Where to Begin? The Communist Party USA and The Present Crisis
At the present moment, the revolutionary movement of the proletariat is confronted with historic challenges and obstacles which boldly stand in the way of the revolutionary reconstitution of society at large in the interests of working and oppressed people. The reality at hand is the ongoing onslaught that the capitalists are forcing down the throats of working people by means of their ruthless austerity regimes and imperialist plunders. By now, no one can hide the fact that even those in the imperialist First World are suffering from the current crisis of capitalism. While the ruling classes of the West are crucifying Libyans in the name of freedom and democracy, and while the Syrian people, bloodied and exhausted, are struggling to resist imperialist invasion and a brutal civil war engineered and perpetuated by the West, working people of America are being stimulated, and beginning to wake up to the sights around them and realize the gravity of the situation. Witnessing the fury of cuts, austerity, and encroachments on democratic rights at home, and at the same time looking on at the terroristic wars being waged by their government throughout the world, American working people are showing signs of an increasingly awakened class consciousness in response to the crisis of the global capitalist-imperialist system. The achievement of a socialist consciousness, however, is still a complex and dynamic work in progress, and a protracted one at that.
As has been admitted, considerable challenges and obstacles litter the road to such a culmination. A capitalist crisis brings not only a responsive class consciousness or political resurgence of proletarian revolution, but also heightened offensives launched with the aim of sustaining the capitalist system regardless of the suffering by the masses of people entailed. The ruling class, split or divided, is fundamentally united by its “better dead than red” mentality, and, driven by this, is determined to fight to the death before surrendering state power to any revolutionary forces.
At such a time, and considering such realities, the fundamental question of the revolutionary Marxist agenda is the means by which the American proletariat can be organized, educated, and agitated to the point of realizing and being capable of successfully enacting the necessity of overthrowing capitalism. This is not only a question of strategy and means that has been discussed many a time around the tables of communists or in the essays and articles of radicals, but also a crucial problem concerning the very livelihood of the revolutionary movement and those involved. It must be borne in mind that, regardless of what phrasemongering may be uttered by various comrades here and there, we are living in a time of definite systemic crisis and radical rupture of capitalism, and our actions and orientation must be suited accordingly to this state of conditions. It is simply unpardonable to ignore or be “innocent” of seeing the conditions that we are facing, the statistics and facts of which can be found presented anywhere, even in the pages of the bourgeois press.
Unfortunately, however, there are comrades who, although they may recognize the realities of capitalism at hand, shut their eyes to the realities of socialism and revolution which are inseparable from the problems of capitalism and their solution. This tendency is distinguished by its proposal of petty reformist and revisionist distortions in place of genuinely radical theory and practice, and one of the gravest aspects of this tendency is its very position within the working class movement.
There is no use in hiding the fact that the greatest representatives of the reformist and revisionist tendency within the ranks of the proletarian movement are those who constitute the present leadership of the Communist Party USA, i.e., Sam Webb and co. This group, this organized tendency, is responsible for proudly and unabashedly asserting and suggesting numerous theses concerning the path and means by which to deal with the current situation of capitalism which are entirely irreconcilable with Marxism, proletarian revolution, and even the realities of capitalism. As Comrade Mark Anderson has pointed out in his article The Old Bug of Right Opportunism Returns, these include, but are not limited to the following:
- “The capitalist system is not moribund, as Lenin said, but is relatively strong. It is not in general crisis. Therefore, the U.S. party’s strategy should be solely to win attainable reforms within the system rather than advocate capitalism’s revolutionary replacement with socialism.”
- “Anti-monopoly strategy, let alone anti-capitalist propaganda, is too advanced for this stage of struggle, and the main focus should instead be on rebuffing the most extreme right and the Republican Party.”
- “Historically, socialism has shown itself to be unable to solve economic and social problems. Central planning is a failure; a market-oriented economy is the way to go. It’s not even clear anymore what socialism is.”
- “The class struggle has ceased to be the central pivot around which all questions revolve.”
- “Racism and national oppression are gradually receding. It is no longer necessary to aggressively push for affirmative action.”
- “Issues of discrimination, anti-Semitism, and the struggle for the full equality of African Americans, Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, Native Americans, Asian-Pacific and Arab Americans, LGBT, women, and youth no longer requires special attention. Party Commissions and special demands on these questions are unnecessary.”
- “The term “U.S. imperialism” is too simplistic. The U.S. government, especially under President Obama, can play a positive and humanitarian role in world politics. For this reason it is permissible for the U.S. military and NATO forces to occupy other nations like Iraq and Afghanistan, impose “democratic” reforms, and secure neoliberal economic advantages. Peace and solidarity work is therefore not as important as it once was.”
- “Electoral politics should be limited to work within the Democratic Party. Any attempt to go outside the two-party system is sectarian and futile. Running candidates on the Communist Party ticket is especially narrow and self-defeating.”
- “The CPUSA is bogged down by dogmatism, sectarianism and rigidity. Many of the stock slanders of the Party are indeed justified. It may not survive unless it abandons its outdated dogmas, including the dogma that it should play a leading, vanguard role.”
- “The Party should emulate social democracy and seek to merge with the broad left. The “Communist plus” should be given a quiet burial, and Marxist-Leninist education and literature (including a printed news paper) are relatively unimportant. Strong party organization is no longer necessary.”
These notions, although perpetrated and implied in nearly every article or speech that the leadership puts forward, have yet to be presented in more of a concentrated and straightforward expression than in Sam Webb’s A Party of Socialism in the 21st Century: What It Looks Like, What It Says, and What It Does. An unabashed rejection and condemnation of Marxism-Leninism, a manifesto for reformism and wholesale revisionism, and, above all, the guiding orientation of the Communist Party USA’s present leadership and thus Party policy, Webb’s essay is an unavoidable and undeniably significant document. The document is even further significant upon realizing its context in present conditions.
At such a time of glaringly evident and deep crisis of the global capitalist system, in the face of the looming environmental disaster facing humanity, and in view of US imperialism’s continued, vicious and violent onslaught against the peoples of the global south – one would think that at such a time, the leadership of the Communist Party USA would shoulder its revolutionary rifle and recognize its historic mission to organize the working class for revolutionary resistance and struggle against the world capitalist-imperialist offensive. Sam Webb, however, has proven that a very different view is at large within the Party’s ranks, and, most unfortunately, among its leading figures. Indeed, few pronouncements have so shocked the American Left as has Sam Webb’s A Party of Socialism in the 21st Century: What It Looks Like, What It Says, and What It Does.
In antagonism to Webb’s theses and proposed orientation, however, there exists a revolutionary alternative which, rather than striving to cope with, accomodate, and appease the more “progressive” spectrums of the capitalist-imperialist ruling class, believes in the pivotal conclusions reached by Marx and Lenin that have made Marxism-Leninism the scientifically deduced theory and practice of the emancipation of the world’s exploited and oppressed people that has accumulated the blood, sweat, tears, triumphs and tribulations, and successes and failures of more than a hundred years of struggle.
This tendency, which very much may be the Bolshevik tendency of today (as opposed to the Menshevik tendency of Webb and co.), resolves that, in view of the existing conditions, we must not abandon but instead hold high the banner of Marxism-Leninism, and, rather than ditch truly revolutionary politics, embrace them. The historic dilemma facing communists at the present juncture of history is one of either letting American capitalism continue its history, or, alternatively, beginning the history of American socialism. As has been said, the fundamental question of the revolutionary Marxist agenda is the means by which the American proletariat can be organized, educated, and agitated to the point of realizing and being capable of successfully enacting the necessity of transforming bourgeois society and thus opening the road for such a socialist America. The way forward is clear: we communists must organize ourselves as the vanguard of working people and the revolution, we must develop a Party capable of educating, organizing, agitating, and leading working people and their allies in the collective struggle for socialism.
Presently, we are playing two ends against a middle in that we, in line with Party policy, are responsible for developing and maintaining a mass base of support by being activists in the struggle against the problems of capitalism, but at the same time we are allying with a “section” of the capitalists in power, the “progressive” Democrats, because they supposedly constitute a buffer against the forces of ultra-reaction, i.e., the far Right, and serve as a popular force in the interests of the “people” and “inclusive democracy”, as Sam Webb would put it. By perpetrating such a policy, however, communists the country over are fulfilling a self-destructive prophecy of dooming the proletarian movement under the guise of “reinvigorating” or “broadening” it. Under the present line, we are responsible for rallying the masses of people around the struggle against capitalism by means of joining and tail-ending forces which objectively bolster and support the capitalist system. The incongruity is glaringly evident. The lack of materialist class analysis is inexcusable.
Rather than miseducating and misleading people in struggle in this manner, however, the Communist Party USA must be tasked with handling its historic mission of organizing the forces of revolution against those of reaction, with shouldering its task of educating, agitating, organizing, and leading working people against the reactionary forces of capitalism, whether or not they label themselves Democrat, or Republican, or Libertarian, etc.
A revolution is on the agenda when people can no longer go on living in the old way. Such a horizon is extremely close in view. We cannot pretend to know what exact day the people will be compelled to take to the streets and overthrow the current order, nor can we pretend to know the exact day on which the integuments of capitalism will burst asunder and revolution will be the only open door for humanity. What communists, what the Communist Party USA, should do, can do, and must do, however, is prepare cadres, educate, organize, and agitate working people, and orient its work towards facing its historic mission of leading the American people in casting capitalism to the dustbin of history, and opening up, on the basis of socialism, prospects for humanity’s sustainable and just development.
What is to be done? Where to begin?
The Communist Party USA, as our Party of working and oppressed people, must be first and foremost revolutionized in its theory and practice.
As Lenin so presciently pointed out: “In its struggle for power the proletariat has no other weapon but organization. Disunited by the rule of anarchic competition in the bourgeois world, ground down by forced labor for capital, constantly thrust back to the “lower depths” of utter destitution, savagery, and degeneration, the proletariat can become an invincible force only through its ideological unification on the principles of Marxism being reinforced by the material unity of organization, which welds millions of toilers into an army of the working class.” Neither the senile rule of the American imperialists nor the senescent rule of international capital will be able to withstand this army. The Communist Party USA must render itself such an organization which has the theoretical foresight, fighting capacity, and determination by which to wield millions of American workers into an army committed to overthrowing capitalism and bringing fruition to the adage that has been inscribed on the Party’s banners for decades: “Peace, democracy, equality, socialism!” To this end, establishing the very organizational and ideological integrity which the Party currently lacks is an imperative matter.
Such is the guiding principle by which to begin to orient the struggle against the retrograde trends in the Party and begin to push forward the struggle for the emancipation of working and oppressed people in the United States of America. It us up to communists around the country to realize these crucial realities of theory and practice, and contribute their lot to working out concrete methods and means of building a Communist Party which is not just interested in interpreting the world, but effectively changing it. Limiting ourselves as we currently are to tail-ending the Democratic Party, the trade unions, “progressive” politics, and so on is systematically sabotaging and impeding the development of what has rang essential since the days of the Communist Manifesto: “They [communists] openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.” Working and oppressed people of all countries, unite!
Signed: Comrades J. Arnoldski, John Mackoviak, Analise Spencer, Jim Byrne, and E.C. Tolentino of the Tucson Club of the CPUSA