Convention Discussion: No to Social Democracy
April 20 2014
By Jim Lane, Dallas Texas.
Via Houston Communist Party (www.houstoncommunists.com )
If I have misunderstood the direction that the present leadership seems to be taking us, I apologize. As for the main thrust of party work today, defending the working class against the worst of the capitalist class and standing up for democracy, I agree with it. But I am not alone in believing that leadership has been taking our party away from being a revolutionary organization and toward joining the social democracy. It isn’t just one or two comrades asking, “Why should people join CPUSA?”
For the human race to prosper, capitalism must be overcome. For capitalism to be overcome, the Communist Party must choose the best possible and clearest political path. I would like to be wrong, but I think we have been meandering since shortly after the 2010 convention. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that, instead of going forward into 21st century thinking, we are regressing into 19th century social democracy.
For the present purpose, I’ll take the Merriam Webster definition of social democracy: “a political movement advocating a gradual and peaceful transition from capitalism to socialism by democratic means.” This was the methodology of the minority of the Russian socialists before the majority took a revolutionary course, and it is the ideology of the old American Socialist Party that more or less kicked us out for being too revolutionary in 1919. It was the ideology of the ruling party of the German government that terminated in the Hitler takeover. Social democracy was one of the trends of our own CPUSA minority during the split of 1991. CPUSA Chairman Sam Webb, at that time, sided with the Marxist majority, but has since then indicated that he has rethought his position.
Social democracy is nothing new, and is certainly not 21st century. Chairman Sam Webb has periodically written long rambling statements that are often more taken up with what he does not mean than what he means, It’s hard to see what he’s getting at, but some themes seem to repeat. For example, he is opposed to our using Russian symbolism and French vocabulary.
I agree, even though I don’t think it’s worth nearly the volume of words that Webb has expended. It’s come up so many times that one can only conclude that we aren’t just talking about vocabulary. I would point out, while we’re on vocabulary and semantics, that “communist” and “revolution” are neither Russian nor French and can’t be stamped out under that particular ruse. While carrying out our immediate struggles, we must also be clear that our ultimate purpose is to remove the capitalist class from power. We are not social democrats because social democratic ideology has never worked and never will. It ignores the ruthlessness and determination of the ruling capitalist class. Another point that Comrade Webb has mentioned many times is that the U.S. is in a certain stage of development.
That may seem true on the face of it, but how do we define this stage beyond saying, over and over, that “socialism is not on the horizon.” Marxists know that everything is constantly changing and that political horizons, like everything else, are not fixed in time nor space. The suddenness of the government overthrows in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya all occurred since Comrade Webb started defining the horizons. Some of the news reports indicate that modern communications had a great deal to do with these very rapid and unexpected events. The point is that things can change rapidly.
Should a revolutionary party sideline the need to overcome capitalism because it does not immediately appear on somebody’s definition of a horizon? Comrade Webb has made it very clear that he believes the Soviet Union imploded from its own fault, and that Stalin, whom our party steadfastly supported, was a “monster.” He dismisses the role of capitalist imperialism in quashing the Soviet Union. But do we not see the hand of imperialism today in attempting to overthrow the gains made in Central and South America? If imperialism succeeds in overthrowing the Cubans and Venezuelans, are we going to blame them? The same can be said of the gains that the American working class has made in our unions. Are not the capitalists forever and always seeking to destroy those unions and those gains? If an American union fails completely, are we going to blame them?
Is Chairman Sam Webb for revolution in the United States? I once heard the question put to him in a meeting. He failed to answer. Later, I asked the questioner why he didn’t push Webb for a response and he replied, “I was afraid of what the answer would be.” I, too, am afraid of what direction the leadership of CPUSA is taking us.
For the human race to prosper, capitalism must be overcome.