Annie Day, Commie stooge

Bob Avakian

On this site, we’ve profiled a few top members of the Revolutionary Communist Party – among them top cat Bob Avakian, perennial sidekick Carl Dix, and ever-devoted spokeswoman Sunsara Taylor. In doing so, however, we’ve neglected another major member of the Avakian crew: Annie Day. Last October, the party’s own website ran an in-depth interview with her – kind of like a magazine running an ad for itself. What emerged was a portrait of a woman who’s just as dedicated a member of the Avakian cult – for that’s what it is, a cult – as Sunsara Taylor herself.

Annie Day

Day was interviewed shortly after the launch of Avakian’s book The New Communism, and she was eager to talk about – okay, get ready for this – what a “powerful example of what difference it would make in the world and society if Bob Avakian’s work were known and engaged – the challenges that presents, the hope that inspires, the moral unity and outrage at the horrors that exist today, and also the deep inquiry into the source of the problem in the system of capitalism and the way out through making an actual revolution to get rid of all the oppressive and antagonistic divisions among people which cause so much unnecessary suffering today.”

Sansura Taylor

Phew. That’s the way these people talk, and it’s apparently the way they think – in these endless strings of windy clichés about challenge and hope and outrage and inquiry. And, of course, revolution. It’s not terribly illuminating. But what was rather interesting about the interview, although in an admittedly perverse way, was Day’s patently fanatic devotion to the goal of “project[ing] Avakian’s work throughout society,” her apparently sincere belief that Avakian had somehow accomplished a “new synthesis of communism” that represents “a breakthrough for humanity.”

Day called Avakian “the Karl Marx of our time” and described his “new synthesis of communism” as “a revolution in human thought” and “a whole different framework, scientifically grounded, for human emancipation” that should be “known, engaged, and debated in every corner of society, yes, all around the world.” Every problem in the world, every kind of suffering in the world, maintained Day, can be explained – and fixed – by Avakian’s analysis and by his “new synthesis of communism” which is “a real storehouse for humanity.”

Carl Dix

Who is Annie Day? In an article for Harpers published in February of last year, Garret Keizer reported on a 2014 RCP event at which Avakian spoke. The next day he met for breakfast with Day. He described her as “focused, upbeat, and kind,” and attributed these characteristics to “the serenity common to people so radically committed that they no longer need an attitude to convince themselves they’re real.” Day, wrote Keizer, was now in her 30s and been an RCP member since age 19. How did she become a Communist? “One evening she heard a woman speak at Revolution Books about going to Shanghai ‘when China was socialist’ and walking the streets at night without fear. The remark was an epiphany for Annie. ‘So much of my life had been about walking home.’” In other words, while Mao was executing millions of innocent people, the streets of Shanghai were safe to walk at night. And so a Communist was born.  

Sunsara Taylor’s perpetual revolution

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Sunsara Taylor

Sunsara Taylor, whom we’ve been discussing this week, is currently telling anyone who will listen that Donald Trump is a fascist, worse than Hitler, who will gradually introduce a cruel dictatorship and maybe even destroy the entire planet in a nuclear Armageddon. You might induce from this that Taylor cherishes American freedom and sees Trump as a disastrously departure from the previous occupants of the Oval Office. Um, no. Last year, long before the election of Trump as president seemed even a remote possibility, Taylor was on the warpath against the American system. Along with her Revolutionary Communist Party comrade Carl Dix, as we saw yesterday, she set out on a national tour of college campuses with a goal of recruiting revolutionaries and overthrowing the government. The press release announcing the tour read, in part:

bob-avakian-communist-columbia-micah_fleckThis world cries out for radical change….

A radically different and far better world is possible—getting rid of this madness and horror, and getting beyond a world of oppression, exploitation, and domination. This will take an Actual Revolution.

“Revolution” and “socialism” are in the air…But a real revolution—one that aims to change the world—is radically different and, yes, more demanding. A real revolution requires a scientific understanding of society and how to radically change it. That science has been qualitatively developed by the revolutionary leader, Bob Avakian. We’re coming to your campus to get into this with you.

The tour appears to have been something less than a spectacular success. Witness a report by Columbia University student journalist Micah Fleck. “Though flyers spangled the hallways and scaffolding of Columbia’s campus promoting Carl Dix and Sunsara Taylor for Months,” wrote Fleck, “fewer than two dozen students attended their April 13 talk in a room that can seat more than 200.”

But Taylor didn’t let the pathetically low turnout defeat her. Referring to the cause, quite simply, as “The Revolution,” she and Dix presented a “new constitution,” which the RCP had helpfully published in book form in 2010. (It can be read in its entirely – 104 pages – here.) Taylor told her cozy audience that her movement sought to bring about “a world without America and everything America stands for.”

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With fellow RCP leader Carl Dix

As we’ve noted, no matter what the name of the group or the specific cause du jour, Taylor has always been nothing more or less than an operative for the RCP. And her specific groups and movements and campaigns have never been anything other than efforts to enhance the RCP’s influence and power. And, above all, to raise the profile of Bob Avakian. Even a relatively sympathetic student, Pier Harrison, who attended one of her events at New York University in February 2010, was taken aback by the fact that she spoke “with cult-like reverence for party Chairman Bob Avakian.”

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Annie Day

Harrison reported that “[b]etween Taylor’s speech and the Q&A[,] staff sent around collection baskets, just like in Church, for donations to support her tour, and the goals of the RCP.” Harrison asked moderator Annie Day, also an RCP member, whether she, Taylor, and their comrades “intended to stage a violent or non-violent revolution. Her response: violent.

So, would there be bloodshed? Day replied: “Revolution is a serious business. This is not just the frustrations of individuals. We are not pacifists. So to answer your question, yes.” Harrison wrote: “The most mind-blowing part of this whole event was realizing that by ‘revolution’ they mean that they are willing to kill people.” He also suggested that “the RCP has hijacked the feminist agenda to further its own will to power, which, again, they do not hide.” He was certainly correct about that. Whether the issue is war or women’s rights or the Trump presidency, the business of the RCP – with Sunsara Taylor as its public face and voice – is hijacking, pure and simple.

Sunsara Taylor’s war on “the war on women”

We’re spending this week in the constantly agitating company of tireless activist Sunsara Taylor, a longtime member of Bob Avakian’s Revolutionary Communist Party. Over the years, she’s been the public face of a number of different groups purportedly dedicated to fighting different injustices. These days, as we’ve seen, she’s a spokeswoman for Refuse Fascism, which seeks to unseat President Trump (who, she argues, is worse than Hitler) and replace him with (who else?) Bob Avakian. Years ago, as we saw yesterday, she was involved in End Pornography and Patriarchy, a bold campaign to end America’s “war on women,” which, again, only Avakian could put a stop to.

taylorwarAnother group on Taylor’s résumé was “The World Can’t Wait,” which was active around 2007 and which was one of many organizations protesting America’s war in Iraq. Indeed, it’s hard not to feel that the real point of “The World Can’t Wait” was to bring in members who were motivated by antiwar sentiments as a first step toward recruiting them into the RCP. Taylor “spoke at over 50 campuses” in an effort to “Drive Out the Bush Regime” and thus bring an end to the war. In connection with this antiwar effort, she and her colleagues also made a practice of shouting down politicians who were trying to deliver speeches. “The World Can’t Wait” made a good deal of noise during George W. Bush’s presidency but seems to have disappeared into the ether by the time Barack Obama took office.

sunsBut Taylor didn’t go away. After putting in a good few months trying to stop America’s wars in the Middle East, she shifted gears and threw herself, heart and soul, into an effort to rid the planet of religion. This movement was tied in with the publication of Avakian’s 2008 book Away With All Gods: Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World. Just as “The World Can’t Wait” seemed to be a transparent attempt to exploit the antiwar movement to gain RCP converts, so Away With All Gods and the attendant activism comes off as a painfully obvious effort to swell RCP ranks by piggybacking onto the then-hot atheism movement spearheaded by Christopher Hitchens, whose bestseller God Is Not Great had come out in 2007, and Richard Dawkins, whose The God Delusion appeared in 2008.

Last year found Taylor involved in yet another crusade. In the months prior to the election that put Donald Trump in the Oval Office, Taylor was busy helping to run the RCP’s “Get into the Revolution Organizing Tour.” Along with her RCP comrade Carl Dix, she traveled from campus to campus around the U.S., trying to convince students “to become communists and kill off America.” On to that triumph tomorrow.

The Maoist behind decades of race riots

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Carl Dix

While Bob Avakian has worked hard to make himself the mystery man at the head of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), his co-founder, Carl Dix, who serves at party spokesman, has been the RCP’s public face. He’s led a career crowded with varied activities, though his ideological compass has remained constant: he’s always supported Maoist and Stalinist revolutions (in, for example, Nepal, Peru, and the Philippines), always expressed solidarity with convicted cop-killers (such as Mumia Abu Jamal and Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, né H. Rap Brown), always been determined to stir up violence against the police. As his bio at the RCP website puts it, he “believes in world revolution” and “has actively opposed U.S. imperialism” throughout his career.

In 1981 he moderated an event called the “Mass Proletarian War Crimes Tribunal,” which pretended to prosecute the U.S. government for its purported imperialism and international atrocities. That same year, when some of the Americans who’d been held hostage in Tehran for over a year sued the governments of the U.S. and Iran for damages in a Los Angeles court, Dix and a group of his followers were outside the courthouse accusing the hostages of war crimes.

(FILE FOOTAGE) April 29, 2012 marks the 20th anniversary of the Los Angeles Riots, when a jury acquitted three white and one hispanic LAPD officers in the beating of Rodney King following a high-speed pursuit. Thousands of people rioted in LA over the six days following the verdict.
An image from the 1992 L.A. riots

In 1992, Dix led a group of RCP agitators who played a key role in instigating the riots in Los Angeles that followed the verdict in the Rodney King case. Flyers distributed throughout the city carried a message signed by Dix calling on blacks to react to the verdict by waging “revolutionary war.” Not only did Dix and his comrades instigate the riots – they took part in them, looting stores and committing arson at several locations around L.A. Before the L.A. riots were over, more than 2300 people had been injured and 58 had lost their lives. (As one news source wrote at the time, the RCP had been “’working’ the various ethnic and immigrant groups for years” and during that time had celebrated every May Day by whipping up violent confrontations with the police.)

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Carl Dix and Cornel West

Dix has long worked in partnership with the so-called public intellectual Cornel West, a former professor at Harvard and Princeton. Together they led a successful campaign to end the NYPD’s “Stop and Frisk” program, which had helped make New York the safest large city in the United States. In 2011, they founded the Stop Mass Incarceration Network (SMIN) to “stop the slow genocide of mass incarceration” and “the police murder of Black, Latino and other oppressed peoples.”

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Dix and friends in Ferguson

In 2014, it was Dix & co. that fomented riots in New York City, Oakland, and Ferguson, Missouri, after the grand jury decided not to prosecute police officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown, a black man. Innumerable protesters in these cities carried signs bearing the RCP’s web address, and Dix himself was on the ground in Ferguson, where flyers bearing Dix’s byline described Wilson as a “murdering pig” and called on the public to block traffic, take over university buildings, stay away from work, and so on.

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Dix and Quentin Tarantino marching together against “killer cops”

In 2015, when police officers from around the U.S. called for a boycott of Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie because the director had described cops as murderers, Dix came to Tarantino’s defense, comparing the police to Mafiosos.

Last year he led a group that burned a flag outside the Republican National Convention, explaining helpfully to a reporter that the action was a “political statement about the crimes of the American empire. There’s nothing great about America.”

Debra Messing’s favorite Maoist?

This week we’ve been covering the life of Bob Avakian, longtime head of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (RCP). An ardent promoter of the ideas of Stalin and Mao, he’s been a staple of the left ever since the 1960s.

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Bob Avakian with Cornel West at Riverside Church

And he’s still out there slugging. In November 2014, Avakian broke with his longtime secretiveness to appear onstage with his good buddy Cornel West, the former Princeton and Harvard professor and frequent guest on Real Time with Bill Maher. The event took place at Riverside Church in New York City and was billed as a discussion about “Revolution and Religion.”

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Carl Dix

In fact, there was less discussion than there was haranguing by Avakian. After being introduced by his underling Carl Dix, who told the audience that the RCP leader had “brought forward a new synthesis of Communism,” Avakian – in the windy oratorical tradition of Fidel Castro and any number of other Communist dictators – stood at a lectern and ranted for two hours straight without saying anything particularly interesting or original. (Israel, he charged, is guilty of “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide.”) Then he and Cornel West sat down together and talked for almost two more hours, with Avakian, again, taking up most of the time pontificating. The RCP paid $70,000 for a full-page ad in the New York Times promoting the event.

mao-zedong1In June 2015, a student journalist at Harvard, Gram Slattery, probed the RCP, which drew his interest because of its bookstore in Harvard Square. Despite efforts to arrange an interview with the Dear Leader, he didn’t get to meet Avakian, but did get a sit-down with another party leader who, echoing RCP doctrine, dismissed the “narrative that Mao was a mass murderer, that he was personally responsible for 50 to 100 million deaths,” and asserted that Avakian “has dedicated himself to looking at what actually happened” in Mao’s China. Avakian, stated the RCP member, is “precious for humanity.” The RCP, reported Slattery, clung fast to “its reverence for Mao” and its defense of Stalin. (In the party’s view, “the Soviet Union went downhill once Khrushchev took over.”) Slattery also pointed out that the RCP, for a long time, had regarded Peru’s Shining Path terrorists – who “executed thousands of peasants and even took to torturing deviant Marxists in the early ’90s” – as role models.

inthenameofhumanityposter17x22-600-enAvakian ain’t down yet. He and his party have made a big splash since the election of Donald Trump. It was the RCP that was behind a widely published campaign to stop a Trump presidency before the inauguration.The centerpiece was an ad headlined “We REFUSE to accept a Fascist America!” It was signed by (among others) actor Ed Asner, activist Bill Ayers, comedian Margaret Cho, playwright Eve Ensler, director John Landis, actress Debra Messing, novelist Alice Walker, and (of course) Cornel West. One wonders how  many of them knew they were part of an initiative run by unreconstructed Maoists.  

To promote the campaign, West and RCP co-founder Carl Dix appeared on The O’Reilly Factor on Fox News on January 5. You can watch the interview below. Perhaps the highlight was when Dix likened Trump to Hitler. Interesting words indeed from a representative of a party that still celebrates the glorious legacies of Stalin and Mao.

Which, by the way, brings us to the question: what is Carl Dix’s story? We’ll get to him tomorrow.

The man who’s even too radical for The Nation

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Bob Avakian

Yesterday we met septuagenarian Bob Avakian, who’s spent his adult life as a Communist radical. Since 1975, he’s been head of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (RCP), which holds aloft the torch of Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong – and, not least, of Avakian himself, who has striven to make himself the center of a personality cult modeled on those of Stalin, Mao, Fidel Castro, Ho Chi Minh, and the Kims in North Korea.

Cornelius Pettus, owner of Payless market, throws a bucket of water on the flames at next-door business Ace Glass on 4/30/1992. Hyungwon Kang / Los Angeles Times.
An image from the 1992 L.A. riots

A high point for the RCP was the 1992 race riots in L.A., in which party members – who had relocated from Massachusetts to southern California for the purpose – sought to stir up racial discontent and transform it into full-fledged revolution. That’s not all. One reporter has conclude that in the 1990s, the RCP probably “penetrated the underground punk rock world” and even “owned a punk rock club in Houston.” In a 1994 interview with SPIN, Tom Morello, the lead guitarist of Rage against the Machine, apparently recommended an RCP bookstore and “vigorously” defended Shining Path – leading one to wonder whether Morello had fallen under the influence of Avakian and company. Another punk group, Outernational, featured RCP spokesman Carl Dix in a music video. The cultivation of celebrities and the effort to develop a personality cult around the founder are among the things that can make the RCP look very much, at least from some angles, like Scientology.

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Michelle Goldberg

After a period of relative quiescence, the RCP jumped back into action after 9/11, becoming a major behind-the-scenes player in such antiwar groups as Not in Our Name and ANSWER. One antiwar group, The World Can’t Wait, appears to have been “entirely a creation of the party.” All these groups, notes Gram Slattery, “managed to rise to prominence in large part because few people actually knew of their affiliation with the revolutionary left.” Even a columnist for The Nation, Michelle Goldberg, had harsh words for the RCP, writing in 2002 that its members “aren’t just extremists in the service of a good cause – they’re cheerleaders for some of the most sinister regimes and insurgencies on the planet.”

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Todd Gitlin

Goldberg wasn’t alone in her criticism: over the years, Avakian gradually came to be viewed by many on the left at as something of a relic, an oddball, and an embarrassment to the movement. A decade or so ago, Todd Gitlin, the prominent sociologist and former SDS leader, cited him as an example of “the ludicrous feebleness of the unreconstructed left.” But while Avakian may be a bit of a clown, he’s no fool: a few years back he managed to get plenty of well-known academics to sign a New York Review of Books ad defending his right to free speech – even though nobody was trying to deprive him of free speech.