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The Voice No. 76 – March 2024

Presentation and analysis

History of the communist movement in the USA by kites

kites journal collects contributions from organizations of the conscious and organized communist movement (COCM) in North America. The parties of the (new)ICP Caravan are in connection with this journal since the publication of its first issue in January 2020.(1) Its issue No. 8 (March 2023) is entirely dedicated to the history of the US COCM and, rather than an issue of a magazine, is a real book.(2)

1. In issue No. 4 (September 2021) kites published an interview with CARC Party and in issue No. 5-6 (January 2022) an interview with a comrade of the Central Committee of the (new)ICP: https://kites-journal.org/ 2021/09/19/we-are-both-the-subject-and-the-object-of-the-revolution/ and in https://kites-journal.org/2022/01/19/banish-pessimism- and-defeatism/.

2. The CP, the Sixties, the RCP and the Crying Need for a Communist Vanguard Party Today, in kites (https://kites-journal.org/kites-8-contents/), March 2023, pp. 570. From now on we refer to it as K8.

It was written by the Organization of Communist Revolutionaries of the USA (OCR) which, together with Revolutionary Initiative of Canada, publishes kites journal, and is a useful tool for having knowledge of the COCM of the USA and its prospects for those, like us, who are aware of the importance of establishing a communist party in the USA capable of carrying out the socialist revolution in that country. For us, the building of the socialist revolution in the USA is second in importance only to the building of the socialist revolution in Italy; therefore we have dedicated attention to the analysis of this text.

The book is divided into three parts:

- the first one is dedicated to the Communist Party of the USA (CPUSA) from its foundation in 1919 until its confluence with the modern revisionists in the 1950s, as happened with the communist parties of the other imperialist countries;

- the second one is dedicated to the movement of the popular masses in the 1960s, of which we have some knowledge: the movement against the participation of the USA in the Vietnam War is known to everyone and many heard of the Black Panthers;

- the third one is dedicated to the Revolutionary Communist Party of the USA (RCP USA), established in the 1970s which still exists.

History of the CPUSA and the RCP USA make up the bulk of the book. The history of the CPUSA written by OCR can be compared with that of other authors, while that of the RCP USA is unique; this aspect making the analysis of this book particularly useful, given the importance that this party had in the North American communist movement and also at an international level.

The first and main strength of the book is the purpose to make a summation of the US COCM. Without a summation, there is no ground to start the building of a communist party capable of promoting and leading the socialist revolution in one's own country; an element of the communist conception of the world is missing, that is, of revolutionary science in its constituent parts (philosophy, politics and economics). The elaboration of this conception missed in the CPUSA, just as it missed in the RCP USA, in the first Italian Communist Party and in the communist parties of the imperialist countries. This lack was the basis of the fact that in none of those countries the communists managed to seize power, as they did in Russia and China in the last century.

Added to this strength there is another one, namely the awareness that the revolution does not break out but it is built, even if the conception is only hinted at. This is the main criticism that comrades address to RCP USA. The conception and action of this party were determined in standing against the revisionist turn in China after Mao's death, therefore they were determined negatively.(3) On the other hand, the RCP USA has made no progress in determining the strategy for seizing power in the USA. Throughout the course of its activity, the RCP USA kept in the expectation for a revolution that would have to break out in conjunction with a war that they thought it would be unleashed by US imperialist groups. The failure to develop a revolutionary theory weighed on the RCP USA, preventing it from taking root among the masses in a stable way. The party reached important peaks in the mobilization of the popular masses, but from this it did not achieved progress in its leading role nor it strengthened itself quantitatively and experienced almost all the deviations that the communist parties of imperialist countries have had in their history: economism, dogmatism, militarism, sectarianism, tailism and movementism. OCR lists them all in this book, not only for the RCP USA but also for the CPUSA founded after the October Revolution, equally capable of being present and also promoting large worker and popular mobilizations and equally incapable of drawing a theory for the socialist revolution, without which every potentially revolutionary movement ends. In particular, OCR's analysis confirms what has already been explained by Gramsci, that dogmatism on the one hand and economism and movementism on the other are unilaterally opposed, as theory without practice and practice without theory and each of the two overflows into the other. In the RCP USA, decades of movementism accompanied not by scientific elaboration, but by "scattered reflections" of its leader Bob Avakian, have led to a form of dogmatism that implies the cult of Avakian himself, the repetition of his sayings, his photo on t-shirts, the claim that of Avakian is the most advanced form of thought, fourth after that of Marx, Lenin and Mao.(4)

3. In this regard, see note 11 and Gramsci's statement on this kind of negative position.

4. The "sticky end" of a party like the RCP USA, which was also at the forefront in its country and beyond, is in its declaration of vote for Biden, as a necessity to prevent Trump's victory.

The revolution is built, therefore, and is built as a protracted revolutionary people's war (PRPW). The (new)ICP deals with the matter in all its literature, but in particular here I refer to the article where it identifies this strategy for seizing power with what Gramsci calls "war of position",(5) because to this text many studies and articles published by the Revolutionary Initiative group of Canada are linked to which, as mentioned, together with OCR publishes kites journal. Therefore, OCR knows the issue because it has certainly discussed it with his Canadian comrades and writes:

What we can take as universal from the strategy of protracted people's war developed by Mao to make revolution in the particular conditions of China (and generally applicable to semi-feudal countries oppressed by foreign imperialism) is the need for communists to, step-by-step, build up the subjective forces for revolution through a process of class struggle and ideological, political, and organizational consolidation. This process cannot be hinged on a coming conjuncture, but must take place within the structural class contradictions in society, with communists taking advantage of opportunities for making leaps as those contradictions sharpen and as contradictions on a global scale sharpen up into conjunctures. Furthermore, the development and shape of such conjunctures will not necessarily be determined principally by the development of objective contradictions, but also by subjective actions of both the bourgeoisie and revolutionary forces. What we should aim for as communists is to get in the position, through our all-around revolutionary work, to impact the emergence, development, and outcome of conjunctures so that the revolutionary proletariat can seize power.(6)

5. See Gramsci and the Protracted Revolutionary People's War, in The Voice No. 44 – July 2013.

6. K8, page 401.

What OCR writes is important because in the international COCM there are few organizations that adopt the law according to which the revolution is built as a PRPW even in imperialist countries and because it is an issue on which not a single "thinker" works, but a collective that acts in the most important of the imperialist countries.

These two aspects, in addition to the huge amount of information that the book provides, justify its reading and analysis and will allow us to have confidence in the work OCR is preparing, that of building the socialist revolution in the USA, if the North American comrades overcome the limits and will recognize errors that in the book they show they maintain, which stand before them as obstacles to the success of their path and which I list further on.

The opposition between believing that the revolution will break out and knowing that the revolution is built is an opposition between being (relatively) passive and being active.(7)

7. Being passive means acting without having the initiative. Communists convinced that revolution is something that will break out are not passive in an absolute sense. Indeed, in the majority of cases they are active without sparing energy and history is full of examples of their glorious and active resistance. However, if resistance does not turn into attack, the enemy keeps the initiative in its hands and, in the end, it successes.

Recognizing this means to stop being guided by events and to start becoming their creators. It means that the popular masses stop moving at the command and in the interest of the bourgeoisie and gain autonomy of thought and will.

The point is the essence of the socialist revolution and of the COCM, which has promoted and built it since its birth and has an epochal value in the history of humanity. It means that reality is what it is and is independent of our thoughts and feelings, but that our thoughts and feelings and our actions are also real. So the domination of the bourgeoisie is real with all the disasters it generates, but the revolutionary movement that sweeps away this domination is also real. The thought and will of the communists, therefore, are not limited to describing reality as it "really" already is, but they transform it, leading to making real what is potential in the spontaneous movement of the popular masses and what the popular masses need. In short, the truth is not written in the heavens or anywhere else, but it is realized – the working class with its party and the other classes of the popular masses realize it – and therefore it is class truth.

This is clear to OCR. OCR shows us that this is not clear to Avakian. According to the latter, there is no class truth in the sense that Mao also describes and which is the one explained above, but only an objective truth, that is, a thorough reflection of the material world in the mind of men. Avakian claims that this is an "epistemological break", but in reality it is a step back from Lenin's philosophy in Materialism and Empiriocriticism (1909) and in the Philosophical Notebooks (1914), where he states that "man's consciousness not only reflects the objective world, but creates it."

The OCR comrades, however, in returning to these works of Lenin so important for the development of dialectical materialism, put their feet in the bog by quoting the elaborations in this regard of intellectuals who, within the context of the so-called "Western Marxism" which limits itself to explain Marxism and usually do so from a university chair,(8) are considered on a par with pop stars, such as Slavoj Žižek. This intellectual vilified as a terrorist action the action of last October 7th conducted by Palestinian resistance organizations, an action which instead shows to peoples of the whole world that moving from resistance to attack is possible and necessary. Žižek also defines the war waged by Zelensky on behalf of NATO as "resistance of the Ukrainian people". He calls into question Lenin and Trotsky for his support, but here he also finds himself with OCR, which considers the ongoing war in Ukraine as an inter-imperialist conflict. This is a mistake made by the American comrades, which is accompanied by the shortcomings and errors that I list below.

8. He usually criticizes all those who, instead of simply explaining Marxism, implement it, that is, use it as a tool to build the socialist revolution and socialism.

1. An analysis of the performance of the economy in the world and in the USA in the period under review is missing. The references are only superficial and there for all to see (the 1929 crisis, the subprime mortgage crisis in 2008).

There is a lack of awareness that the current crisis is the second general crisis due to absolute overproduction of capital, which would make it clear in the ranks of the US COCM the reason of many political phenomena that the OCR's comrades simply note. It would make it clear to our American comrades that the conflict taking place in Ukraine is not determined by the political ambitions of opposing imperialist groups, but by a crisis that pushes the International Community of imperialist groups with the US at their head towards war, with all its destruction and extermination we see today especially in Ukraine and the Middle East. It would help the OCR comrades not to believe that the imperialist bourgeoisie can avoid war by adopting plans and measures, as they write. The general crisis due to absolute overproduction of capital has only two possible outcomes: socialist revolution or war. The bourgeoisie rushes the world and itself towards the second option, driven by a force that it has no chance to control.

2. The class analysis is wrong or confusing. OCR declares that in the USA (and, it adds, in other imperialist countries) the proletariat is a minority. This is not the case. Class position is determined by one's position in the relations of production, not by one's way of thinking. Basing class analysis on ways of thinking, political positions or the degree of oppression one suffers generates confusion. It is then not clear who makes up the "petty bourgeoisie", which is the other class to which OCR pays attention in addition to what it points out as the proletariat, nor which class is part of what is frequently called "gentrified working class" in this book. Among other things, this category has a central role in the anti-communist conception of the Frankfurt School.


Who takes the lead in a popular struggle movement? In a popular struggle movement (even more so the more serious the struggle becomes) those who claim the right to lead do not actually lead, nor those who would be designated by the relationships inherited from the history behind us. The ones that lead are those who have a more far-sighted and deeper vision of the ongoing struggle, launch the slogans that in the concrete situation best meet the true aspirations of the fighters and give themselves with resolution the means of their policy. Practice is the test of theory.

Let's consider two exemplary cases.

The CPSU and the Soviet state at the end of the Second World War, the period 1945-1956, XIX Congress (5-14 October 1952) XX Congress (February 1956): it was obvious that the communists faithful Lenin's followers would continue to direct the CPSU and the Soviet state. Instead, the modern revisionists led by Khrushchev took over.

Just the opposite happened in the Russian Empire in 1917: history and the state of things seemed to designate the Mensheviks to lead the Soviets and the peasant rebellion underway in the country, but instead the communists led by Lenin took over. They began the building of the first socialist state in the history of humanity.


3. OCR accepts the stance according to which the USSR after Stalin's death and the People's Republic of China after Mao's one almost immediately became imperialist or rather social-imperialist countries, that is, de facto imperialist even if they continued to call themselves socialist. This assessment has no ground in reality, nor does it make sense based on common experience and logic: there is no event or thing in the world that took decades to build that can be destroyed in an instant, perhaps by decree. Even less can this be true in the face of a long, glorious and new work such as that which Soviet and Chinese peoples have accomplished, determining the history of the twentieth century and making a qualitative leap in the history of the humankind. This is only a starting observation but simple to understand, beyond the however necessary study on the political, economic and social situation of the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China to understand their nature, role and prospects.

OCR's attention to the relations between COCM and writers, artists, actors, etc. deserves a separate discussion, an important field in the building of the socialist revolution because "culture and superstructural activities in general are the field in which the resistance of the bourgeoisie is more tenacious and harder to win."(9) They rarely commit to the revolutionary cause, because they are trained in the bourgeois school and because they are kept in a condition of privilege by the bourgeoisie.(10) However, when the communist movement and the resistance of the popular masses grow and strengthen, writers, artists, actors, etc. work alongside it, in many cases with passion and sincerity.

In the USA many of them joined the CPUSA in the 1930s and 1940s and the RCP USA after the 1980s, confirming the possibility and ability of the COCM to involve them, but at the same time OCR shows how none of the two parties were able to transmit to them a conception: US communists received support and sympathy from them, but they tagged along behind them, and could not transmit a conception neither to them nor to others, because they did not have elaborate it. We saw how, in the end, the lack of ideological autonomy has plunged CPUSA among the modern revisionists and reduced the RCP USA to the bone, clinging to a ridiculous dogmatism and which ends up supporting a Biden.

9. Manifesto Program of the (new)ICP (MP), page 97.

10. In the last century two great artists, Bertolt Brecht and Lu Xun, stood out for always being alongside the communist movement, that is, not only when it won but also when it was hit by the fiercest repression. In general, when the communist movement is in a growing phase and even more so when it wins, they join it en masse, maybe for opportunism. An example is that of the director Roberto Rossellini (Rome, 8 May 1906 – Rome, 3 June 1977), who before the fall of Fascism made films where he exalted fascist priests such as Reginaldo Giuliani and later made films where he praised the anti-fascist resistance of the partisans and popular masses.

What is the solution to the problem? OCR answers by proposing an amalgam between the communist conception of the world, which in some cases indicates with the term "Marxism", with various aspects of culture that emerge in imperialist countries and integration of intellectuals not included in communist parties such as L. Althusser, A. Badiou, S. Žižek. It is not so. The communist conception of the world is a comprehensive conception that does not need supports or integration, but it needs to be elaborated and developed by the communist party that uses it. It is sufficient in itself and it is the nurture of the development of all knowledge. Antonio Gramsci says it with the utmost clarity: the communist conception of the world (the "philosophy of praxis") is self-sufficient and is what the working class and the other classes of the popular masses (the "subordinate world") need because after every uprising ("the romantic moment of the struggle") "concretely comes the need to build a new intellectual and moral order, that is, a new type of society and therefore the need to develop the most universal concepts, the most refined and decisive ideological weapons."(11) The reading of OCR's book confirms us on every page this statement by Gramsci, which is also ours.

11. A. Gramsci, Prison Notebooks, Notebook 11, Note 70 – Antonio Labriola. Gramsci writes here: "The struggle for an autonomous higher culture can thus be posed; the positive part of the struggle which manifests itself in a negative and polemical form with the privative a and the anti- (anti-clericalism, atheism, etc.)."

Let us advance in the scientific elaboration of the class struggle's experience, let us dedicate to it unreservedly and without saving ourselves, let us abandon all dogmatism, let us carry forward the struggle on the ideological level in the COCM and every step we take towards victory will be increasingly certain.

Paolo Babini – International Working Group of the CARC Party