Convention Discussion: CPUSA Scores Low on Internationalism
March 18, 2014 By Tom Whitney, Maine.
It used to be that the CPUSA was able to project its own campaigns onto an international stage. Campaigns to free Angela Davis and save the Scottsboro Boys from execution come to mind. The party now shrinks from joining in with the struggles of comrades overseas. Its internationalism quotient is way down. Fuzzy ideas as to what internationalism actually looks like and a shortage of objective indicators as to the party’s disproportionate emphasis on domestic issues don’t help in advancing this argument.
But there remain problems to be dealt with, among them relatively few statements of international worker solidarity, very few educational sessions on international issues, a paucity of members’ own international stories in the People’s World, and the party almost never joining with outside coalitions in planning and carrying out international solidarity actions. Party leaders generally don’t take on leadership roles in promoting solidarity projects. Their priority seemingly is to advance a domestic agenda directed at implementing the party’s united-front program of voting-time linkages with a capitalist party. One suspects that within that context there is concern that new friends and allies might turn away if they see the party taking strong stands against U.S. foreign policy objectives. These subjective impressions count for very little, however. The job description of a Marxist party ought to provide a firmer basis for critiquing the party’s international outlook.
According to Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto, “The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere.” The party is prone to making uncomfortable alliances in order to turn the tide against capitalists on their own turf. That approach may have passing plausibility. But when capitalists move their operations abroad, as Marx and Engels said they would do, U.S. communists can’t follow them. It’s within the “belly of the beast” itself that they must make good on aspirations to stop capitalist wars and exploitation abroad. To express class solidarity with victims a long way off is challenging. The stakes are high and nuance, as is the party’s habit, does not travel well.
The suggestion here is that efforts on behalf of international worker solidarity must be unambiguous and dramatic enough both to penetrate the centers of capitalist power and to bolster the spirits of comrades the world over. Now is a good moment for engaging. As of this writing, on March 5, 2014, turmoil in Venezuela and Ukraine threatens to shred the governing fabric in both places. Puppet masters loom in the background, the U.S. government at their head. It may be useful here, by way of suggesting new ways for the party to understand events, collectively, and to more into action, to highlight an overall pattern to these developments. As is well known, the U.S. government put aside old tools for gaining free rein in targeted countries like military invasion, or propping up grateful dictators, or depending mainly on clandestine agents to serve U.S. ends. These modalities were costly, embarrassing, and often not very effective in the long run.
Now there seems to be a new approach. Wars are encouraged or fought, and/or economic sanctions are imposed. Chaos results and U.S. manipulators step aide, a little. Peoples divided by religion, class, ethnic identification, or geography are soon at each other’s throats. Now, instead of independent, functioning states, there are small states, tiny jurisdictions, and military grouplets. Precarious and dependent governmental bodies shy away from fussing over dictates emerging from transnational corporations and distant governments now effectively in charge. Take-downs of Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Libya followed such a pattern.
Perhaps Syria, Ukraine, even Venezuela are next in line. These scenarios speak to the CPUSA, serving as examples of the need for collective, multifaceted analyses that are preliminary to any anti-imperialist party actions. Presently the CPUSA is inadequate to the task of pursing this process Why might that be so? Speculation as to assumptions, orientation, and reasoning of party leaders probably won’t yield useful answers. What’s at fault, it seems, are party structures, party life itself.
Many comrades in leadership ranks have tracked themselves into areas of specialty interest, most having to do with domestic politics. That’s acceptable, except that the party’s membership is small and focus is constricted. In parts of the country without clubs, or even where clubs do flourish, younger members may lack modeling or stimulation that, in theory, could inspire them to take on an internationalist outlook. The party’s International Department tries to contribute. But its efforts rest almost entirely on the shoulders of its chairperson. He is highly knowledgeable, dogged, and well organized.
Yet what a communist party requires in order to implement international working class solidarity, and do so comprehensively, is a vigorously collective approach. One person doesn’t suffice. And the party has yet to resolve the dilemma as to whether that department merely attends to relations with international counterparts or, alternatively, deals with international solidarity in general. The party’s apparent lack of effective administrative capabilities likewise impedes actual performance of tasks relating to international work. Further, hope that new leadership might foster innovative thinking on international matters now proves to have been unrealistic.
A recent memo from the party chairperson indicates that a small group has already determined the future make-up of the National Board. There is nothing to suggest that consideration was given to more democratic methodology for choosing leaders to set the party’s future course. Apparently rank and file leadership preferences do not pertain. That’s a pity, especially in regard to building a party fully capable of carrying out international working class solidarity.