It seems that the Revolutionary Communist Party has a large notice running in the latest New York Review of Books. I have not actually seen that issue yet, but over the weekend, a friend wrote to protest:
Simply staggered that you have not signed onto the full page ad in the NYRB (Engage!) demanding that the voice of Bob Avakian be projected and protected. You, who have done so much to keep Avakian before the masses. You, who have chosen not to join voices including Mumia Abu Jamal, Rickie Lee Jones, Aladdin, Ward Churchill, Chuck D, Cornel West, and Michael Eric Dyson.
Don’t you know that Martin Niemoller said that “first they came for the communists?”
Okay, my mistake. It is also true that I have neglected to blog about the doings of Chairman Bob for months now. In part, though, that has been because the Chairman went AWOL for quite a spell there. No new articles or interviews with him appeared in the party press, and after a while it became reasonable to wonder what was up. Something cardiac, perhaps? Involving rich pastries?
It turns out that he was busy writing a new book, Away With All Gods! which, to judge from an advance extract, will be like Christopher Hitchens drained of wit and strong preservatives.
But what is up with that full-page ad? One speculation I’ve heard—this seems just too preposterous, but who knows—is that Avakian might be getting ready to run for president. (Should this idea start zipping around the wonkosphere, remember, all the baseless speculation was launched here, at Crooked Timber.)
Obviously nothing of the sort was possible when he was abroad, allegedly in Paris, back in the days of the slogan “Revolution in the 1980s—Go For It!” It seems that he came back to the US circa 2001. A few years ago, I spent several months trying to arrange an interview with him, which involved numerous meetings to plan meetings with people who would meet with Avakian to determine if such a meeting could take place, possibly. I was completely prepared to have a burlap sack put over my head and be driven around in the back of a van for eighteen hours. This never came to pass.
In any case, the more strident rhetoric of yesteryear has been replaced with a sort of reinvention of the Popular Front, with the RCP reaching out to the broad masses of various classes through groups like The World Can’t Wait. This development has not failed to draw censure—with the recent Workers Vanguard headline, for example warning that “RCP Maoists ‘Serve the People’…Up to the Democrats.” The polemical knives are out:
RCP spokesperson Sunsara Taylor recently wrote a breathless “Reporters Notebook from Coachella,” gushing that the reunited lineup of Rage Against the Machine at the festival “will certainly play in favor of humanity” (Revolution, 27 May). And if music isn’t your thing, then you can always get excited about secondary colors. Thus the WCW’s initiative, “Declare It Now,” hopes “a groundswell of orange can turn into a groundswell of hope and danger—a groundswell that rises up from below and has the potential of sweeping Bush from office before his term is up” (www.declareitnow.com). Given that they’ve claimed black and neon green in the past, it seems the only color the RCP doesn’t want to be associated with is red.
Oh, snap! That’s the Spartacist League we all know and love. They’ve spent an awful lot of energy over the past couple of years trying to talk their way around the fact that their maximum leader (a figure of sub-Bob-ian charisma named James Robertson) once referred to the Kurds as “the Turds.” It’s good to see them back on their feet again.
And anyway, the Sparts do have a point. The RCP analysis and slogans over the past few years have implicitly acknowledged that if you want to oppose the “Christian Fascists” on any but a rhetorical plane, you have to work with people around the Democratic Party and otherwise put some pressure on it. Sooner or later, this means playing the electoral game somehow.
So the iron laws of history make the next step seem clear: Run, Bob, run!