Where Have All the Flowers Gone?
Words and music by Pete Seeger

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the flowers gone?
Girls have picked them every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

The rest of the lyrics of this inspiring song can be found at:

Proposed new lines:
Where have all the Communists gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the Communists gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the Communists gone?
Leadership liquidating our party everywhere
When will we ever learn?
When will we ever learn?

Liquidation of the Party

Much has been written about the CPUSA national leadership’s not so subtle efforts to liquidate the Party masked in lofty rhetoric claiming to save the Party. The crowning glory of this effort appeared in a recent article by C. J. Atkins in Political Affairs advocating changing the name of the Party.

This drew a vigorous opposition for the first time to the slow, mental water-torture administered by national leadership to the often ignored and discounted membership. However, this proposal should not be a shock to membership since it follows the pattern set by top leadership over the last few years.

Just a few reminders would include the jettisoning of the Party’s vanguard role, as well as the wholesale giveaway of the Party’s treasured archives to a private university and the shutting down of the Party’s print shop, halting of the print publication of the Party’s paper and journal, closing of bookshops, and stopping the publication of pamphlets, position papers or other documents which could be used to build the party.

The Party’s ideological line can now be characterized as encouraging members to be groupies for the Democrats.

No More Communists

Meanwhile, any progressive position that deviates slightly from the Obama administration’s positions is characterized by national office leadership as “ultra-left,” “Trotskyite,” “anarchist,” or worse. In an effort to throw the baby out with the bathwater, leadership from the national office has characterized Stalin as an “abomination.”

However, who are the people who have advocated a change in the Party’s name? Who are the people who have blasted Stalin all these years? The Trotskyites and ultra-leftists, of course, have used (alas, overused) these worn-out tactics to attack the party. National Party leadership seems to want to usurp these tactics from the ultra left.

In Houston, an anarchist attended some of our meetings. The first thing out of his mouth was a demand that the Houston club submit a resolution to national leadership advocating dropping the “Communist” name. When we discussed his demands in a rational, dialectical manner, he withdrew and never returned to our meetings.

In a recent disgusting e-list exchange, top leadership invoked a paper by Lenin entitled “Strange and Monstrous.” Leadership maintains that this paper provides the rationale for making concessions to the right wing when the movement is under assault and weakening.

However, a more sober reading of the words to which Lenin correctly objected “In the interests of the world revolution, we consider it expedient to accept the possibility of losing Soviet power which is now becoming purely formal” suggests that Lenin was reacting to the ultra-left’s willingness to destroy the Soviet state (i.e.,  jettison the Communist Party) for vague, ephemeral reasons.

National leadership’s distortion of this excellent polemic is instructive of its current line of thinking. Lenin did not advocate changing the name of the Communist Party or backing down on the Party’s support of working people. The article was about military tactics which were necessary to preserve Soviet power and the Communist Party. There was nothing in the article to suggest that anyone should abandon party ideology or its political line.

It is indeed “strange and monstrous” that current leadership has taken steps to weaken the greatest working class movement the world has ever seen by slowly but gradually dismantling the party in the world’s most powerful capitalist country. Their actions parallel the extremist’s position in Lenin’s article of sacrificing the party and its ideology at the altar of  idealistic thinking, i.e. “the world revolution” expressed in newspeak “the labor-led, all people’s coalition.”

Further examination of the e-list pontifications by top leadership shows that our fearless leader slams Robert Reich, Paul Krugman, Eric Foner and others who dare to sharply criticize the Obama administration when it does not support working people. These commentators are doing the work of the party while our leadership equivocates.

Some reports indicate that in a recent National Board meeting, top leadership advocated tearing up the Party constitution and rejecting Marxist theory.

There were contradictory reports on the Party convention this past summer. Some indicate that it was an astounding success. Some indicate that it was an exercise in crowd control as leadership rammed through a program of tailing the Democrats at all costs. Many people complained that opposing voices were silenced in a very undemocratic fashion. This seems more like the way the Catholic Church would conduct its business than the Communist Party of the USA. CPUSA membership values science and democracy rather than mythology and autocracy.

If we go back to Lenin’s “Strange and Monstrous” article, we see that he strongly upheld the necessity of democracy and the right of membership to sharply criticize party leadership.

What is most appalling about the current political line is the confusion of Communists with Democrats, peace with war, Wall Street with Main Street, materialism with idealism, Congresspersons with the American people, internationalism with global capitalism and Marxism/Leninism with Keynesianism. Whatever happened to the fight against racism and for equality for all peoples? Whatever happened to the class struggle?

Lost is any effort to maintain independence from the Democrats, which raises disturbing questions about the differences, if any, between Communists and the Democratic Party. Such as:

  • Do Communists favor tax cuts for the wealthy?
  • Do Communists support imperialistic wars around the globe to bolster capitalism?
  • Have Communists given up on universal health care, universal education and immigration reform?  
  • Are Communists agreeable to the ever expanding prison-industrial complex and military-industrial complex?
  • Have Communists given up on the Employee Free Choice Act and the right to form a union?
  • Do Communists want to increase the rate of deportation of immigrants?
  • Should Communists turn a blind eye to racism in hopes of placating the enemy?
  • Should Communists forget about the atrocities committed by the U.S.  government against the Cuban people?

The Communist Party has a glorious history of fighting racism as a major part of the class struggle. Recent party history seems to have a blind eye to the devastating effects of institutional racism on communities of color. Again, this is done in the name of the “labor-led, all people’s coalition.”  

With the ideological deterioration seen in the Party today, it is no wonder that membership has dwindled to almost nothing.

View from the Clubs

What does it look like from the lowly view of a CPUSA club in the fourth largest city in the U.S.?

Efforts to organize and build a club in Houston have been consistently thwarted and attempts have been made to split the membership of the club. When requests are made to the national office for the names of people contacting the Party from Houston, they are met with non-response or frank hostility. Staff at the national office who handle membership requests stand tall behind their bureaucratic procedures which result in few names reaching the Houston club.

Recently, a top leader of the Party came to Houston. He was confronted by several non-party activists who were appalled by the party’s refusal to take a principled position on the wars which have been widened by the Obama administration and are draining the resources of this country in the interest of increasing corporate profits. He maintained, “Obama is not a socialist, so we can’t hold him to a socialist standard.” He seemed to have forgotten that we are socialists and we can hold ourselves to the “socialist standard” or better yet, the “Communist standard.”

What is to be Done?

Our position in Houston is clear. We do not favor “tailism.” We do not favor “liquidating the party.” We do not favor a name change. We do not favor “reformism.” We do not favor capitulation and class collaborationism. We do not favor “right opportunism.” We are not anti-Communists.

Rather than fighting among ourselves, we should be fighting the right wing elements in the Obama administration, the Republicans and the Tea Party fascists. However, if leadership continues to uncritically endorse all Obama administration policies, we must struggle at this level first before taking on the external enemy.

We support the working class and all that is involved in the struggle to elevate the working class to the ruling class. In this regard, we are not willing to jettison the fight for peace and against racism, sexism and every form of exploitation and oppression to placate the enemy in hopes that they will cut us a deal.

We are not willing to give up the fight for socialism, especially at a time when the capitalist system is obviously floundering with 10% official unemployment and polls indicate that a large percentage of the population believe that socialism is more desirable than capitalism.

We are not willing to forget the fight for the right to form unions and for universal education and health care and above all, democracy.

We are not willing to distance ourselves from our international allies, including Cuba. We are not willing to forego the building of a Communist Party based on Marxist-Leninist philosophy and principles.

We are not willing to abandon the role of the Party as the vanguard party.

It is our duty as the only working class party to fight for the interests of the working class, which are our interests. If we shirk our duty to uphold the interests of the working class, we will only further alienate ourselves from the working class and reduce our collective power.

We need a revolution in the Party to oppose the regressive and class collaborationist tendencies in our current national and district leadership. All bureaucrats should be unceremoniously expelled as they are poison to a democratic, working class party. Cronyism, careerism, friendships, and personal relationships should not stand in the way of the development of the party. As one Party activist once said, “The Party must always come first!”

“When will they ever learn?" goes the refrain of Pete Seeger’s great antiwar ballad.

When will we ever learn?

December 31, 2010