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The Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (also known as RCP and The Revcoms) is a communist party in the United States founded in 1975 and led by its chairman Bob Avakian. The party organizes for a revolution in the United States, to overthrow the system of capitalism and replace it with a new socialist republic, with the final aim of world communism.
Since the 2000s, Avakian's "new communism" is the RCP's ideological framework, which it considers a scientific advancement of Marxism–Leninism–Maoism. Prior to this, the party was a founding member of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement.
In early 1968, Leibel Bergman, H. Bruce Franklin, Bob Avakian, Stephen Charles Hamilton and a score or so others—consisting of both veterans of the Communist Party USA, and Bay Area radicals based in Palo Alto, Berkeley, and San Francisco, formed the Bay Area Revolutionary Union (BARU). Among the first tasks of the BARU was to challenge the Maoist Progressive Labor Party (PLP) over their positions on the Black Panther Party, the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the direction of Maoism. The early RU joined with the Revolutionary Youth Movement faction in the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in opposing PLP's role in SDS at their national convention in Chicago in 1969. The resulting split led to PL controlling the SDS name, while RYM itself split into two different factions.
In 1971, Franklin led a more militant faction of BARU out the organization to join Venceremos, leaving Avakian in a leading position within BARU. The RU continued to expand nationally uniting collectives, across the country, effectively becoming a national organization—with the long-term goal of forming a new communist party. The new nationwide structure induced BARU to change its name to simply the Revolutionary Union (RU). Avakian was elected to the central committee of the RU shortly thereafter. The RCP claims that of the various groups coming out of SDS, it was the first to seriously attempt to develop itself at the theoretical level, with the publication of Red Papers 1. In 1974 RU started publication of their newspaper Revolution (renamed Revolutionary Worker in 1979)
In 1973 the anti-war group Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) entered into reforms following the end of the Vietnam War, these included adopting an explicitly Anti-imperialist stance and the opening of its membership to civilians. During this period the RU became a popular faction within the VVAW eventually reaching its peak in 1975, when the RU controlled national office voted to remove members, expel chapters and place the organization into ideological uniformity, following the integration RU reconstituted itself as the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP).
After the death of Mao in 1976, the RCP lost about 40% of its membership in a 1978 split over alignment with the new Chinese leadership. Avakian led the faction that rejected what they considered a counterrevolutionary coup against Mao's allies, and the split left him as undisputed leader of the remainder of the RCP.
In January 1979 Avakian and 78 other Party members and supporters were arrested and charged with various crimes in connection to a militant protest against Deng Xiaoping's visit to the White House. Seventeen demonstrators, including Avakian, were charged with multiple felonies which would carry a combined sentence of up to 241 years. After the RCP and its supporters waged a mass campaign for political, legal, and other support for the defendants, the charges were dropped in 1982, by which time Party leadership had decided to go into exile, with Avakian applying for political asylum in France, where he remained for many years.
The RCP organized May Day 1980 rallies in 16 cities across the U.S., including in Los Angeles, New York, Portland, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. Weeks before the May Day demonstrations, RCP member Damian Garcia and two others climbed the Alamo, tearing down the American flag from its pole, and raising the Red Flag in its place before being arrested. Shortly thereafter, on April 22, 1980, Garcia was stabbed to death while organizing in a Los Angeles housing project. At the time, police said that Garcia's murderer was gang-affiliated, while RCP insisted that he had been assassinated by the state in retaliation for his action at the Alamo. Avakian remarked in his memoir that Garcia's murder was "very clearly tied in with police agents ... it was an attack on our Party."
In 1983 Avakian was one of the founders of the now-defunct Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM), an international grouping of Maoist parties. The RIM published A World to Win news service from 1981 to 2006, but since its dissolution the publication is now updated on the official website. In 2017, A World to Win was restructured to "a more thorough-going tool for revolution based on Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism."
Flag-burning by RCP members led to the Texas v. Johnson case, which established the burning of the American Flag as a Constitutionally protected right.
In 1990, RCP Spokesperson Carl Dix embarked on a speaking tour entitled the "Fear Nothing, Be Down for the Whole Thing" Tour, which helped to publicize the Party's explicit calls for revolution. Slogans raised in this era included "Seize The Power: Prepare for Revolutionary War".
In 1991, C-SPAN aired a presentation by RCP spokespersons, about U.S. wars in the Middle East, the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, and what the "new world order" means for black people in America.
RCP regarded the 1992 Rodney King riots as legitimate political rebellion and advocated for the defendants in the Reginald Denny beating case. RCP advocated for international Maoist movements such as the Shining Path guerrilla movement in Peru. In 1996, the RCP launched the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality.
RCP branches opened Revolution Books stores in major US cities and became a frequent presence in protest movements. There are currently two operational locations, one in Berkeley and one in Harlem.
In 2011, RCP spokesperson Carl Dix along with Cornel West co-initiated the campaigns to Stop "Stop and Frisk" and "Stop Mass Incarceration". Dix and West appeared on Democracy Now! to discuss the state of Black America in the age of Obama. RCP organized Rise Up October against racism and police brutality; the attendance included Quentin Tarantino.
In July 2016, mass protest and police arrests erupted over a flag-burning by the RCP outside the Republican National Convention, before a crowd of thousands. The next week, the RCP staged another flag burning outside the Democratic National Convention, after denouncing the United States. Later that year, in response to Donald Trump's tweet calling for the criminalization of flag burning, RCP supporters burned another American flag outside the Trump International Hotel in New York City.
In October 2016, RCP supporters were banned from the University of Chicago for "trespass" after encouraging students to get organized with the revolutionaries, with one activist arrested by police; the next day they returned to defy the ban, while denouncing U.S. elections and America.
In August 2016, the RCP led protesters in a two-day march on a barricaded police station after the fatal officer shooting of a black man by Milwaukee police; the police chief blamed the RCP for inciting "violence towards police."
The RCP strongly supported Colin Kaepernick and NFL protests of the U.S. national anthem. The CBS San Francisco reported that members of the RCP gave their full-on support to Kaepernick outside Levi's Stadium.
In October 2017, party spokesperson Carl Dix confronted Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, in relation to NFL protests, over "his troubling tendency to muzzle his players and align himself with an oppressive president."
RCP organizer Sunsara Taylor appeared on Fox News's Tucker Carlson Tonight in February 2017, where she debated the host and said that Trump is "more dangerous than Hitler" because of his access to nuclear weapons.
In July 2018, Refuse Fascism and RCP organized 100 handmaids to protest U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in New York City, saying "[he] is a Christian fascist theocrat for whom the handmaid's tale is a model."
In August 2018, RCP supporters took part in protests organized against the neo-Nazi Unite the Right 2 rally in Washington, D.C.
In October 2018, the RCP organized a demonstration in Chicago's Daley Plaza on the 23rd Annual "National Day of Protest to STOP Police Brutality," in response to the police shooting of Laquan McDonald and other black youth.
At a February 2019 speaking event at USC, in the Q&A, RCP supporters sparked controversy after criticizing speaker Amanda Nguyen's work in the U.S. government during the War on Terror.
In March 2019, a Revolution Newspaper correspondent was detained by police on the anniversary of the police shooting of Stephon Clark, after getting into an argument with Al Sharpton, while urging attendees to organize for revolution rather than political reforms.
On International Women's Day 2019, the Revolution Club joined supporters of the Communist Party of Iran (Marxist–Leninist–Maoist), to march through Westwood, California, calling for universal women's rights.
On Independence Day 2019, the RCP staged flag burnings at the U.S.–Mexico border and at the White House, the latter being a demonstration against the "Salute to America" military parade, which resulted in two RCP supporters being attacked by the Proud Boys and arrested by Secret Service officers.
In August 2020, Avakian released a statement urging supporters to vote "for the Democratic Party candidate, Biden, in order to effectively vote against Trump."
Bob Avakian is a controversial figure, who the RCP acknowledges is both "loved and hated." Avakian is viewed by supporters as a revolutionary leader whose body of work has advanced communist theory and represents a "pathway to human emancipation" from the capitalist system. Avakian is also criticized for an alleged cult of personality around him by the RCP, accusations which the party denies.[non-primary source needed]
The RCP originated as a Maoist political organization with roots in the New Left of the 1970s. In the 1990s, its political ideology was Marxism–Leninism–Maoism. Today, the framework for its political ideology is Bob Avakian's 'New Synthesis' (or 'New Communism'), which it sees as an advancement of revolutionary theory; this has been debated among Maoists internationally. The RCP is atheist and claim to stress the scientific method.
RCP leadership says "the system cannot be reformed, it must be overthrown," and does not participate in charity or elections, instead organizing for total revolution, to replace the capitalist system with a new socialist system aiming for communism worldwide. Its goal is not to "make America socialist" but instead "a world without America and everything it stands for."
The RCP has identified what it calls "the 5 Stops," which it says are social contradictions under capitalism that can only be ended by revolution: white supremacy, patriarchy and anti-LGBT discrimination, anti-immigrant persecution, imperialist war, and environmental degradation. The RCP emphasizes women's liberation, and says it can only be achieved under communism.
The RCP is not currently engaged in armed struggle, instead preparing for such a future time; accordingly, it has a strategy pamphlet for "How We Can Win" a revolution in the U.S., as well as a proposed Constitution for the New Socialist Republic, outlining what would follow. A code-of-conduct called the "6 Points of Attention for the Revolution" outlines the principles of party members and supporters.
The RCP has declared there are no existing socialist states today, saying there have not been since China from 1949 to 1976 and the Soviet Union before 1956. Its website polemicizes against political currents such as anarchism, democratic socialism, intersectionality, liberalism, and Trotskyism, as well as criticizing reductionist approaches to Marxism, and errors within Maoism.
The RCP platform demands full recognition of LGBT rights as a fundamental component towards establishing socialism. Previously, in the 1970s and 1980s, the RCP criticized homosexuality as "petty bourgeois" and prohibited LGBT individuals from party membership. This outlook co-existed with a public line against gay-bashing and attacks on homosexuals by religious bigots and fundamentalists, and was consistent with numerous groups of the New Communist movement and the broader Marxist–Leninist movement of the period.
In 2001, the RCP officially reversed this position, writing:
"The revolutionary proletariat is staunchly opposed to the attacks on homosexuality by reactionary forces such as religious fundamentalists, and to all physical assaults on, discrimination against, and government repression of homosexuals, which is so widespread and vicious in the U.S. today. In the new society, discrimination against homosexuals will be outlawed and struggled against in every sphere of society, including personal and family relations."
In 2010, RCP Chair Bob Avakian urged Party members to "be aware of the positive—and in significant ways "subversive of the system"—potential of the assertion of gay "identity" and gay rights..." and in a 2015 talk, spoke of having to "to cast off some wrong thinking" in regard to the oppression of LGBT people.
The RCP releases daily updates online and a periodic print edition of its weekly newspaper, Revolution (formerly called Revolutionary Worker, 1979–2005) available in English and Spanish, and published continuously since 1979.
In December 2016, party members and others co-initiated Refuse Fascism, a coalition group aiming to "drive out" the Trump administration through sustained street protests. InfoWars and other far-right conspiracy theory websites claimed the RCP and Refuse Fascism were organizing a military overthrow of the government on November 4, 2017. Several nationwide anti-Trump protest marches were organized for that day, numbering in the thousands.
Refuse Fascism protesters were arrested in September 2017, after blocking four lanes of the 101 Freeway in Los Angeles during rush hour, to "sound the alarm about fascism."
RCP supporters Michael Slate and Sunsara Taylor have regularly aired shows on radio networks KPFK and WBAI, respectively, where they discuss news and politics with guests.
The RCP runs the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF), which sends its newspaper and other political works from its publishing press to hundreds of incarcerated people nationwide to spread a revolutionary message. The PRLF as its aim: "provides an educational opportunity for prisoners to engage with world events and key political, cultural, and philosophical questions from a unique communistic perspective, including discussions of morality, religion, science, and the arts centered around a positive socialist-light."
The RCP has faced increasing censorship by prison officials who seek to deny inmates requested access to revolutionary literature.
...in April 1975 the RU- controlled national office moved decisively to assert full control over the organization it expelled a number of chapters, drove out scores of individuals and then imposed programmatic uniformity on those members who remains. Within a very few months, VVAW/WSI declined to a small core of RU cadre and close supporters.
It [the Revolutionary Union, the predecessor of the RCPUSA] convened a congress in September 1975 that formally disbanded RU and founded the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP)..."
"The first wave of party builders also foundered in addressing the oppression of gay men and lesbians. Doctrinally, most of the movement simply ignored this issue, though the Guardian did decide by 1971 that it was appropriate to include opposition to discrimination against gays under the broad rubric of defending democratic rights. But whatever was formally said or not said, for the most part the movement's attitude toward homosexuality and the gay movement was decidedly negative. Fundamentally, most Marxists-Leninists shared the homophobia prevalent in society as a whole, and on the issue of gay rights they surrendered to prejudice instead of analyzing and opposing it.", p. 138. Hardcover edition. 2002.