within the RCYB should be told our
full position," Avakian said.

If Avakian were operating in China,
his reticence would not be so strange.
Over there, the people with his position
are in jail.

But here in the United States, Ava-
kian and his followers are afraid of an
open debate that would lead to them
being publicly denounced as counterre-
volutionaries by Peking.

After all, Avakian is well aware that
disagreements in the Maoist move-
ment are not dealt with by democratic,
open discussion. The ranks of the RCP,
like those of other Maoist groups, have
been trained to react on command
from Peking. Would they now be able
to stand up for their position in de-
fiance of the Chinese government?
Avakian obviously hoped he would not
have to find out.

What RCP defends

Of course, Avakian may also be
aware of the problems involved in
defending the record of his hero, now
that the Peking regime has begun to
tell a little bit of the truth about Mao's

Under Mao's leadership, anyone who
expressed the slightest disagreement
with the government or the Mao cult
was imprisoned or deported to remote
"reeducation" camps. Mao's policies
left China's educational system in
chaos, disrupted the country's econ-
omy, and hurt the standard of living of
the Chinese masses.

Meanwhile, those who carried out
these policies in the name of "class
struggle" and "socialist revolution"
were living in luxury never dreamed of
by the Chinese workers and farmers.

All this has now been admitted by
the new rulers in Peking. Discontent
among the masses had become evident
and was threatening to get out of
hand. Just as Khrushchev made con-
cessions to the Soviet masses following
the death of Stalin, Chairman Hua
Kuo-feng has begun to make conces-
sions of his own in order to preserve
the basic structure of bureaucratic rule.

But Avakian wants none of this. He
defends the worst abuses of the Mao
regime. In a report titled, "Revisionists
are Revisionists and Must Not Be
Supported;· Revolutionaries are Revolu-
tionaries and Must Be Supported,"
Avakian declared that "the capitalist-
roaders ... have now usurped su-
preme power in China and are taking
China down the capitalist road."

In the field of culture and art, Ava-
kian charged, the new line "is to let a
hundred poisonous weeds bloom .... "
Even "such things as Shakespeare,
Greek mythology, the piano composi-
tions of Beethoven, Chopin and Bach,
the drawings of Rembrandt, etc., are
being allowed into China .... "

True followers of the Mao cult are,
like loyal members of the Catholic
church, expected to abide by an index
of prohibited works.

Maoists 'debate'

Avakian's position on China was
narrowly adopted by the RCP leader-
ship in December, but a substantial
minority, led by RCP Central Commit-
tee member Mickey Jarvis, opposed the
new line.

Not surprisingly, the Maoist-
Stalinist organization that Avakian
and Jarvis had collaborated in build-
ing proved totally incapable of carry-
ing out any kind of democratic discus-
sion. An open letter by the Jarvis
faction in the RCYB (renamed the
Revolutionary Student Brigade), des-
cribed the way the debate was con-
ducted by Avakian's followers in Cin-

"They came complete with chains,
bats, blackjacks and attacked our
members-particularly the National
Office of the Brigade. Six foot six
goons wielding baseball bats clubbed

Nor is the Jarvis faction ready to
talk out the issues with its former
leader. Jarvis and the others in his
group stood up with the rest of the
RCP and applauded Avakian in the
standing ovations that were consi-
dered obligatory for public appearan-
ces by the "Chairman." Now, however,
they address their open letter to "Pip-
squeak Avakian." This particular piece
in the debate featured a caricature of
Avakian with the caption, "This short
person's got no reason to live."

Double-talk from Avakian

To this day, Avakian has refused to
admit publicly that the issue of China
was involved in the split of the RCP.
When it comes to the central issue in
the split, readers of Revolution are
treated to obscure hints. Thus, in the
April-May Revolution, a lengthy arti-
cle on the split never mentions the
question of the Chinese regime. Refer-
ring to the RCP Central Committee
meeting where the fight came out into
the open, it says:

"The Central Committee met to dis-
cuss vitally important developments
which served to concentrate the two
lines within the Party. And the resolu-
tion of this ... was that the revision-
ist line and splitting and wrecking
activities of these opportunists were
rejected. . . . In future issues of Revo-
lution we will further explore and
analyze some of these questions."

What "vitally important develop-
ments" precipitated the split? What are
the questions that Revolution plans to
"explore and analyze"? Avakian
doesn't say.

The same issue of Revolution prints
Avakian's opening remarks at the
RCP's postsplit convention. Here too,
Avakian refers only obliquely to what
is happening in China. At one point he

"Mao understood and constantly
taught that one Cultural Revolution
would not be enough to prevent capi-
talist restoration, and he constantly
reminded the masses of the possibility
of reversals and the danger of revision-
ist triumph and the rise to power of the
bourgeoisie all throughout the socialist
transition period."

Another article in the April-May
Revolution is devoted to extolling
"Mao Tsetung's Immortal Contribu-
tions," never mentioning the role of the
current Chinese leadership. Avakian is
clearly preparing to quote Mao against
his successors.

Who is for Chinese people?

As a defender of the existing Chinese
regime, Jarvis, who has organized the
''Revolutionary Workers Headquar-
ters," makes no bones about the origin
of the dispute.

Jarvis's faction makes its case in an
article in the March 1978 issue of The
Young Communist. The article, titled
"Counterfeit Crew Unmasked," says
that the "gang of four" turned their
backs on the Chinese people, and that
by refusing to support the Hua regime,
"The Avakianites have also chosen to
turn their backs on the Chinese peo-

Yes, the Mao faction did turn its
back on the Chinese people. A regime
that truly represented the Chinese
masses would have had no need for the
tyrannical methods used by Mao.
In defending the criminal record of
the Mao regime, Avakian acts as an
enemy of the Chinese people and of the
socialist cause.

But what about Jarvis, who hopes to
pawn himself off as the representative
of 900 million Chinese? Is he any bet-

Jarvis picks winner

The regime that Jarvis supports has
just admitted that for the past ten
years the Chinese government has
been systematically framing up and
victimizing innocent people. It admits
that education, cultural life, and eco-
nomic progress were badly hurt.

Revolutionists in the Socialist
Workers Party and the Young Socialist
Alliance were pointing out these facts
at the time, while Jarvis was energeti-
cally defending the Mao regime.

Does Jarvis now say that it is neces-
sary to discuss how it was possible for
such crimes to be carried out by a
supposedly socialist government? Does
he suggest that a reassessment of the
past is now in order?

No. Instead, he jumps to denounce
what he previously defended and as-
sures everybody that things are now
fine in China.

But how does Jarvis know that
things are fine? Why should he be any
more correct this time around than last

The fact is that Jarvis is defending
the interests of the current Chinese
government, not of the Chinese people.
The quarrel between Avakian and
Jarvis is not over revolutionary polit-
ics but over which bureaucratic clique to
defend. Unlike Avakian, who remains
loyal to Mao, Jarvis wants to go with
the winner.

Unfortunately for Jarvis, the Peking
regime already has an authorized
toady in the United States-Chairman
Michael Klonsky of the CP(ML). Un-
less Jarvis can secure a second fran-
chise from Peking, his future as an
"independent" leader appears dim.

'Excellent' situation?

As for Avakian, he is simply contin-
uing his policy of trying to lie and
bully his way out of difficulties. After
the loss of the majority of his youth
organization and at least a third of the
RCP, he insists in the February issue
of Revolution:

"All told, the situation in the RCYB
is truly excellent, and the basis is laid
for even further advances in organiz-
ing among students and youth."

In case bravado like this is not
enough to reassure his shrinking mem-
bership, Avakian has launched a ser-
ies of violent attacks on other groups
on the left to insulate the RCP from
political discussion.

His thugs have assaulted meetings
held in solidarity with the coal miners
in their recent strike, meetings in de-
fense of democratic rights in Iran, and,
of course, their own former comrades
in the Revolutionary Socialist Brigade.

This frenzy, however, cannot save
Avakian and the RCP, any more than
Jarvis's toadying to Peking can assure
success for the Revolutionary Workers

In the long run, there is no future for
groups claiming to be socialist unless
they have a program based on the
interests of the international working
class. Those who thought that Maoism
could provide such a program were
sadly mistaken. As the breakup of the
Maoist movement continues, hopefully
many will choose instead the road of
revolutionary socialism.


No comments:

Post a Comment