Its unlikely many of today’s activists understand the significance of the “Second Red Scare” let alone the driving force against Communism in the 40’s and 50’s. If they did, then they would undoubtedly understand the American Right’s reaction to the modern iteration of Communism and its place in the nationwide spread of direct action. From Ferguson to Oakland, one organizing entity has reigned supreme, despite being low-key and benefitting from pseudo journalism, rebuffing claims of their presence. They reached their zenith in April with the #A14 Shutdown movement against police brutality. The resurgence of Communism in the form of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA has been baffling to some, and down right aggravating to others. In all of the confusion two questions must be answered, Who are the “Revcoms” and why now?
The Revolutionary Communist Party, USA like many other activist groups trace their lineage to one or two movements existing in the 1960’s. As with many of these groups, the Revolutionary Communist Party, also known as Revcom, was formed after a split from a larger group. In this case, Revcom was a break-away group from the Students for a Democratic Society. Co-Founders Carl Dix, and Bob Avakian formally organized Revcom in 1975 and based it off of Avakian’s plethora of writings on what they termed, “the ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.” In short, Avakian and his comrades believe in the destruction of the current political, social, and economic systems in favor of a vanguard-led society where the workers produce and trade goods and services without the burdens of capitalism. In this new-found society old vestiges of patriarchy, oppression, capitalism, and racism would be a thing of the past. Freedom would be found in the ability to produce and consume as one great communal collective.
Why Communism Now?
Avakian and Dix are old school activists who understand that the bold, in-your-face direct action favored by millennial activists will not work. Instead, they favor a far more intellectual approach to revolution. Unlike socialist-anarchists, Revcoms choose to “smash the system” by highlighting obvious manifestations of the oppressive system one at a time, and organizing activists to confront those elements, all the while pointing out how obvious it is that change is required. All the while Revcoms hint that their system in the best alternative.
This is what led Revcom to the current “police reform” movement. To Revcom, Mike Brown, Walter Scott, and Eric Garner are all victims of the capitalist bourgeoisie oppressing African American men at the heel of white cops. The police are the jackbooted thugs of the system, therefore they are the most obvious target for direct action. Hence, the #A14 Shut Down against police brutality. Dix is no stranger to anti-law enforcement movements. He is the driving force behind the “Stop Mass Incarceration Network” (SMIN) which focuses solely on law enforcements’ interaction with Black America. #A14 was held on SMIN’s traditional day of action and not so incidentally, it was also Equal Pay Day. More on this another time.
A quick review of photographs from the “Hands Up” and Black Lives Matter events across the country reveal a large number of Revcom signs and supporters. The prevalence of Revcom paraphernalia is a sign Dix and Avakian have succeeded in connecting with the disenfranchised African American community, a plight they failed at in 2005. The question is, how deep is the connection? The presence of their propaganda is not necessarily a sign Communism is becoming more popular. Marches and rallies are great places to spread one’s ideology, but not a great place to understand them. For this reason, Revcom may be experiencing a flash-in-the-pan resurgence based only on the disquieted voices in the BLM movement. In fact, if history is any indication of future behavior, once people get to know Avakian and his cult-like following, they will more than likely move away from the group.
Revcom’s resurgence may soon prove to be more than just a temporary flash, as there are indications the group is moving into the “Fight for $15” living wage demonstrations. In the meantime, however they appear to be happy supplying signs, tracts, and web space for the Black Lives Matter movement. A decision that may not bring many converts, but has succeeded in bringing attention. Something Avakian craves.