The following study guide was compiled by the Organization of Communist Revolutionaries (US) (OCR) to assist comrades in developing into communist cadre by providing them with a grounding in the communist tradition, key communist principles and concentrations of revolutionary strategy, and operational principles for functioning like communist cadre. The texts marked “supplementary” need not all be studied at once, but can be used to deepen and expand your development after the initial study course is completed. We especially suggest that comrades study our Manifesto in detail early on in the process, treating it as a document to guide all our practice, and then restudy individual sections of it in combination with the supplementary texts. The texts marked “overall” provide comprehensive concentrations of communist principles, and should be treated as overarching background to the material as a whole.
Neither the CP nor the RCP can be resuscitated. The CP carved out its revolutionary heart long ago, and there is no cure for zombies. Any resurgence in membership and interest it may be experiencing today reflects the pathetic reality that is internet “communists” looking for some sense of belonging. The RCP still has some revolutionary trappings, but it is so far degenerated and its organizational structure is so impervious to criticism/self-criticism that it cannot be a vehicle for revolutionary transformation. Perhaps some of its members still have hearts that beat for revolution, but their arteries are clogged and they would need to be removed from the degenerated body they are part of (the RCP) in order to even stand a chance at getting their arteries cleared and once again putting their hearts into revolution.
Consequently, the principal task before all revolutionaries in the US today is to work towards the formation of a new communist vanguard party. For the principal lesson to take from our summations of the CP and RCP is that a vanguard makes revolution a possibility, but in the absence or degeneration of a vanguard, opportunities for revolutionary advance will be lost. If our summations of vanguards past have not sufficiently sobered you up to this fact, then let us look at the consequences of not having a vanguard over the last decade as one major crisis after another drew various classes into political life and as resistance to the injustices of bourgeois rule broke out on a number of social faultlines. As with our summation of the Sixties, what follows will be a “broad strokes” summation of the 2010s, looking at how different classes responded to the major crises and political questions of the decade and what types of politics and political forces emerged.
What eventually became the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (hereafter RCP) came out of the revolutionary movement of the Sixties, so our summation necessarily begins there, with the formation of the Revolutionary Union, the precursor to the RCP. The widespread revolutionary mood in the late 1960s did not preordain that dedicated militants would seek to build a new communist vanguard party. The dominant politics within the emerging revolutionary movement of that time could best be described as eclectics. Sixties revolutionaries grabbed up different and even opposing ideas, representing different ideologies and world outlooks, about the possibility and necessity of revolution in the US, the role of national liberation struggles, the nature of the Soviet Union and countries in its orbit such as Cuba, and the revolutionary road offered by Mao’s leadership and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China. These different ideas, or, in communist parlance, different political lines, often coexisted within the same organizations, and sifting through what was correct from what was incorrect, what would serve the revolutionary transformation of society from what was a dead end, required line struggle and firm grounding in communist principles while creatively applying those principles to the conditions of the US at the time. In this situation, the greatest contribution of the Revolutionary Union was to argue for communist principles and clarity on the key questions before the revolutionary movement, so the beginning of this summation will focus on how it developed and fought for its ideological and political line.
Ontologically speaking, decades are not demarcated by definite decimals, but by the spirit, and, for our purposes, political struggles that marked them. “The Sixties” connotes a period in US history of growing revolt against the established order that culminated in a revolutionary movement by the decade’s end. It opened with an increasingly militant Civil Rights Movement against the oppression of Black people in the South, an oppression that was enforced by outright, legally sanctioned segregation and legal and extra-legal white supremacist violence and terror. Students were among the most militant fighters in the Civil Rights struggle, and brought the spirit of resistance back to their campuses, with the Berkeley Free Speech Movement of 1964–5 marking a growing refusal of the Sixties generation to accept the status quo. Simultaneous with the rise of the student movements was a growing revolutionary mood among Black proletarians, palpable in the widespread popularity of Malcolm X in the mid-1960s.
By the late 1960s, cities across the country were rocked by rebellions by Black proletarians and universities were shut down in student strikes against the US imperialist war of aggression in Indochina, with many ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) buildings burned to the ground. Rebellions and protest movements generated a new generation of revolutionaries, convinced that “the system,” however they understood it, needed to be overthrown. This new generation of revolutionaries, numbering in the tens of thousands and swimming in a rebellious sea of millions, then took up the task of figuring out how to make revolution in the belly of the beast.
Mao succinctly summed up that “Classes struggle, some classes triumph, others are eliminated.”1 Before there were Marxists, before there was an attempt to organize a communist party, there was, of course, class struggle on the North American continent. The oppressed and dispossessed waged courageous revolts against their oppressors for centuries: the Indigenous peoples against colonizers, slaves against slave masters.
Marxism began to spread and proletarian organization began to develop in the United States in the second half of the nineteenth century. In 1851, Joseph Wedemeyer, a comrade of Marx and Engels, arrived in the US after the failed 1848 revolutionary uprising in Germany (and all over Europe) and carried out socialist propaganda among German proletarian immigrants and fought on the Union side in the Civil War as a staunch abolitionist. Various efforts at organizing proletarians included the early Knights of Labor, while the strictly craft union approach of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) was geared more towards the emerging labor aristocracy. The first attempt at building an organization in the US based on Marxist principles was the Socialist Labor Party (SLP). Founded in 1876, the SLP was the US affiliate of the First International, a collection of mostly European organizations, with Marx and Engels playing a leading role in the International. The SLP played an important early role in spreading Marxist propaganda in the US. Under the leadership of Daniel De Leon, the SLP hinged its entire strategy on the idea of building socialist “dual unions” (staying out of established unions such as the AFL and attempting to build its own instead) as a path to socialism in the US, dooming itself to early irrelevancy.2
In this document, we present our summations of the politics and practice of the two communist vanguard parties that have existed in the United States—the Communist Party, USA (hereafter CP) and the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (hereafter RCP)—as well as briefer summations of the revolutionary movement that emerged in the late 1960s and the decade of revolutionary potential diverted, the 2010s. It is our intention, through this document, to give the CP and the RCP a proper funeral by celebrating their accomplishments, acknowledging the difficult challenges they faced, coming to terms with their shortcomings and errors, and grieving their loss all so we can move forward. In life and in politics, giving the literal and political deceased proper funerals is necessary so that we are not haunted by the past or doomed to repeat its mistakes and instead can form a healthy relationship with our ancestors.
2023 opened with three high-profile murders by police across the US. In Los Angeles, Keenan Anderson was tasered six times and died of cardiac arrest due to the brutality of the police. In Atlanta, Manuel “Tortuguita” Terán was shot dead by police while taking part in a protest occupation to prevent Atlanta forestland from being bulldozed to make way for the construction of “Cop City,” a massive police training facility. In Memphis, Tyre Nichols was brutally beaten and pepper sprayed by at least five cops and died three days later from his injuries. These three police murders that made national news are the tip of the iceberg: a study by the Mapping Police Violence project shows that in 2022, police in the US killed around 100 people per month, the highest number ever recorded.1
The sheer quantity and the vicious brutality of police killings proves the communist understanding that the role of the police is to serve and protect the ruling class, and in the US, that means harassing, brutalizing, locking in jail, and lynching the most oppressed and potentially rebellious sections of the population, especially Black proletarians. After a decade of large protests and a series of rebellions culminating nationwide in Summer 2020, the question of “why hasn’t anything changed?” is on the minds of the broad masses. As communists, our responsibility is to give answers to this question that go beyond the spontaneous, often righteous, understanding of the masses and that contend with liberal, postmodernist, abolitionist, and Leftist answers that all ultimately obfuscate the class interests behind the perpetuation of police brutality and the oppression of Black people.
Comrade Jose Maria Sison has passed away at the age of 83 after two weeks of hospitalization in his place of forced exile in Utrecht, Netherlands. He lived his whole life in struggle and service to the Filipino people, to the international proletariat, and to the oppressed and struggling peoples of the whole world. Joma, as he was affectionately known, modeled the communist principles of sacrifice, resilience in the face of torture, and an unwillingness to rest content with past accomplishments. From the classroom to the streets, from the countryside to revolutionary diplomacy, wherever he found himself Joma Sison found a way to make his life about advancing the Philippine revolution forward through whatever means he had at his disposal.
As a political leader, comrade Joma’s achievements are remarkable: after being the most influential leader of the radical Philippine student movement in the 1960s, he led a struggle against the revisionists who had made the old Philippine Communist Party (PKP) useless, and re-founded the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in 1968. Established by Joma and his comrades on a revolutionary basis, the CPP firmly placed itself in the camp of Mao Zedong and the Chinese revolution in opposing Soviet revisionism and the lie of peaceful co-existence between capitalism and socialism; and Joma put those principles into practice in founding the New People’s Army (NPA) in 1969. He served as the leader of the CPP as it expanded the reach of the revolution throughout the Philippine archipelago editing the CPP newspaper, and giving guidance to the mass movement in Manila and other cities that were confronting the US-backed dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who had declared martial law in 1972 to combat the growth of the Philippine revolution.