The RCP is in a Dogmatic Rut; It is Primarily a Propaganda Organization
Scott’s Response to "naxalite" on April 26, 2002
Subject: Re: let’s talk mass line
Posted by: Scott H. on 2002-26-04 20:37
Previously, I wrote that nothing anybody says here on this forum "is going to change the RCP’s draft programme in any significant way. Their line has already been decided upon without your input."
You asked, "how can you possibly know this?"
Although many people claim that knowledge of the future is impossible, actually we all have a lot of such knowledge. All of us (well, maybe only most of us) know that the sun "will rise tomorrow" (i.e. that the earth will keep spinning as it orbits the sun—at least for quite a while yet). How do we know such things? Partly it is because of our previous experience. We know that the sun has risen every day for a very long time. By induction we say that the future will resemble the past. But much more importantly than that, we know that the "sun will rise tomorrow" because we have some considerable knowledge of how the solar system works. That is, we understand a lot about why "the sun rises everyday" (as we still quaintly express it).
The RCP has only created and adopted two previous programmes. So, admittedly, it would be rash to use induction alone to come to the conclusion that there will be no major differences between the current draft and the final product. And this is true despite the fact that there was no major difference between the two last time around. (There was a lot of rewriting, but nothing of basic importance was changed. You disagree? Well then point to some examples.)
But I base my claim, my "prediction" if you prefer, not just on what happened with the past programme process, but mostly on points such as these:
1) For a quarter of a century I (and a lot of other people I know) have been trying to influence the RCP in various ways—or at least trying to open a dialog with them on a number of important points. (In my case this has most often been around questions of the mass line and having a mass perspective, and sometimes on political economy. Other folks have focused on other issues.) As far as any of us can tell, nothing anybody outside the Party (not just me and my friends) has ever said to them has ever made any significant difference whatsoever in their political line and practice.
On those rare occasions when the Party has changed its line on some important question (such as its analysis that world war and/or revolution was likely in the 1980s), it has evidently been because the top leadership finally changed its mind on its own—or was forced to change its mind by world events.
But as far as I can tell, no one has ever convinced them of anything (i.e., anything big, which then led to a change in political line). They are just not open to reconsidering any major views that they disagree with.
Whenever I say something like this to an RCP member or supporter they always snort in objection and disbelief. But when I ask them for a counter-example they fall silent. Curious isn’t it?!
2) Not only has 25 years of experience shown that the RCP is unwilling to change anything in its line due to comments or criticisms of outsiders, it has shown that they really have little interest in receiving such comments at all. People who submit serious papers to them, for example, rarely even get an acknowledgement—let alone a reply. There is a widespread joke about this; people say submitting ideas to the RCP is like throwing things into a Black Hole. Nothing ever comes out.
This Internet forum is the very first time over the past 20 years that a truly public discussion about line between the Party and outsiders has been possible. And because it is public, Party members or supporters (such as yourself) feel compelled to respond to criticisms. In short, a forum like this requires a departure from past "Black Hole" techniques. But as I understand it, this forum will exist for only a short period, and then it will presumably be "back to normal".
And there is no reason at all to believe that anything anybody says here will make any significant difference to the final programme or the Party line in general. If such a thing should happen, it would be an astounding departure!
3) The RCP has demonstrated for a very long time now that it has no interest in examining or extending its existing political line. A clear illustration of this is the abandonment of its theoretical journal, "Revolution". This is completely incomprehensible to me.
The last issue of "Revolution" was published in 1994, and even before that it came out very rarely. (There were only 11 issues published in the entire decade of 1985-1994.)
A serious political party, and one that truly is trying to be scientific in its approach to revolution needs a theoretical journal first and foremost. It is even more important than having mass newspaper! (What is the point of trying to influence the masses if you are not doing so scientifically and correctly?)
One of the very most central things about having a scientific approach to anything is having a means to discuss, extend, and criticize the existing ideas and theories. And certainly in politics—which is notoriously prone to dogmatism—a scientific approach requires mechanisms to foster criticism and serious discussion. You have to work at being scientific, go out of your way, and put some real resources into it! A party without a theoretical journal is a party that has decided not to think!
My RCP friends tell me that the RW now serves as both a newspaper and a theoretical journal, and point to occasional articles by Bob Avakian (and more rarely by one or two others) that can be counted as theoretical items. I don’t deny they exist, but they are very few and far between. There don’t seem to be enough of them to even publish an annual issue of "Revolution" like they used to do.
There is also the international magazine, "A World to Win", published by RIM, that contains some important theoretical articles—but rarely any that RIM is not united on. (I.e., there is virtually no critical examination of the political line of RIM parties.)
To me it seems abundantly clear that the RCP is not seriously trying to be scientific in its approach to revolution. It says that it is "scientific", but every left party claims that. You know, being scientific is not something that you can just proclaim; you have to demonstrate it.
4) Another major reason for thinking that the RCP is not going to change, in any significant way, their political line in the draft programme, is that they pretty much announced that fact from the very beginning. In their 1999 announcement of their new programme project, they said: "We believe our Party’s current Programme sets a fundamentally correct course for revolution and expresses basic MLM principles which are crucial to make revolution in the interests of the masses."
Anybody who is moderately sophisticated will see that—just like the RCP announced it would do—the new programme draft presents the same basic political line as the old, 1981 programme. Oh sure, the stuff about nuclear war and/or revolution in the 1980s is gone, and the outrageous sentences about homosexuality are pruned out. The whole thing is rewritten and expanded, and lots of stuff about socialist society is now included. But the line on revolution—about how to actually bring about revolution in this country—is in essence the same as it was before.
It is also true that some of the most absurd statements in the 1981 programme, such as about the RW selling circles being the primary focus for organizing the proletarian masses, have been rephrased in ways that sound much more "reasonable". But in these cases too, the central idea remains the same. The RCP is to remain basically a propaganda organization, not a leadership organization for the proletariat—until such time as the proletariat is itself ready for revolution. That is the bottom line.
(Contrast this with the political programmes that Lenin wrote, which said that the basic Marxist approach to revolution is to join up with the actual struggles of the masses, and bring the light of revolution to them in the course of these struggles.)
Now if you think that the RCP, which has stuck to this propaganda-organization line for a quarter century now, and which has only camouflaged it a bit better in the new programme draft, is now going to change this basic line in any way based on what a few individuals say here on this forum... Well, then you’re nuts! You haven’t grasped the situation here at all.
The REAL political line of the RCP is non-negotiable, and has been since 1981.
I had some hopes at the beginning of this new programme process that a number of Party members themselves might demand an opening up, an internal debate about the basic political line of the RCP, a line which has gotten them nowhere. But it didn’t happen.
No public criticisms of the fundamentally erroneous line of the old programme was permitted before the new programme draft incorporating that line was prepared. Now it is too late. The basic line is reaffirmed, the Party is apparently already pretty much united around it, everything truly important is already settled.
So people can say whatever they want here on this forum. You can help them change the wording here and there, or expand on this or that point, and the like. But it will make no difference as far as the basic line of the final version of the new RCP programme is concerned.
I can say this with confidence because I have been studying the RCP, its line, and the way it operates, for the last 30 years of my life. I know that it is stuck in a dogmatic rut and that its basic line of how to make revolution is not something they are even willing to discuss, let alone change.
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