From Revisionism to Party Liquidation
In an earlier article posted at a left website, the present writer offered an analysis of revisionist ideas promoted by elements of the CPUSA leadership.[1] These critical notes take the view that more recent writings go further and amount to reviving Browderism, though in a subtler and more gradual way.  Some may bristle at such a harsh judgment. Browder’s opportunism was the most extreme in CPUSA history. He obtained full and formal liquidation of the Party by a National Committee vote, after an open debate. His Communist Political Association’s function was to end the independent and vanguard role of the CPUSA and to make Communists merely a pressure group within the Democratic Party.[2] But, some in the CPUSA leadership are, in essence, arguing for the same thing, minus the National Committee formalities, by insisting on the end of the  independent and leading role of the Party, thereby making it a mere pressure group within the Democratic Party.[3]

Lately there have appeared:  “The Nature, Role, and Work of the Communist Party,”[4] drafts of which have been circulating since late 2006 and “New Times Require Fresh Politics and Flexible Tactics,”[5] a euphoric March 24 Report to the National Committee, after the March 23 vote in the US House of Representatives on the Supplemental war spending bill. The Report proclaimed the House vote a great victory.  Then came “Tactics Needed to End This War,”[6] an article which appeared in the People’s Weekly World (PWW) on April 12, representing “the conclusions of an April 5, 2007 meeting of the Communist Party USA National Board (NB).”  That meeting reaffirmed the analysis in the March 24 Report to the National Committee. The CPUSA national chair later wrote a clarification of the second section of the Nature Role and Work of the Communist Party, an extraordinary piece which praised Browder and caricatured the concept of a Leninist vanguard party. Finally, “New Terrain Requires New Tactics”appeared in the PWW on June 21, 2007. Together, these new writings reflect a qualitative deterioration since Reflections on Socialism,[7] circulated in July 2005 at the CPUSA Convention. They have different purposes and audiences.  But, they exhibit consistency. For simplicity, they will be treated as one. The resurrection from the dead of Browder’s ideas is most readily glimpsed in CPUSA National Chair Sam Webb’s written clarification of the second section of Nature, Role, and Work of the Communist Party. There, he spells out a program of de facto Party liquidation.

"Our role is to assist and lead the broader movements.
Communists should be attuned to the issues that are roiling masses more than the issues that are roiling us. 
Our role is to be a part of "existing struggles and existing forms of organization."
Our role is that of combining and blending different levels of struggle and demands into a single web of struggle - not an easy task.
Our role is that a singular task of ours is to prepare the working class to be the political leader - ideologically and practically - of the broader movement.
Our approach is that every communist must be a party and press builder. It is not enough to be a capable mass activist in this or that movement."

These ideas rule in and rule out certain activities. They imply the Communist Party is not to lead. It is to “assist.” The context makes clear the use of the word “lead” - almost as an afterthought - is lip service.[8] The Party is to be guided by existing mass sentiment. It is not to shape it. The Party is to immerse itself in "existing struggles and existing forms of organization."  So, for example, this rules out any Party candidacy, left candidacy, or independent candidacy in 2008. This means no new organizations will be set up by Party initiative. It means, for example, downgrading what remains of the US Peace Council, a left organization, and relying on United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), a broad coalition involving center elements. It means tailing behind Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Congress and support for whoever is the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate in 2008. It means criticizing the antiwar organizations as too ambitious, and supporting the Congressional Democrats who are judged realistic.

A Miscalculation of Party Sentiment on the War

There are textual grounds to believe that “Tactics Needed to End This War” came out because of resistance to the analysis of the Supplemental spending bill for the Iraq War in the March 24 National Committee Report. At any rate, that will be the assumption of these notes. From afar, it is impossible to know the nature and extent of resistance. “Tactics Needed to End this War” offers a trivial concession to Party critics, for it restates the “Out Now” phrase in the 2005 CPUSA Convention resolution against the Iraq War. In the next breath, however it is announced there will be no fight for it.[9] By such obstinacy revisionism may have painted itself into a corner. The blunder should have been humbly acknowledged and corrected, rather than re-stated. But resistance to criticism may be motivated by something other than hubris. The specious analysis of the war spending Supplemental reflects the logical outcome to which the opportunist general line leads, an analysis now embedded in basic CPUSA documents. To withdraw it, perhaps, would have cast doubt on other elements of the current Party line. The Supplemental war spending bill and the NB decision to support it and - after criticism and resistance emerged - to reassert its support for the Supplemental, may mark a turning point.   By stubbornly reaffirming it, revisionism has sharpened the inner - party ideological struggle and raised the stakes of that struggle.  

The above paragraph was first drafted in April 2007. Now, as of July 2007, it is clear that Congressional resistance to the Bush war falls far short of the pre-November 2006 Democratic promises. After much bluster, Congress voted to fund Bush’s war unconditionally. The complete absurdity of  tailing the Democrats should be self-evident. But, though the NB analysis by any objective measure is in a shambles, it has been reaffirmed in a fourth document “New Terrain Requires New Tactics,”[10] which actually criticizes, not the Congress that funded the war for the period ahead, but “some of the left” for missing an “opportunity... to deepen unity within the antiwar coalition.”

It is sophistry to argue, as “Tactics Needed to End This War” does, that CPUSA support for the Supplemental war spending bill is justified as support for an “intermediary demand.” Intermediary demands are meant to provide Party leadership for masses until they can adopt more advanced demands whose necessity is learned through the struggle itself. An intermediary demand is one that can lead to a more advanced demand. For example, in the CPUSA Party Program, the intermediary strategic goal of building an antimonopoly coalition - to oppose the most powerful, wealthiest sections of the capitalist class - is one that can lead to a more advanced stage of struggle: socialist revolution in which the masses fight for the overthrow of the whole capitalist system. Intermediary demands are necessary when masses will support the limited, partial goal but are not yet ready to support the full program. By an intermediary demand the Party provides for leadership of such masses. The advanced demand must be able to flow from the intermediary demand. This is not the case with the House vote to hand over to Bush funds to prosecute the war for the coming months.   The Supplemental cannot evolve into a means of ending the war. It is the opposite - the material means of continuing the war. [11]

Larded with distracting minutiae about maneuvers in Congress,“Tactics Needed to End This War” also claimed that it would have been a great disaster if the House leadership’s plan had been voted down, because, it was contended, a defeat of the amended Supplemental or passage of the Supplemental alone would have strengthened the hand of Bush and his supporters in the ongoing struggle. The article states that what happened “puts Bush on the defensive and changes the focus of debate to when and how the troops should be withdrawn from Iraq.”  Not so. Bush’s hand was strengthened, not weakened. His war is now funded. That was the real disaster.  If the Supplemental had been defeated the antiwar movement would have continued to knock at the door of Congress. The Democrats in Congress, supposedly the instrument of the country’s antiwar movement, now partly own the war.

That Bush and his allies howled about the slippery, easy-to-defer, easy-to-ignore dates for withdrawal attached to the Supplemental spending bill sent to the White House for a signature was irrelevant. Do Communists allow transient public perceptions, largely formed by the corporate media, to determine their policy? Lenin, surely, would have said Communist policy should be determined by the long-term class interest of the US working class, whose immediate task is to end theUS aggression in Iraq.  How can funding the war for the months ahead correspond to those class interests? By Leninist criteria the key task is to defeat the US aggression by forcing Congress to honor majority antiwar sentiment, to bend Congress to the people’s will, not to make excuses to the antiwar movement for the vacillations of Congressional leaders. But by the criteria of those CPUSA leaders forsaking traditional Marxist principles, the Supplemental should be supported. This is to cast one’s lot with the Congressional Democrats against the antiwar movement.

Party Liquidation

How does one recognize liquidationist tendencies? An excerpt from a long out-of-print CPUSA pamphlet, “The Communist Party and How it Works” states:

“There are constant pressures of ruling class and petty bourgeois ideology on the Party. Occasional errors of Party organizations and individuals can, if not corrected, become tendencies and even general departures or "deviations” from Marxism-Leninism. Ideological struggle against such tendencies is permanently necessary for the Communist Party… Though the forms constantly change, in the United States opportunism has been the main character of ruling class pressure on the Party and the working class movement.  This involves adapting the working class movement to the interests of the ruling class.  It also means capitulating to the difficulties created by the ruling class and learning to “live with" those difficulties.  Tendencies to liquidate the Communist Party as a Leninist party, to be replaced by an ideologically and organizationally amorphous “broader socialist" organization, have been one of the principal expressions of opportunism historically."[12]

Up until now the foremost practical consequence of the present opportunist Party course has been twofold: 1) tailing the Democrats - its main expression - by dropping any CPUSA struggle for political independence, and 2) tailing the Democrats specifically on the Iraq War. In this context “tailism” is to follow the line and to accept the leadership of the section of the capitalist class more willing to make concessions to the people, said to be represented by the Democrats.

Even less developed members of the present National Committee are beginning to chafe at the consequences of the line. Negative consequences both for Party relations with the mass movements and for Party organization are noticeable. Revisionism begins to look silly when, all in the name of “broad” coalitions, it refuses to stand by democratically adopted Party convention resolutions and sides with the Congressional Democrats and www.Moveon.org whose financial angel is billionaire currency speculator George Soros against the bulk of the antiwar organizations in many of which Communists, open or not, play leadership and activist roles.

Revisionism in Reflections on Socialism  

The writings under review here are not wholly new in content. In the longest new document, “The Nature, Role, and Work of the Communist Party,” the author restates briefly many reformist theses outlined in Reflections on Socialism.  For instance, he again downplays the danger of right opportunism, and suggests that the greater problem is dogmatism and sectarianism. He suggests that socialism in the US will have a private sector with market mechanisms for a long period. He disputes the Marxist idea of smashing the capitalist state apparatus, and falls back on the idea of transforming "the class content of the state structures," a repudiation of the Marxist view of the state. He declares 20th century socialism in the USSR and Eastern Europe had democratic “shortcomings” that cannot be fully explained by the hostile environment in which they evolved. He hails “internationalism” repeatedly, but says nothing about actually existing socialism in Cuba, perhaps second only to ending the Iraq War as a litmus test of real internationalism in the US. He insists it is possible to achieve socialism USA peacefully.[13] He continues a pattern of downplaying the traditional Communist view of racism in the United States as central to reaction in this country, as an instrument of "divide and conquer" and superexploitation of a section of the working class, with measurable benefits to the capitalist class. He puts race and gender in the same list of social categories affected by inequality, implicitly putting them on a rough par. He declares racism is becoming more subtle.[14] He contrasts the views of “social democrat and center forces” with Communist ideas, as if centrist views were foreign to his own thinking, which increasingly approximate them.[15]  He chides the peace movement for not campaigning harder for Democrats, for bemoaning them and taking them to task. He says that exposing the limitations of the Democrats is a prescription for isolation. He says nothing about the millions of people who were involved in the immigrant rights struggles this past year. He also downplays, by omission, the importance of millions in the streets, worldwide, to end the war in Iraq. He evades coming to terms with the demand for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal from Iraq, suggesting, as he has before, that it is unrealistic. He criticizes right-wing religious fundamentalism in both oppressor and oppressed nations, neglecting to give a materialist analysis of either phenomenon or to explain the dialectics involved with the latter. He says the American people expect the Democrats to govern in a bipartisan way. He says Communists should be patient when Democrats offer stupid or reactionary comments. He agitates for the Party to have a higher profile, but not a word about running candidates on the CP ticket. There is no mention of the possibility of maintaining and building shop clubs. The whole piece has a tone of classlessness (“in the American mind, the idea that socialism and democracy are incompatible has widespread currency”).

What is New

What is really new about these documents is:

1) They make more explicit the liquidationist implications of earlier revisionist theses. Such implications are spelled out and insisted upon. This marks a further rightward shift in the Party line, part of the planned, gradual, unacknowledged makeover of the CPUSA into a party with a non-Leninist identity, especially by dropping any notions of struggle for Party leadership of people’s movements and by ceding leadership to the Democratic Party. Revisionists in the CPUSA leadership have been trying to subtly orchestrate this mutation for a few years. [16]

2) These documents shift their ground to argue for the same opportunist course of tailing the Democrats, but for ostensibly new, organizational reasons. Why the shift? There seem to be two main reasons. First, organizational problems are mounting and must be addressed. Second, the previous basis of the opportunist stance on the war is shaky. Up until now, opportunist CPUSA positions on the war and on the Democrats were mutually reinforcing. The positions of the CPUSA and the Iraq CP (ICP), as it were, cast a cloak of invisibility over each other. The CPUSA policy of tailing the Democrats - whose main leaders still do not consistently reject the aims of the occupation, only its management - could be billed as “solidarity” with the ICP which quietly supports the occupation. Thus, opportunism in the CPUSA has been able to hide behind a tragic case of opportunism in the Middle East, namely a deeply compromised ICP, which does not want to see a defeat of the occupation, or even its swift end.  The ICP is a party with a heroic past. Its members suffered terrible repression under Saddam Hussein. No doubt the party still has selfless, courageous members. The ICP is in favor of many commendable things: equal rights for women, trade unions, secularism, public schools, full employment, health care for all, and world peace. But the paramount fact is that its top leaders are in alliance with imperialism. In a tragic act of folly, its leaders have hitched their wagon to the success of the imperialist occupation. The ICP views the insurgency as the main enemy, and it hopes that the US-UK occupation will quell it, so that the governing coalition of which they are a part will survive. The ICP does not want an immediate US pullout, which could lead to the fall of the present Iraqi government dependent on the US occupation forces.[17]

This need to move to more secure justifications to defend the tailist course accounts for the strange fact that on the eve of the March National Committee meeting, instead of an analysis of the country’s political situation, there was issued a think piece on Party organization. And it has a curious emphasis: it subtly blames the Party’s problems on the membership.

United Front, Popular Front, and “All People’s Front”

Danny Rubin has identified the switch to a permanent “All People’s Front” as “the major” difference between the 2005 draft program and the previous program adopted in 1981.[18] More recently, he wrote:

In 1980 Gus Hall proposed the policy of building an all-people’s front to defeat the ultra-right section of the monopoly capitalists in the elections. It was placed as a temporary tactic within the anti-monopoly strategy. But by the 2000 elections the CPUSA began to place it as a longer-term strategy, an intermediary strategy or stage of struggle until the balance of forces had been shifted so it would be possible to take on the monopolies as a whole. This position was codified in the new program of the 28th CP convention.”[19]

This is an important admission. If accurate, the Convention’s organizers gulled the delegates. Convention documents proclaimed as the axiomatic focus “Bush is the main enemy” or “Defeating Bush is the main task.” A codified All People’s Front is a far more significant change than that.  The change did not receive nearly the sustained debate and conscious critical scrutiny that it deserved. Not one of the five Communists whom the present writer asked,  “What’s the distinction between a “Popular Front,” a “United Front“ and an “All-People’s Front?” could say. Nor did these five intelligent, active people know that it had been “codified” at the 2005 CPUSA Convention, which they all had attended. Nor did they have any idea of the implications of the “codification.”

The United Front of the working class is a form of struggle for unity hailing from 1917 to 1924 after the Bolshevik revolution, where revolutionary situations were unevenly developing in Central andWestern Europe. But Communist parties were still small, and many workers still gave their allegiance to Social Democratic, i.e., social reformist parties. The United Front sought to create class unity for a revolutionary offensive. By contrast, the Popular Front concept dates from the 1930s when fascism, defined classically by Dimitrov as “the open, terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinist, most imperialist sections of finance capital” was on the offensive, having won Italy in 1924 and even more threateningly in Germany in 1933. Having made sectarian blunders in the previous period, the world Communist movement sought to correct them by the tactic of the Popular Front, broader than the United Front. Fascism had successfully achieved a mass base by mobilizing the urban and rural petty bourgeoisie or middle strata, hence Communist parties - in addition to the struggle to win Social Democratic workers to antifascist struggles - would seek as well to actively win the middle strata to the side of the working-class movement and thereby deprive the fascist ruling class of a mass base.

The “All People’s Front” is a US expression. It goes back to the response to the 1980 Reagan victory and the famous "whiff of fascism" speech of Gus Hall. An All People’s Front involved a broadening of the front of opposition, to include whatever elements of US monopoly capital - and there were such elements - opposed the extreme policies of Reagan. The All People’s Front is broader than the anti-monopoly coalition, for, at least potentially, it includes sections of monopoly willing to oppose Reaganism at least partly, in their own way and from their own class motives.

It goes without saying that, in political struggle, a defensive strategy is sometimes necessary.  Moreover, since 1989-91, the CPUSA is not the only Communist party seeing its task as defense of the reforms won in the past to improve the lot of workers and to protect democratic gains. But it is not a road to Socialism USA. A defensive posture reflects a position of weakness. Renowned German Communist theorist Hans Holz has written, “One can achieve little with a defensive attitude.  It remains a background noise …The prerequisite for winning the uncertain masses that are searching for an orientation are complete openness and radicalism. Not by emphasizing their uncertainty, but rather by a militant presentation of an alternative.” [20]

The All People’s Front arguably may have merits as a tactical approach in an emergency, say in 1980, or in 2006, but as a long-term policy, now “codified,” it is a proven abject failure. It has failed to stop the steady drift to the right in US politics and has left the electorate cynical and disaffected. It has failed to advance any third-party movement, the Labor Party, the Greens, etc. The All People’s Front, to the extent it is now a permanent defensive crouch, is a straitjacket of opportunism, making the CPUSA’s electoral work never-ending tailist support for the Democrats and top union leadership. Those who think it is temporary should read the 2005 Party Program carefully. In that document there is no forecast of when and under what circumstances it will be permissible for the Party to go back to targeting monopoly as a whole as the main enemy of social progress.  The matter is left to spontaneity, to better times.[21]  A permanent All People’s Front can be understood to imply there is no need for the Party to struggle for political independence. And yet growing millions recognize that such a struggle to get out of the two-party trap is a pressing necessity of American politics. Recently, a prominent African-American scholar writing on electoral strategy put it well:

"The organization we need will not come into its existence spontaneously. It will not emerge out of necessity, but it will emerge as a result of careful planning. Out of necessity, people will resist oppression. Only through planning will we create an offensive proactive strategy. "[22]

Programmatic Codification of Tailism

The transformation of the CPUSA has long been planned. It has been carried forward steadily. Before, during, and after November 2006, CPUSA electoral policy has been changed by new formulations, for example, in the 2005 new Party Program, in the 2005 Main Political Report to the Convention, in leadership reports to the National Committee, and in PWW editorials and articles, justifying long-term electoral opportunism. Consider the new Party Program. Electoral opportunism was embedded in the following words:

“Independent election tickets and parties, when they support the current central objective of defeating the ultra-right and do not weaken that effort, are also part of the process that objectively prepares the ground for a powerful people’s anti-monopoly party in the future.  The process of developing a national mass people’s party based on the working class, the nationally oppressed, women, youth, and other progressive forces cannot mature until the antimonopoly stage of struggle. During the current stage of struggle against the ultraright, the strategy to win necessarily includes a section of the transnationals and the Democratic Party, in whose national leadership certain transnationals and some of the rich play a big role. In the antimonopoly stage, a party capable of challenging for governmental power can and must be free of domination by any sector of monopoly. It must be a party in which labor and the other core forces play the leading role, acting in alliance with all working people and progressive social movements.” CPUSA 2005 Program [emphasis mine -  EAD]

The opportunist nature of revisionism’s electoral strategy is also disclosed by a curious omission in the CPUSA Party Program. How is the revolutionary movement ever  to go from a defensive All People’s Front to an offensive antimonopoly coalition? There is no exit. As long as any differences remain between the Republican and Democratic parties,[23]  it is stuck on an endless treadmill of tailing the Democrats. There will be no struggle to break free. Blueprinting of revolutionary strategy is, of course, impossible, but it should be possible to specify the main class forces at each stage of the road to socialism and to identify clearly the boundaries of succeeding stages. For opportunism, however, in its muddled, no-struggle view of the future, the present stage is forever. The revisionist interpretation of the All People’s Front misrepresents the views of Gus Hall, who talked about a temporary, electoral All People’s Front, and who doggedly stressed the need for the struggle for political independence. It is not the job of the Communists to organize the non-ultra-right section of the ruling class.  Even more, it is not the job of the Communist to take their lead from such ruling class elements. The Communists must make common cause with popular forces only.

The ceding of leadership to center forces in a permanent All People’s Front is conscious, explicit, and open. The “Labor-led People’s Movement,” a favorite alliterative mantra, compresses into a four-word formula the denial of the necessity of CPUSA struggle for political leadership and asserts that the main leadership comes from center forces.  It obviously implies accepting trade union - or even trade union federation - leadership of all popular struggles. The “Labor-led People’s Movement” - “of which we are a part” - captures this.  Contrary to the received Marxist-Leninist teaching, revisionists hold that the Democrats - a party with popular mass base but whose real class character is defined by dominance of a section of monopoly capital - will lead the opposition to Bush.[24] The unions, whose top leaders are bound by hand and foot to the Democratic Party, do not stray beyond social reformism.[25]

The fact is organized labor is a center force, not a left force, though left currents in it have grown stronger. For example, labor is inconsistent on the Iraq war. Labor is still weaker than it should be on racism. It is extremely weak on political independence. It still flirts with notions of class partnership. It still takes quasi-CIA funds for its international programs. Therefore, all on the left, and above all the Communists, should not be ceding leadership to existing trade union officialdom. Communists should be striving to win the trade unions, leaders and members, to authentic left, class-struggle policies.

 

Sectarianism and antisectarianism

Revisionists scold their listeners that it is important for a revolutionary party to avoid sectarian errors.[26] This is, of course, correct. But what is political sectarianism?

Sectarianism, on the other hand, is usually based on a dogmatic attitude toward theory, viewing it as offering a scheme for solving all problems in a way that makes concrete study of reality and the development of theory unnecessary.  Sectarianism fails to use available opportunities for revolutionary work.  It means a style of work that does not seek to reach out, influence others, and draw them into joint struggle. It evades vital issues raised by life itself. As a result of such isolation from masses, sectarianism prevents a successful fight against monopoly capitalism. At particular moments, sectarianism may become the main danger for a party, a particular organization, or an individual.[27]

Ironically, the present general line, while claiming to stave off sectarian isolation, is now worsening sectarian isolation of the CPUSA.  It is not only estrangement from the rest of the US antiwar movement. The line is also isolating the CPUSA from the world Communist movement.  The abdication of the Party’s independent role, as educator, ideologist, and leader has contributed to the sorry state where the mass disaffection manifests itself more as cynicism than radicalism. The line isolates the Party from prospective new recruits, the most radicalized sections of the US people active in the peace and social justice movements.

 

Gus Hall on the Logic of Liquidation

Some resist the thesis offered here - that the CPUSA is confronting liquidation. The skeptics declare that it simply defies common sense. By what mad logic, they object, would any political leader, let alone a Communist leader, begin to dismantle the organization he leads? An excellent question. But why did Browder do it? Why did Gorbachev do it? What is being proposed is a liquidationist redefinition of the Party’s role. What is liquidationism? Gus Hall lived through the Browder debacle and wrote often about liquidationism.[28] He once stated, “The most dangerous liquidationist trend is not disbanding the Party structure, but eliminating the Communist essence in our mass work.” He noted that, in end-stage opportunism, the party itself becomes the obstacle. Hall wrote of arch-liquidationist Browder:

Thus, the Browder-led process of liquidating the Communist Party set in. The process of liquidation did not start with organization  or physical liquidation. The process was at first one of  liquidating the role, the functions of the Party. Slowly, the Party gave up taking independent positions. Less and less it took positions in its own name. More and more it became only the supporter of movements led by other forces. There was an acceptance of the cockeyed idea that the Party narrowed down mass movements and that anything non-Party was “broad.” Even a unity with small “Left” sects who influenced no one became a “broader” movement. Finally, the Party became an obstacle to Browder's opportunism.  Browder kept denying he was liquidating the Communist Party. Each new opportunist step was presented as necessary as a way of giving the party a broad a mass base [emphasis mine - EAD] but it became an obstacle to the alliance of intelligent men. Opportunism reduced the Party’s influence and warped its policies so they would be acceptable to the most backward sections of the people.   However, as the Party began to move toward the less politically developed sections of the population, it began to lose its influence with the politically and ideologically more advanced sectors of the people. This is always the result of opportunist policies. [29]

 

The resemblance between Browder’s approach and the present leadership’s political direction is striking. Hall also observed that Browder softened his attitude to imperialism, softened the struggle against racism by claiming it had been resolved, and dropped any reference to socialism, all in the name of “new realities.” Again, a strong likeness.

In all political argument it is necessary to show some degree of logical progression, a certain consistency. If one has settled upon a tailist course with respect to the Democrats, it is expedient and logically necessary to get rid of the traditional Leninist vanguard party concept. Trouble is, revisionism did that under false pretences. When support for the Supplemental became a controversy, previous supporters, willing to go along with revisionist theoretical formulations, were not willing to accept their practical consequence - tailing the Democrats.

What propels the process from revisionist ideas to dismantling the Party? Because it is a response to pressure, opportunism never stands still. Opportunism has its own rules of development, a logic of its own. To give up struggle in one area implies giving it up in another.  A Marxist-Leninist party is not an ordinary organization. The theory of a Marxist-Leninist party “of a new type” was developed by Lenin in fierce ideological struggle with opportunism. The Leninist theory is based on the whole history of the world working class movement over many decades. A Communist party’s rules, its structure, its theory, its traditions, all contain built-in safeguards aimed at resisting opportunist degeneration. Therefore, opportunism, meeting organizational resistance, sooner or later tries to liquidate the Party.

 

A No-Struggle Approach to Democrats

Communists wish to make the working class the ruling class.  It should be self-evident that they can never be satisfied with a historical situation in which most organized workers in the US and tens of millions of unorganized workers give their habitual allegiance to the Democrats, the “lesser evil,” a monopoly-capital-controlled party. Other millions give their allegiance to the Republicans, the stronger party, usually more reactionary and the one preferred by most of monopoly capital. Millions of workers never vote at all, i.e., they are not politically active, let alone politically independent.  There is a fleeting reference to independent politics in Nature, Role, and Work of the Communist Party, but no plan to build it.  It is to come about in the long term and through spontaneity.  Why are Communists for political independence? In 1992, Sam Webb had these perfectly sensible things to say about independent political action:

Unlike any other developed capitalist country the US is without a labor led political party…a number of trade union officials are under the illusion that the singular answer to labor problems is the election of a Democratic administration ….While working to defeat Bush, Perot and other anti-labor candidates, it is time to take steps to meet the great historic challenge of this period: the establishment of a labor-led political party. The Labor Party Advocates and other independent political formations offer new opportunities to left and progressive unionists to translate the broad sentiment for a labor party into concrete reality.[30]

That was then.  Now the same writer exaggerates the progressive nature of the Democrats, rejecting the Party’s analysis of the Democrats made as recently as the July 2005 Convention.   In less than two years, the ground has shifted from class analysis to group psychological profiling and parliamentary head counting.

The 2005 CPUSA Program  "Compared to the ultra right, the other tendency to emerge - the more realistic trend -  is that largely associated with the national Democratic Party leadership. It is willing to make some concessions to the Democratic Party’s mass base among labor and the nationally oppressed and women in order to ameliorate social discontent. It generally advocates a less unilateral, less arrogant policy in relation to both the world and domestic social forces. In pursuit of their particular imperialist interests, this sector of transnational capital and its political representatives are significantly more reluctant to use military force until other means are exhausted. They see a greater role for the United Nations and other international bodies. Domestically they see a continued need for economic regulation and social welfare programs to keep social peace and avoid the extremes of destructive capitalist competitiveness."

“New Times  Require  Fresh Politics and Flexible Tactics”  March 2007.   "The Democratic Party, on the other hand, finds itself in a new position – the majority party in the Congress, which takes considerably more political imagination and tactical finesse than being a party of opposition. Political initiative is passing (not completely and fully) into its hands and the hands of the labor-led people’s movement of which we are a part.  What is more, the political center of gravity in the Democratic Party is shifting to center and progressive forces. A rough approximation of this shift (emphasis on rough) is gleaned from a breakdown of House members. About 40 members consider themselves “Blue Dogs,” nearly double that number fall into the progressive category, and the rest are somewhere in between. In the Senate, the political disposition is more conservative, although even in the Senate the liberals are exercising greater influence. So far the Democrats have acquitted themselves much better than many expected." [31]

Asserting the uniquely important arena of struggle is Congress but accommodating the Democratic Party’s unwillingness to fully repudiate the war, little by little, the operative question has become: What can we get now, based on the present Congressional balance of forces? Withdrawal is a good idea, but there is no prospect of it in short run. This is to reason like a Congressional Democratic leader. Marxist-Leninism would ask:  how can we, by building the antiwar movement, change the balance of forces in the country and in Congress to end this unjust war now?

Camouflaging Two CPUSA Positions on the Iraq War

The views of certain CPUSA leaders reflect one side of a right versus left division in the world Communist movement.  British antiwar leader Andrew Murray has observed:

"Taking the internationalist view is not necessarily simple. Do we believe that the occupation of Iraq – the most central issue in the world struggle today is entirely illegitimate and should be ended immediately? Or do we believe that it has been legitimized by the United Nations and should be ended at some point in the future, when the political situation in Iraq becomes more favorable? In practice, beyond purely verbal camouflage, Communist parties have different positions on this.  They cannot be reconciled. One or the other meets the international interests of the working class. This debate needs to be had without being bashful."[32]

In Marxism-Leninism, an evaluation of any war begins with the axiom of Clausewitz, who summed up the wisdom of an era of bourgeois democratic revolution, “that war is a continuation of politics by other (i.e., violent) means.” Marxism-Leninism, of course, goes much further and insists that a given war must be evaluated “in accordance with the class character and political aims of the belligerents”…. “To determine the political content of a war means to establish its class character, establish the reasons that led to its outbreak, what classes are waging it, and what historical and historical economic conditions are responsible for it.”[33]

Why is it a rare event for the word “Now” - as in “Out Now” – to pass between the lips of a few Party leaders? [34] Often, the dispute has seemed to be about the timing and speediness of withdrawal.  This false impression makes for favorable terrain for revisionism, because then it can more easily make the spurious claim that a flexible withdrawal schedule creates a larger, more powerful antiwar coalition.

Truth is, the CPUSA has never had a genuine debate about the Iraq War. Instead there has been CPUSA “verbal camouflage” referred to by Andrew Murray.  If there had been such a debate, it would have been clear that there are two opposing views. On the one hand, the Party has a formal 2005 Convention resolution that the left of the Party tries to uphold. On the other hand, the rightwing of the Party, in command positions, mostly does and says what it pleases. Is the Iraq War a “robber” war, a “predatory” war (the words Lenin used to condemn World War I, 1914-1918), an imperialist war that must be stopped now at all costs? The left of the CPUSA says yes. The right, though loathe to admit it, says no. Thus, at root it’s a political difference, not a dispute about withdrawal timetables.

The revisionist circle in the leadership refuses to repudiate the Iraq War as utterly imperialist, unjust, and reactionary. This implies that it sees something positive in this occupation. What does it see?  It is evident some PWW writers buy into one or more ruling class arguments for the occupation. Perhaps “Leaving swiftly would cause unimaginably worse violence.” “The insurgency  is not democratic. Much of it is terrorist and Islamist.” This incomplete rejection of the Iraq War has taken various open forms:  

  • Language in major reports to the NC that carefully avoids condemnation of the Iraq war as totally unjust.  Skill in equivocation comes in handy here.[35]

  • Denigration of Muslim resistance to imperialism (such as that of Hezbollah in Lebanon). This echoes the ICP. CPUSA writings contain repeated references to "clerical rightist," or “clerical fascism" particularly since the US-backed Israeli invasion of Lebanon in summer 2006.[36]

  • Exaggeration of the role of al Qaeda-type organizations in Iraq, echoing the Bush Administration’s “Islamofascism.”

  • Falsification of reality by onesidedly stressing the ICP’s undeniably progressive ideas on woman’s rights, social welfare spending, worker rights, and secularism, while hiding its opportunist stance on the supreme issue - national independence and freedom from imperialist occupation.

  • Abandonment of working class internationalism by refusing to sign international Communist antiwar statements, ostensibly in the interest of being “inclusive” of the ICP.

  • The criticism that is never voiced. In Cold War days, CPUSA leaders would refer to the “Soviet threat” as the Big Lie. This phrase was shorthand for the CPUSA’s complete rejection of the main ruling class justification for war and war preparations. In the present period, terrorism is the new imperialist ruling class justification for aggression, for Bush’s “Global War on Terror.”  But one looks in vain for any comparable official CPUSA condemnation of  the Bush antiterrorism crusade as a Big Lie.

In this way, the sentiments of backward elements set the policy. It is sophistry to declare that, “We have to move the whole class, not just various sections of the people's movements." But in reality this approach weakens the anti-imperialist front by incorporating pro-imperialist elements. This is another harmful consequence of the repudiation of the CPUSA’s vanguard role. A classic, authoritative work on the fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism states:  “Taking the level of class-consciousness of the masses into account has nothing in common with adaptation to this level, with adopting the level of their backwardness. Such an understanding of connection with the masses is characteristic of opportunism.”[37]

The reality of two CPUSA positions on the war explains much puzzling behavior at NC meetings. For many months, leadership comment on the war has tiptoed away from the Out Now formulation, explaining the Party’s antiwar position had to be “nuanced” for reasons of maintaining “broad” coalitions.

 

Genuine Party Organizational Difficulties

“The Nature, Role, and Work of a Communist Party,” takes a curious view. Party difficulties, substantial and growing, are attributable to the members' misunderstanding both of their tasks and of the nature of the Party. It holds that Party difficulties are not the leadership’s fault, and not the result of the general line. Six of the eight Party-building points listed in the document refer to what members, youth, readers, and club chairs ought to be doing differently.  None represents leadership self-criticism.[38]

There is indeed a slow-moving party crisis. Some symptoms are: Little or no membership growth though this is a period of growing disgust at the weaknesses of the Democrats on the war, apprehension among industrial workers and people of color about the economy, and other issues. The Party membership is aging. There is little recruiting among the sectors claimed to be Party priorities. Tailing the Democrats has organizational consequences; it is making the Party invisible. There are bad retention rates of new members. PWW and Political Affairs (PA) circulations are stagnant or dropping. There is little or no genuine Marxist-Leninist education in the Party. The proposal for more education was positive, but the question is:  what will be its content? But PA, far from being a Communist theoretical and discussion journal, does not educate. It is a monthly progressive commentary on current events and culture. It is inconsistently Marxist.

The suggested remedies are administrative measures. Bad attendance at NC meetings? Attendance at NC meetings is required. Fix it by administrative means. Dues lagging? Set up a check-off system - administrative means. Revenue stagnant? Maximize rental income from the headquarters building, even by leasing space to tenants of dubious propriety.

Based on a wrong diagnosis, such administrative remedies are likely to fail. No doubt, too, there is an element of self-deception. Probably some think stepped-up administrative remedies for Party problems will work. Administrative measures can palliate, but they cannot cure a political problem. The real cause of the organizational problems is political. The general line is making US Communists look like no-backbone Democrats. There is little reason to join a Communist party if it simply means working for Democrats. Contempt  for Democratic Party wobbling if not treachery on the war is high among the very people the Party could be recruiting if it were not rendering itself invisible by slavishly tailing the Democrats.  Tailism hampers the Party growth and influence when there are real opportunities to build it.

Origins of Opportunist Thinking on Party Organization

Danny Rubin, with many decades of Party leadership experience, is a leader of the right deviation, and, as it were, its ideological watchdog. Rubin’s analysis is one promoted by the Committees of Correspondence (CoC). In 1992 Rubin, then outside the Party, offered his idea of an alternative to a Communist Party, “an organization based on scientific socialism” in the journal Nature, Society, and Thought. Much of the “new” party organizational doctrine seems lifted, almost word for word, from Rubin’s notion of a “party of scientific socialism.” Rubin hails the example of the Party of Democratic Socialism (the PDS), in Germany, which apparently comes closest to what he has in mind. A party of scientific socialism “helps the working class gain class consciousness.” It does not exclusively “possess a science of society.” The old model of a Communist party runs the danger of “isolation” and “trailing events.” The new type of organization needs “checks and balances,” but “enough voluntary discipline so that it can become a force.”  It “must uphold pluralism within the frame of scientific socialism.”  Two or more political trends are allowed and accepted. Dialectical materialism must be re-examined. So must historical materialism. The political economy of capitalism needs to be updated.  “Many aspects of the theory of socialist revolution, of the relationship of reform and revolution” need reexamination. Social democrats are not misleaders of workers, rather they "help spread class consciousness" and “contribute to the necessary guiding theory.” He rejects the vanguard party concept, arguing that "it easily becomes elitist.”

More recently in 2000 Rubin suggested that the Communist Party should focus on the Democrats. Rubin wrote:

The most serious weakness of the CPUSA from 1948 on, for which I share responsibility as part of its top leadership from 1960 to 1992 was not in its stated policy. It was in its practice. This was its failure to give priority leadership, initiative time and energy to development of growing forms of independence within the orbit of the Democratic Party. This is the most crucial of all types of independence until the multinational, male /female working class, the African - American, Latino and other specially oppressed people are ready to break from that orbit. That remains the main task before the left and socialist forces today.

There is nothing wrong with building political independence within the Democratic Party. CP policy for decades has been to work on several levels: 1) encourage unions to undertake political action independent of the Democratic Party by building up union political action programs and institutions that can be used against the far right, including, if need be, rightwing Democrats, 2) support for independent candidacies or formations initiated by other progressive forces (such as the Jesse Jackson presidential campaigns, or the Working Families Party in New York which represents at this stage only a partial break with the Democrats), or 3) to mount CP candidacies, where possible and appropriate. Thus, the struggle for political independence can take various forms. Communists struggle to move independence from lower to higher forms. What is opportunist is to give up the struggle for political independence.

Rubin’s ideas are not original. Eurocommunism, for example, in its 1975-1991 heyday, being more realistic than conventional social reformism, understood how weak reformist parties are, and tried not to throw out the strong discipline of a Communist Party, at least not completely. One scholar defined Eurocommunist notions of party structure in this way:

The necessary changes can be implemented within the existing communist party model.... The new approach finds expression in three essential points. First, the idea that a communist party is by definition a vanguard — that is, that every communist party must have the vanguard role — is abandoned.... Second, it is now allowed that the communist party should share this role with certain other political forces.... Thirdly, the political implications of the role of vanguard are now interpreted in an essentially different fashion ... there is now much more emphasis on its obligations.... The new approach has been fairly comprehensively formulated by Santiago Carrillo in his book Eurocommunism and the State.[39] [emphasis mine, EAD].

These three Eurocommunist ideas are akin to the organizational thinking of the leadership revisionists, whether they are conscious of it or not.

Disingenuous Use of Citations from Lenin and Dimitrov

Not for the first time, Leninism is abandoned by multiplying quotes from Lenin. Having successfully ended the Party’s programmatic commitment to a vanguard role in 2005, the author of The Nature, Role, and Work of the Communist Party mentions Lenin’s name nineteen times.  The dropping of the vanguard role in the Party Program adopted in 2005 was sold to members as an effort to foster Communist modesty.  “We are for the party earning its leading role not merely proclaiming itself as a leader,” an idea that Lenin himself stated countless times. There was no reason to insist on it. Boastfulness is not a problem in the CPUSA. Where Party leadership is mentioned in this document, it is done so in the context of Party leadership arising spontaneously.  But a central part of Lenin’s idea of the party of a new type - that a Communist Party must struggle to win leadership of the class struggle, and democratic and revolutionary movements - is avoided.

Not only is Lenin quoted to undermine Leninism, Dimitrov is cited to undermine Dimitrov and his Popular Front concept. To be sure, Dimitrov was an antisectarian hero. In his brilliant August 1935 report to the Communist International he summed up the Communist movement’s self-critical analysis of sectarian errors that had contributed to the triumph of Nazism in 1933.  The tendentious use of Dimitrov quotes, invoking him as the mascot of anti-sectarian Communist politics, goes back a long way, not surprisingly, to the old rogue Browder himself. In a study of Browderism in the US and Canada, a Canadian Communist pointed out that Browder, after invoking Dimitrov,  increasingly paid mere lip service to his ideas.[40]  Dimitrov stated clearly that the working class had to establish a fighting alliance with the peasants and urban petty bourgeoisie. The working class must fight for the interests of those classes and their demands, and combine them with their own. But there is no suggestion anywhere in Dimitrov of fighting for the interests of big capital or under its leadership. Yet Browder steered more and more in that direction.

For example, after the famous Dimitrov report, Browder proposed the formation of a Farmer-Labor party as the American form of the Popular Front.[41] In December 1936 the Popular Front was “a prospect,” according to Browder. In June 1937 he called for mass trade union and progressive groups’ activity to be encouraged within the two capitalist parties. He then dropped the term Popular Front, which had been carefully defined by Dimitrov to exclude all sections of the big bourgeoisie and to include all workers, farmers, and urban petty bourgeoisie.[42]  Browder then started to use the phrase Democratic Camp. In 1938 the Democratic Camp was replaced by the Democratic Front.  By 1939 all use of the term Popular Front and a Farmer–Labor Party had been completely discarded, and so had attempts at or prospects of achieving them.[43]  The CPUSA’s self-liquidation of 1944-45 was only the final act of a lengthy drama.

No Revolutionary Vanguard, No Revolution

Revisionism USA is so strenuously against the Party’s leading role because vanguardism affects the relationship with the Democratic Party. Dumping the vanguard idea has been crucial to the tailist agenda.[44] Lenin did not mince words about the opportunism entailed in dropping the vanguard role.

“Point Three of the preamble of our resolution speaks directly of the proletariat as filling “the role of leader in the bourgeois democratic revolution.” The Mensheviks proposed an amendment – change the word “leader” for vanguard, “advanced contingent” or the words “main motive force.” All those amendments were rejected. Repeat as often as you will that the proletariat must maintain its class independence - the Bolsheviks have nothing against that. But to weaken the words on the role of leader in the revolution would open the door to opportunism. The proletariat could be the main motive force in a curtailed landlord-bourgeois revolution. It’s possible to be the “main motive force” of the victory of another class without being able to defend the interest of your own class." [45]

It is essential, not optional, for a Communist Party to be a vanguard party. A socialist revolution is impossible otherwise. In Lenin's view, the historical task of bringing about the subjective changes necessary for transforming an objective "revolutionary situation" into an actual revolution, falls on the shoulder of revolutionary Marxists and their political party. [46] Without such a party, masses lack the unity of will necessary for a successful revolution. It is one of the historical tasks of the vanguard party of the proletariat to guarantee that such an organization is developed among the revolutionary classes. According to Lenin, theoreticians of the Second International held a mechanical belief that the development of productive forces would automatically translate itself into a spontaneous revolutionary consciousness among the proletariat as a condition for the overthrow of the capitalist system. Such an assumption was totally rejected by him as incorrect and non-dialectical.  He wrote: “The spontaneous working-class movement is by itself able to create (and inevitably does create) only tradeunionism, and working-class trade-unionist politics is precisely working-class bourgeois politics.”

Conclusion

In time, if CPUSA history is a guide, an erroneous general line’s non-conformity with reality becomes apparent. Party work suffers.  Alliances with other left and democratic organizations fray.  Internal organizational difficulties mount. Growth is hard to achieve, or it stops altogether. It becomes harder and harder to defend the line, which puts in jeopardy the effectiveness of Party members involved in mass work. At the base of the Party, problems in club life go unresolved. As the ideological reasons for a distinct revolutionary party dwindle, motives for voluntary self-discipline wane. Morale sags. These circumstances, in turn, provoke mounting uncertainty and then resistance in the leadership and pressure to change the line. 

For example, from January 1944 to May 1945, with the CPUSA formally dismantled, Earl Browder looked ever sillier as he proclaimed endless postwar class peace and Big Three harmony. Any reader of newspapers could see rifts developing among the great powers on the fate of postwar Germany, on whether the leftwing partisans or the rightwing London exiles should govern Poland, on the partisan uprising in Greece, on the delay of the Second Front until June 1944, and on the governance of the future United Nations. One can see similar patterns in the present circumstances. March 2007’s glib forecasts about the Democrats as reliable bearers of the hopes of the antiwar movement are proving to have a short shelf-life.

Abandoning Lenin’s ideas on what a revolutionary party should be and should do has dire consequences indeed.  The Greek Communists put it bluntly:  there are two lines in the world Communist movement: the line of adaptation/accommodation versus the line of resistance /rupture.[47] Now, under false renewal slogans, the revisionist current in the leadership advocates measures which objectively begin liquidation of the CPUSA. Such proposals threaten to put the CPUSA firmly in the former camp.

This survey of recent writings shows that revisionism is the illness, not the cure. The new documents strengthen liquidationist trends. Their analysis of the Party’s predicament is self-exculpatory and faulty. Tailist thinking is isolating the Party, notwithstanding endless sermonizing about the bugbear of sectarian isolation. Tailist thinking blocks the way to a struggle to build political independence of the Democrats, or to challenge them fundamentally on the Iraq War. The revisionist current sees no need to develop a strategy to win Communist leadership of the mass movements. By weakening the Party, these new ideas - old ideas, really - lead to a weakening of progressive movements.

There is no space here to dwell on the many other concrete ways in which, on crucial matters, ideological ground has been given up. Right now, war and electoral policy - linked issues in the US - are at the forefront. One of exceptional importance, however, might be mentioned. In Party work for racial equality, the no-struggle policies have done great harm. The CPUSA is heir to glorious, pioneering traditions of anti-racism. The enormity of contemporary racism is reflected, for example, in last month’s US Supreme Court ruling that gives a green light to school re-segregation. This is not to speak of the conscious, televised Bush-Cheney racism that has laid waste to the nation’s most important Black city, New Orleans; a countrywide wave of police murders of innocent Black men; Black male unemployment rates and mass incarceration reaching new heights; and much more. The rollback of gains won in the civil rights decades is plain to see, but the Party seemingly has little to offer in the way of a compelling and imaginative strategic vision for a new anti-racist upsurge. To their credit, Black leaders in the Party are now making earnest efforts to ramp up struggle and create a sense of urgency. But ideological slippage in the Party’s explanation of present-day racism makes coming up with a strategy no easy task.

The further weakening of the CPUSA would be a serious matter for US and even world politics. No more significant Marxist-Leninist organization is working in this stronghold of world reaction.  Right now, the people of the world are counting on left-led people’s movements in America to strike severe political blows against the US aggression in Iraq. And the US people need leadership to turn back the new onslaught of racism, to revitalize and expand the labor movement, and to devise a smart strategy to disenthrall the American people from the two-party shackles. All such tasks will be difficult if the CPUSA is punching below its weight, owing to the tailism and, more generally, revisionism promoted by a few leaders. CPUSA rank-and-file members and supporters can take heart from the evidence that, at long last, the opportunism of some leaders has seemingly provoked a measure of opposition.

_____________

[1] Sam Webb, “Reflections on Socialism.” <http://cpusa.org/article/view/644/ > Revisionism is an opportunist trend hostile to Marxism, which claims to act on Marxism’s behalf in the workers’ revolutionary movement. It got its name from the fact that it reconsiders, revises the Marxist doctrine, its revolutionary program, strategy and tactics. Revisionism masks the renunciation of Marxism with talk about the necessity of taking into account the latest developments in society and the class struggle, the “new.” Revisionists in effect play the role of peddlers of bourgeois reformist ideology within the Communist movement. For a fuller discussion, see “Reflections on Revisionism” by Edward A. Drummond at <www.mltoday.com>. 

2 Marxism-Leninism vs. Revisionism, by William Z. Foster, Jacque Duclos, Eugene Dennis, and John Williamson. Foreword by Max Weiss (New York: New Century, February 1946). One preemptive ploy now used by revisionism is to scoff at the very terms with which scrutiny of the claims of revisionism can be carried out. For example, lambasting left critics of the draft Party Program, Danny Rubin counseled them not to used “Marxist curse words,” such as revisionism.  <http://www.cpusa.org/article/articleview/647/1/8/>.

3 Not only does the new writing look like Browderism in substance, there is no mistaking conscious praise of Browder in the report, “New Times Require Fresh Politics and Flexible Tactics.” “Thank goodness the CIO and its allies in the 1930s didn’t embrace this [sectarian] logic.” Praise of Browder is also implicit in “The Nature, Role and Work of the Communist Party.”  “Thus, the growth we experienced in that period [after 1935] didn’t take place in a vacuum. It required the political elaboration of a strategic policy that captured the main trends and tasks of that period; and, of course, it was intimately tied up with the growing intensity of the class and people’s struggles. The lessons for our work today are self-evident.” “New Times Require Fresh Politics and Flexible Tactics.” Main Report to the National Committee, CPUSA, by Sam Webb, March 24, 2007.” <http://www.cpusa.org/article/articleview/819/1/140>.

4 When a final version of “The Nature Role and Work of the Communist Party” was released in February 2007 the CPUSA Organization Department said: “It will inform our work in the weeks and months to come. It is to remind the whole party of the necessity to build the party and reinvigorating our understanding of our role. The paper is not party policy.  But it is a working paper to generate discussion and convince every comrade of the theoretical basis for building the party.”

5 Exaggeration of “the new” is characteristic of revisionism. As Australian Communist leader Peter Symon once observed, “It is only in moments of candor that the liquidationists say openly that their aim is to bury their parties. More often, their first declarations are calls for renewal and change,” as the rhapsody to “the new,” below, suggests. “The main focus of this report is the new terrain of struggle. How could it be otherwise? So much is happening, so much is changing, so much is different – these are new times!... Now four months later …. isn’t it obvious that things have changed dramatically? It is not too far off the mark to call it a sea change in political relationships. ….A sense of possibility is in the air. A movement is in motion, and the tempo of political life is picking up. The tables are turning – Congress is no longer a rubber stamp for Bush’s policies, but instead is a site of real debate and sharp struggles…..… the formation of a progressive political coalition and culture with its own organizations, institutions, media networks, cultural forms, traditions, and historical memory is taking shape. …Today’s incipient progressive political coalition and culture … has to be nurtured and further developed by everyone who falls under its umbrella. … communists will assist this multi-faceted, multi-leveled, multi-form progressive coalition and culture at every turn. “New Times Require Fresh Politics and Flexible Tactics.” Main Report to the National Committee, CPUSA, by Sam Webb, National Chair,March 24, 2007.” (http://www.cpusa.org/article/articleview/819/1/140/)

6 “Tactics Needed to End This War” (http://cpusa.org/article/articleview/824/1/134/) 

7 Reflections on Socialism (http://www.cpusa.org/article/view/644/) or<www.mltoday.com>    

8  Lip service, a term often misunderstood, is a public expression of agreement that is not supported by inner conviction. It applies to situations in which someone complies with an expectation to the minimum possible extent. In this case, readers will expect a restatement of the goal of the struggle for the Party’s leading role.

9 “Tactics Needed to End This War” (http://cpusa.org/article/articleview/824/1/134/)

“We in the Communist Party support a total and complete withdrawal of all U.S.troops now. However, after four years, the struggle has now reached a stage in which winning intermediate demands is necessary and realizable to move toward the overall goal of ending the occupation.”  

10 “New Terrain Requires New Tactics”http://www.pww.org/article/articleview/11289/1/377 

11 Foreign policy analyst Phyllis Bennis, writing for the United for Peace and Justice website, pointed out that the war Supplemental bill pushed by Pelosi exempted whole categories of troops from the withdrawal, including about 90,000 mercenaries. It included a waiver for President Bush to simply state his intention to override the restrictions. It did not close existing new US permanent bases in Iraq. It allowed US oil companies to take control of large sectors of the Iraqi oil industry. It did not prevent an unprovoked attack on Iran(http://www.unitedforpeace.org/article.php?id=3564).

12 “The Communist Party & How it Works: a Handbook on its Organization and Functioning,” New Outlook Publishers, March 1976. Liquidation takes concrete organizational forms. One can point to the handover of the Party Archives to a private university, the scandalous non-existence of even one Party bookstore; elimination of Party-initiated left organizations for women, Blacks, and labor; the changed identity of Political Affairs, and more.

13Arguing against another Straw Man that opponents claim  “a peaceful path to socialism is no longer possible”  “The Nature, Role and Work of the Communist Party” quotes a 1872 speech by Marx referring to favorable odds of a peaceful transition. This is to compare apples and oranges. In 1872 the post-Civil War, pre-imperialist US had a small standing army, no massive military-industrial complex and no “national security apparatus” involving millions of people. The modern US has all three, lowering the chances of a transition to socialism without civil war. It will be the task of an anti-monopoly coalition to uproot these three evils and clear the path for the most peaceful possible transition to socialism.  Contrast the beliefs of an earlier generation of US Communists, writing when there was a more favorable world balance of forces. “Communists can give no guarantee that civil war will be averted.”  Betty Gannett, “The Relation between the Fight for Democracy and Socialism,” Political Affairs, December 1968, 22.  Gannett was then editor of Political Affairs.

14 Racism is reckoned to be more subtle these days:  “Old and crude forms of racism combine with, and increasingly yield to, new and subtler forms that cleverly conceal the structures of racial hierarchy, exploitation, marginalization, and subordination.” What is subtle about the post-Katrina catastrophe in New Orleans?  He later notes, correctly, “In nearly every category that measures social well being, the conditions of racially oppressed people have worsened.”  A few weeks ago, the “color-blind” US Supreme Court, unsubtly wiping out decades of precedent, has re-opened the door to Jim Crow “separate but equal.”

15 This formulation leaves ambiguous whether social democrats are to be regarded as center forces, or distinct from center forces. Other writings suggest that the author views social democrats as part of the left.

16 See Reflections on Revisionism.  

17 The ICP analysis is rejected by the great majority of Communist parties. An exception is the Communist party of the main aggressor state, i.e., the CPUSA, a correspondence not unnoticed by the rest of the world Communist movement.

18  Danny Rubin, a long-time CPUSA leader, left the Party and joined the Committees of Correspondence in 1991. At Sam Webb’s behest, Danny Rubin was readmitted to the Party, including to its leadership bodies. Rubin, while smiting left critics of the draft Party Program, (www.pww.org/article/view/7250/1/274/), identified the switch to a permanent “All People’s Front” as “the major” difference between the 2005 Draft Party Program and the previous program adopted in 1981. 

19 Rubin writes:  “In 1980, Gus Hall proposed the policy of the building of an all people’s front to defeat the ultra-right section of the monopoly capitalists in the elections. It was placed as a temporary tactic within the anti-monopoly strategy.” Danny Rubin, Political Affairs, March 2007. “Managing Change: a History of Marxist Strategy and Tactics.” 32.

20 H. H. Holz, “Directions of Struggle Must Be Worked Out—Analysis. Two Lines in One Party?  About the Programmatic Dispute  in the European Communist Parties,  "Junge Welt," Jan. 8/9 2005, #6 Reprinted from "Weissenseer Blatter," #1, 2005 (Kapital und Arbeit), p. 10 East Berlin, Germany. Translated by Leonard Herman, Vaughn College, New York City.

21 The matter is left to spontaneity, to better times. Passive reliance on spontaneity is evident in such sentences as” “A people’s party embedded in and led by the core forces of a broad people’s coalition is still waiting to be born.” New Times Require Fresh Politics and Flexible Tactics

22 Bill Fletcher, Jr., “Race, the Democratic Party, and Electoral Strategy.” This was a speech given at Columbia University, Oct 10, 2006.

23 Erecting a new Straw Man, the implication below is that the un-named opponents make no distinction between Republicans and Democrats: “We on the left have to make distinctions between Republicans and Democrats” in “New Terrain Requires New Tactics.”

24 For the notion of Democrats as the vanguard, see “New Times Require Fresh Politics and Flexible Tactics.” “The Democratic Party, on the other hand, finds itself in a new position – the majority party in the Congress, which takes considerably more political imagination and tactical finesse than being a party of opposition. Political initiative is passing (not completely and fully) into its hands and the hands of the labor-led people’s movement of which we are a part.”

25 Confusion about what is left, right, and center is rife in Party trade union work. Ironically, it was the work of left trade unionists including Communists who forced the AFL-CIO to take a clearer stand against the Iraq War at its 2005 convention, defeating last-ditch opposition spearheaded by right social democrats in the American Federation of Teachers bureaucracy. Here was one “people’s movement” that was not “labor-led.” Rather, it was a case of a left antiwar movement leading labor. The AFL-CIO convention resolution against the Iraq War was a hard-won achievement. But the AFL-CIO and most affiliates put few or no practical resources into the ongoing anti-war fight. The Right still has important positions in the US unions. Lately, for example, much of AFL-CIO top officialdom has joined a labor Zionist group to sign a statement condemning British and Canadian trade unions as well as US religious groups trying to build a movement of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel because of its brutal occupation of Palestinian land. In this connection, in order to fudge the question of what is center and what is left, the late George Meyers, an outstanding Communist trade union leader, is frequently invoked by revisionism. His correct statement that “Center-left unity should be built on the most advanced position of the center forces,” refers to programmatic not ideological unity. He did not mean that the left should adopt the outlook of the center forces, nor that it cease to struggle with center forces over ideology.

26 Sam Webb has time and again expressed the opinion that sectarianism is the main danger for the CPUSA. He then changes the subject immediately. His view contradicts all the main accounts of Party history and the views of all major party leaders: Foster, Hall, Winston, to name but three. They insisted the main danger was on the right. Were they sectarians?

27“The Communist Party & How it Works: a Handbook on its Organization and Functioning,” New Outlook Publishers, March 1976. 19-20.

28 Gus Hall, “Opportunism The Destructive Germ,” Political Affairs, May 1979, 9. The whole issue was devoted to Marxism versus opportunism.  The anti-opportunism writings of Hall are completely ignored by the revisionists these days.

29  An example of lip service to political independence, now redefined as something afar and arising spontaneously, and not to be struggled for.  “… After all, in the longer term a key strategic goal is to establish an independent political party on the national level that is capable of challenging both parties for mass influence and political power.” Nature, Role, and Work of a Communist Party, 16. Similarly, in “New Times Require Fresh Politics and Flexible Tactics,” first, the lip service: “The Democratic Party isn’t a people’s party, nor will it evolve into one.”Then, the Straw Man:   “But the Democrats are not identical to the Republicans either. Conflating the two isn’t an accurate representation of reality nor tactically wise. To do so forecloses political openings and initiatives that allow the movement to make legislative gains. Or to put it differently: to assume before the struggle has been even joined that the Democratic Party is no better and no different than the Republican Party is undialectical, analytically flawed, and demobilizing.”

30  “New Thrust in Labor,” by George Meyers and Sam Webb, n.d., probably 1992.

31  “New Times Require Fresh Politics and Flexible Tactics.”

32 Andrew Murray in the 2006 Marx Memorial lecture  (http://www.communist-party.org.uk/index.php?file=newsTemplate&story=156         

33    Marxism-Leninism on War and Army (Moscow: Progress, 1972), 86-87.

34  The adopted CPUSA convention resolution on the Iraq war states: “Therefore be it resolved, that the Communist Party, USA calls for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq….” The resolution on solidarity with the Iraqi CP states, among other things, “...End the occupation! Bring the troops home now!...”

35 It requires close reading, but what follows praises the occupation with faint damns. It can be found in a pre-election article, “Ending the Occupation, the 2006 Elections, and Tactics.”  (www.politicalaffairs.net/article/articleview/4198/1/213)
“Of course, we don’t support an open-ended occupation, no matter which party proposes it. [Does this mean a short-term occupation is okay?]  And, needless to say, we don’t support a long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq, which is obviously the Bush administration’s plan. A long-term U.S. presence is not a force for a democratic, stable and peaceful Iraq. [Is a short-term US presence such a force?] most Iraqis gave up long ago any thought that the U.S. military is a liberating force.[Never mind the present state of Iraqi opinion. Do you think the US occupation is liberation or aggression?]  It breeds popular resentment. It adds to the turmoil. It strengthens the political positions of the most reactionary forces in Iraq, like former Saddam Hussein/Baathist elements and Islamic militias. And it isn’t — and this becomes increasingly clearer every day — preventing the slide of the country into civil war and chaos. The occupation gives the Bush administration the ability to exploit and exacerbate sectarian divisions in this battered country, with an eye to establishing a regime that caters to U.S. corporate/geopolitical interests and allows a permanent U.S. military presence there.  Thus, an end to the occupation[notice: no “immediate”] would not only remove the Bush administration from the driver’s seat in Iraq, where it now sits. These are examples of equivocation, the “verbal camouflage” referred to by Andrew Murray. Often deftly used, such rhetorical devices lull to sleep unwary readers inattentive to the shifts in meaning. 

36 These phrases mock brave fighters against US imperialism who happen to carry out their fight in terms of religious ideology and who adhere to conservative views and practices on some social issues. It ill-becomes anyone in the US to express disappointment in the ideological quality of a people in a brutal war with US imperialism. These same fighters were rained upon by US-made cluster bombs, which were raced to the Lebanese front by Bush to prop up the faltering Israeli invasion. Cluster bombs are a hideous weapon that inflicts maximum damage on non-combatants.  

37 Otto Kuusinen et al, Fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism, 343. Decades earlier, Lenin himself denounced the selfsame opportunist notion. “One of the most widespread sophisms of Kautskyism is its reference to the masses. They say “we do not want to break away from the masses and mass organizations!”

38 ”Now to some specific proposals: 1. We begin the planning for the fall regional conferences on Party, YCL, and press building. 2. We explore the idea of visiting 200 readers of the PWW who we don’t know in the second half of next year. 3. We ask 15 clubs to organize recruiting meetings. 4. We establish a regional organizer system that will assist the Organizing Department. 5. We organize meetings in the main centers of the nationally and racially oppressed to discuss the status of the Party’s work. 6. We hold club conferences as soon as we can. 7. We organize club leadership training seminars later this year. 8. We explore with the YCL leadership organizing a college speaking tour.”
39 Richard Kindersley, ed. In Search of Eurocommunism  (London: MacMillan, 1981) See Chapter 8, "Eurocommunism and the New Party" by Branko Pribicevic, 167-169.

40 Fergus McKean Communism versus Opportunism  (Vancouver, Canada: The Organizing Committee , Communist Party of  Canada, 1946) This is  a neglected study of Browderism in the US and Canada by a Canadian Communist from British Columbia. Browderism influenced not only Canada, but also Latin American Communist parties too, notably Colombia and Cuba.

41 McKean, op. cit., 61-63.

42 Ibid., 53.

43 Ibid., 62-63.

44 With the notion that  the Democrats are the leaders stressed everywhere, it is not surprising there have been  so few open CPUSA candidacies in its own name in recent years.

45 Lenin on Language (Moscow: Raduga, 1983), 232.

46 See Bahman Azad , “Marxism, Science, and Class Struggle: The Scientific Basis of the Concept of the Vanguard Party of the Proletariat” in  Nature, Society, and Thought, Volume 18, No. 4, 2005, 503-533.

47 Theses of  the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Greece for the 17th Congress, “The Situation in the International Communist Movement,”  February 9-12, 2005.

 

-End-

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