Bob Avakian on Bob Avakian

Intro by Mike Ely

Special Issue on Avakian
The Special Revolution Issue on Bob Avakian, a concentrated expression of A.P.& P.
I urge you to read Bob Avakian's own public argument in favor of his cult of personality in the January 13 issue of Revolution.


I urge you to read Bob Avakian’s own public argument in favor of his cult of personality in the January 13 issue of Revolution.

Avakian has previously talked openly about his cult of personality, including the following from his 2005 memoir:

“I remember, for example, being challenged by someone interviewing me — I believe this was on a college radio station in Madison, Wisconsin — who asked insistently: ‘Is there a “cult of personality” developing around Bob Avakian?’ And I replied: ‘I certainly hope so — we’ve been working very hard to create one.’” (page 393)

More recently this cult of personality is referred to by an Avakian formulation: as the “culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization around the leadership, the body of work and the method and approach of Bob Avakian.” (This tongue-twister is understandably shortened to “A.P.& P.” in RCP jargon).

Some of Avakian’s own thinking on the need for this “culture of appreciation” is now more publicly elaborated.

Here is the opening section of Avakian’s pitch for his own cult of personality:

“One important aspect of boldly spreading revolution and communism everywhere is the work of building what we have characterized as a culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization around the leadership, the body of work and the method and approach of Bob Avakian. Now, I recognize that some people (especially among the middle strata, frankly) may find it “immodest” (and perhaps, to some, strangely disturbing) for me to speak about this (and, for god’s sake, to refer to myself in the third person!). But, first of all and fundamentally, “modesty” (or “immodesty”) is not the essential issue, not the heart of the matter. This, like everything else, is a matter of a scientific approach—objectively assessing what is represented by a particular person and their role, their body of work and their method and approach—and it should be viewed and evaluated, by myself or anyone else, in this way and according to these criteria (and, let’s be honest, would those who object to my referring to myself in the third person here really be any less “put off” if I were to talk about “a culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization around the leadership, the body of work and the method and approach of myself”?). No, the essence of the question is: what is objectively represented by this leadership, this body of work and method and approach, and what does this have to do with the larger question of transforming the world?

“As Lenin emphasized in What Is To Be Done?, one of the key tasks of communists is to set before all their communist convictions and aims. And this means presenting what is, at any time, the most advanced representation of those convictions and aims. In fundamental terms, the principles involved are the same as in all fields of scientifically based endeavor (physics, biology, medicine, and so on): breakthroughs are very often associated with a particular individual, and to speak about the most advanced understanding at a given time would be impossible without reference to and, yes, a certain focus on, that individual—and attempting to avoid such reference and focus would be extremely artificial and wrong, and not at all helpful. So, once more, while of course there are particularities to the sphere of political (and ideological) leadership, and more specifically to communist leadership,with regard to anyone whose role has a significant influence (or is put forward as something which should have a significant influence), the basic question comes down to: what is the content of that role, and in particular the content of the body of work and the method and approach of that person, and what effect would it have, one way or another, if that were to have greater, or lesser, impact and influence?

“Why am I—why is my body of work, and method and approach—important? Because this is bringing forward an advanced understanding, a heightened understanding, of what revolution and communism are all about and how to move toward the objective of revolution and communism, as well as a method for engaging and struggling through the contradictions that are inevitably going to be encountered in that process. (Some things are inevitable—and, while the achievement of communism is not inevitable, it is inevitable that in the struggle to achieve communism we are going to encounter many complex and difficult contradictions. We can guarantee that.)”

To read the rest.

This is excerpted from a much much larger talk called “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity.” This particular section is entitled (appropriately enough) “A culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization.” It is a prominent part of a larger subsection called “Meaningful Revolutionary Work.”

In other words, this cult of personality (“A.P.&P) is a central component of how the RCP conceives of meaningful work.

Three of our 9 Letters are devoted to criticizing the theory behind Avakian’s cult of personality (Letters 67, and 8).

In response, supporters of the RCP are sometimes incredulous that the RCP could actually believe that “Avakian is the cardinal question among communists” (i.e. that appreciation of him is THE dividing line between revolutionary communism and counterrevolutionary revisionism. They assume that the opening of Letter 6: The Theory Surrounding “A Leader of This Caliber” must be a distortion or an exaggeration.

For example when Kasama-rl writes (on the discussion site RevLeft): “Here is the heart of it: The RCP now holds that the appreciation of Avakian is a ‘cardinal question.’”

A party supporter writes in response: “I have never heard the RCP or anyone with the RCP state that, and if it is somewhere stated, I think that is a misinterpretation of what they mean by ‘cardinal question.’ I know for a fact that that is not the meaning of the RCP’s line and that is not the attitude or the position of the RCP people that I know.”

I agree with Avakian, by the way, that “’modesty’ (or ‘immodesty’) is not the essential issue, not the heart of the matter.” The essential issue is line. And once we are clear that this “culture of appreciation” and “Avakian as cardinal question” are in fact the line of the RCP then we can move on to the real matters of line:

  • Are such artificially promoted cults of personality really communist methods and communist views?
  • Is Avakian’s new synthesis really ” the most advanced representation” of communist thinking? Is it correct? Is it of world-historic importance?
  • Is the promotion of Bob Avakian really central to doing “Meaningful Revolutionary Work”? Is it correct to make a major strategic reconception of communist work in order to make room for all this A.P.&P?

And, from there we can go where we now need to go: To collectively working out how we will, in fact, now do “meaningful revolutionary work.” I have many initial thoughts on where to go now — and how to regroup to do actually meaningful revolutionary work together.

And so do many other people.