There are so many things in this article to discuss that it may be easier to talk about them one at a time. So, I will just start by discussing one section.
Webb wants to campaign against Stalin. As we have seen historically, those who take on this task in reality want to attack socialism, not only as it exists, but also in theory.
These campaigns and discussions, almost exclusively, take place in academia or within political organizations, whether pro or con.
A public campaign against Stalin, thus becomes mostly a sectarian affair. It becomes the equivalent of staring into one’s own belly button and counting the amount of lint there.
At the same time, the anti-Stalin public campaigners seem not to want to apply the same standards to the slave -owning founders of what is today the USA. On the contrary, they want to extol the revolutionary aspects of the War of Independence while calling the owning of slaves as either "unfortunate" or the leaders of the American Revolution having an inconsistent ideology regarding slavery, women’s rights, and even the right of every person to vote even if they had no property.
This does not mean that there are not aspects of the Stalin period that we maintain to this day. The "great-leader syndrome" explains both this latest article by Webb and the publication at CPUSA expense of his "Reflections on Socialism" pamphlet. I doubt I would have gotten CPUSA funds to promote my own personal ideas about socialism which are different from Webb’s own. Mine are based on a broader experience than his ideas, which are based on his own words.
The question of democratic centralism and party democracy bears on this question. I agree that political persuasion is the way to go.
It is always better to convince a CPUSA member of the correctness of a political position than to browbeat them by telling them, "You are wrong. That is the position of the Party."
I’ve been a witness to this kind of brow-beating when comrades took issue with the position promoted by Webb and company. This was even more egregious when those same brow-beaters refused to diseminate positions taken by the convention that they disagreed with.
When I first read "Reflections on Socialism" my first thoughts were: why does Sam Webb’s personal ideas merit more worth than my own? And even though he claimed that he had discussed these ideas with other Party leaders he hadn’t discussed them with me, the editor of Nuestro Mundo, former chair of the Puerto Rican Commission, and chairman of the CPUSA Massachusetts District.
While this does not imply my ideas are closer to the truth, let me give you a brief autobiographical sketch, as Webb does.
I have been part of the Communist movement since 1972, about the same time Webb joined the CPUSA. Before that I spent a couple of years in Puerto Rican left organizations including local ones that I founded.
During that time I have served in positions ranging from state committee member of the youth organization and youth club educational director, party club chair, member of the state leadership in two districts, member of various national commissions, chair of a national commission, district chair, a member of the committee that drafted the current party program, national committee member and editor of the Spanish language section of our weekly press.
Unlike Webb, I was on paid staff for only one decade, not four.
Unlike Webb, during the rest of my time in the CPUSA I was a worker in a warehouse and mechanic. I was elected to union office.
I was then appointed to union staff, which almost got me fired for distributing the PWW at a hospital. I them moved on to other unions serving as international rep and regional organizing director.
In that time I worked for the UFCW, ACTWU and Farmworkers unions. In each and every one I was known as a Communist. Stalin never came up.
As a known Communist, I led youth jobs demos and campaigns, rent strikes, and labor strikes. These ranged from 100 to 4,000 people. Stalin never made an appearance.
Like Webb, I’ve read Luxemburg, Marx, Dimitrov and Gramsci (years before Webb, obviously). I’ve also read Mariategui, Mella, Andreu, and other Latin American Communist writings. I continueÂ to read the current thinking in the Communist movement.
If there is only one thing I’ve learned, it is that there is no special social science that applies only to the USA. We are part of one world. Anything that tries to imply that the US people are so different from the people of the rest of the world is a false notion. American Exceptionalism is a myth the GOP is trying to promote.
Lastly, the question of democracy comes up. If the lack of party democracy is a bulwark of "Stalinism" then the present top leadership of the CPUSA must be called to task.
If that is the case, then the present top leadership cannot go without criticism. Let me just take one case from the last National Convention.
None of the various resolutions were allowed to be discussed. When a delegate from Massachusetts moved that that district’s resolution be separated from the rest (which were to be referred to the National Committee for later resolution), his motion, seconded by another delegate from the district, was never considered by the chair of the session. That is to say, normal parliamentary procedure was not followed.
Any real criticism of Party practice without criticism of these recent happenings would be hypocritical.
We need more transparency in our Party. That includes putting forth the views of all, openly, for all members.