In early 1968, Leibel Bergman, H. Bruce Franklin, Bob Avakian, Stephen Charles Hamilton and a score or so others -- consisting of both veterans of the Communist Party USA, and Bay Area radicals based in Palo Alto, Berkeley, and San Francisco, formed the Bay Area Revolutionary Union (BARU). Among the first tasks of the BARU was to challenge the Maoist Progressive Labor Party (PLP) over their positions on the Black Panther Party, the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the direction of Maoism. The early RU joined with the Revolutionary Youth Movement faction in the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in opposing PLP's role in SDS at their national convention in Chicago in 1969. The resulting split lead to PL controlling the SDS name, while RYM itself split into two different factions.
In 1971, Franklin led a more militant faction of BARU out the organization to join Venceremos, leaving Avakian in a leading position within BARU. The RU continued to expand nationally uniting collectives, across the country, effectively becoming a national organization -- with the long-term goal of forming a new communist party. The new nationwide structure induced BARU to change its name to simply the Revolutionary Union (RU). Avakian was elected to the central committee of the RU shortly thereafter. The RCP claims that of the various groups coming out of SDS, it was the first to seriously attempt to develop itself at the theoretical level, with the publication of Red Papers 1.
In 1974 RU started publication of their newspaper Revolution (renamed Revolutionary Worker in 1979) and in 1975 RU reconstituted itself as the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). After the death of Mao in 1976, the RCP lost about 40% of its membership in a 1978 split over alignment with the new Chinese leadership. Avakian led the faction that rejected what they considered a counterrevolutionary coup against Mao's allies, and the split left him as undisputed leader of the remainder of the RCP.
In January 1979 Avakian and 78 other Party members and supporters were arrested and charged with various crimes in connection to a militant protest against Deng Xiaoping's visit to the White House. 17 demonstrators, including Avakian, were charged with multiple felonies which would carry a combined sentence of up to 241 years. After the RCP and its supporters waged a mass campaign for political, legal, and other support for the defendants, the charges were dropped in 1982, by which time Party leadership had decided to go into exile, with Avakian applying for political asylum in France, where he remained for many years.
The RCP organized May Day 1980 rallies in 16 cities across the U.S., including in Los Angeles, New York, Portland, Seattle, and Washington D.C. Weeks before the May Day demonstrations, RCP member Damian Garcia and two others climbed the Alamo, tearing down the American flag from its pole, and raising the Red Flag in its place before being arrested. Shortly thereafter, on April 22, 1980, Garcia was stabbed to death while organizing in a Los Angeles housing project. At the time, police said that Garcia's murderer was gang-affiliated, while RCP insisted that he had been assassinated by the state in retaliation for his action at the Alamo. Avakian remarked in his memoir that Garcia's murder was "very clearly tied in with police agents...it was an attack on our Party..."
In 1983 Avakian was one of the founders of the now-defunct Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM), an international grouping of Maoist parties. The RIM published A World to Win news service from 1981 to 2006, but since its dissolution the publication is now updated on the official website. In 2017, A World to Win was restructured to "a more thorough-going tool for revolution based on Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communism".
In 1991, C-SPAN aired a presentation by RCP spokespersons, about U.S. wars in the Middle East, the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, and what the “new world order” means for black people in America.
Flag-burning by RCP members led to the Texas v. Johnson case. RCP regarded the 1992 Rodney King riots as legitimate political rebellion and advocated for the defendants in the Reginald Denny beating case. RCP advocated for international Maoist movements such as the Shining Path guerrilla movement in Peru. In 1996, the RCP launched the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality.
RCP branches opened Revolution Books stores in major US cities and became a frequent presence in protest movements.
In 2011, RCP spokesperson Carl Dix along with Cornel West co-initiated the campaigns to Stop "Stop and Frisk" and "Stop Mass Incarceration". Dix and West appeared on Democracy Now! to discuss the state of Black America in the age of Obama. RCP organized Rise Up October against racism and police brutality; the attendance included Quentin Tarantino.
In July 2016, mass protest and police arrests erupted over a flag-burning by the RCP outside the Republican National Convention, before a crowd of thousands. The next week, the RCP staged another flag burning outside the Democratic National Convention, after denouncing the United States. Later that year, in response to Donald Trump’s tweet calling for the criminalization of flag burning, RCP supporters burned another American flag outside the Trump International Hotel in New York City.
In October 2016, RCP supporters were banned from the University of Chicago for "trespass" after encouraging students to get organized with the revolutionaries, with one activist arrested by police; the next day they returned to defy the ban, while denouncing U.S. elections and America.
In August 2016, the RCP led protesters in a two-day march on a barricaded police station after the fatal officer shooting of a black man by Milwaukee police; the police chief blamed the RCP for inciting "violence towards police."
The RCP strongly supported Colin Kaepernick and NFL protests of the U.S. national anthem. In October 2017, party spokesperson Carl Dix confronted Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, in relation to NFL protests, over "his troubling tendency to muzzle his players and align himself with an oppressive president [like Trump]."
RCP organizer Sunsara Taylor appeared on Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight in February 2017, where she debated the host and said that Trump is "more dangerous than Hitler" because of his access to nuclear weapons.
In July 2018, Refuse Fascism and RCP organized 100 handmaids to protest U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in New York City, saying "[he] is a Christian fascist theocrat for whom the handmaid's tale is a model."
In August 2018, RCP supporters took part in protests organized against the neo-Nazi Unite the Right 2 rally in Washington D.C.
In October 2018, the RCP organized a demonstration in Chicago's Daley Plaza on the 23rd Annual "National Day of Protest to STOP Police Brutality," in response to the police shooting of Laquan McDonald and other black youth.
On International Women's Day 2019, the Revolution Club joined supporters of the Communist Party of Iran (Marxist–Leninist–Maoist), to march through Westwood, California, calling for universal women's rights.