Let us begin by saying that we appreciate the work it took to produce the essay. It was put together with honesty.
WeÂ believe that Sam Webb truly believes what he writes.
That being said, we offer a different perspective.
We cannot afford to do away or retire the term, Marxism-Leninism. For one thing, to say that "it has a negative connotation among ordinary Americans, even in left and progressive circles" is running from the class struggle.
Our job as communists is to educate ordinary Americans about communism and what it is all about. For instance, production and manufacturing in this country are at an all time low. What little there is being produced is not socially useful production. That is one reason why unemployment levels are so high. To begin with, our party should review its industrial concentration policy and call for a return of manufacturing jobs to the USA.
We should use all legal means at our disposal to initiate unemployed councils, lobby for legislation, work with industrial unions that are on the same page, and put out information in our communities that says that the Communist Party is for full employment and we have the science to prove it. The pamphlet, "Feeling locked out of the American Dream?" is a good start. We should return to our roots. The term Marxism-Leninism has served our party well for ninety years. Running away from it gains us nothing.
As for Stalin, the main reason for using the term, Marxism-Leninism has to do with his (and Lenin’s) work on the national question. He was faced with uniting a nation by protecting the rights of peoples that were not Russian, fighting against great Russian chauvinism, while at the same time, fighting against nationalism. Using the science of Marxism-Leninism this was accomplished, culminating in the so-called Stalin constitution of 1936 which guaranteed the rights of all citizens in the U.S.S.R.
Further, the science of Marxism-Leninism corrected the error in the theory of Marx and Engels that assumed that socialism would first come to the industrially advanced countries of the world. As we now see, socialism first came to Russia (the U.S.S.R.), the eastern bloc countries, and then China, and then Korea, and then Cuba, and then Viet Nam and Laos. None of these countries were industrially advanced. Stalin wrote volumes on the need to support national liberation movements to bring about socialism in underdeveloped countries and provided material support toward that end.
To say that Marxism-Leninism "took formal shape during the Stalin period during which Soviet scholars, under Stalin’s guidance, systematized and simplified earlier Marxist writings-not to mention adapted ideology to the needs of the Soviet state and party" does not mean that we can not do the same in the United States. Of course Stalin and the Central Committee of the party adapted ideology to the needs of the soviet state and party! That is what every political party that takes power does. That is what we should do. But that does not mean that the term Marxism-Leninism is foreign by any means. Stalin learned from Lenin. Hence the term, Marxism-Leninism.
Where it is said, "Marxism is revolutionary in theory and practice, but it doesn’t consider "gradual" and "reform" to be dirty words," no one is suggesting that about Marxism-Leninism. PerÃº and their party led by Secretaty General Roberto De La Cruz HuamÃ¡n are leaders of large numbers of masses. At a recent demonstration that was called by a "coalition" of left parties of which the PCP is a part, along with the ConfederaciÃ³n General de Trabajadores de PerÃº (CGTP) the workers of PerÃº made minimum demands. It was a huge legal demonstration against neo-liberalism and the selling off of public entities (privatization). This demonstration is just part of the effort by the five left parties that includes the PCP and the CGTP to win the Presidency of the nation on April 10. There is a good chance. Of course, they are using Marxist-Leninist tactics that work in their country, as the Chinese party is fond of saying ,with their own "characteristics."
Before we fight for the interests of the entire nation, we must fight for the interests of the working class. When people see us fighting for the workers, many will join us, including small business people and people from other parties. To wait until the working class is destroyed "to fight for the interests of the entire nation" is just wrong. "The deterioration of infrastructure, the destruction of the social safety net, the undermining of the public school system, the decay of urban and rural communities, the privatization of public assets, the growth of poverty and inequality, the hollowing out of manufacturing and cities, the lowering of workers wages, and a faltering – now stagnant – domestic economy" are the reasons why we should be fighting for the working class first.
It is no secret that pension funds in OECD countries lost $3.5 trillion (US) in market value during the global financial crisis and are still unable to fully restore savings to their 2008 levels. Defined benefit pension funds are underfunded because of wild speculation throughout the world’s capitalist markets. The workers are punished through no fault of their own. This is one area of the financial mess that needs to be properly explained. The CPUSA should issue a position paper on the subject of pension funds, noting first of all that workers take less money in wages with the expectation that pension funds will be available when they reach retirement age.
This is not to say that there are problems that effect all of humanity, like global warming, nuclear power and weapons, and natural disasters. Of course we do all we can to identify these problems and make the struggle for a better world part of our program.
"The struggle for socialism goes through phases and stages, probably more than we allow for in our current writings and program." Exactly! We have a defeat and retreat strategy. The CPUSA seems to be afraid of the capitalist system. Workers can sense this. They know when the party is weak. That is one reason they don’t join in greater numbers.
"A party of socialism understands that in any broad coalition of social change, competing views are inevitable." The role of the left is to express its views candidly, but in a way that strengthens rather than fractures broad unity, which is a prerequisite for social progress." That is why Lenin and the bolsheviks formed "a party of a new type." A communist party. They found that working with the social democrats was a defeatist policy. Later they found that working with the Trotskyites was a bad idea. It depends on how one defines left.
We all know that the CIA works overtime since the end of the cold war setting up left groups that are for the purpose of discrediting the communist movements and parties. There is another very important reason they form these groups. They finance them to fool workers who are looking for solutions to their problems. A party of the 21st century must be ideologically strong so as not to be enamored by the glitz and glamor of capitalism. Now the social-democratic elites have cell phones and blackberries, and laptops and they drink their Starbucks coffee in the morning and they travel like kings while the majority of people in the world have nothing to eat! We must have humility if we are to be real communists.
"Don’t be surprised to see a movement back to class concepts and historical materialsm -not to mention a new interest in the theoretical contributions and political biography of Lenin. No one in this or the last century can match his theoretical body of work on questions of class, democracy, alliance policy, nationality, power, and socialist revolution." In fact in the former Soviet Union, there is renewed interest in the lives of Lenin and Stalin, and their popularity there is rising. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation placed second in the regional elections, passing the Russia United party. All the more reason not to change Marxism-Leninism to simply Marxism.
"A party of socialism in the 21st century doesn’t irrevocably lock social forces, organizations and political personalities into tightly enclosed social categories that allow no space for these same forces, organizations and personalities to change under the impact of issues, events, and changing correlations of power." We seriously doubt that a party as small as the CPUSA can have this kind of power. We had better grow first, before we assume such things.
Regarding immigrants having a tradition of struggle, suggesting that their spirit is militant and anti-capitalist while failing to mention the neo – liberal policies in their countries of origin that caused them to emmigrate makes the assumption that they were born that way and that all immigrants are that way. They have to continue the fight in their own communities in the United States which is why many immigrants don’t join the party. We have witnessed this with our own eyes. We work with immigrants every day. Immigrants work within their own community. We have worked many years in the past within the Irish community and had to fight against nationalism and anti-communism. Despite this, we were able to establish a party club of Irish immigrants, and they were mainly concerned with problems back home. We are not suggesting that all communities are the same, but we are patient, and we observe how immigrants react to our party. Are we really interested in their problems or are we just using them? It is something we should discuss before assume that all immigrants will jump at the chance to join the party because they are immigrants.
We have to ask, why take over the Democratic Party? What can be gained by such talk? Are we organizing them or are they organizing us? Are we having influence with them, or are they having influence with us? Who is leading whom? Wouldn’t it be better to work with workers’ organizations directly, that is to say, the unions and the union movement? Wouldn’t it be better to organize a coalition of parties and left forces into an electoral coalition that can win real political power like they have done successfully in PerÃº and El Salvador? A party with its own independence and it’s own name, led by labor and communists? That is what we see . And it is working. First we tried to work with the old parties, and we were sold out. That is what the Democratic Party is good at.
When we speak of Stalin, we need to speak of him in the continuum of history. Before there was a Soviet Union there was Russia, with its culture, tradition, and its brutality. Stalin acknowledged publicly that "the purges and executions of hundreds of thousands of communists and other patriots and the labor camps that incarcerated, exploited and sent untold numbers of [innocent] Soviet people to early deaths, and the removal of whole peoples from their homelands." The most precise number of deaths from purges and executions of innocent Soviet citizens is 640,000. Most of this was done by Nicolai Eshov, a German spy working under direct orders of the German SS. When he was discovered, he tried to hide his crimes. He was promptly tried and executed. Others with authority high in the Soviet government were also found to be murdering innocent Soviet citizens. They were also double dealers working for the Germans. Following Lenin’s death, many intellectuals doubted that the Soviet Union would continue. They joined the party, acted like loyal party members, worked their way up into positions of authority and worked as spies Germany. The assassination of Sergei Kirov in 1934 was the first major provocation of the Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites. There was sabotage including falsifying of grain and cotton harvest reports, killing of livestock including horses, destroying railroads, blowing up mines, and so on.
In short, there was a fifth column operating in Soviet Russia. The threat was real. And the man who was charged with stopping the sabotage , Nicolai Eshov, was protecting the spies, and conducting trials of innocent Soviet citizens, and lying to the Central Committee of the CPSU the whole time. What do you do when people lie to you? Do you take their testimony at face value? Can they be trusted? Are they loyal comrades? Or are they lying and destroying the lives of innocent people?
When Stalin acknowledged the atrocities, he did not call them a mistake. He said that horrible crimes were committed that have nothing to do with socialism, and those crimes were committed by Nicolai Eshov, a German spy. When we speak of war crimes or crimes against humanity, we have to put the blame where it belongs, not on the people who discovered the horrible crimes, Stalin and Beria.
There are many witnesses to Stalin’s leadership of the USSR. Firstly, there is the American ambassador to the USSR, Joseph E. Davies, author of the book, Mission to Moscow. Then there is Anna Louise Strong, who wrote, The Stalin Era, which is her account of her time in the USSR under Stalin’s leadership. There is also the book, Stalin, written by a German biographer, Emil Ludwig. There is also The Red Archbishop, the Dean of Canterbury, Hewlett Johnson and his book, The Soviet Power. There is plenty to read on the subject of the soviet Union during WW II.
On the subject of war crimes and labor camps, it should be pointed that the United States bombed Dresden and murdered hundreds of thousands of German citizens, and later dropped not one but two atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan, killing hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese citizens. These bombs were dropped on civilian targets where they would do the most damage. The reason for these atrocities had nothing to do with winning the war. The goal of the capitalism was to destroy the industrial capacity of Germany and Japan so that the United States and United Kingdom would be unchallenged superpowers in the world. The Soviet Union decided not to use nuclear weapons and instead attacked the Japanese main land, liberated the Sakhalin Islands, and kept the Japanese Army from valuable fuel to continue the war. In short, the use of nuclear weapons was unnecessary.
Before and during the war, there was no "forced" collectivization of Soviet agriculture. It was entirely voluntary. "it was found that the voluntary principle of forming collective farms was being violated, and that in a number of districts the peasants were being forced into the collective farms under threat of being disspossed, disfranchised, and so on." (History of the CPSU, p.307, International Publishers, 1939 ed.)This was in direct violation of the order of the Central Committee of the CPSU which was "against any attempts whatsoever to force the collective-farm movement by ‘decrees’ from above, which might involve the danger of the substitution of mock-collectivization for real Socialist emulation in the organization of collective farms." (Resolutions of the C.P.S.U.[B] russ. ed., Part II, page 662.) What there was was a discontinuation of Lenin’s New Economic Policy, which had become outdated. Stalin needed to ramp up agricultural output so that there would not be food shortages during and after the war. There was nothing forced about it. In fact having received a number of alarming signals of distortions of the Party line that might jeopardize collectivization, on March 2, 1930 Stalin’s article "dizzy With Success," was published. This article was a warning to all who had been carried away by the success of collectivization.
When whole peoples were relocated from their homelands, this was done because their homelands were under attack. In fact, Soviet troop trucks were sent to Poland to relocate Jewish people behind the Ural mountains so that they would be safe. Once again, the threat was real.
With regard to Stalin’s so-called labor camps, we should consider that most of the people in the camps were deserters from the armed forces that were captured. This has been researched and verified by the writer Geoffrey Roberts in his book, Stalin’s Wars.
Secondly, we had labor camps of our own. Japanese-Americans were relocated from the major cities on the west coast into internment or concentration camps. These people were American citizens, many of whom served in the 244th army regiment in Europe while their families stayed behind. This was a great violation of civil rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Before we find fault and throw stones at Stalin, who has been dead for more than 50 years, who led the USSR in the great patriotic war and saved socialism, the legacy of Lenin, we should first look at our own country’s "mistakes." The United States also had a "cult of personality." His name was Franklin D. Roosevelt, and while he did many good things, internment of Japanese-Americans wasn’t one of them.
Regarding the statement that "The state isn’t simply the instrument of the ruling class Â a monolithic and tightly integrated class bloc and weapon. While the capitalist class is dominant, the state is filled with with internal contradictions and is a site of class and democratic struggles Â not just any site though, but a crucial and decisive site." What you fail to mention is that Gorbachev and his social-democratic friends used this idea to destroy socialism and the USSR. The history of social-democracy of one of anti-communism and anti-Leninism. The social-democrats do not want socialism. They want to reform capitalism. The communists on the other hand, have always been guided by the revolutionary teachings of Marxism-Leninism. In the new conditions of the era of imperialism, imperialist wars and proletarian revolutions, its leaders further developed the teachings of Marx and Engels and raised them to a new level. That is what the CPUSA must do if we are to call ourselves "communist."
regarding the statement. "Bureaucratic collectivism and a command economy that reduce people to cogs, social relations into things, and culture to a dull gray will be resisted by a 21st century party of socialism" who is suggesting that a command economy has to reduce people to cogs? The command economy will be run by the workers themselves, not the party. That is what socialism is! Why assume that the party will run everything? It certainly does not in Brazil or Venezuela, or Cuba.
As for the statement that "Our socialism will embrace a new humanist ethos and value system, that is what Marxism-Leninism does. Marxism-Leninism is synonymous with humanism. This has nothing to do with whether or not there is a command economy under socialism. Furthermore, a command style economy with bureaucratic collectivism could be construed as trade unionism, something that will be replaced by socialism in the 21st century. The dream that "the builders of socialism should put into place a dense network of worker and community organizations that are politically and financially empowered to govern" assumes that everyone will participate. Unless incentives are put in place, this will not work.
As for dropping the term democratic centralism, this cannot be done in a communist party. This is how we function. Democratic Centralism "is" force of argument. That is how unions decide questions of major importance such as the decision to strike. The conscience of the majority, by unity of will. Remember that the Bolsheviks we busy in 1917 too. Workers worked more than the customary 8 hours a day. What makes us any different. Membership in our party is voluntary. If members can’t follow what is in our constitution, they shouldn’t be members. That is what distinguishes us from other political parties. We are disciplined. We make a plan and we stick with it. We are not like the social-democratic parties that spend all their time in endless debates.
Regarding the internet, the party should not abandon ground organizing if favor of the internet. It should use both. Our clubs depend on literature to reach people in our communities. We can’t neglect this work. The internet that we have seen is very limited. There isn’t much there to see. There has to be more on those pages like the CPUSA website. There should be a direct link to International Publishers on the home page. We shouldn’t have to surf through endless links to find it. International Publications is a party entity and should be treated as such. Currently there is no members section. There is no on-line store to purchase party supplies or to order pamphlets in print. We should have position papers on things effecting the working class: a paper on the foreclosure crisis, a paper on homelessness, a paper on war and peace, a paper on the struggle to reform labor law, a paper on immigration and citizenship. If these were on the web page,in PDF format, our clubs could download them and use them in our communities. If we are concentrating on the web so much, we need to use it to our advantage. Right now it looks like something of a command style bureaucracy.
Regarding the statement that, "No party , including ours, is mistake free; we make mistakes and we make them in the present as well as the past. Politics is complex and fluid, and mistakes in theory, assessments and practices are inevitable" It would have been nice if the party of the first country of socialism had been afforded that same luxury! What gives us the right to judge Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union in the Great Patriotic War? What right do we have to distance ourselves from him? None. What was achieved until 1953, the year of Stalin’s death could never be achieved by the CPUSA. Never! The USSR saved the world from fascism and fought a war on two fronts. To distance ourselves from Stalin is anti-communism at its worst. This is not worthy of our party. Let us reunite ourselves with the legitimate communist and workers parties of the world. It is ours to win in the 21st century.
April 3, 2011
L.A. Metro Club Los Angeles, CA.