They've judiciously acted behind the scenes, allowing other groups' names to dominate fliers. They arrived to last week's Trayvon Martin rallies equipped with sandwich boards, hammer-and-sickle T-shirts, leaflets advertising a new Bob Avakian DVD, and stacks of Revolutionary Worker broadsides. They supplied all the necessary protest accouterments — the bullhorn, the signage, the paper to make more signs — but then ceded the floor to other speakers. It seems the key to RCP's method is knowing how to evangelize quietly.

Whether that slow courtship actually works is a matter of debate, given that old-school lefties are running up against myriad cultural barriers as they try to penetrate a young, fractured, anarchic, racially diverse population of protesters in Oakland. Many participants at last Monday's rally said they'd never belonged to an activist group, and they'd come out of curiosity and knee-jerk anger, having watched George Zimmerman's trial on TV. A broad-shouldered, 25-year-old protester named Bo said he'd never encountered a social movement until Occupy Oakland set up its tent city outside City Hall. He considers himself a fleeting supporter.

"I'll keep it honest," Bo said, staring absently at the group marching down Broadway. "I'm fresh out of jail. I didn't know this was going on."

Many people may be new to the protest game, but the signage they're using comes from old pros with an old cause.
Joseph Geha
Many people may be new to the protest game, but the signage they're using comes from old pros with an old cause.

That lack of ideological commitment frustrates older organizers like Gerald Smith, a former Black Panther who now steers a small group called the Oscar Grant committee, which serves as an attaché to larger organizations. Smith, who has a shock of white hair and legs too feeble to "march around in circles for hours," says he grudgingly joined forces with the Revolutionary Communists to coordinate the Sunday and Monday protests. (He's not a Communist himself.) But he's frustrated by the way protesters proceeded, particularly after dusk, when participants — none of them affiliated with any particular cause — resorted to smashing windows and spray-painting storefronts.

"As one of the organizers, I have to say this is the opposite of organization," Smith said, holding court at the corner of 14th and Broadway on Monday evening, while the other demonstrators headed toward Lake Merritt. "This is an outpouring of young people," he continued. "But there are certain things that require structure and leadership."

Indeed, the most conspicuous feature of Oakland protests is that they start off with a conventional structure and ultimately devolve into loose, cat-and-mouse-style rioting, at which point the old-school Communists typically leave. They aren't known for inciting violence, but don't condemn it either; asked how she felt about all the dissolute rage over Martin, Redmonde remained coy, saying only that U.S. imperialists are the biggest source of violence in the world today, and black and Latino youth will be crushed if they don't fight back.

Gitlin says there's good reason for Redmonde and other Revolutionary Communists to stay agnostic: If you're a parasite in someone else's movement, you don't want to damage the host.

Yet the violence of Oakland protests puts organizations like the Revolutionary Communist Party — which is disciplined, hierarchical, unfashionable, rigorous, and oriented toward "principled debate" — in an awkward position. In some senses, it's a cost of doing business: Revolutionary Communists want to access Oakland's existing supply line of angry, politically agitated young people who all aspire to be radical. But to do that, they'll have to convert those youth to a different protest methodology — one that's anathema to the anarchic, "leaderless" ethos of the Occupy movement, or the aimless fury in Oakland's recent spate of "Fuck the Police" marches. It would seem counter-intuitive for Bo, or any former Occupier, to suddenly join the cult of Bob Avakian and endorse his cries for "scientific Communist leadership."

Faced with those hurtles, spokeswoman Redmonde and other Revolutionary Communists remain hopeful. "The protests following the Zimmerman verdict were very powerful precisely because a wide range of people and groups were sickened by the verdict," Redmonde says via e-mail. "What they and others need to know is that this is totally unnecessary, and that the world could be radically different through revolution — which IS possible."

But Gitlin says that if Trayvon Martin starts a revolution, Communists won't necessarily be at the helm. "They're gilding a lily," he says. "Trayvon Martin is far more popular than they are."

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12 comments
fratdawgg23
fratdawgg23

Are they left-over COINTELPRO FBI agents provacateur from the J. Edgar days? LoL

loverly
loverly

A good start, Rachel, but you've only dipped your toe in the pool.

Communist groups have been behind essentially EVERY SINGLE protest in Berkeley and Oakland since the 1970s, and most of the ones in San Francisco too.

If it isn't the RCP, it's World Can't Wait, or ANSWER (another communist group), or the Party for Socialism and Liberation, or the Bolshevik Tendency or any of their many front groups and offshoots, or any of several other organizations that aren't blatantly communist in their self-identified names but are just as hardcore in their ideology (such as By Any Means Necessary, Occupy Patriarchy, and so forth). 

In some cases the communist groups initiate the protest; in others they simply parasitize an existing moment of underclass outrage; but in all my years of participating in and/or observing protests in the East Bay, I can't think of a single one that lacked a significant communist presence.

And here's the key point that you left out of the article:

What differentiates these old-school communist groups from (for lack of a better term) the neo-crypto-Marxists is that the oldsters missed the memo that the route to socialism is not through OVERT calls for revolution but rather through stealth and infiltration. The "new" (in the last three decades or so) technique is now to introduce socialism bit by bit to America, but deny that you are doing so.

Thus, the fundamental difference between these embarrassing and counter-productive protest groups and the much more common postmodern crypto-socialists is that the old-timers are not followers of Gramsci, the Italian communist philosopher who recommended a slow and surreptitious takeover of society's institutions (education, media, etc.) rather than the blunt in-your-face violent revolution advocated by the Leninists and the Maoists.

The amazing thing about Gramscianism is that it functions as a virus such that most of the young people participating in the slow-motion socialist takeover of America have no idea that they are even doing so. Indoctrinated by the first wave of devilishly clever teachers, misinformed by devilishly clever media, and led astray by devilishly clever politicians, the young activists of today for the most part have no clue that the positions they advocate and the social or economic changes they push are actually part of an incremental communist revolution. All they "know" is that they're hip and with the in-crowd, a misapprehension which their indoctrinators intentionally encourage.

The Gramscian stealth revolution would be even more successful than it is were it not for these clueless antediluvian communists who repeatedly let the cat out the bag and trumpet their communist credentials at every public protest, allowing the opposition to (accurately) point out the communist roots of the left's ideology, a pushback that would not be possible without these communist dinosaurs flashing their hammer-and-sickles everywhere.

Unfortunately for the left, the Gramscian project has almost run its course, as their ideological opponents are by now fully apprised of the strategy, and point it out as often as possible. The denials and mock affrontery emanating from the left are becoming more shrill, more frequent, and less believable.

nobiggovduh
nobiggovduh

Your seeing ghosts.


Just because someone thinks there is something fundamentally wrong with capitalism doesn't mean they are part of some OLD fringe group. 

DocHoliday
DocHoliday

Obama is responsible for the racial division. The dept of Justice funded riots all over America so Obama could desparetly plays the race card. People are not buying it. He preached peace and gave America war. He talked transparency yet spied on us all and prosecuted more whistle blowers than any other president in history. He kills innocent children with his drones. He is a communist and he is trying to break America which Dr. Martin Luther King spoke of.  It is high time we as American have had enough of this fraud and call for his impeachment.

塞繆塞繆
塞繆塞繆

This is false "We Are All Trayvon Martin" Everyone in the USA is not like this guy!

terpsez11
terpsez11

of course-- I thought of Van Jones and what he would desire to see as demagogue rhetoric from all of this--- destroying the statues quo  is the objective of every manic criminal --inciting violence and Polar Bear attacks is beyond decency  

meme
meme

@loverlyEXCELLENT analysis.


But I was amused at the article's presentation of Gitlin as a dispassionate observer. Puh LEEZE!!! Gitlin is a former president of Students for a Democratic Society, one of the most radical leftist organizations of the 60's.

Instead of "It's how they recruit", he should have said "It's how we recruited".

fratdawgg23
fratdawgg23

@DocHoliday - Obama is half black and that is too much for 'your kind' to handle. The most radical thing about Obama was smoking cigarettes. And apparently he gave that up after the 2008 election IIRC.

DocHoliday
DocHoliday

@fratdawgg23 @DocHoliday 

Get a clue. Obama's REAL Daddy Frank Marshall was a devote communist.  I could give a shit what he smokes!  The man has been systematically disem- bowling the the US Constitution. He has no love of this country. Truth be told he is the bankers shoe shine boy giving his criminal buddies like John Corisne a pass for stealing grandmothers retirement.  You can't handle the truth! Fact he has prosecuted more whistleblowers than another president.  HIS administration prosecuted Bradley Manning.   His administration sold automatic weapons to drug gangs. His administration funded Musilim Brotherhood and Al Queda.  Half black? I could give a shit. News Flash MORON it doesn't matter what color you are. What matters is your policies and philosophy.  This Fraud for a president is the most destructive and devisive president in our Nations history and the sooner he is impeached the better.  Your just a useful idiot

 
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