Meeting Revolutionary Communist Party members

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Mar 02, 2008 Meeting Revolutionary Communist Party members

My life in and out of the law practice has brought me in contact with many interesting people, including those with whom I vehemently disagree.

The Revolutionary Communist Party is a group with which I very much disagree. Nevertheless, I have had two very interesting interactions with some members of this Maoist communist group.

In one instance, in 1986 — just a week or so before starting law school — I passed by Manhattan’s Revolution Books, which is part of the RCP’s propaganda machine, and decided to take a look. The sole worker there asked me to check my backpack with her. She later directed me to the RCP’s latest issue of the Revolutionary Worker — which now possibly is just named Revolution — which included a front page article about the Maoist communist Sendero Luminoso/Shining Path guerrillas in Peru. She asked me my "take" on the issue, but I did not at the time know much about the Shining Path, other than to know the group was communist, and was using violence to try to overthrow the Peruvian government. From the way Human Rights Watch portrays it, both Shining Path and the Peruvian government are responsible for extensive and very brutal treatment of Peruvians, including the killings or disappearance of over 60,000 people during the guerrilla war from the 1980’s to 1990’s.  

A few minutes into my Revolution Books visit, the worker had to go to the backroom or the bathroom, and asked if I would not mind keeping an eye on the store during her five to ten-minute absence. Savoring the irony of being asked to mind the store (and, thus, to mind the property of a communist group that advocates for no personal property) by the same person who had a few minutes earlier asked me to check my bag, I took her up on the request; I think nobody came into the store during that time. She returned and suggested I buy the Revolutionary Worker issue, which I did for a buck, and I left.

Twenty years later, I obtained an acquittal for a very active RCP member and leader (by now, I have defended people from all over the political spectrum), who was arrested while exercising his First Amendment-protected right to free speech. Aside from his RCP politics, he was a very likable and fascinating man. At one point, he mentioned a previous protest effort by RCP members against Deng Xiaoping. I later read RCP chair Bob Avakian’s autobiography to see how vehemently RCP members opposed Deng. I found it particularly curious that in a lighter passage in Avakian’s book, he says his reaction to happening on a certain musical or sports tidbit was to say "Oh my god." I’m surprised his vetters did not remove this would-be atheist-promoting communist leader’s reference to a deity and replace it with, for instance, "Oh my president of the Council for Secular Humanism." 

Jon Katz.

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