"loons in RCP"

Justin Schwartz jschwart at freenet.columbus.oh.us
Wed Apr 19 20:33:51 MDT 1995

On Wed, 19 Apr 1995, Matt Davidson wrote:

> OK, let me try and communicate more clearly.  I took your critique of the
> RCP, aside from their putative looniness, to be based on their
> "third-worldism" -- which I take to refer to a habit of tailing after
> foreign revolutions and revolutionaries, perhaps blindly, to the detriment
> of the class struggle in the U.S.

I'm not sure I want to go on about this, but I have, briefly, three
problems with RCP. (a) Maoism is irrelevant in a country with no peasants.
(b) The toy Bolshevism of the Marxisat-Leninist sects, including the RCP,
is not an attractive ideology or a recipe for successful socialist
organizing. (c) The RCP's style and many of its positions are nuts, e.g.,
with respect to the latter, support for the Sendero. The style, moreover,
is genuinely loony, more punk-anarchist than serious socialist.

> I wanted to make two points.  (1) This is not an accurate criticism of the
> people I have known in and around the RCP.  (2) There are other
> organizations, for example CISPES, of which I would say this is a valid
> criticism.  Yet these organizations are typically treated with a bit more
> nuance than the left sects, which admittedly have many failings, some very
> serious, but cannot fairly be dismissed as loons.
> Now, this is not to say that CISPES is "bad" or that the people in it are
> bad people.  Rather, this is to say that, in this particular example, the
> organization had a rather uncritical, booster-ish, attitude towards the FMLN
> and the struggle in El Salvador, and basically zero interest in the *class
> struggle* in the US and its implications for imperialism and the terror
> states it creates and supports.  Rather, it played the "good" capitalist
> politicos vs. the "bad" capitalist politicos electoral game.

Maybe it depended on where you were. The CISPES chapters in Ann Arbor,
Columbus, and Kalamazoo, the only ones I know (or knew) first hand, were
not like this. Moreover it seems quite appropriate for national CISPES to
lobby, among other tactics. I doubt whether any leaders of CISPES are
naive about "good" capitalist politicos.

As to uncritical attitudes
towards these movements and revolutions, I think your charge is
overstated. Perhaps we in the anti-intervention movements were (are)
insufficiently critical, but our attitide was nbothing like that of the
RCP towards the cultural revolution or the CPUSA towards the USSR. In fact
there is a lot of criticism, now, of Aristide (whom I did not mention,
btw), the ANC (likewise), etc. But with the FMLN and the Sandinistas and
other movements I think it was, and is, right to support--crically of
course--anti-imperialist struggles.

As to "taking no interest in the class struggle at home,"  this strikes me
a deeply non-internationalist criticism. The worlds is our home. And class
struggle here cannot succeed, and never could, on a narrowly nationalist
basis. You might look at Joshua Cohen and Joel Roger's pamphlets for
PACAA, published by the South End Press, and representative of the
Central America movement's propaganda (though exceptionally good) for
detailed linking of the class struggle on a global scale. I wil get the
references. In this era of NAFTA and GATT, saying that what happens
outside our borders doesn't matter is just foolish. The capitalists sure
as hell don't believe that.
> I was introduced to activism via the Nicaraguan solidarity movement.
> Generally, the people I knew were dedicated, kind, ethical, well-meaning,
> all-around-great folks.  Just like the folks connected with the RCP.

Except that the RCP's "great folks" call for a communist dictatorship,
single party rule, and support an outfit in Peru which believes in
murdering leftist mayors rather than coalition with other left forces.

> As to the overexcited tone of my previous post:  Sorry.  I'm sure that
> didn't make a good first impression with many of you.  But sometimes from
> this list you'd get the impression that college professors and grad students
> are making the revolution.  In a correct or incorrect fashion, the RCP is
> one group that really has tried to take on this task.  My feeling is that we
> should have a generous spirit towards them, and towards other left grouplets.
I'd certainly be willing to work with the RCP, if it would behave itself,
in a movement context. But in 15 years of organizing I have never seen
them do anything except sell their papers at other people's rallies and
take advantage of open mikes when available to give incindiary speeches
whether or not these were appropriate. Well, they do run the bookstores.
But if organizing is a measure of revolutionary promise, the RCP fails
dismally. I joined the qusi-Maoist group I did years ago, the Communist
Workers Party (which no longer exists) because they got involved and did
hard hands-on organizxing work in a humble and nonsectarian spirit. I stay
with Soilidarity, my current outfit, because it does the same. And not
just anti-intervention stuff either.

The RCP is not as bad as some of the really wacky grouplets on the
left--the Trotskyist League comes to mind. It's just a waste of effort by
some good people who might find something really constructive to do.

> The Zapatistas:  I'm not saying they're enemies of the people.  I'm just
> curious as to what's so exciting about them.

Read their stuff! See what they do! They're not perfect. But they're
learning about how to be revolutionaries after the cold war. There's list
on the net, if you're interested.

 Why are you so anti-Sendero?
> To what are you referring when you call them "psychopathic hoodlums"?

My information about them comes, among other places, from the NACLA Report
on the Americas, which has documented their propensity for murdering those
on the left they perceive as their rivals, decimating peasant villages
that won't support them, and generally actually like the Khmer Rouge, whom
they resemble in their class basis as well as their behavior and ideology.

> Mother Courage?  Do you consider the Bolsheviks during the Civil War to have
> been a bunch of psychopathic hoodlums (execution of hostages, chekist
> terror, etc.)?  If so, then it's easier for me to see why we disagree.

I think the Red Terror in the Russian civil war was excessive and
destructive, but I don'[t think the Bolsheviks were psychopathic hoodlums.
I don't think they were exactly models for a democratic revolution either.
But Sendero is something else again. If you liked Democratic Kampuchea,
you'll love what Guzman has in mind.

> find it strange that the capitalist media's anti-communist hysteria has
> proven so successful vis-a-vis the CPP as to prevent any large scale
> organizing against the horrific war against the people being carried out by
> the Peruvian army.

I do not think that justified revulsion against Sendero explains the
shameful lack of opposition to the war you characterize correctly. There
has also been no large scale opposition to the destruction of Bosnia,
where the Bosnian government, whatever its failings, is not a bunchof
murderous crazies, and there was large scale opposition to the Gulf War,
despite the hatefulness of Saddam Hussein (not to mention the demonizing
propaganda). I don't know why Peru has not generated a movement. Perhaps
people are just tired.

 In any event, to return to the them of third-worldism,
> it's unclear to me why you seem to think that saying "Way to go
> Haitian/South African democrats!  Good job Aristide/Mandela" is
> internationalist solidarity, and positive,

I didn't say that. I think we ought to oppose and expose the US
involvement in Haiti, including the coop[tion or crippling of Aristide.
South Africa is more complex and I wish I knew more about it. I wonder
what South Africa _should_ do now; it's not clear to me. Proclaiming a
people's republic strikes me as a premature and self-destructive route.

 while an RCP-er's saying "Way to
> go Chinese/Peruvian Communists!  Good job Mao/Gonzalo!" is third-worldism,
> and at best "not wholly destructive."

Actually I think support for the cultural revolution and Sendero is wholly
destructive. It's other things the RCP does--the newspaper, the bookstore,
the fact that they're not wreckers--which makes me qualify my
negative judgment.

> Finally, if I gave you the impression that I had some personal beef with
> you, I apologize.  Of course, I hardly know you.  Presumably you're a great
> guy.  I certainly wouldn't say otherwise.
No offense taken. I am indeed a great guy. Modest, too.

--Justin Schwartz

> Not a Maoist, but I play one on TV,
> --Matt Davidson
> Original post included.  If there are any further follow ups I'll snip it.
> >On Wed, 19 Apr 1995, Matt Davidson wrote:
> >
> >> Justin Schwartz writes:
> >>
> >> >
> >> > Rakesh Bhandari cites Mattick against the old New Left enthusiasm for Mao
> >> >and other third world revolutions. Broadly speaking I think the sentiment
> >> >is right. I ceased to be a quasi-Maoist (sinceI was always and
> >> >anti-Stalinist I was never a good Maoist) when the significancxe of the
> >> >fact that there are no peasants in America became clear to me, which in
> >> >fact didn't take very long in my early Marxist education. But apart from
> >> >the loons in RCP third-worldism is a target of the past.
> >> >
> >> >(Chris: RCP= Revolutionary Comminist Party, the remaining American Maoist
> >> >sect.)
> >> >
> >>
> >> Whatever the party's faults (the cult of Chairman Bob and its line on
> >> homosexuality being two glaring examples), all the "loons" I've known in and
> >> around the RCP have been genuine communists and revolutionaries, who have
> >> dedicated their lives to changing the world in the face of overwheliming
> >> odds.  They certainly are laying more on the line than most academic
> >> Marxists.  In any event, it's completely unfair to dismiss them as
> >> third-worlders.  They're very much conscious of the fact that their task is
> >> revolution right here at home.  And why shouldn't the international
> >> proletariat have international leaders and heroes?
> >>
> >> (BTW, the Maoist International(ist?) Movement, the Progressive Labor Party
> >> and the Marxist-Leninist (Workers?) Party also call themselves Maoist, I
> >> think.  Or are the latter Hoxaist/Albanians?)
> >>
> >> >  Ralph and some others have disparaged, as I take it, solidarity worlk
> >> >with third world revolutions as irrelevant to American concerns. This
> >> >seems a failure of internationalism. The working class and its problems
> >> >are international and capital is globalized. The struggle requires support
> >> >for the Chiapas rebellion and opposition to the PRI partycrats for the
> >> >common interests of North American and Mexican workers. This is not the
> >> >same as waving the Little Red Book or holding up, e.g. Subcommandante
> >> >Marcos as the new Great Helmsman. Still internationalism requires us to
> >> >support the Zapatista struggle, the Haiti democracy movement, the Party of
> >> >Labor in Russia, etc. Self-interest too.
> >> >
> >> >For what it's worth recall that Marx helped form the first Internatioinal
> >> >around solidarity with Polish revolutionaries. Each working class m,ust
> >> >settle with its own bourgeoisie, as he says, but internationalism and
> >> >class struggle are the twin poles of Marxism.
> >> >
> >>
> >> The real "third-worldists" are people in CISPES and other "solidarity"
> >> groups who see revolution as something that happens "over there" where all
> >> the poor, oppressed people are, people who head to the polls to vote for the
> >> "good" Democrat who'll make "peace and justice" the cornerstone of his
> >> foreign policy.
> >>
> >> What's so great about the Zapatistas?  They've already abdicated any
> >> responsibility to become the state.  Are they hoping Bill Clinton will run
> >> for President of Mexico?  Is their program to pressure the criminals whose
> >> boots are on their necks to not press down quite so hard?
> >>
> >> If you want solidarity with revolutionaries, how about the Communist Party
> >> of Peru?  Or is actual people's war too messy?  Gee, if only the "good"
> >> Peruvian politicians would get voted in instead of the "bad" Fujimori.  If
> >> only some Peruvian Zapatistas would form a pressure group.  Maybe they could
> >> hook up with some Catholic "liberation theologians" and we could get
> >> together a Commitee to Support the (Nice, Friendly, Non-Communist) People of
> >> Peru.
> >>
> >>
> >> For revolution,
> >>
> >> --Matt Davidson
> >>
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