The posting of this article does not imply endorsement of the views of the RCP-USA.
— Espresso Stalinist
Revolution is a serious and complex matter. It involves many different people coming together to unite on a common program of struggle, identifying and working toward the aims and means of fighting to make a radical change in the whole way humans interact with each other. Communists are fighting for a revolution which will bring an end to the power held by the capitalist-imperialists over the lives of billions, and bring into being a very different—and better—society for all of humanity. Those who hold power promote counter-revolution, working in every way they can to oppose and derail movements for revolution. This is the counter-revolution, which comes in many forms, but means active opposition to revolution, with the intent to destroy revolutionary groups or individuals. (For a fuller discussion see “What Is Counter-Revolution?” in Revolution No. 241.) It is important to have criteria for making distinctions between those who are part of the camp of the people, and those whose activities are part of, or strengthen, the camp of counter-revolution.
It is an essential part of making revolution to have lively and principled debate and political struggle in the camp of the people, among those who are in favor of revolution and also among people who disagree with all or part of a revolutionary program and approach. This will often involve sharp struggle over what are the aims and goals of the revolution and what is the strategy for getting there. This kind of struggle is aimed at getting at the heart of the disagreements over what is the problem and what is the solution. This is a key element in making revolution, a necessary part of understanding the reality we are dealing with and working to change, and it is important for drawing the masses of people into the process of determining how to go forward toward revolution and the emancipation of humanity–and steering clear of false paths. It needs to be carried out in a principled way, according to standards that help to clarify and strengthen revolution. The RCP, and Bob Avakian in particular, have fought for and have been guided by these standards in the way we carry out this kind of struggle. An important principle and method is this: if people have disagreements with the line of an organization or individual, they should take on the best representation of the line they are criticizing, based on what that group or individual publishes about their views, and then state how they differ as clearly and sharply as possible with that line.
A Crucial Distinction
There is a crucial distinction between principled struggle over differences in line and approach, on the one hand, and wrecking activities on the other. It is one thing for people to disagree with and even sharply criticize our positions, our outlook and approach—all of which we welcome because we are anxious to engage with people over the substance of this, and to learn from what people are raising. It is quite another for people to do things which have the effect of—which at least many of them know, or have every basis to know will have the effect of—aiding the actual enemy in its attempts to crush those who resist, and especially those who are proceeding from an understanding of the need to fundamentally oppose and ultimately sweep away this system through revolution.
Unfortunately, there are people who claim to be revolutionaries and communists but then conduct themselves in ways that objectively aid the counter-revolution. A very sharp example of this is the Kasama website, founded by Mike Ely several years ago with the intent of attacking the RCP and Bob Avakian in particular in very unprincipled ways. We have written and made available a substantial polemic titled “Stuck in the ‘Awful Capitalist Present’ or Forging a Path to the Communist Future? A Response to Mike Ely’s Nine Letters” which addressed the content of the political arguments that were made initially on Kasama. But this website, while posing as a platform and forum for discussion of revolution and communism, has over several years engaged in activities that promote anti-communism and strengthen counter-revolution, and has been on a mission to alienate people from and to attack and destroy the RCP and its leadership, trafficking in innuendo, lies, gossip, and personal narratives.
Specifically, including very recently, there has been a whole practice of naming individuals who are identified on the Kasama site as being connected to the RCP, and then encouraging people to try to find out about individuals, their relationship to the Party, and speculation about the composition of different bodies and membership in the Party. And there has been an ongoing campaign of posting ad hominem (personal) attacks on Bob Avakian in particular. This alone puts it in the same camp as reactionary and vicious right-wing blogs and websites, doing the work for government agencies whose mission is to collect this kind of information which is then used to destroy individuals and organizations they deem to be a threat.
But that is not all. This website has orchestrated a campaign of gathering and propagating gossip, lies, half truths, and personal narratives—including of things alleged to have been said or done many years ago—which can in no way be verified or interrogated as to their truthfulness, with the conscious effort to whip up animosity toward Bob Avakian and the RCP more generally. Mike Ely in particular has sought out and published stories that in actual fact can only serve one purpose: to assist all kinds of reactionary forces in going after genuine revolutionaries. Mike Ely is very conscious of what he is doing and knows full well the ugly history of this kind of thing which was carried out by COINTELPRO and other agencies of the government in the 1960s and ’70s, bitter lessons paid for in blood. He knows how this kind of pig activity served to isolate genuine revolutionaries and set them up for attack from all kinds of reactionaries, and what horrible consequences this led to, including assassinations of revolutionaries, destruction of revolutionary organizations, targeting of revolutionary leaders to isolate them from the masses, pitting people against each other by planting untruths and playing on the weaknesses of different individuals that would facilitate that. For example, the FBI and police would constantly foment and feed an atmosphere of rumor-mongering and gossip, often using anonymous poison-pen letters, which enabled them to surround the assassinations of people like Malcolm X, or the Black Panther Party leaders Bunchy Carter and John Huggins, with all kinds of murkiness and conceal their own roles in driving forward horrible events like that.
It can be very confusing to people when this is done in the framework of a website that claims and pretends to be promoting debate and honest struggle over questions of revolution and communism. But again, setting and acting according to standards that are designed at getting clarity over the essential matters of line is key to being able to sort things out. As we have made clear repeatedly as a matter of principle, debate and struggle over questions of political and ideological line, including on substantial differences over what will lead to revolutionary transformation and human emancipation, are essential. There is in fact a great need for more principled struggle over line to forge the kind of revolutionary movement that is sorely needed in today’s world.
Further, from what our Party says and how we continually strive to conduct ourselves, it should be clear that we welcome and engage criticisms and disagreements, even sharp and fundamental disagreements, and recognize this as part of the necessary process of building the kind of society we’re aiming for and the kind of Party that is needed to lead in getting there. Indeed, a key element at the core of the life of our Party is the struggle over what is true, and in the service of that we strive to present and engage the best representation of opposing lines; we do not go in for cheap shots, distortions or ad hominem attacks against people. This principled approach to struggle over line is a hallmark of the leadership that Bob Avakian has given our Party and has projected for the kind of future society that we are working to bring into being.
But the kinds of things we are describing that are promoted on the Kasama website about Bob Avakian and the RCP belong in the gutter and have put this site way beyond the pale, far, far from anything remotely connected to honest and principled struggle over line. Instead, all that this does is serve and assist the enemies of revolution and confuse the people, and everyone who is taking a serious approach to revolution knows, or should know, this. It has nothing to do with putting forward an alternative line as to how to change the world and in fact greatly undermines any serious efforts to get clarity on what are the source of the problems of the world and how to go about changing them. It is a telltale sign that there has been no serious engagement of any kind with the actual line of the RCP on this website—no principled approach to clarifying matters of line. Instead one finds a passion for spreading lies, inviting vendettas, and naming names and speculating about people and their association with the Party, all posted in the posture of a self-declared “expert” and authoritative voice about the RCP.
This website is no more of a reliable source about the RCP and its leadership than the FBI is. Despite Mike Ely’s attempts to confuse people and pose authoritatively as someone “in the know,” he provides no credible information that people should believe. First, he actually does not know a lot of what he claims to know; second, even more important is that honest people who have any scintilla of concern about protecting revolutionary leaders and organizations don’t do this kind of thing—and people who do this are objectively doing the work of pigs. Whatever his particular associations might have been or might be, there is no objective distinction between his actions and a whole well-documented history of actions by the FBI and others of their ilk.
Think about what happens when you work to establish as “the truth” all kinds of unsubstantiated stories, rumors and lies about someone: what purpose does that serve and who benefits from that kind of counter-revolutionary activity? Think about what happens when you start naming people in revolutionary organizations and speculating about their whereabouts and activity. Think about what it means to encourage people to seek to find out and discuss publicly who are the leaders of a communist organization—an organization which is in fundamental antagonism to those who have powerful means to crush all opposition, and further to criticize that organization for not making this information public. The state wants to know the internal workings of any force that opposes them and especially a revolutionary organization which has the potential to bring forward masses of people to challenge their whole rule. And they use this information to destroy those organizations and the individuals who lead them. Anyone who has had the slightest experience—past or present—knows this.
All of this is aided by the current “culture of transparency,” where millions of people promote and carry out the practice of posting in a permanent record many details about their lives, their family and friends and their daily activities, with no sense of the harm this can do, and how this can be used against them in many different ways. But beyond that, think about how the dominant culture of constant gossip spread all over the mass media, establishing “truth” and verdicts by posting things on the Internet, and using this means to accuse and “convict” people of horrible things in the media, how all this is training people how to think–or better said, training people to not think critically. And then think about the ways that this kind of thing being promoted and propagated on a website which claims it is interested in revolution both reinforces and takes advantage of that putrid culture. What does it say about people who rather than struggle with and encourage others to rise above it, sink down into it and utilize it? There is truly something very wrong with those who are more turned on by this tabloidization and bloodlust than they are concerned with trying to change the world in the interests of humanity.
What Are the Consequences?
It is important to take a serious look at what are the consequences of all this. Think about how this actually works against getting clarity on the important questions of what are the real problems that we confront if we are serious about building a movement that really can mobilize millions to change the world, a movement that is going up against very real and powerful forces who use everything in their disposal not only to directly go after those in opposition, but also to utilize, work with and unleash a whole host of people who do their work for them, whether getting paid for it or not. People should learn from history and be determined to not fall into the same kinds of traps that played such a destructive role in earlier times, like what was done at the height of the 1960s through the COINTELPRO program of the FBI and other covert operations of the government. Ask yourself, if the intention to destroy BA and the Party he leads were to succeed, how would humanity be better off? Who would benefit?
There are important reasons to keep confidential the identities of people in and associated with our Party, to keep confidential the composition of leading bodies and structure of the Party, and its ties to the masses of people. And it is not the business of those who are not members of our Party to spread gossip and speculation about these matters.
But there is no secret about what is important for people to know, which is the political and ideological line of our Party: what are our goals and methods for our work now and in the future. There is an abundance of material explaining our positions, outlook, and aims… and the reasoning for them. This is the basis on which people should judge whether what we represent is what is needed in the world or not. If people want to know how leadership is chosen and how our Party functions, go to the Constitution of our Party. If people want to know the foundation of our ideology, read the Manifesto from our Party: Communism: the Beginning of a New Stage. If people want to know our strategy for revolution, this is articulated in the statement “On the Strategy for Revolution” and in many articles and writings which can be found on revcom.us. And people can read the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) for a concrete vision of the kind of society we envision and are working toward. There are websites where people can go to find out more about Bob Avakian, and the actual work to build a movement for revolution and there are Revolution bookstores in major cities where people can find literature and discussions of our Party’s line and the work we are engaged in, and many of the books written by Bob Avakian, including his own memoir, From Ike to Mao and Beyond. All of this is quite accessible to those who want to know about Bob Avakian and the RCP.
Set Standards If You Are Serious About Revolution
There is a need for those who are serious about fighting to bring about a different world to set and insist on some standards for the movements that will not tolerate this kind of counter-revolutionary activity. Anyone who is serious and does not want to be part of the counter-revolutionary cesspool concentrated on Kasama website (and related activities) should denounce it and have nothing to do with it. If you are involved with it you should get out, because if you know what goes on there and you don’t then you are making a conscious choice to stay in it. There is no longer any remotely conceivable basis to think that what is put on that website regarding Bob Avakian and the RCP is any legitimate form of carrying out principled ideological and political criticisms.
Coming to grips with this form of counter-revolution and drawing a clear line in opposition to it is part of the struggle for revolution; and this kind of counter-revolutionary activity will emerge in different forms as the revolutionary movement develops. From the article “What is Counter-Revolution?”: “All of this may be disconcerting to people who are new to the revolutionary movement. Why would people who claim to be for revolution act in such a way? Unfortunately, this type of counter-revolutionary activity is an inevitable part of making revolution—but that does not mean it should be excused, or shrugged off. While not getting pulled off course or disoriented, we have to be clear that this kind of thing does real damage, providing a climate where the forces of the state in power can bring down vicious repression on the revolution. This is one way you can tell the difference between people who are raising, even sharply, principled differences with revolutionaries, on the one hand, and counter-revolutionaries on the other. …These are life and death matters which affect the lives of millions. Serious revolutionary movements have to raise their standards and learn to reject and have nothing to do with anyone who carries out these kinds of counter-revolutionary activities.”