Part 1:  This is What Liquidation Looks Like

Startling new documents by the CPUSA National Chair Sam Webb, above all, The Mentality of Marginalization,[ 1] so candid in its opportunism, are his most revealing writings in a long time.[2]

They reveal that the top-down changes imposed at the National Committee (NC) of the CPUSA in June 2009 — over significant protest from Party leaders and members — are, in reality, Party liquidation, not Party building.  A new stage has been reached. Mounting evidence shows that Party liquidation – the dismantling of the CPUSA — has begun in earnest.

Consider the question: “Are these changes Party liquidation or Party building?” How on earth can such a question even arise? To reach for an analogy, isn’t the difference, for example, between house demolition and house construction perfectly obvious to all?

Actually, in the early stages, it is hard to tell the difference between construction and demolition. Demolition of an old building requires as much preparation as building a new one:  performing asbestos abatement, obtaining the needed municipal permits, submitting necessary notifications, disconnecting utilities, vermin removal, and development of site-specific safety and health plans. The preparatory processes can be hard to tell apart. [3]

The analogy is imperfect. Party demolition is harder to see also because those carrying it out deny that demolition is what they are doing. House demolition does not have to be denied.

In June 2009 the early stages of Party liquidation ended. The likely trajectory of liquidation has become much clearer. Even the shape of the organization the present top leaders are striving for is coming into focus.

To sift through Sam Webb’s writings in “Mentality of Marginalization,” in “Observations on Reconfiguring and Restructuring Our Work” (OPRRW), and in his speech at the Chautauqua Institute, “The Communist Party: a Work in Progress, ” is to find a tangle of specious arguments for dismembering the Party. Almost any argument is pressed into service, no matter how disingenuous, far-fetched, and inconsistent with other arguments and previous statements. Together, these writings and a closer look at what the June 2009 NC meeting actually did — not what it claimed to be doing — shine a light on the real meaning of the new Party course. Moreover, the transformation of the CPUSA into something other than a communist party is accelerating.

Elsewhere the present writer has discussed the history of opportunism in the US Communist movement[4] and the debilitating changes Sam Webb and his closest allies have been arguing for.[5]  Alas, gloomy forecasts in those two earlier articles have proven accurate.

What is Liquidation?
Party liquidation can be political, ideological, organizational, and physical, or all of the above.  An excerpt from a long out‑of‑print CPUSA pamphlet, “The Communist Party and How it Works” states:


There are constant pressures of ruling class and petty bourgeois ideology on the Party. Occasional errors of Party organizations and individuals can, if not corrected, become tendencies and even general departures or “deviations” from Marxism‑Leninism. Ideological struggle against such tendencies is permanently necessary for the Communist Party. Though the forms constantly change, in the United States opportunism has been the main character of ruling class pressure on the Party and the working class movement. This involves adapting the working class movement to the interests of the ruling class.  It also means capitulating to the difficulties created by the ruling class and learning to “live with” those difficulties.  Tendencies to liquidate the Communist Party as a Leninist party, to be replaced by an ideologically and organizationally amorphous “broader socialist” organization, have been one of the principal expressions of opportunism historically. [6]

“Tailism” is to follow the political line and to accept the ideological leadership of a section of the capitalist class.  It is a form of class collaboration.[7] Up until spring 2008 the foremost manifestation of the present opportunist Party general line has been 1) to tail the Democrats by dropping any CPUSA struggle for political independence, and 2) to tail the Democrats specifically on the Iraq War, uncritically endorsing them as the vehicle for ending the war.

Since 2008 when Barack Obama emerged as the leading candidate, the CPUSA controlling group has tailed the Obama campaign[8] and now the Obama White House.

Signs of Liquidation Are Everywhere
Political and ideological liquidation has been under way for some time. For example, in 2005 the principle of the struggle for the leading role of the Party, a cornerstone of Leninism, was cut out of the new Party Program under false pretenses.[9] Out the window, also, went the struggle for the political independence of the labor movement and its allies. The 2005 Program sees the Democratic Party as the final resting place of working class activism, for as far into the future as anyone can see.[10]  The changes in the new program were sold to members with many quotations from Dimitrov. But Dimitrov never said that a Communist Party in a multi-class coalition has to trim its ideological sails to whatever is acceptable to more conservative social classes and political forces also opposed to the main enemy, be it fascist or ultra-right. He said the opposite.[11]

Political Affairs, once a Communist theoretical journal, is now (despite a few remaining principled contributors) mostly a quirky liberal magazine. It is available online only. Often enough, its writers seem more devoted to distancing themselves from Marxism-Leninism, than using it to understand the world.[12] The name Lenin is seen less and less in its pages.

The ideological unity of the party is a thing of the past. De facto there are two trends, the dominant one, is that of the rightward-moving top leadership. The other trend, struggling, is the Marxism-Leninism of many members and leaders.

Prompt Press, a printing press that has traditionally printed the Party’s newspaper and pamphlets, is on its way out. The Party Archives were given away for free four years ago to a wealthy private university. There has been no Party candidacy for any public office in perhaps 15 years. There are no bookstores. There are few or no pamphlets. There are no mass public meetings — even by today’s modest definition of “mass” — and no attempt to organize them. There is no mass distribution of the Party paper. There is no industrial concentration policy. [13]

A little discussed form of liquidation is the abolition of left and intermediate forms. This is a conscious policy: when attempts are made to revive them, for example, US Peace Council chapters, the leadership pounces, denouncing “sectarianism.” These forms, such as such as NAIMSAL, WREE, NAARPR, TUAD, USPC[14] and others have been allowed to wither and die. Only remnants survive. With mass radicalization from Bush’s attacks on working people and with global capitalist economic crisis laying bare the rottenness of the capitalist system, the CPUSA should be growing. It is not. One reason for that is that it has no periphery. A Communist Party recruits from among people on the left, not from center forces. With Communists one-sidedly working with center forces unready to make any commitment to Party membership, it is harder to recruit.

CPUSA antiwar work has been stalled since before Obama’s election. The Party has a noble tradition of leadership in antiwar work. With the CPUSA leadership so preoccupied these days with trying to orchestrate membership contentment with the Administration’s Iraq “withdrawal” policy, and Party leaders in complete denial on the expanding US aggressions in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia, the antiwar movement, deprived of its natural leader, is rudderless.

No multi-racial US political organization can boast of a better record on fighting racism than the CPUSA. Now African-American working people are being hammered by mass unemployment and unprecedented housing foreclosures and evictions. Affirmative action, for 35 years an effective policy for achieving racial equality, is under fresh attack by reaction. Nobody denies that the breaking of the racist color bar on the White House by Obama’s election was a splendid democratic achievement for the US people. Understandably, it was uniquely gratifying to tens of millions of people of color in the US. Missing is a special Party class analysis of racism as a barrier to class unity in the new circumstances.[15] Instead there is endless 23rd Street jubilation at the Obama election, and irritation at members who raise questions about the persistence of racism, especially institutionalized racism.

New examples of physical and organizational liquidation can be seen. Headed for the scrapheap today is the print edition of the People’s Weekly World (PWW).[16] Fury at this autocratic decision from many clubs, districts, and individuals — after Party leaders had recently and publicly denied that any such move was planned — went unreported[17] at the NC meeting, by a leadership famous for claiming “democracy matters.” The Party’s finest comrades have been faithfully carrying out the PWW’s distribution in the wee hours of the morning in foul and fair weather for decades. If “a Communist Party’s prime task is to unite its science with the class,” the PWW represented a transmission belt to basic workers on the shop floor, on a picket line, at a demonstration, or on an unemployment line. It is the most obvious and outrageous way so far that the present CP leaders are severing Party links to the working class.

Phony Rationales for Change
At the NC meeting in late June, concrete measures to enfeeble the CPUSA were rammed through. In recent months there had been a leadership epiphany regarding the communicative powers of the Internet. From the podium, NC members heard puerile hype about Twitter and  Tweets, and Facebook, and MySpace. The simple truth is the party, like all living organizations, has been on the Internet since the early 1990s. Nobody denies that smart use of new information technology is important for any organization. The present writer is unaware of any other Communist Party in the world, big enough to have print publications, discarding such print publications to go to “Internet only.” In reality, the newly discovered technological imperative is merely a bogus excuse to get rid of the print PWW. The paper’s announced demise sparked a degree of opposition in some sections of the leadership, though not enough to thwart it.

Back in 1989 Gus Hall said this:

About our press — articles from three clubs in one way or another raised the question of doing away with the People’s Daily World because it “takes too much effort, money, and time..” And, as one article said, “We don’t have the time to visit the contacts we make with the paper anyway.”

To do away with the People’s Daily World would be the first step in liquidating the Party. I don’t see any alternative to our press — or our Party. Here again, the influence of the People’s Daily World is much greater than its subscriptions alone.[18]

The Spanish-language editor of the PWW (Nuestro
Mundo)was dismissed. This will hurt the Party’s outreach to the growing and often militant Spanish-speaking population in the US.

Other steps by the cyber-Communists threaten to be just as enfeebling.  Perhaps most harmful of all is the decision to abolish the Organization Department – and to hand its function over to a committee with many other functions. This giant stride toward Party liquidation rips the heart out of democratic centralism. Few Party functions are as important as the Organization Department, subordinate only to the National Convention, NC, and NB.[19]  Its checkup-and-control mission is to turn Party policy into organizational reality. The Organization Department has the responsibility for the daily implementation of the policy decisions of National Conventions, the NB and the NC.[20] It makes the difference between an organization of doers and an organization of talkers.

Ominously, the June NC meeting saw the first tentative steps to a new party name, “People Before Profits,” whose advent will be cloaked as merely a new mode of self-presentation on the Internet. Cleverly, the edict is put forth in a plausibly deniable way.[21] The giveaway is that the dreaded C- word, “Communist,” will be downgraded, most likely before it is discarded altogether.[22]

The 42 percent cut in staff is a massive cut (29 people down to 17 people). This means the Party’s influence will be torn to shreds in many spheres of its work.

The YCL is the party’s future. If, as claimed, these proposals are about accepting austerity for a period in order to create more favorable conditions for future growth, why is the YCL staff being shrunken?[23]

“Observations and Proposals…” and the Chautauqua speech[24]
In the document that Chairman Webb circulated on the eve of the June NC meeting  “Observations and Proposals on Reconfiguring and Restructuring the Work “(OPPRW) he argues: 1) the changes made since 2000 have allowed us to successfully adapt; 2) we have been on this road for years — this is only one more step; 3) The budget crisis makes the end of the print PWW necessary; 4) a cyber-CPUSA is a technological imperative.Â

Taken together, these arguments make no sense whatsoever.  Â

Is a “budget crisis” driving Party economy moves? Anyone who can do arithmetic could have and should have foreseen it. Sam Webb stated, “We are not doing anything new; it’s just reconfiguring.” But he gave the game away when he also said “I’d be in favor of these cuts even if there were no budget crisis.”Â

If management blunders caused a deficit requiring drastic remedial measures, those responsible should have been required to submit their resignations. But there will be no resignations. The changes imposed were not in fact driven by technology or budget.  The present leadership has no wish to be called to account and no intention of self-criticism.

We should not lose sight of the fact, finally, that there was no pretense of a Leninist basis[25] for any of the organizational changes, for example, to perfect democratic centralism.

Why take further steps along the same road if nine years of similar steps only caused the organizational difficulties to deepen? If we have successfully “adapted” to a harsh political climate since 1991, why do we have a shrinking party and a budget crisis, requiring a new round of savage cuts?

Sam Webb states, “We have not had a sustainable budget for as long as I can remember.” Who has been national chair since 2000?Â

Who in Party leadership signed off on salary increases for a sizable  paid staff, as if it was unforeseeable that, in time, the wage bill would be unsustainable and require a 42 percent cut (currently 29 people, down to 17 people) in paid staff headcount?

This “emergency,” then, was completely foreseeable. In most organizations, incompetent management, not foreseeing such a shortfall, would be sacked. Frankly, it looks more like a contrived emergency than a real one to achieve other, unstated goals. That possibility is explored below.

The Mentality of Opportunism
The grandiose historical argument in Mentality of Marginalization is that the present-day lack of political success of the US Left (which Sam Webb presumes to speak for, not merely for the CPUSA) is due to a holdover mindset, “mentality of marginalization.”[26] At an earlier stage, marginalization, he claims, was caused by objective factors such as “McCarthyism, the Cold War, and the long economic expansion following WW II…”  But now it is resistance “to thinking anew” that is causing the persistence of the “mentality of marginalization.” In other words, the Party’s problems are the fault of an unwilling Party membership.

This notion suggests Webb’s broader analysis, which he has openly stated elsewhere. He believes many of the stock slanders of the Party are justified, that the present day Party is in crisis because of its dogmatism, sectarianism, bureaucracy, and rigidity, that it may not survive unless it abandons its out-dated dogmas. It should emulate social democracy; its differences with social democracy are not that great, and it should seek to merge with the “broad left,” a favorite phrase.[27]

He congratulates himself for pushing the Party in this direction,  apparently undisturbed by the contradiction that the road he chose  has led the Party to this crisis. In OPRRW he states: “A glance at history, after all, reveals that the landscape of the class struggle is littered with working class formations that didn’t adapt to new realities. But to our credit we choose change, we choose innovation which is not surprising since we are a party of innovators. We could have clung to familiar moorings, long held views, and our place in the scheme of things, but we choose a different road.”

Abruptly — only at the end of Mentality of Marginalization — does the reader discover the article is a rationale specifically for opportunistically abandoning the Party’s longstanding commitment to achieve health care reform by ousting the parasitic private insurers from the system, for example, by the single-payer proposal.[28]  But Mentality of Marginalization sounds themes of a much broader significance than health care reform, important and timely though that matter is.

At root it is a plea to continue the Tail Obama CPUSA general line that Webb has been pursuing since Obama emerged as Democratic front-runner in early 2008. Before then, the tailing of the Democrats took the form of all-out, uncritical electoral support for Democrats in 2006 and 2008, supposedly as a way of ending the Iraq War and reversing attacks on the US people by ending Republican (“ultra-right”) control of the White House and Congress. The Democrats came into office in 2006 and 2008 all right, but neither the wars nor domestic attacks on working people have let up.

Webb’s writing has been predictable. He always tries to justify his opportunism by depicting it as a struggle against “sectarianism.”  That mask is now dropped.  He no longer bothers with arguments invoking Dimitrov’s reasoning about the Popular Front.  He observes that the “ultra right”  — George Bush and his would-be successor John McCain — was ousted from The White House in November of last year.[29] He worries that to demand more tailism by calling anew for “unity against the ultra-right,” because it might come back, would seem too flimsy an argument to Party members.[30] So his argument has mutated. It is “Tail Obama because he is the leader of the people’s coalition, and you risk isolation if you don’t support him.”

Be a “Player”
Opportunism sacrifices long-term and fundamental class and revolutionary goals for temporary and partial advantages. In this case, principle is exchanged for “player” status. In his own raw formulation:

A player of consequence; a player whose voice is seriously considered in the debates bearing on the future of the country; a player that is able to mobilize and influence the thinking and actions of millions.

But all or almost all CPUSA position have been shifted over the last few years, either explicitly or by gradually filling them with new content. To accommodate the Democrats and top union leaders Webb has been slowly shifting the CPUSA’s positions from the left to the center: on the Iraq and Lebanon wars,[31] on the socialist goal[32], on revolutionary strategy, on racism, on Cuba solidarity, on the economic crisis and the auto crisis, and by giving up on both political independence and industrial concentration.[33]  The phrase “class struggle” is not only used less often; it  is not even a frame of reference.

The retreat continues today. For example, there is CPUSA silence about US imperialism’s role in the Honduras coup; muted criticism of the expansion of Bush’s wars into Afghanistan and Pakistan; about  Administration retreats on US democratic rights and liberties, on closing Guantanamo, and on and on.

Foster: Intentions Don’t Count. Outcomes Count 
It has puzzled the present writer that friends in the Party have expressed unease with the word “liquidation.” One good friend remarked, “serious as the problems are, we want to avoid talk of ‘liquidation’ and place our entire stress on strengthening the Party politically, organizationally, financially, in its class composition and consciousness…”  Why the unease?

Liquidation is a precise scientific word in Marxist-Leninist theory, yet it receives a negative reaction.  Is it too abstract? Too little understood by a party whose educational standards have dropped?

Some believe, with good reason, the basis of the negative reaction is the party-wide drift away from Marxist-Leninist analysis and therefore Marxist-Leninist language. Scientific terms appear less often in CPUSA publications, even such elementary terms as “capitalist class,” “the national question,” even “right opportunism” or “imperialism.” This typifies the Party’s ideological decline, slowly succumbing to the surrounding ideological pressure in the wake of the break-up of the USSR and other socialist countries.

It seems likely the main cause of unease is that the idea of liquidation is counterintuitive. People simply have a hard time believing that any leader would seek to dismantle the very organization he is leading. Do union leaders liquidate trade unions? No. Do leaders of the nationally oppressed liquidate civil rights organizations? No. Do anti-war leaders liquidate peace organizations? No. True, such leaders may make this or that organizational blunder, but they never shoot the horse they are riding. Liquidation appears to suggest conscious bad intentions. And it’s always hard to prove intentions. So, to assert “liquidation is under way” evokes skepticism. Such skepticism is honest and merits an answer. Nevertheless, it is contended here the use of the word liquidation still makes sense.

Amidst the fight against Browderism, William Z. Foster stated,

Of course Comrade Browder does not want any such situation [that American imperialism would eventually dominate the world – EAD], but Lenin has long since taught us that the objective results of political policies bear no necessary relation to the subjective desire of the initiators.[34] 

The motive of liquidation is the same. In 1944-46 Browder wanted to reduce the CPUSA to a “progressive” current within the Democratic Party. It can be shown that Webb’s policies, objectively, have the same outcome.

The organizational changes Webb seeks are actually more radical than Browder’s. Browder merely changed the name to Communist Political Association (CPA), and gave up the Party’s right to run candidates, something parties typically do. Most of the rest of the work of the CPUSA went on as usual in the brief existence of the CPA, 1944-45.  Webb seeks a fundamentally different kind of organization, as we will see below.

The mode of liquidation is different. Returning to our earlier metaphor, Browder liquidated quickly. His method was dynamite and the wrecking ball. Stealthier and more gradual, Webb’s “deconstruction”  policies amount to 21st century Browderism.

Gus Hall who lived through the Browder debacle, once stated, “The most dangerous liquidationist trend is not disbanding the Party structure, but eliminating the Communist essence in our mass work.” He noted that, in end-stage opportunism, the party itself becomes the obstacle.

Thus, the Browder-led process of liquidating the Communist Party set in. The process of liquidation did not start with organization or physical liquidation. The process was at first one of liquidating the role, the functions of the Party. Slowly, the Party gave up taking independent positions. Less and less it took positions in its own name. More and more it became only the supporter of movements led by other forces. There was an acceptance of the cockeyed idea that the Party narrowed down mass movements and that anything non-Party was “broad.” Even a unity with small “Left” sects who influenced no one became a “broader” movement. Finally, the Party became an obstacle to Browder’s opportunism.  Browder kept denying he was liquidating the Communist Party. Each new opportunist step was presented as necessary as a way of giving the party a broad a mass base,  but it became an obstacle to “the alliance of intelligent men.“ Opportunism reduced the Party’s influence and warped its policies so they would be acceptable to the most backward sections of the people. However, as the Party began to move toward the less politically developed sections of the population, it began to lose its influence with the politically and ideologically more advanced sectors of the people. This is always the result of opportunist policies. [35]

Intentions Do Not Matter.
Let us give Sam Webb the benefit of the doubt. He has devoted his adult life to the US Communist movement. The last thirty years have  been hard times for proponents of revolutionary change. It is possible he thinks he is saving the Party. It is possible he is not fully conscious of the implications of his liquidation policies.  He has spoken of “adaptation.”[36]  He may believe that his “adaptation” strategy is the only realistic strategy for the CPUSA in the long haul. He often says socialism is not “on the agenda.” He evidently expects nothing more of US politics than a low-intensity, slow-tempo class struggle, with national politics consisting of little more than alternation of Democratic  and Republican Administrations, for decades to come. But Lenin, and Foster, and Hall are all saying the same thing: subjective intentions do not matter. Declared intentions do not matter. Objectively, Webb and his supporters are dismantling the Party. That is all that matters.

If such pessimism is indeed the outlook underlying liquidation, it is an outlook of despair. It leads straight to a “Socialism of Modest Aspirations,” as one writer aptly labeled it.[37]  It leads to the willingness to settle for crumbs from the table of the Democratic Party. Consider the timeline. Webb and others came to hold their present political beliefs in the awful 1990s. They came into office about 2000. One of the inner circle then was heard to state, “We have ten years to remake the Party.” The irony is that they are carrying out their plans — now speeding them up — at the very moment that possibilities for radical change in the country and in the world are fast reviving. With the world economic crisis, the possibilities are multiplying exponentially. The whole ideological crisis in the CPUSA, therefore, has a curious anachronistic quality.[38]

A fuller discussion of the origins of opportunism can be found elsewhere on this website.[39] Opportunism has roots in the material position of a revolutionary party in a non-revolutionary situation.  In such a situation, there is always pressure to move toward opportunism and reformism, at first by revising revolutionary theory. The dominant ideology in society remains that of the dominant class. There is a natural and understandable pressure on revolutionaries to be relevant, to not isolate themselves from the working class, and thus a natural tendency (that revolutionaries must consciously resist) to adopt the ideas, vocabulary, and positions of non-revolutionary workers, or liberals, or social reformists. Superimpose on that lasting reality these historical circumstances: the blow to revolutionary self-confidence stemming from the downfall of socialism in Europe twenty years ago, and the problematic course of People’s China in the last three decades.  The upshot: at the beginning of the 21st century opportunistic pressures on Communist parties in imperialist countries are a mighty force.

Why do Communist leaders go further and try to shoot the horse they are riding, that is to say, liquidate the parties they lead? It is an international phenomenon in the Communist movement. In France the Robert Hue leadership, aping the French Socialist Party, has reduced the CPF to a shadow of its former strength. In 1977-88 the “Eurocommunists” wrecked the CP of Great Britain, requiring a British Communist movement to be rebuilt almost from scratch. After 1989-91 the once mighty Italian Communist Party shattered like glass into successor fragments, some Communist, most reformist.  And why did Gorbachev liquidate the CPSU?

Liquidation is an advanced form of opportunism. Concretely, what propels this leader Sam Webb to move beyond the revisionist conclusions he drew after the events of 1989-1991, (but has never admitted forthrightly), to move not merely to opportunist policies and revisionist theories, easy to trace in his writings over the last few years, but now to actual dismemberment of the Party?Â

Here is the answer: a Communist Party, organized along Marxist Leninist principles, is not an ordinary organization. Lenin developed the theory of a Marxist-Leninist party “of a new type” in fierce ideological struggle with Second International opportunism. The Leninist theory, and the fortress-like organization designed by that theory, is based on the whole history of the European and world working class movement over many decades. Uniquely, a Communist party’s  democratic centralism, its rules, its structure, its traditions, its practice of collective leadership, its criticism and self-criticism, its insistence on realistic all-sided estimates, its check-up and control, its reliance on revolutionary theory tested in class struggle around the world, the clarity and precision of its terms  — all represent built-in organizational safeguards aimed at resisting opportunist degeneration.

Therefore, opportunism, meeting such steely organizational resistance, sooner or later tries to liquidate the Party.

Next time: The Crisis of the CPUSA Part 2: What Kind of Organization Do They Want?


[1] When the CPUSA is reconstituted on a Marxist-Leninist basis, “The Mentality of Marginalization” should be part of the curriculum of party schools, in the class dealing with party history and inner-party ideological struggle. It vividly illustrates opportunism in the US Communist movement.

[2] In a slightly different form, its ideas were included in his June 2009 remarks to the National Committee of the CPUSA and in his Chautauqua speech.  They are, therefore, his considered position.

[3] Demolition is not exactly the same as de-construction. De-construction involves taking a building apart while carefully preserving valuable elements for re-use. The current drive toward Party liquidation is more like de-construction.

[4] Reflections on Revisionism <<>>

[5] From Revisionism to Party Liquidation <<

[6] Party veterans say this superb pamphlet was written by Danny Rubin. Let us give credit where credit is due.

[7] William Z. Foster observed, “trailing after the big bourgeoisie is the historic error of social democracy.” William Z. Foster “On the Question of Revisionism.”  In Marxism-Leninism vs. Revisionism, by William Z.  Foster, Jacques Duclos, Eugene Dennis, and John Williamson. Foreword by Max Weiss. New Century Publishers, Feb. 1946, 9.

[8] In calling for change in the organizational structure of a Marxist-Leninist Party they have invoked the Obama campaign as an organizational ideal. They still refer to an “Obama movement.” It does not exist. They confuse a 2008 email list of small contributors with a mass movement. The genuine wave of enthusiasm for Obama in the early stages of the 2009 campaign came from his perceived stronger anti-Iraq War stance. Democratic primary voters are liberal and antiwar. Since Inauguration Day his anti-war reputation has suffered.

[9] The lame argument, which sad to say, a majority of delegates bought, was that in the name of modesty, the Party should earn the leading role, not merely claim it.

[10] He believes political independence should be limited to work within the Democratic Party. Any attempt to go outside the two-party system is sectarian and futile. Third party efforts, particularly those with an anti-monopoly thrust, are no longer of strategic importance; they may actually impede the struggle. Running Communists and workers is especially narrow and self-defeating. Electoral struggle in the Democratic Party is the main arena of progressive struggle in this period. OPRRW: “… a sea change occurred on Election Day [2008] and nothing that has happened since then suggests anything else. We live in a new era of struggle, filled with immense opportunities. … Is there any doubt that Gus, Winnie, Jim Jackson, Helen, George, Elsie, Lou, Carl, Vic, Fred, Jim West, Tommy, and many others would have hailed our election policy, the election of the first African American President, and the broad coalition that elected him?”) To invoke the first names of revered Party leaders whose policies he is reversing is deeply offensive to this writer.

[11] “Communists, of course, cannot and must not for a moment abandon their own independent work of communist education, organization, and mobilization of the masses.” “Content and Form of the United Front.” Dimitrov on United Front (New Delhi: People’s Publishing House, 1971),  27.

[12] Last August an editor of Political Affairs ran a lampoon of Marxism. He became highly indignant when some Party members expressed shock.

[13] Webb’s OPRRW makes a fleeting reference to “labor concentration.” This could leave the misleading impression that there is still a CPUSA policy of industrial concentration. There isn’t one. Ask the YCL. Ask the industrial districts. It’s gone.

[14] Younger readers may be unfamiliar with these organizations and their initials: NAIMSAL (National Anti-imperialist League in Solidarity with African Liberation) , WREE (Women for Racial and Economic Equality) , TUAD (Trade Unionists for Action and Democracy), USPC (the US Peace Council, an affiliate of the World Peace Council) , NAARPR (National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression) and others.

[15] Old timers can recall the Party’s emergency focus on the ideological defense of affirmative action in the late 1970s when the Bakke and Weber cases threatened to undo civil right progress. No like effort exists now.

[16] Some don’t regret the loss of the print PWW much. Not to regret its loss is a mistake, in the present writer’s view, though to be sure its ideological decline has been steep. The editorials and coverage show little fighting spirit, which can only be found in the articles of a few dogged contributors.

[17] At the next meeting NC members could demand to know the extent of protests from around the country. There were many, and they did not mince words.

[18] Gus Hall, “The Power of Ideology: Keynote Address to the First Ideological Conference of the Communist Party USA,” July 14-16, 1989, Chicago, New Outlook Publishers, 1989, 57. 

[19] The current Organizational Secretary will be reassigned to work on new fund raising work, big donor development and a campaign to raise $100,000 by the end of the year.

[20] “The Communist Party and How it Works: a Handbook on its Organization and Functioning,” March 1976, 53.

[21] The former PA editor has been openly advocating a name change for some time.

[22] The NB proposal was: “Single website (People before Profits) with multiple domains – CPUSA, PWW, PA, and YCL featuring on line news, commentary, education, theoretical discussions, action initiatives, podcasts, u-tube interviews, downloadable materials, etc. “

[23] The NB proposal was: “Reduce staff of YCL to one position; discuss reconfiguring of the work and structure of YCL with its leadership and membership; and explore further the feasibility of an additional staff position.”

[24] The Chautauqua Institute speech, given to a non-party audience in Western New York, restated the Mentality for Marginalization thesis. This is odd; the thesis is aimed at the supposedly self-marginalizing Left, not the public.

[25] At Chautauqua he characterized the Communist Party as “a work in progress,” as if organizational changes would be determined by pragmatism and the needs of the moment, not a theory of what a revolutionary organization must be and must do.  He also began the speech with the curious comment that “if any of you are expecting militant rhetoric and passionate appeals to storm the barricades, you will be disappointed…”

[26] Inconsistency does not bother him. Are the changes he demands a response to failure, or simply movement along a continuum of successful adaptation? Both, he seems to believe.

[27] The very fact that he wields The Straw Man weapon against his opponents shows the weakness of his argument and the strength of his opponents’ views. He cannot win against their actual arguments, so he invents an argument he can defeat.

[28] Ever flexible, he announces his retreat. He comes out in favor of the Administration’s weak “public option” proposal, which leaves the private carriers in the system, supposedly to be regulated by competition.  In truth, the “public option,” whatever its details, barely constitutes reform at all. Of course, Webb prefers single-payer in his head, but is unwilling to struggle for it. It might isolate him from Obama. The health care struggle has demonstrated the strategic weakness of the Party’s policy of being in bed with the Obama Administration. Not fighting for a strong HR676 single-payer initiative makes the “public option” the most “left” option and the target of right wing attack. It is difficult to mobilize people for a vague public option. Many cannot grasp it or else distrust it, due to the closed negotiations and the changing details.  In other words, people are not sure what they are fighting for, other than that they don’t want the insurance companies and Big Pharma to dictate the “reforms.” Moreover, the single-payer advocates are a real movement. They can and do mobilize. With their huge resources, the insurance companies mobilize coached, fake “grassroots protestors” and various ultra right thugs and cranks at Health Care Town Hall Meetings. But having tossed aside the single-payer movement, Obama and his allies are without a comparable mass force.  

[29] Some say that the ultra right is still strong in the larger US political system and Obama has to be defended to help him overcome it. That Obama needs pressure from left and independent forces is, of course, correct. It is quite another thing to adopt and defend Obama’s centrist positions, which is what Webb does. The argument carries another implication: that the US left must forever stay within the confines of Democratic Party as long as the ultra right threat exists, that the struggle for political independence must be delayed indefinitely, inasmuch as only the Democratic Party is a practical electoral vehicle to defeat the ultra right.  This is a trap. The material basis of the ultra right — finance capital, oil giants, weapons manufacturers, etc., which have a stranglehold on state power — will be a reality until a radical or revolutionary movement takes them over. The ultra right  will exist for a very long time. This way of thinking is to put off the fight for a labor-based independent formation forever. Moreover, in tailing Obama, the CPUSA is ignoring its own 2005 Program, which states: “U.S. capitalism is presently in the monopoly capitalist, imperialist stage of development, and in the transnational monopoly phase of that stage. Once the most reactionary ultra-right transnationals, who dominate political life today, receive a major defeat, it will be both necessary and possible to take on the transnationals as a whole; it will be possible to move on to the anti-monopoly stage of struggle. Building an anti-monopoly coalition is the next key step in the road to socialism in the U.S.” If ousting Republicans from the White House was not a major blow, why all the political ecstasy? If it was a major blow, why is the Party not back in the anti-monopoly stage of struggle?

[30] Not that he hasn’t tried it, referring to an “ultra right” that threatens “to derail the Obama administration.” Hence, any criticism would be out of bounds as long as the ultra right exists.

[31] Bill Miller, “For Anti-Imperialist Partisanship in the CPUSA”  ( August 2006

[32] His previous writing suggests he believes much bourgeois criticism of socialist democracy and economic planning is essentially correct. He distances the Party from the Soviet Union. OPRRW: “We began re-envisioning the path to socialism and socialist society, based on present day challenges and a critical examination of the socialist experience in the 20th century.”

[33] George Meyers, a great Communist trade unionist, is tendentiously misquoted to justify the CPUSA’s present satisfaction with the centrist positions of the AFL-CIO. To be sure, Meyers was correct to state that “left-center unity is built on the most advanced position of the center forces.” He was referring to unity on action program, not ideological unity. Communist and other left-wingers don’t drop their ideology when they coalesce with center forces.

[34] William Z. Foster “On the Question of Revisionism” Marxism-Leninism vs. Revisionism,  William Z.  Foster, Jacques Duclos, Eugene Dennis, John Williamson. Foreword by Max Weiss. New Century Publishers,  Feb. 1946 , 39.

[35] Political Affairs.

[36] Implicit in the “adaptation” talk is the social democratic notion: the capitalist system is not moribund, but strong. It is not in general crisis. Its direction is upward. Therefore, the Party’s strategy should be to win attainable reforms within the system rather than advocate capitalism’s revolutionary replacement with socialism. OPRRW: “We could have clung to familiar moorings, long held views, and our place in the scheme of things, but we choose a different road. While embracing our traditions and history, which admittedly help us navigate stormy seas, we also eagerly searched for new angles of looking at, thinking about, and reshaping the world.”

[37] Zoltan Zigedy,

[38] Foster discerned the pattern. Periods of upswing of US imperialism, coupled with setbacks/defeats for socialism, correspond to bouts of opportunism in the US Communist movement. He cited “The Roaring 20s” (Lovestone); World War II military success (Browder); the conservative 1950s when a top-dog US ruled the postwar world (Gates). One can add:  The Booming 1960s (Healey and Richmond ); the downfall of socialism and emergence of US as sole superpower (Committees of Correspondence). Only the present bout is exceptional, for the reasons indicated.

[39] Reflections on Revisionism<<>>