Dictionary of Revolutionary Marxism

—   Av - Az   —

AVAKIAN, Bob   (1943-   )
American revolutionary, the Chairman and dominant leader of the
Revolutionary Communist Party since its formation in 1975. Avakian was raised in a middle-class family (his father was a judge), and was educated at the University of California in Berkeley, where he became radicalized in the 1960s. He participated in the Free Speech Movement there and, though white, was closely associated with the Black Panther Party. He was active in the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and was a leading figure in the Revolutionary Youth Movement II faction of SDS.
        In 1968 he was a co-founder of the Bay Area Revolutionary Union (in the San Francisco area), which soon became a nationwide organization, the Revolutionary Union, by absorbing SDS collectives from other parts of the country. In 1975 the RU transformed itself into the RCP, with Avakian as the Chairman of the Central Committee. While Avakian was always a top leader of the RU/RCP, after several political struggles and splits in the organization he emerged after 1978 as the single dominant and effectively unchallengeable leader.
        Avakian should get the credit for being the person most centrally responsible for the creation of the RCP, but also the blame for being the person most centrally responsible for wrecking it as an organization with any serious prospects of leading a revolution in the United States. He played a similar role internationally. Avakian took a lead in arranging for the creation of the international organization of Maoist revolutionary parties, the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM), but then through doctrinaire insistance on what its policies should be, played the leading role in disabling it as a functional organization.
        In 1979 the new revisionist ruler of China, Deng Xiaoping, came to the United States on a state visit. Avakian personally led a demonstration that the RCP organized against Deng, which resulted in a conflict with the police. Avakian and others were charged with several felonies. While the charges were still pending, Avakian went into “exile” in France in 1981. While all the charges were dropped against him in 1982, he remained in a sort of romantic self-imposed exile in France for a couple more decades. (As many have joked, since Marx and Lenin were in long periods of exile, Avakian thought that he needed to be too!) His current whereabouts are kept secret by the RCP, since he is viewed by himself and his party as “irreplaceable”.
        Avakian has a strongly authoritarian and anti-democratic streak (in practice and also even in theory: consider the title of his 1986 book, Democracy: Can’t We Do Better Than That?), and the Party he leads has never allowed serious internal dissent. Always rather egotistical, Avakian has more and more demanded and achieved the creation of a grotesque personality cult around himself within his Party. The RCP has become pretty much a one-man operation, as far as new ideas and thinking go, as exemplified especially in Avakian’s supposed “New Synthesis” of communist theory.

“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 the personality” developing around Bob Avakian?’ And I replied: ‘I certainly hope so—we’ve been working very hard to create one.’” —From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist—A Memoir by Bob Avakian (2005), p. 393.

AVELING, Edward   (1851-1898)
English journalist and socialist, and one of the translators (along with
Samuel Moore) of vol. I of Marx’s Capital into English.

AVENARIUS, Richard   (1843-1896)
German-Swiss philosopher who was a
subjective idealist, and one of the first proponents of empirio-criticism, which he viewed as an attempt to base philosophy on “scientific principles”. For him this meant a radical positivism. He thought that the subject-object dichotomy falsified reality, and emphasized “pure experience” as the thing which would supposedly reconcile the two opposites, consciousness and matter. It is hard to make much sense of his theories. Lenin very strongly criticized Avenarius in his book Materialism and Empirio-Criticism (1908).


A bourgeois nationalist political party in Bangladesh which reassumed power in early 2009. Over the decades it has been responsible for the murder of many communist revolutionaries.

AXELROD, Lyubov Isaakovna   (1868-1946)
Russian Marxist philosopher who was a close follower of
Plekhanov. She viewed her stance as being “orthodox Marxism”, and therefore used the pseudonym “Orthodox” [in transliterated Russian: Ortodox]. She was the leader of the Marxist philosophical school condemned as “mechanists” during the late 1920s.
        Axelrod joined a Narodnik organization in 1884, and fled to Western Europe in 1887. In Switzerland she met Plekhanov and joined his Emancipation of Labor group. In 1900 she received a Ph.D. in philosophy at Bern University. After the amnesty in 1906 she returned to Russia, where she belonged to a series of Menshevik factions. After 1918 she was not a member of any party, but continued her work in Marxist philosophy.
        During the 1920s two major schools of Marxist philosophy developed in Russia, the “dialecticians” (or Deborinists) led by Abram Deborin, and the followers of Plekhanov who were called the “mechanists”. The Deborinists were enthusiastic about Hegelian dialectics, whereas the mechanists tended to pretty much dismiss dialectics. Despite this and other serious weaknesses, Axelrod did do useful work in support of materialist perspectives and in opposition to Kantian idealism.

The branch of ethics concerned with “value”. The study of “value” separate from ethics in general is based on the mistaken idea that “values” are not derivable from factual relationships and must somehow be appended “from without”.
        See also:


AYER, A. J. [Alfred Jules]   (1910-89)
Bourgeois philosopher whose views were closely related to
logical positivism, especially in his early work, Language, Truth, and Logic (1936). This volume introduced the positivist ideas of the Vienna Circle to the English-speaking world. Ayer was also strongly influenced by Hume and Bertrand Russell, and remained a very strong empiricist throughout his life.

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