Editors’ note: The following pre-convention discussion article was posted by the editors of Political Affairs to that magazine’s web site on January 30. For full information about the CPUSA’s pre-convention discussion go to www.cpusa.org.

Save the Party!

By Dean Christ, Kevin Kyle, and Joan Phillips

We think the CPUSA convention, postponed several times, cannot come soon enough. We believe the Party has been heading in a wrong direction in far too many ways.

What has happened to the Party’s tradition of class struggle, anti-racism, anti-monopoly, anti-imperialism, political independence, international solidarity, and indeed Marxism-Leninism?

Instead of building the Party, the current top leaders (no matter what they think or claim they are doing) have been dismantling the Party piece by piece: eliminating the print versions of the People’s Weekly World and Political Affairs, giving away the Reference Center for Marxist Studies, keeping bookstores shut, abolishing the national Organization Department and several clubs in New York, not to mention cutting YCL funding instead of prioritizing it.

The June 2009 move to end the print edition of the PWW sent shock waves through the Party. Moreover, for top leaders to sweep under the rug the many letters of protest from individuals, clubs, and districts, constituted factionalism and a violation of democracy, for which there should be accountability. With some top officers of the Party now advising against the use of the word "Leninism" as "foreign," the word  "liquidation"  used by some comrades seems no longer an exaggeration.

How to Build the Party

While those of us opposed to the current direction may not wholly agree on the way forward, many would agree on the broad outlines:

* Put the class struggle at the center of our thinking and work. Organize the people’s rage at Wall Street bailouts and mass joblessness by calling for nationalization and democratic control of the banks and basic industry, and by putting the Anti-Monopoly Coalition back at the center of our revolutionary strategy to win socialism.

* Put forth an anti-crisis program centered on job creation and call attention to the special suffering of youth, immigrants, and African Americans. Work in union rank-and-file movements, building unity, militancy and class-struggle policies.

* Organize the unemployed into a political force to be reckoned with by the ruling class. We need Unemployed Councils to fight politically for jobs at living wages.

* Resume our historically second-to-none role as a leading opponent of racism, national oppression and all forms of discrimination, and as an advocate and exemplar of Black-white unity. The conditions facing African Americans, Latinos and other nationally oppressed people are disproportionately bad and getting worse. Symbolic of the top leadership’s tone-deafness on national oppression, it was an affront to Latino workers, an increasingly important group of the specially oppressed, to dismiss the Spanish-language editor of the PWW.

* Build political independence ideologically and organizationally. Support progressive Democrats when they take the side of the people, and oppose them when they take the side of corporate and military interests. Support progressive independents. Run Communist candidates where possible and appropriate.

* Oppose in principle the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan as predatory, unjust wars that must end at once. Oppose U.S. imperialism in all its manifestations.

* Build mass people’s movements with renewed energy, including the anti-war movement, the movement for women’s equality and movements against racist and political repression. Rebuild Party-related left organizations, including in the labor movement.

* Revive Marxist-Leninist inner Party education to enhance members’ political development. Its neglect is evident in the party leadership’s opportunistic collapse on so many issues under the ideological pressure of monopoly capital.

* Join unequivocally the fight against the impending catastrophe of climate change and link this cause to the class struggle.

* Heighten solidarity with the Cubans, Palestinians, and other peoples besieged by imperialism.

* Work with other Communist Parties, such as the Greeks and Portuguese, who have been confronting opportunism and promoting international Communist cooperation in recent years.

Most of us recognize that the Party’s practice in the recent period, sadly, has fallen far short of these aspirations.

The blame belongs squarely with the Party’s general political and ideological line, and not, as some say, member lethargy. The political line, rendering us indistinguishable from the Democrats, makes recruitment hard, saps Party morale, and leads to chronic financial crisis.

All clear-headed Communists acknowledge that, in response to the greatest capitalist crisis in 70 years, President Obama has opened up some policy debates around health care, job creation, workers’ rights, environmental protection and nuclear disarmament. These issues were not — and are not — even on the agenda of the Republican Party.

Yet these positive openings do not cancel out the Administrationís role in the growing death and destruction in Afghanistan, the billions of dollars pouring into Wall Street banks and the corporations, the re-authorization of the blockade of socialist Cuba, or the refusal to reverse Bush’s policies of rendition and the abridgement of civil liberties.

These openings do not justify exaggerating the "possibilities" opened up by the Obama presidency or warrant fantasies about a "social movement" led by Obama.

More and more, the Party line subordinates everything to Democratic Party electoral work. It fails to grasp the centrality – the sheer gravity and scope – of this world capitalist economic crisis and the hardships the crisis is inflicting on the working class, and the corresponding need for a militant fight-back.

The line wildly exaggerates Obama’s progressive side and sows illusions about the Democratic Party as a vehicle for social change.

The Iraq War rages on. The President recently signed an all-time high $680 billion war budget – an obscenity – yet the Party voice is muffled.

The line since the last convention has weakened our ties to the international Communist movement. Too many joint statements by the world movement on the Middle East and other burning issues go unsigned by the CPUSA. Our Party’s rosy "analysis" of the Obama Administration is rejected by the rest of a world Communist movement which is mobilizing against U.S. imperialism’s current crimes.

Some top leaders push technological panaceas. Yet the over-reliance on technology is creating a party of people sitting alone in front of a computer screen. The Internet cannot substitute for direct mass contact with workers through print publications. It cannot replace struggle in the streets, shops, and communities.

Militant tactics measuring up to the desperate conditions created by this economic crisis are not pushed by the CPUSA. In practice, the current political line ignores the lessons of the 1930s and our Party’s finest legacies – the CIO, and the building of all mass movements from the grass roots.

Our Party publications have lost working-class common sense. Their pages lavish undeserved praise on the Administration, and downplay what really matters such as: an immediate end to the U.S. aggressions in the Middle East; a jobs program which is not a carbon copy of the AFL-CIO program, and which puts forth advanced demands such as a cut in the workweek with no cut in pay; equality for all nationally oppressed groups; an end to the blockade of Cuba and freedom for the Cuban Five; and health care reform worthy of the name.

The gap between reality and the current political line has rarely been greater.

We need a change. We want to restore a fighting Communist Party organization that leads struggle.

Let’s make the most of our pre-convention discussion.