Scott’s Response to Dolly Veale of the RCP

(May 2, 2002)

Subject: Re: The RCP as a "propaganda organization" (long)
Posted by: Scott H. on 2002-02-05 19:14

dolly veale wrote:
> Scott
> The mass line is indeed the heartbeat of the Party that every revolutionary must
> constantly deepen our command of in theory and practice.
> I’ve been in the RCP since 1975. As simply a statement of fact, I just don’t recall
> any period of time when propaganda was our main focus.

Hi Dolly—

The 1981 RCP programme, which I assume is still officially the governing programme for the Party until the finalized new one is adopted, says this:

"The main way that the Party influences the masses and the mass movements, the main way it works to build the leadership of the proletariat and prepare the working class and broad masses—and the Party itself—for revolution, is to systematically carry out revolutionary agitation and propaganda." [pp. 41-42]

It certainly seems fair to me to sum this up by saying that "propaganda and agitation are principal". (It’s true, I left out the words "and agitation" before, but as you know, in some contexts the word "propaganda" is short for all types of political education work, including both propaganda properly speaking, and also agitation).

So, if you deny that the RCP has really followed this policy over the past 21 years, are you then saying that the Party has been ignoring its own programme on this very central point?

It seems to me that the Party has NOT been ignoring its own programme, but truly doing what it said it was going to do—namely, focusing on educational work, primarily around the newspaper.

Dolly continues:
> Given you said you have a complete set of the RW spanning these years, it can be readily
> verified by looking through its pages -- all the frontline struggles the Party has joined
> and carried out through these years. There’s not space or necessity to recount all of them
> here but the major ones are clearly
> *for Mumia’s life and freedom (well over a decade)
> *defending Mao’s legacy for which the ruling class tried to send our Chairman Bob Avakian
>   and others to prison for 241 years
> *May Day 1980 and raising the red flag over the Alamo for which our dear comrade Damian
>   Garcia was murdered by LAPD agents
> *to defend women’s abortion rights
> *against abuse of immigrants
> *anti-police brutality, including mobilizing the proletarians themselves in this cutting
>   edge struggle (see "Watts a Day of Resistance" RW#1146 at [1]
> *participating in the RIM and its formation since 1984
> *against imperialist world war throughout the ’80s
> *in support of national liberation, most especially the Maoist people’s wars.
> This last one I’m especially proud of in terms of our Party’s deep internationalism,
> including the RW sending reporters to Nepal and the Philippines, steadfastly supporting
> the revolution in Peru through its twists and turns.

Dolly, I never said that the RCP has not involved itself AT ALL in trying to lead the masses; only that the Party has made propaganda (and agitation) principal, that it has largely focused its efforts on educational work, and has done relatively little to actually try to lead the masses in their struggles (and especially around their OWN struggles—the ones THEY see as important).

There has indeed been some leadership of the masses on the issues you mention, and on some other issues too. But let’s take a closer look at the ones you mention.

First of all, simply running articles on these struggles in the RW does not show that serious efforts are underway to LEAD the masses in struggle around all these issues.

You say, for example, you are particularly proud of the last one, supporting people’s wars in other countries. And I agree the RCP has done some very good work in this area. Some of it may in fact be considered leadership work, leadership of RIM and the international communist movement to some degree. But how much actual "leadership" of the American masses has there been on this? Isn’t it true that MOST of the effort here too has really been educational work, such as the excellent series of articles on Nepal by Li Onesto? What "leadership" of the American masses has there been around Nepal? (Holding forums too, while good, is educational work, is it not?)

And as for raising the red flag over the Alamo, isn’t that basically a propaganda action? It was no doubt worth doing, and I have a picture of Damian Garcia doing it up on my wall. But how is this an example of leading the masses in their struggles?

It seems to me that a lot of what you guys CALL leadership work is in reality educational work.

Second, only a few of the struggles you mention can really be viewed as ones the broad masses in this country are especially concerned with at this point. Of course it is true that we should try to mobilize the masses on issues like the defense of political prisoners (Mumia and others), and the defense of the revolutionary leadership when it is attacked (including the RCP leadership itself). But it is ALSO true that we have to take up the struggles which the masses themselves consider most important. And on the whole, leadership of the struggles the masses think are important (provided of course that they truly are in the masses’ real interests) is where the bulk of our leadership efforts should be concentrated. From the list you provide, it seems clear that this is not the case with the RCP.

It seems to me that during the 1980s the focus of what leadership the RCP provided to the masses was in opposition to a possible world war. (And again, though this was clearly an important thing to be doing, it was not something that most of the masses were very concerned about. In fact, that was the biggest problem we had to contend with.)

Since the beginning of the 1990s, the focus of what little RCP mass leadership work that has occurred has been on issues of police brutality and murder. That is a very important issue for a relatively small number of the masses, but way off the radar screen for most of them. Again, I would never deny that this is important work to be doing. But once again, it is not focusing on issues of the broadest concern to the masses.

Over the past couple decades, there has also been some RCP leadership work done on some issues of broader concern to the masses, such as around abortion rights, and here and there on some things in defense of immigrants and around housing issues. But, as far as I can determine, there has not been MUCH real leadership of mass struggles on these or any other issues. Few demonstrations, for example. Few organizations build around such issues. Little actual mass activity.

Yes, there are articles in the RW, but little evident leadership of the masses around most of the issues discussed in these articles. As I say, it really does look like you guys are calling a lot of your educational efforts "leadership"—because, of course, you know that communists must also try to lead the masses as well as educate them about the need for revolution. You seem to be fooling yourselves about how much mass leadership you are really providing.

Dolly continues:
> I think an excellent example of our Party’s concrete application of the mass line is
> the statement we issued on September 14 about the 9/11 events in New York (see
> The masses loved that leaflet and so do I! I learned a lot from that statement’s
> profound and poetic application of the mass line in handling the acute contradiction
> in our two "90/10" strategy -- in not pitting the interests of the majority of the world
> against the majority in this country, as the bourgeoisie works to do.

Well, here we have yet another false example of "using the mass line". Putting out a leaflet, no matter how good it might be, is (in itself) not an example of using the mass line.

Remember that the mass line is a method of leadership, as your own draft programme says twice. Putting out a propaganda or agitational leaflet, such as the RCP leaflet about 9/11 is clearly an educational action, not a leadership action.

It is true that when there is some actual attempt at leading the masses to do something or other, that a leaflet or newspaper article can be part of the means of carrying out step 3 of the mass line process—taking the line back to the masses for them to act on. Even then, the leaflet is only a part of the overall process of using the mass line. But in this case, the Party was not even attempting to get the masses to engage in any particular action in the wake of 9/11, so how can this possibly be considered an example of "using the mass line?"

It is also true that mass line techniques can be used in propaganda work. (See the section of my mass line book on "The Use of the Mass Line Within Agitation and Propaganda", near the end of chapter 11 at: But this is a very secondary application of the mass line, and not at all the basic point of it. Moreover, there is no indication in the RCP leaflet of 9/14/01 that mass line techniques were used to prepare this propaganda leaflet.

The leaflet, in fact, is not very good. It is very rhetorical, like much of the RCP writing for the masses. It does not address the key negative ideas that were then arising among the masses, many of which have proven to be troublesome in the anti-war movement since then (especially in NY). It is a classic example of preaching to the choir.

But the main conclusion I draw, Dolly, from your incredible claim that this leaflet was a good example of using the mass line is, once again, that nobody in the RCP seems to have any idea about what it really means to use the mass line! It is really puzzling to me that y’all seem to misunderstand the correct (if excessively brief) description of the mass line in the draft programme in the bizarre way that you do (although below I think I get into part of the explanation). I am not trying to insult anybody here, I really do find this very strange how you guys so distort the concept.

I am still waiting for somebody—anybody!—in the RCP to give even one good example of how it has ever used the mass line. I think the Party must have been done so, at least here or there, but I have never yet heard of a single good example. (Hint: Such an example will have to have something to do with learning something from the masses that the Party did not already know, and then leading them on that basis in some action or other.)

Dolly continues:
> The MLM view of the mass line encompasses not only the masses in this (one) country but
> in the whole world, as well as the history of the class struggle and the revolutionary
> process.
> I would not be here as revolutionary communist if I didn’t learn this profound lesson
> through defending Mao after the coup in China, when the majority in China went along
> with the coup! It was a moment in history when how to understand the mass line was a
> truly life and death question.
> Too many people/organizations, including in the "communist movement", shamefully sided
> with Deng Hsiaoping and the capitalist dogs ruling China today in the name of the
> masses and the mass line! Many courageous comrades in China (especially our beloved
> Chiang Ching and Chang Chunchiao), resisted and kept the red flag aloft. Our Party
> also "swam against the tide" of capitulation and defended Mao, thanks to the leadership
> of Bob Avakain and our central committee. As did other genuine Maoists around the world.
> This couldn’t be done without a deep grasp of yes, MLM and the mass line!

Yes, the RCP had quite a scare back in 1978, when the "Menshevik" revisionists tried to destroy the Party, and then split. (By the way, I totally opposed them, even though I was already expelled from the Party myself a few months before. See my response of 4/30/02 to "Ayacucho" for more on this.)

And it really is true that the distorted view of the mass line in the RCP to this very day is to a large degree a result of that split. As Dolly says, the "Mensheviks" tried to defend their revisionism in terms of the mass line. This left a awful taste for the very words "mass line" in the mouths of Party members for a very long time. The bad taste is not entirely gone even yet.

What happened is that the "Mensheviks" conceived of the mass line in bourgeois-populist terms, ignoring in particular the 2nd step of the mass line which requires the Party to process (or select from the ideas of the masses in light of Marxist theory and the genuine long-term interests of the masses (as well as in light of an analysis of the objective situation).

But in reaction to this distortion, the RCP did its own distorting—emasculating the first step of the mass line process, the gathering of the actual ideas of the masses about how to advance the struggle. The Party was so determined not to follow the populist distortion that it decided to simply substitute its own ideas for those of the masses in the first place. (I discuss these two ways of perverting the mass line in detail in my mass line book. See chapter 4, to start with, at:

But you know, it is never a good idea to try to correct one error by making the opposite error.

Dolly continues:
> And today we have a new generation of rebels, facing "a new situation and great
> challenges", asking profound questions about why the revolution in China and Russia
> were reversed if the masses are makers of history. In this light, can the role of
> revolutionary propaganda be downplayed, even as we can’t and don’t make it our main
> focus?

See what you have done here, Dolly? You imply that anyone who really pushes the mass line, especially anyone who emphasizes the necessity of using it in the leadership of the masses in their own day-to-day struggles, is by that very fact "downplaying" the role of revolutionary propaganda. This is not at all my position, as I make abundantly clear in my book.

Of course revolutionary propaganda and agitation are important and should always be going on. But revolutionary leadership of the masses is also very important and should always be going on too. (And the mass line is the primary method of leading the masses.)

Yup, you RCP guys really do contrapose using the mass line to Marxist propaganda, which is probably why you are always trying to twist, or re-interpret the mass line itself in terms of propaganda, so that you don’t have to then be so hostile to it.

Dolly continues:
> Objectively there is uneven development in the world, including in the Party and
> among the masses. So it’s off to conclude if any particular comrade/mass/youth (especially
> youth) who’s struggling to grasp MLM and the mass line, that any weakness in their
> understanding shows the Party’s line is deficient. That’s a method that actually is
> opposed to MLM and the mass line itself.

I guess this is a criticism of my earlier response to Cecilia, in which she unjustifiably accused me of many views I do not hold. Dolly’s criticism may be partially valid. But I intend to respond to, and criticize wrong ideas in turn (perhaps more gently!), even if they do come from young and inexperienced people. I think anybody posting things on what is supposed to be a high-level political discussion forum like this one ought to expect strong criticisms when they are wrong—no matter how young they are.

Moreover, when so many, or even perhaps all the people around a group have a common misconception about something central and important, then this does say something rather negative about that group.

If it were only some of the young people around the RCP who didn’t understand the mass line and the need to have a mass perspective, then I wouldn’t worry. When it seems to be everybody, no matter how long they’ve been around—then I do worry.

Dolly continues:
> I do agree with Naxalite that we should proceed from the overall line and practice of
> the Party, including in its development, especially embodied in the new DP.
> A suggestion -- it may helpful for everyone participating on this website to review
> the guidelines provided by the moderators and avoid providing or requesting personal
> information in our discussion. I’m sure the Bushgeoisie and its political police are
> paying attention, and it’ll detract from the real questions at hand.
> Footnote [1]
> Anyone who doubts this crucial struggle against deadly national oppression, and its
> importance in forging revolutionary alliances for the future showdown, might want to
> check out pages 56-71 in Michael Moore’s new book “Stupid White Men”.
> In unity,
> Dolly Veale, RCP, SF

I’ll forego much comment on any of that, except to say that guidelines or no, people have the right to defend themselves from slander. Often that requires that you say something about your personal history. In my case, my views and my history are already published on the Web so there is no additional security hazard for me.

—Scott H.

Return to the debate index page
Return to the MASSLINE.INFO RCP Page
Return to the MASSLINE.INFO Home Page