Submitted by John Vago of Philadelphia, PA.
The following are some comments on what I see as the purpose of the Party, and on some recent proposals.
Our full and constructive participation in mass movements is essential, but our role must go beyond that. I see our role as also to educate, advocate, and initiate, when appropriate, and to be more visible doing so. We should not shy away from sponsoring our own forums and discussions, where we can speak of the need for socialism, and how it can alleviate the current problems associated with capitalism. We need to educate on the basic cause of our country’s problems: capitalism, which inherently causes inequality and instability. We need to advocate for more advanced and more basic solutions, up to and including socialism. We need to initiate demands for more advanced and more basic changes.
We started the slogan “people before profits”; it has become a well-established concept among much of the 98%. We started the expression “bill of rights socialism”; we should develop a series of specific 21st century people’s and working-class rights.
Re-define industrial concentration to fit changes in the working class — little basic production work is being done in the US, instead the working class is found in fast-food chains, warehouses, big box stores, etc., creating billions of dollars in wealth for the 1%. Expand on the relationship between defeating the Ultra-Right and developing an anti-monopoly coalition. Develop education on the basic concepts of Marxism-Leninism. Produce more printed materials for distribution. Develop responses to anti-Sovietism (expressions of it are not uncommon among progressives, and new members with little experience are often influenced by the ultra-left on this aspect of our history — we never see them again.)
Some changes in terminology may be appropriate, but let us not discard valid and needed concepts.
Change the name of the Party? This would not solve any problems; it would only create massive confusion. Change to what? “What are they trying to hide?” How to show our distinctive identity? Might some other group pick up and misuse the name? Etc.
Drop the word Leninism? Though some have misused it, Leninism is a science, and part of our role is to explain its meaning and validity, including what does and does not apply to our situation.
Discard democratic centralism? No doubt that it has sometimes been misused, but the basic concept comes from the labor movement, e.g., when a union votes in favor of striking, solidarity by all with the work stoppage is required until the strike ends. Its application should vary with circumstances, but there will be situations where it is needed.
Drop the term and concept “vanguard party”? Perhaps drop or change the term, but in terms of role and function our Party offers something unique and valuable which can’t be gotten anywhere else.