Beyond waving the red flag: towards a political critique of the Revolutionary Communist Party and the Revolutionary Student Movement - Gary Kinsman and J. Charbonneau

Beyond waving the red flag: towards a political critique of the Revolutionary Communist Party and the Revolutionary Student Movement - Gary Kinsman and J. Charbonneau

Critique of a Canadian neo-Maoist organization and its student front.

Why we’re writing this

We are writing this because in our different geographical and social locations we have encountered the emergence and growth of the Revolutionary Student Movement (RSM) and the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). In both our locations we have encountered sectarian and destructive behaviour on the part of members of these organizations, and in Sudbury the participation of members of the RSM/supporters of the RCP in the destruction of the Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty (more on this later). Sectarianism in this context is when a political organization puts its own interests ahead of building the class and social struggle as a whole and thereby contributes to the weakening of people’s social struggles.

We feel it is important to produce an initial political critique of these organizations so people new to radical politics who encounter the RCP/RSM have a clearer idea of what some of the limitations of these groups are. Many people have seen the RCP and RSM waving the red flag at marches and rallies but we need to ask what is beyond waving this red flag? We have written this article because we see major problems in the RCP/RSM for building social movements and class struggles and for organizing for anti-capitalist social transformation.[1]

We recognize that the emergence of the RCP/RSM is part of a more general revival of what we describe as authoritarian far left organizations that are top-down in character and that come in both Maoist (Mao was a leading figure in the Chinese revolution), more classically Stalinist (Stalin came to be the leading figure in the USSR after the early revolutionary years), Trotskyist (followers of Leon Trotsky who was also a leading figure in the Russian revolution and was opposed to the perspectives of Stalin) and other flavours. This revival of the authoritarian left arises in part out of the apparent impasses of the anti-authoritarian left and movement organizing that we both identify with [2].

In this context Maoist inspired groups with slogans like “dare to struggle, dare to win” and “it is right to rebel” and notions of the ‘mass line’ and ‘criticism/self-criticism’ can be attractive to some newly radicalizing people. Maoism can also be attractive since unlike other approaches it comes from what used to be referred to as the ‘third world,’ it was attached to a major revolutionary project (that ultimately failed) in China, and through its notion of the need for cultural revolutions and class struggles after the establishment of ‘socialism’ it appears to respond to some of the concerns over the degeneration of the revolutions in the USSR and China. The “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” in China in the 1960s is pointed to as a highpoint of global class struggle by many current Maoists, including the RCP, as an ultimately failed attempt to prevent the restoration of capitalist relations.

Younger people attracted to revolutionary politics today did not live through the historical experience of the Chinese Revolution and what it led to. What many do not realize is that Mao and his party supporters initiated the “Cultural Revolution” in the 1960s to battle against a competing faction within the Chinese Communist Party, and when the Red Guard mobilizations began to challenge the hegemony of the party and bureaucratic class relations Mao and his supporters acted to restrain and limit them so that party rule and the bureaucracy in general were not challenged [3]. In the end Mao was more invested in the rule of the Communist Party and the bureaucratic class it headed than in a “cultural revolution.”

Following Idle No More and the rise of indigenous struggles the RCP/RSM can also be attractive to some since it is much stronger on the need to support Indigenous struggles than most Maoist groups in the Canadian state have been.

In this article we first offer a critique of the RCP’s theory and then look at how it shapes the activity of RCP and RSM supporters.

What is the Revolutionary Communist Party?

The RCP is a small radical political group that claims to be a revolutionary party. It was originally concentrated in Montreal and Quebec but has since developed a presence in a number of centres across Canada, mainly through recruiting people from RSM “sections” (chapters). We have no doubt that it contains many sincere, dedicated and committed activists for anti-capitalist social transformation. At the same time we wish to highlight its problems and limitations.

The RCP is currently wracked by a major political dispute that pits most of its Montreal members (who controlled the group’s website and Facebook page and that includes most of the historical leaders of the group) against the majority of the organization which is now based in ‘English-Canada’ outside Quebec[4]. The new central leadership has critiqued the sectarianism of the Montreal RCP towards the IWW (a small revolutionary union tracing its history back to the Industrial Workers of the World of Joe Hill) but is not engaging in a more general critique of the sectarianism of the RCP.

The RCP bases itself on the theory it calls “Marxism-Leninism-Maoism” and takes this theory very seriously. This theory is a version of what can be called Stalinist ideology. Stalinism is a kind of theory and practice that sees the creation of a so-called “socialist” state of the kind that existed in the USSR under Joseph Stalin and China under Mao Zedong– a bureaucratic dictatorship run by a single party — as its aim on the way to building a “communist” society [5]. In our view the Soviet Union under Stalin and China under Mao, for all their differences, were bureaucratic class societies in which a bureaucracy organized through the Communist Party ruled over the working class and the peasantry.

The RCP’s version of Stalinism is inspired by not just Mao but the Peruvian Communist Party, a Maoist organization better known as the “Shining Path” (Sendero Luminoso) that played a key role in an international network of Maoist groups, the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, that was based on what it referred to as “Marxism-Leninism-Maoism” (M-L-M). In the 1980s and early 1990s the Shining Path fought an armed struggle against the viciously repressive Peruvian state. It also attacked civilians and murdered left activists who disagreed with it. As historian Marc Becker observes, “Its authoritarian nature and failure to empower the people at the grassroots level alienated potential supporters and ultimately limited its strength.” [6]

Critique of the Current Program of the RCP

In this section we critique the program of the RCP that is currently available on line. A program is what an organization is based on – its fundamental principles that guide its practice. While there may be proposals for modifying it within the RCP this has not yet taken place. As anti-capitalists and revolutionaries there is much we agree with in the program but here we concentrate on our major disagreements.

We are very concerned as Marxists with major aspects of this program. The program is very weak on aspects of Marxism that are key to our work as activists. For instance, Marx’s theory of the exploitation of the working class, while it is hinted at, is not clearly set out or articulated. This theory is at the core of Marxism in our view and addresses how it is workers through their active agency who produce the new value that is exploited from them as profit by the capitalists. Class struggle is key to the drama of the working day. This is key to seeing how workers are an active social force in producing capitalist social relations and therefore can act to transform them. This is also key to Marx’s powerful anti-reification (anti-thingification) approach which is the refusal to give power to things and objects (a refusal to transform social relations between people into relations between things), which is missed in this program.

The program while it is very heavy on M-L-M being a “science” at the same time states that M-L-M is an ideology. Marx’s work was based on a critical analysis of ideology as the ideas of the ruling class (including in his critique of political economy) and of ideology as a social form of knowledge separated from the social practices that bring these ideas into being. Marx’s theory was not an ideology but was based on the critical analysis of the ideologies of ruling and on bringing people’s social relations and practices into focus. Marx’s critical analysis of ideology was a crucial weapon for working class struggle as it constantly disclosed human social practices as opposed to the power of the ruling class, and its commodities and things. But unfortunately M-L-M is developed in an ideological fashion that does not assist working class and oppressed people in struggles for liberation. Its focus on the power of the party and a focus on taking over state power both obscure what’s involved in different ways people can organize for revolutionary change. The RCP program implies that the task is simply to replace one ideology with another.

It is a program that puts its emphasis on the leadership of the RCP as the vanguard party and despite discussion of the ‘mass line’ it is always the party, or at least a section of it, that is animating the masses even in rectification campaigns against those taking the ‘capitalist road.’ The masses ‘participate’ but they never define or lead. Even worse is the RCP’s vision of revolution itself. It’s extremely party-centric. The action of the masses is mentioned, as are workers councils and popular assemblies, but the central actor is always seen as the party and its revolutionary army. The actions of the party are substituted for the self-emancipating struggles of the exploited and oppressed as there is no consistent focus on the need for forms of direct democracy to be central to anti-capitalist struggle.

The RCP program is also very state-centred. While they are very opposed to the capitalist state they argue for the state form as the vehicle for the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ and the establishment of socialism. They ignore the fact that Karl Marx rethought his ideas about state power following the historical experience of the Paris Commune, the first attempt by workers to govern their own city. Marx praised the Commune as “a Revolution against the State itself… a resumption by the people for the people of its own social life… a Revolution to break down this horrid machinery of class domination itself.”[7] There is a general avoidance of state and bureaucratic relations in the RCP program (not surprising for people who believe the USSR under Stalin and China under Mao — were somehow on the road to a classless and stateless society). Rather than bureaucratic relations and state power leading to tendencies towards a new bureaucratic form of class rule over workers or to attempts to re-establish capitalist social relations they tend to see the problem as bad ideas in the heads of those who might want to take ‘the capitalist road.’ Here rather than using a historical materialist approach they tend to adopt a more idealist approach to where problems come from in the revolutionary process.

While noting the unequal social power relations within the working class on racialized, gendered, sexual and other lines, these are not adequately addressed. The RCP tends to adopt a class-first position, seeing class as the primary contradiction and other forms of oppression as only secondary contradictions. Their use of primary and secondary contradictions is undialectical and prevents them from understanding how different forms of oppression need to be addressed specifically as well as how forms of oppression are always made in and through other relations of exploitation and oppression. The RCP approach leads to minimizing the significance of racial, gender and sexual oppression and the need for autonomous struggles against these forms of oppression.

We can see this perhaps most clearly in their discussions of women’s and gender oppression. The program doesn’t grasp how patriarchal gender relations are deeply rooted in and intertwined with capitalist social relations. The RCP characterizes socialist feminism which is an attempt to being class and gender together in theory and practice as somehow ‘bourgeois’ in character. The only form of organizing they refer to is what they describe as ‘proletarian feminism,’ which it seems is also to be under the control of the party (directly or indirectly) as in the Proletarian Feminist Fronts which the RCP has set up in a number of cities. There is no recognition of the need for autonomous organization of groups that experience oppression so they can fight against it, nor of the need for these oppressed groups to be able to self-organize within revolutionary organizations to fight the social oppression they face that is often reproduced inside revolutionary groups. It is only through such autonomous organizing that relations of solidarity and equality can be built within the working class and among different oppressed groups.

The RCP is certain about what a revolution in Canada will be like and how to get to one: a strategy of “prolonged people’s war” (PPW), mostly in cities. They believe that what the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) did to win power reveals a universal strategy, applied to specific concrete conditions. According to the RCP’s program, Mao’s strategy “is applicable all over, in all types of countries.” Central elements in PPW drawing on Mao in the RCP program are revolutionary violence, participation of the masses, building base areas, building a revolutionary army under the control of the party, and the belief that “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”

The PPW strategy succeeded for the CCP in a society oppressed and underdeveloped by imperialism in which peasants greatly outnumbered the urban population. Overdeveloped capitalist countries like Canada are so different from China in 1949 that it is wrong to think that a PPW strategy could ever succeed here, no matter what qualifications are offered by the RCP about applying it in rich countries with mostly-urban populations. While there are many things to be learned from the Chinese Revolution, thinking that the Chinese, or any revolution for that matter, can be the source of a universal strategy for revolutionary change is a mistake. What is key is the democratic self-organization of workers and the oppressed — the building of assemblies or councils of popular power by workers, peasants and other oppressed people. This is, however, not a central feature of PPW.

The chances of a party with RCP-style politics ever taking state power in ‘Canada’ are virtually nil. However, if that were to happen the result wouldn’t be the democratic self-government of the majority but a one-party state and eventually the birth of a new bureaucratic ruling class. Despite its stated intentions this is unfortunately where RCP type politics lead.

The RCP talks a lot about class struggle. However, it sees a large minority of relatively better-paid workers in Canada as a “labour aristocracy” bribed by the super-profits that imperialist capital makes from countries of the South. Their application of this theory — a mistaken way of trying to answer the question of why more workers in rich countries today aren’t radical — leads the RCP to be indifferent or hostile to the struggles of many unionized workers, and to treat such workers as the same as the layer of full-time union officials who run today’s bureaucratic unions [8]. At a time when in neoliberal capitalism unions are under growing attack by employers and governments this stance is a problem. Instead what is needed is a growth of rank and file based worker and union organizing and the development of democratic self-organization of workers and of more militant forms of struggles. This could undermine the existing bureaucratic leaderships and lead to a transformation of the union movement. In contrast the RCP has a focus on connecting with what they call the “hard-core’ (the poor and unemployed, immigrants, women, youth and Indigenous workers) of the working class/proletariat. However, RCP theory doesn’t assist these sections of the working class to organize themselves for struggle in effective democratic ways. In Sudbury, the RCP approach undermined efforts for organizing people living in poverty (as we will soon explain).

While supporting worker and movement self-defence and a “no platform for fascists” position we are worried by the possible consequences of the RCP’s emphasis on the moments of violence in the revolutionary process. According to the RCP program, in the “historical process” of revolution, “violence not only plays a key role at a given time, but is also part of it as a fundamental and permanent subject.” “To prepare for revolution is to make concrete preparations.” What does that mean? It’s not clear. But the RCP program’s favorable quotation from a document of the Belgian group Cellules Communistes Combattantes (Fighting Communist Cells) should be cause for concern: in the mid-1980s the CCC carried out a series of bombings that were not part of any mass struggles or organizing.
Again we don’t question the sincere commitment of RCP supporters’ opposition to capitalism. But the RCP’s strategy isn’t a faulty strategy for trying to achieve a self-managed liberated society beyond capitalism — it’s a road to a new bureaucratic class society. Pursuing it may win the RCP more members. What it won’t do is help develop the capacities of people who are exploited and oppressed to organize to defend themselves, win reforms and fight for their own liberation.

What is the RSM?

The RSM is officially a student organization “guided by communist principles” without any formal affiliation to the RCP. However, it was launched by the RCP, its policies reflect RCP politics and it’s led by RCP supporters. To quote from “Break with Old Ideas,” a document written as part of the debate currently dividing the RCP, “In practice, the expansion of the RSM – an intermediate organization with its own internal democratic structure and where the Party wields tremendous political influence, and indeed where most of the organizational leadership is made up of Party supporters – has allowed the Party to expand across the country in a way that would have been impossible by other means.” The debate inside the RCP has led the RSM’s Montreal section to split from the rest of the RSM. The growth of the RSM across ‘English-Canada’ has led it to claim that it is the largest revolutionary student organization in ‘Canada’ which may now be the case.

In our experiences, although there seem to some differences in different locations the RSM practice on campuses has largely been to organize its own actions often separated from other student activists. Neither the RSM or the RCP are big on actual united front or coalition work. In some places RSM members have become known for their very hostile attitude toward student activists who disagree with them. This isn’t an accident — it flows from the sectarian politics and culture of the RCP.

From theory to practice

The practice of the RCP and RSM are guided by the program of the RCP and the limitation of the theory informing their program produces many problems in the practice of these groups. This theory shapes a sectarian practice. It usually leads their supporters to focus their energies on activities of the RCP, RSM and other RCP initiated groups. These can’t reach far beyond their own ranks and don’t develop the capacities of exploited and oppressed people to organize for change but may draw more people towards the RCP. They’re often really hostile to others on the left, including other anti-capitalists, and sometimes the way they act can be dangerous for our struggles and movements. Here we use experiences from Sudbury to make some of these problems visible. While the experience in Sudbury may be worse than in other centres these problems also exist in the practice of the RCP/RSM in other centres.

Sudbury and the Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty as one example

The Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty was a direct action based anti-capitalist anti-poverty group that existed in Sudbury for much of the period from 2001 to the end of 2015. There were periods when it dissolved but it was able to be reconstituted. The last time it reformed was in the activist space opened up by Occupy Sudbury.

S-CAP was modelled on the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) in Toronto and undertook both campaign work often focused around raising social assistance rates in the context of a broader Raise the Rates campaign and also direct action support work for people living in poverty. S-CAP achieved significant victories in local support work when it would disrupt the workings of bureaucratic offices to get results for people and as part of province-wide campaign work with OCAP and the Raise the Rates campaign. This included the occupation of the local MPPs office and the arrest of 11 S-CAP activists. S-CAP also supported anti-war and anti-occupation struggles, Indigenous struggles, the Quebec student movement and actively supported workers when they were on strike.

In the most recent formation of S-CAP one supporter of the RSM/RCP got involved and was eventually able to recruit one more core S-CAP activist to their project. This initial male member would consistently interrupt women speaking at meetings and his sexist practice drove a number of women away from the group – weakening the capacity of the group. Eventually a women’s caucus of S-CAP was held to deal with his sexist practices but it was too late since too many women had already been alienated from the group through his practices.

The first attempt to impose the position of the RSM/RCP on the group was during the last provincial election campaign when the two RSM supporters argued for S-CAP to support the RCP’s “boycott the elections” position. This was in a situation where in terms of electoral politics S-CAP as a broader activist group included critical supporters of the NDP, the Green Party, as well as many people who never would vote in elections. This was an attempt to impose the politics of the RCP onto people in S-CAP.

Later a more vehement campaign was waged by the two RSM/RCP supporters to get S-CAP to break its ties with the provincial Raise the Rates campaign which included OCAP, other activist anti-poverty groups and CUPE Ontario and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU). The Raise the Rates campaign has been the only activist campaign in the province that supports raising the minimum wage along with raising social assistance rates and rejects the attempt to divide people living in poverty between the respectable/unrespectable poor and between waged and unwaged people living in poverty. It has co-ordinated province-wide weeks of actions for the Special Diet, in defence of the Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit, against the merger of the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) with the much lower Ontario Works, against unfair medical reviews designed to force people off of ODSP, and against escalating food prices. It calls for raising the social assistance rates by 55% to bring them back to where they were before the Harris war on the poor was initiated in the mid-1990s.

The two members of the RSM started a campaign within S-CAP denouncing the Raise the Rates Campaign for being controlled by ‘right-wing’ unions (CUPE and OPSEU). They specifically criticized the Ontario Works and ODSP workers organized by CUPE and OPSEU, and the jail guards organized by OPSEU. While there are problems with both these unions they have been far more supportive of anti-poverty struggles than other unions. We were told by the RSM/RCP supporters that these unions represented the ‘labour aristocracy’ as mentioned earlier and that S-CAP needed to split from the Raise the Rates campaign. Sometimes the RSM/RCP supporters even suggested that people on ODSP were ‘privileged’ and the only people living in poverty that S-CAP should be working with were homeless people. This, they suggested, was the ‘hard-core’ of people living in poverty, using the RCP position that revolutionary work must be based on the ‘hard-core’ of the proletariat which will supposedly be more committed to revolution. S-CAP was doing a lot of work with homeless people and around shelter issues at that time but those members of S-CAP on ODSP did not appreciate this. S-CAP was launched into having many meetings where the two RSM/RCP supporters would lecture people about why S-CAP should break with the Raise the Rates campaign. This drove even more activists away.

A crisis of capacity was produced within S-CAP both through these RSM/RCP practices and by some people moving away or taking leaves for periods of time. The RSM/RCP supporters continued to criticize the members of S-CAP who supported the Raise the Rates campaign. When they had succeeded in driving most people out of S-CAP and assuming political leadership of the group they then folded S-CAP.
The loss of S-CAP has greatly weakened struggles against poverty in Sudbury allowing the municipal government, OW and ODSP to get away with denying the rights and needs of people living in poverty, including homeless people, as well as weakening the level of movement struggle more generally. That S-CAP no longer exists as a direct action based anti-capitalist group in the city really weakens people’s struggles. The actions of the RSM/RCP in Sudbury put the building of their organization and defending their ‘correct line’ ahead of building the class and social struggle more generally. This is the very definition of what sectarianism is.

Also in Sudbury Palestine solidarity activists were told that the RSM/RCP does not support the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign called for by Palestinian civil society. Activists were told that BDS was ‘revisionist’ and not revolutionary enough and that the support for Indigenous struggles on the part of supporters of BDS was not strong enough to merit RSM/RCP support. Given the RSM has had some presence for the last few years at Laurentian University this has weakened organizing efforts for Israeli Apartheid Week.

Some Conclusions

We hope in this short and preliminary political critique to have made clear a number of the political problems with the RCP/RSM. There is obviously much more that can be said and we invite others to take this contribution further. We encourage those who have been attracted to the politics of the RCP/RSM to raise their own critical questions and to search out other paths to revolutionary anti-capitalist transformation including in the various organizing projects of the anti-authoritarian left and broader non-sectarian groups in which anti-authoritarian left organizers can be active (for example, No One Is Illegal, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, Indigenous solidarity groups and support groups for Black Lives Matter, the Fight for 15 and Fairness in Ontario, the Alliance Against Displacement in Vancouver, Solidarity Winnipeg and Solidarity Halifax).

May 24, 2017

Originally published at http://radicalnoise.ca/2017/05/24/beyond-waving-the-red-flag-towards-a-political-critique-of-the-revolutionary-communist-party-and-the-revolutionary-student-movement/

References

Marc Becker, “Peruvian Shining Path,” in Revolutionary Movements in World History, From 1750 to the Present, ed. James V. DeFronzo (Santa Barbara, Cal: ABC-CLIO, 2006), 650-59. Online at http://www.yachana.org/research/sendero.pdf

Stephen D’Arcy, “‘Exploitation’ versus ‘Privilege’ in Class Analysis,” https://publicautonomy.org/2014/06/20/bromma/

Chris Dixon, Another Politics, Talking Across Today’s Transformative Movements (University of California Press, 2014).

Elliott Liu, Maoism and the Chinese Revolution: A Critical Introduction (PM Press, 2016)

Livio Maitan, Party, Army and Masses in China: A Marxist Interpretation of the Cultural Revolution and Its Aftermath, (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1976).

Karl Marx, The First Draft of The Civil War in France, https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1871/civil-war-france/drafts/

J. Moufawad-Paul, Continuity and Rupture, Philosophy in the Maoist Terrain, (Winchester, U, Washington, USA: zero books, 2016. Although this is not an RCP text the author is an RCP supporter and this book is often a reference point for RCP activists.

Charles Post, “The Myth of the Labor Aristocracy, Part I” and “The ‘Labor Aristocracy’ and Working-Class Struggles: Consciousness in Flux,” https://www.solidarity-us.org/node/128 and https://www.solidarity-us.org/node/129

Charles Post, “Exploring Working-Class Consciousness: A Critique of the Theory of the ‘Labour Aristocracy,” Historical Materialism, 2010, (https://www.academia.edu/3088682/Exploring_Working_Class_Consciousness_A_Critique_of_the_Theory_of_the_Labour-Aristocracy

RCP website – for the new central leadership at https://pcrrcp.wordpress.com/

RCP website – the Montreal RCP is at http://www.pcr-rcp.ca

RSM website — http://mer-rsm.ca/

Endnotes

[1] We should clarify that we come from somewhat different political perspectives and we do not agree on everything. One of us who has been involved in queer liberation and AIDS activism was also active in Sudbury for a number of years in the Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty. He is more influenced by autonomist Marxist and feminist perspectives and is very critical of the Leninist (Lenin was a leader of the 1917 Russian revolution and of the Bolshevik Party) theory of organization (democratic centralism, that revolutionary consciousness needs to be brought to the working class and oppressed by an external vanguard party). The other is a libertarian socialist who’s been involved in several kinds of organizing. Despite our disagreements we have come together on this project since we see major problems with the theory and practice of the RCP/RSM.

[2] For one look at this organizing, see Chris Dixon, Another Politics.

[3] See the books by Elliott Liu and Livio Maitan in the references.

[4] Recently the Montreal and Valleyfield cells of the RCP were expelled from the organization by the central leadership even though the two sides agree on many political fundamentals and have a common political framework drawing on the same political program. According to the central leaders the main areas of disagreement in this ‘two-line struggle’ have been over the need to make some changes to their existing program (which the Montreal group seems to oppose), the importance of trans struggles which the RCP/RSM has been supportive of (this is actually unique in political disputes in left organizations as far as we are aware, with the Montreal cell being portrayed as more anti-trans by the central leadership), and the relation between the RCP and the various groups it sets up which includes not only the RSM , but also the Revolutionary Workers Movement, the Proletarian Feminist Front, and recently local anti-fascist groups (Sudbury Against Fascism, Toronto Against Fascism). In the left these have most often been referred to as ‘front’ groups and the debate within the RCP has been over how much direct control to exert over these organizations, with the Montreal cell apparently arguing for more direct control. The new central leadership has argued for the need to break with old ideas. While the new leadership is trying in our view to address some important questions it does this entirely outside of the debates and discussions going on within our struggles and movements and is not putting in question the fundamentals of the sectarian politics that define the RCP.

[5] Although RCP supporters have criticisms of Stalin, they defend the dictator who between the 1920s and his death in 1953 headed the bureaucratic ruling class that industrialized the USSR by super-exploiting workers and peasants while brutally crushing any resistance and dissent (hundreds of thousands of people were executed under Stalin, and even more died as a result of the famine that followed from the forced dispossession of the peasantry). The RCP denies that it’s Stalinist because of its limited criticisms of Stalin’s thought, which they see as superseded by Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. However, as we explained, by Stalinism we don’t mean simply followers of Stalin the individual but supporters of a certain kind of authoritarian anti-capitalist politics, some of whom (such as those inspired by Mao) criticize aspects of Stalin’s politics and of the USSR under Stalin. All Stalinists agree that the USSR under Stalin made progress towards becoming a classless society (we disagree: this was a society based on exploitation by a bureaucratic ruling class whose state engulfed society!) but supporters of Stalinism are divided about the character of the USSR after Stalin’s death. We concur with Elliott Liu’s argument in his book Maoism and the Chinese Revolution: A Critical Introduction that Maoism is “an internal critique of Stalinism that fails to break with Stalinism.” While aspects of this internal critique can be useful it is still trapped within the basic framework of what can be called Stalinism and that of the bureaucratic class societies set up following the Russian and Chinese revolutions.

[6] Marc Becker, “Peruvian Shining Path.”

[7] Karl Marx, The First Draft of The Civil War in France.

[8] For critiques of this kind of use of the theory of the labour aristocracy, see Charlie Post’s two articles in Against the Current (https://www.solidarity-us.org/node/128; http://www.solidarity-us.org/node/129) and one in the journal Historical Materialism (https://www.academia.edu/3088682/Exploring_Working_Class_Consciousness_A_Critique_of_the_Theory_of_the_Labour-Aristocracy) and, from a different angle, Stephen D’Arcy’s blog article (https://publicautonomy.org/2014/06/20/bromma/).