What does it mean when a Communist leader sets out to publicly eviscerate Marxism?
This is the question that looms over a recent blog on the web magazine of the Communist Party USA, Political Affairs. On August 5, 2008, long-time editor, and now publisher, Joe Sims, posted a deliberately provocative list of “Ten Worst and Best Ideas of Marxism,” a compilation that was nothing if not dismissive of most of the major ideas historically associated with the Marxist tradition. Subsequently, he posted a vindictive attack upon the many responses critical of this list, a performance worthy of Rush Limbaugh in its vituperation and hubris. On the heels of this retort to his critics, Sims has since further posted two additional lists of “Ten Worst and Best…,” a move that shows an equal disregard for the accurate use of the superlative, “worst.” Apparently, there are “worst” and even “worster” ideas spawned by the adherents of Marx, Engels, and Lenin.
Apart from language abuse, Sims’ posture is fraught with blatant contradictions. He claims to speak for himself, and himself alone, while posting on the “editors’ blog” of a CPUSA publication, holding leading positions in the Party, and standing as the sole publisher of the publication. One might as well believe that Howard Dean’s remarks at the Democratic Convention should not, in any way, be taken to represent the thinking of the Democratic Party.
He chides respondents for using pseudonyms while the blog’s posted, regular contributors include pseudonyms, first names, and other monikers concealing identity.
Sims decries name-calling and disparaging language while labeling opponents as “[j]uvenile and silly” and exhibiting “middle-class snobbery.”
All of this is stirred in a cauldron of vulgar negativism and dismissive cynicism towards concepts which, while certainly open to considered challenge, have served as pillars of a significant sector of the working class movement for over 150 years. Among the ten, going-on thirty, worst ideas of Marxism are, in his view:
- “The Dictatorship of the Proletariat” – “Who wants to live under a dictatorship?”
- “Marxism, Marxist-Leninism” “…too many bad stories associated with it”
- “Organic Intellectual”….“too much granola”
- “Marxism is the science of society” “…emphasizing the scientific side of the world-view to the exclusion of the others”
- “Socialist Realism” “what’s wrong with a little (or even a lot) of escapism now and then?”
- “Democratic Centralism” “How about substituting, all for one, one for all!”
- “Marxist theory is brought into the working-class movement from outside” – “Lenin’s dictum, while perhaps historically true has been made obsolete by public education…”
While this gives the flavor of Sims’ generally condescending quips, I urge the reader to visit the Political Affairs editor’s blog at: http://paeditorsblog.blogspot.com/2008/08/third-edition-worst-and-best-of-marxism.html to fully taste the banquet of sophomoric abuse heaped on Marxism, Marxists, and straw-Marxists.
The difference between a provocateur and one wishing to provoke thinking and discussion is vast. Our readers would welcome an open discussion of these ideas with Sims, the CPUSA leadership, the broad left, and working class activists. Our website encourages any submissions on the topics addressed by Sims provided only that they address the issues without condescension or contempt for the readers’ intelligence. Responses to this invitation can be directed to: firstname.lastname@example.org or editor@MLToday.com.
Short of this, one can only hope that others in the CPUSA leadership and membership will clarify where they and the Party stand on the views expressed by Joe Sims. Their silence on these matters only amplifies the concerns of many Communists and friends over the direction of the CPUSA.