My Debate With the RCP and Its Supporters
Regarding the Mass Line, etc.

During April and May 2002, I attempted to engage in a debate with various members and/or supporters of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, regarding their new draft programme and general political line. And, because I was involved, the debate naturally gravitated toward issues of the mass line, and having a mass perspective. This debate went back and forth a number of times, until it was cut short by their refusal to let me post my next reply. (More on that below.)

The RCP (or its close supporters) established the “unofficial” web site for the stated purpose of promoting debate about the draft of a new Party programme which they published nearly a year earlier. (Why the big delay? Probably in order to consolidate Party members, and as many existing supporters as possible, around the new draft programme before opening it up to dangerous outside criticisms. [In fact, after this debate was over I was told by an RCP member that this so-called “draft” programme had been adopted as the official RCP programme and that all Party members were obligated by democratic centralism to defend it in its entirety until it is eventually replaced.]) was a moderated site, which will no longer exists. I was surprised to find that I was allowed to say some of the highly negative things I did in my postings. My first posting, for example, questioned the sincerity of the very stated purpose of the web site. They said (or implied, anyway) that it was to discuss the current draft in order to produce a better final draft. I said I believed that the essential line had already been set, that regardless of what anyone said at this point only small or cosmetic changes would be made to the draft, and that the real central purpose of the “big discussion campaign” around the draft programme—including that on the web forum—was to build more support for the Party. (This proved to be the case; not even any cosmetic changes were ever made to the “draft” programme.)

All my further postings were in response to what RCP members or supporters said in reaction to my previous postings. I found that for all the other participants in the discussion...:

  • They were very unfamiliar with the theory of the mass line as presented by Mao, or with the basic views of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Mao about the central importance of having a mass perspective (or what that might mean). Most RCPers have apparently only read the 3 short paragraphs on the mass line in the draft programme, and possibly the quotations by Mao in chapter 11 in the Red Book. (The long-term members probably also once read the old, short RCP pamphlet on the mass line which came out in 1976 and was pulled from circulation a couple years later—and which I have made available again on this web site.)
  • They were unable to properly understand the few quotations or passages they are familiar with.
  • They were unable to properly understand even the passages on the mass line in the RCP’s own draft programme! (The draft correctly says—twice!—that “The mass line is the method through which the party both learns from and leads the masses.” Despite this, I had to remind these folks over and over again that the mass line is a method of leadership—something they just cannot get through their heads! And this is partly because they also can’t get through their heads that political education work is different than leadership work, even though the two must be closely connected in order for either to be very effective. In Lenin’s words, they are constantly “confounding politics with pedagogics”.)
  • They were unwilling to investigate further, for example, by reading relevant parts of my mass line book when they these were referred to them.
  • They were unwilling to believe I could possibly mean what I said, no matter how carefully and thoroughly I spelled it out. (I was called “dishonest” by at least three different people—though to be fair, one was evidently a young non-member supporter of the RCP, and one was apparently a non-RCP person sympathetic to the line of that bunch of crazies in “MIM”.)

For these sorts of reasons, my basic task in all my replies was to attempt to clear up all the drastic misconceptions about the mass line and having a mass perspective that those in and around the RCP are inevitably heir to. And although I really tried to clarify things for them, it is pretty obvious that I made little progress. Every new “clarification” was itself systematically misconstrued. As I said somewhere during the discussion, people around the RCP are deep into their own paradigm on these issues, and simply cannot comprehend any other view. (And of course you cannot even intelligently disagree with a view you don’t comprehend in the first place.)

I would summarize what I learned from this little debate excercise as follows: I am more sure than ever that the RCP is hopelessly stuck in a rut, and will probably never be able to connect up with the mass movement, bring the light of revolution to that movement, and thus lead the masses in revolution. It is true that only a handful of them participated in the debate against me, but much more tellingly, no one at all came forward to support any aspect of what I was saying. They really do all seem to be of one mind on these central issues.

I truly do continue to sincerely respect the RCP and those around it for their revolutionary fervor and staunchness, and for remaining revolutionaries while so many others over the past few decades have finked out. But I cannot respect them for the downright idiotic method they continue to use in attempting to build a revolutionary movement. (That method, in a nutshell, is “concentrate almost entirely on educational work, focused around their newspaper, and avoid actual participation in and leadership of most mass struggles”.) You would really think that after a quarter century of abject failure with their approach, at least a few of them would start to question it. People with any sense are supposed to be able to learn from their errors, at least eventually!

But I am afraid that the steady streamlet of individuals in the RCP who do eventually get frustrated by their lack of progress toward revolution tend simply to give up on revolution altogether, drop out, and then disappear into the woodwork. Instead of learning from their experience that the RCP is going about things in a fundamentally incorrect way, such individuals seem capable of only drawing the invalid conclusion that revolution is “impossible” in this country. In short, even in their slinking away, they are still under the spell that says the “RCP way” is the only possible path toward revolution. When they eventually see that that method has failed, there is nothing left for them but to give up entirely.

This sort of response is utterly shameful for any real revolutionary! It is simply not the Marxist, scientific way to go about making revolution. And it says something very negative indeed, not only about most of those who drop out of the RCP, but also about the Party itself. What kind of political culture exists there when its members are not constantly seeking to find ways to get around all the many obstacles to revolution that we face—including line problems in our own ranks? What kind of people are these who, when faced with a dead-in-the-water Party for an entire quarter century seem to be completely unable and unwilling to loudly raise the question, just what the hell is wrong here?! When RCP members become disillusioned about the line of the Party—as most of them eventually do—they seem to be like the spent drop-outs from some religious cult, not active, thinking revolutionaries, determined to identify and correct their own political errors and those of their comrades. If I act disgusted with a Party that produces such people, it is because I really am.

*       *       *

As I mentioned above, the debate between “me and them” was cut short when they refused to let me fully express my position in replying to some wildly distorting criticisms of my views from somebody using the handle “naxalite”. The moderator refused to post my response unless I “revised” it in accordance with their “guidelines”. (One charge against me is that my submissions are too “emotional”. They do tend to be emotional; I only write about what I deeply care about.) Anyway, I refused to censor myself this way, and chose to post my unexpurgated response here. (See below—look for the red font—, where you will also find a link to the moderator’s letter stating his reasons for refusing to post my submission, with my rebuttals interspersed.)

Can you really have a fair debate when one side insists on the right to censor the other (or force him to censor himself)? Of course not. No more than you can have a fair debate with the editor of your local newspaper (even if the editor himself only participates as a “moderator”). As I said, I was actually surprised the RCPers were as open as they were to letting me spout off. But since they no longer let me freely express my views in their forum, in good conscience I can no longer participate there at all.

This doesn’t mean that I will have nothing more to say, however! In addition to the reply below which they tried to censor, and a number of the earlier contributions I made to the discussion, I may yet post additional responses here to things they said on their site.

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