The present world situation, several years after revisionism led to the final collapse of the Soviet Union and any pretense of socialism in Eastern Europe, has had serious consequences within the pro-Soviet revisionist parties in the West, particularly in the U.S. At the National Convention of the Communist Party, USA (CPUSA), held in December of 1991, a section of that party split away, forming an openly social-democratic group, the Committees of Correspondence.(1) The main section of the party in the U.S. continued using the name Communist party, while still pursuing the same revisionist policies as before: open reformism, abject tailing after and support for the Democratic Party, etc.(2)
At the same time, there is a growing number of people who have remained within the revisionist parties (often for sentimental reasons), but whose revolutionary sentiments are coming into increasing conflict with their party's leadership. We include here not just the official revisionists like the CPUSA, but others of similar ideological orientation, such as Workers World Party (WWP). We feel it is high time for these elements to break ideologically, politically and organizationally and join with others in contributing in any way they can to the building of a genuine Marxist-Leninist party in the United States.
As anyone with any understanding of Marxism-Leninism knows, without a genuine communist party of the working class, any serious advance towards socialist revolution is impossible. The late 1960s and early 1970s saw a widespread upsurge of the spontaneous revolutionary movement in the U.S. In particular, the liberation movements among the oppressed nationalities, the movement against the war in Vietnam, the student movement, etc., all grew and developed. The movement among the working class as a whole grew to a lesser extent, at least partly due to the still favorable economic situation of U.S. imperialism at that time. The revisionist parties, the CPUSA and others, of course could not make use of this upsurge to develop a class conscious movement for socialist revolution. On the contrary, they could only try to drag this movement back onto the path of reformism.
There were many attempts (both serious and farcical) during this period to form a genuine communist party, but all of them ultimately were unsuccessful.(3) It was the failure to build such a party that led to the lack of stable gains from this period of upsurge. The current intensified attack by the ruling class against the working class, the oppressed nationalities and their allies is bound to lead to another reawakening of the spontaneous movement. In order to be able to take advantage of such a new upsurge, not only to gain reforms but most importantly to develop the movement for socialist revolution, a new vanguard party of the working class must be constructed.
We referred above to those who remain in the old revisionist parties as having "revolutionary sentiments" for a definite reason. Such sentiments are a necessary first step, but they are not sufficient to develop a genuine Marxist-Leninist party. A real grasp of Marxist-Leninist theory is necessary, as is its application to daily practice. It is quite possible to form a new party based on a merely superficial break with the old revisionist parties. However, this would only lead to a party with a somewhat more militant veneer, but the same revisionist essence. We have seen this, for example, in Britain, with the formation of the New Communist Party. This party has a certain degree of militancy, and even gives a certain support to Stalin as a historic Soviet figure. But from the little material we have seen from this party, it continues in the footsteps of its predecessor, the formally alive but politically dead Communist Party of Great Britain. The New Communist Party continues to call for support for the British Labour Party, even in the recent election in May of 1997 in which the victor, Tony Blair, made clear that his party had no differences in principle from the Conservatives under John Major. The New CP continues on the path of separating the struggle for reforms from the goal of socialist revolution. Such a party, whether here or in Britain, will not serve the working class in its goal of overthrowing its class enemy. We say this with all respect to the membership of the New CP which, we presume, also has revolutionary sentiments and genuinely desires socialism. However, we repeat what Lenin many times pointed out, that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Major Questions of Marxism-Leninism
What then is necessary, first on the theoretical level, and then in the field of practical activity, to begin the construction of a genuine communist party? We would raise as a minimum the following 4 points:
1) First and foremost, our immediate goal(4) in the U.S. is the socialist revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
As we and others(5) have pointed out, standing on the basis of the class struggle is not enough. Lenin clearly pointed out:
"It is often said and written that the main point in Marx's teachings is the class struggle; but this is not true. And from this untruth very often springs the opportunist distortion of Marxism, its falsification in such a way as to make it acceptable to the bourgeoisie. For the doctrine of the class struggle was created not by Marx, but by the bourgeoisie before Marx, and generally speaking it is acceptable to the bourgeoisie. Those who recognize only the class struggle are not yet Marxists; they may be found to be still within the boundaries of bourgeois thinking and bourgeois politics. To confine Marxism to the doctrine of the class struggle means curtailing Marxism, distorting it, reducing it to something which is acceptable to the bourgeoisie. Only he is a Marxist who extends the recognition of the class struggle to the recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is what constitutes the most profound difference between the Marxist and the ordinary petty (as well as big) bourgeois. This is the touchstone on which the real understanding and recognition of Marxism is to be tested. And it is not surprising that when the history of Europe brought the working class face to face with this question as a practical issue, not only all the opportunists and reformists, but all the 'Kautskyites' (people who vacillate between reformism and Marxism) proved to be miserable philistines and petty-bourgeois democrats who repudiate the dictatorship of the proletariat." (Lenin, The State and Revolution, Chapter II, Section 3.)
Understanding the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat means grasping the Marxist-Leninist theory of the state. Communists have always understood that the state is a machine for the repression of one class by another. There is no way for the working class to achieve socialism other than by forcibly smashing this apparatus of the capitalists, this dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. And to successfully build socialism, the working class must establish its own state apparatus, a dictatorship of the proletariat. This state, based on Workers' Councils, backed by a workers' army, and led by a genuine communist party, will repress the overthrown bourgeoisie, organize centralized socialist production and move step by step to the total elimination of classes, communism.
The question of socialist revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat is a broad, all-encompassing question, taking up the political, economic and finally the military sphere. It must be agitated for among the proletariat in its day-to-day struggles, as Lenin pointed out in the first of the 20 Terms of Admission to the Communist International.(6) The dictatorship of the proletariat is something that the CPUSA abandoned almost 50 years ago. As Gus Hall said 8 years ago: "The process of democratization and decentralization taking place in the socialist world is helping those parties to shed some theoretical concepts that correctly reflected the old days. For example, most have dropped the concept of 'the dictatorship of the proletariat,' which our party stopped using 40 years ago." (People's Daily World, November 30, 1989.) Other parties, such as WWP, barely mention it, and then only as an abstract theoretical concept or in historical references, not as part of day-to-day agitation.
The other side of the coin on this question is the exposure of present-day bourgeois democracy as a dictatorship of the capitalists. This is crucial in the U.S. today, since the capitalists constantly claim that the more than 200 years of bourgeois democracy have been a "democracy for all." As Lenin pointed out, "There is not a single state, however democratic, which does not contain loopholes or limiting clauses in its Constitution guaranteeing the bourgeoisie the legal possibility of despatching troops against the workers, of proclaiming martial law, and so forth, in case of a 'disturbance of the peace,' i.e., in case the exploited class 'disturbs' its position of slavery and tries to behave in a non-slavish manner. Kautsky shamelessly embellishes bourgeois democracy and hushes up, for instance, what the most democratic and republican bourgeoisie of America and Switzerland do against workers on strike." (From the chapter Bourgeois and Proletarian Democracy, in The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky.)
Without a continuous exposure of the nature of this bourgeois dictatorship, we will never be able to break the working class away from bourgeois ideology. This exposure must be based on living examples, not just theoretical concepts. These must include such blatant examples as police murders of workers (most frequently but not only of African-Americans, Latinos and other oppressed nationalities, and most frequently but not only of youths), the almost universal exculpation of the police by the bourgeois courts, examples of police strike-breaking or enforcement of injunctions limiting picketing during strikes, the imprisonment and murder of revolutionaries, again mostly but not only among oppressed nationalities (such as the killings of members of the Black Panther Party in the past or the continuing imprisonment on death row of Mumia Abu-Jamal). These should also include the more subtle but important examples of control of the state machine by the capitalist parties, the buying of elections through campaign contributions, etc. This must go hand-in-hand with exposure of various schemes to 'reform' the capitalist state apparatus, such as "Civilian Review Boards" to "control" the police, or measures to limit campaign spending or for "term limits" for elected officials, that will supposedly make the state "act in the interest of the workers." Here historical descriptions of the role of the capitalist state during upsurges in the working class movement are also necessary, since the role of the state comes out most clearly in such periods. (Examples could include the 1877 strike wave and the consequent strengthening of the standing army, the Palmer raids in the years immediately after the October 1917 Revolution, the repression against the working class movement in the 1930s, the attacks on the urban rebellions in the '60s, '70s and on to today.)
We have spent much time on this question because it is so crucial in the development of a genuine communist party. Furthermore this question is so buried by the opportunists and revisionists of all hues that we venture to say that even those with revolutionary sentiments have probably not given it much serious thought.
2) No support to the twin parties of capitalism, the Democrats and the Republicans.
The working class in the United States still has a relatively low degree of class consciousness. It does not yet see itself as what Lenin called a "class-for-itself," with its own interests separate from and opposed to those of the capitalists. This is, at least in part, because it does not have a clear understanding of the class nature of the two major bourgeois parties, the Democrats and the Republicans. While a small section of the working class still has some faith in the Republican party, this section is generally from the labor aristocracy, which receives (and gratefully accepts) bribes from the super-profits that U.S. imperialism takes from its super-exploitation of oppressed nations and dependent countries.
A much broader section of the workers, including many common workers, still have illusions about the Democratic Party. This party has long pushed the fraudulent claim to be a party of all the people.(7) The acceptance of this claim, even half-heartedly, by a significant section of the workers has had a great effect in retarding their class consciousness. What Lenin correctly stated some 85 years ago holds true even more today:
"The party of the former slave-owners is the so-called Democratic Party. The capitalist party, which favoured the emancipation of the Negroes, has developed into the Republican Party.
"Since the emancipation of the Negroes, the distinction between the two parties has been diminishing... Their fight has not had any serious importance for the mass of the people. The people have been deceived and diverted from their vital interests by means of spectacular and meaningless duels between the two bourgeois parties.
"This so-called bipartisan system prevailing in America and Britain has been one of the most powerful means of preventing the rise of an independent working-class, i.e., genuinely socialist, party." (The Results and Significance of the U.S. Presidential Elections, in Lenin on the United States, p. 49-50. International Publishers, 1970.)
There is, of course, a very important sector of the working class, the advanced workers, who understand instinctively that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans represent their interests. These workers are particularly concentrated among the lowest-paid strata and among the oppressed nationalities. Those who wish to form a genuine communist party must take a clear position of opposition to the capitalist parties. Unless they do this they will also not be able to win over the advanced workers.
The revisionist parties have worked overtime in spreading confusion among the workers on this question. The CPUSA has been the most blatant in this regard. Over 50 years ago, with the end of World War II, the major fascist powers were defeated on a world scale. The period of the united front against fascism, which the Comintern correctly raised as a tactical alliance, was over.(8) However the CP after the war carried out a policy of "Browderism without Browder." Their main slogan was "Revive the Roosevelt Coalition." Since that time they have continuously supported the candidates of the Democratic Party (even while occasionally running their own perfunctory electoral campaigns). This has done a great disservice to the working class. Rather than organizing the workers who are already correctly disgusted with the capitalist parties, the CP has tried to drag the more advanced workers back into the fold of the Democratic Party.
Workers World Party, on this issue as on many other issues, acts simply as a more militant version of the CP. While it does not support all Democratic Party candidates, it particularly supports liberal Democrats who are African-American or from other oppressed nationalities. Thus they supported Jesse Jackson in both his 1984 and 1988 presidential elections campaigns, even though he already made clear in 1984 that the function of his candidacy was to bring Black voters back into the ranks of the Democratic Party. WWP also supported David Dinkins for mayor of New York City in both 1989 and 1993, even though by the time of his re-election campaign it was clear that his policies were no different from those of a white liberal capitalist politician. WWP's position, rather than serving as a fight against racism, does a disservice to the African-American and other oppressed nationality workers by trying to tie them to the class enemy. It also does not serve the fight against chauvinism among white workers to call on them to support a Black bourgeois candidate. It could, on the other hand, be one means of fighting chauvinism to call on white workers to support a Black socialist candidate.
The opportunist "socialists" do not support the Democratic Party only in election campaigns. They constantly try to block with Democratic Party politicians or portray them in a favorable light. Here we will concentrate on WWP, since the CP makes no bones about its support for the Democratic Party as the "lesser of two evils." WWP, in rallies that it calls together with its mass organizations, frequently invites Democratic Party liberals to participate. For example, Tom Duane, a liberal Democrat on the New York City Council, has spoken at such rallies. Workers World newspaper also reports sympathetically on the activities of liberal Democratic politicians, again particularly from the oppressed nationalities, when they pretend to stand on the side of the people. For example, WWP promoted Congressional Representative Nydia Velazquez when she "spoke out" against police brutality. (Of course, such bourgeois politicians only give lip service to these positions to calm the anger of the masses and steer them along the safe (for the bourgeoisie) path of reformism and to try to appear as if they are on the side of the people.) But when these same politicians openly show their bourgeois nature, WWP does not make a peep of criticism. For example, they did not say a word when this same Nydia Velazquez, together with most other New York capitalist politicians of Puerto Rican nationality, signed a full-page ad in the New York Times calling for the continuation of the law providing tax-exempt status for U.S. corporations in Puerto Rico. This colonial law has allowed the continual rape of Puerto Rico's labor and resources by the U.S. monopoly capitalists. WWP's silence on this issue puts the lie to what was stated by one member regarding these politicians: We support them when they stand by the people and criticize them when they don't.(9) This would still be an opportunist tactic, for our job is to isolate these politicians and undermine their influence on the working class, not to build them up.
We have concentrated here on exposing those who give political support, whether electoral or otherwise, to the two main parties of capitalism. But there are other parties, such as Perot's Reform Party, that are also outright supporters of capitalism. Perot is simply the leader of a group of bourgeois "want-to-be's," who are trying to take advantage of the dissatisfaction of a growing section of the population with the Democrats and Republicans to take the place of one of them. It should be clear than any support to such parties is equally harmful for the working class. Unfortunately, however, there are some who are serious about forming a Marxist-Leninist party, and not only ultra-opportunists such as the New Alliance Party (which dissolved itself into the Reform Party), who have also taken to putting Perot's party in a favorable light.
This does not mean that we take a position of boycotting elections.(10) We completely concur with Lenin's position: "participation in parliamentary elections and in the struggle on the parliamentary rostrum is obligatory on the party of the revolutionary proletariat specifically for the purpose of educating the backward strata of its own class, and for the purpose of awakening and enlightening the undeveloped, downtrodden and ignorant rural masses." (Left-Wing Communism, An Infantile Disorder, Chapter VII: Should We Participate in Bourgeois Parliaments?)
It is necessary, through election campaigns, to conduct genuine agitation and propaganda on a Marxist-Leninist basis. This is a way of carrying our line to ever broader sections of the working class. In the future, when there is a mass movement for socialism, it may even be possible for genuine communists to win seats in Congress. Such seats would be used, not to put forward illusions of a peaceful, parliamentary road to socialism, but to expose the bourgeois system of parliament from within. This was what the Bolsheviks did in their successful campaigns for the Duma (the nominal tsarist parliament) in the years before World War I.(11) Therefore, when possible, we should run communist candidates, on a revolutionary socialist platform. If we are not yet able to do this, we should support other revolutionary candidates (such as revolutionary nationalists) where they exist. At other times, we might tactically call for a vote for certain opportunist "socialists" or various petty-bourgeois parties (such as the Labor Party), but only when doing so will advance and not retard the consciousness of the working class. In this case, we must do so with our own independent agitation and propaganda, which clearly distinguishes our revolutionary socialist positions from the positions of the opportunists.
(to be continued)
The second part of this article will include a section on partyism, particularly the need for a genuine communist party to win over the trade unions to its side, opposing the bourgeois theory of "trade union neutrality." It will also include a section on the right of self-determination for the oppressed nations within the U.S. (African-American Nation in the Black Belt South, Chicano/Mexicano Nation in the Southwest, Native Nations, etc.), independence for the colonies (Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Guam, Samoa, etc.) and support for the national liberation movements outside the U.S., especially those directed at U.S. imperialism. It will also discuss the need for the party to concentrate first on winning over to communism the advanced workers, without whom it will be impossible to win the masses of workers.
1) In many other countries, in both East and West Europe, the open social-democrats became dominant and changed their party's name (such as the Democratic Party of the Left in Italy, the Party of Democratic Socialism in what had been East Germany, even the Socialist Party in Albania).
2) A similar situation exists in Russia. Zyuganov continues to call his party the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, while playing the role of loyal opposition to Yeltsin, even accepting the obviously fraudulent results of the 1966 presidential election, etc. Also in South Africa, the Communist Party continues to be the loyal supporter of the African National Congress government which, having led South Africa to bourgeois democracy and the ouster of the apartheid regime, has left the African working masses under the continued exploitation and oppression of imperialism, especially U.S. imperialism.
3) We do not propose here to examine the weaknesses that led to the collapse of these attempts to build such a party at that period, or of other earlier attempts as far back as immediately after World War II. We do, however, need to criticize those who merely attack all these attempts as "splinters," while they cling to the dead wood of the old revisionist parties. Now that they see that this dead wood is sinking, they still need to learn how to use Marxism-Leninism as a guide to revolution while countering the attacks of the bourgeoisie.
4) To those who, out of ignorance or through willful sowing of confusion, say that that means we want the revolution to take place tomorrow, let us make clear that we are neither blind optimists nor adventurists. When we speak of this as our immediate goal, we do this in the way Lenin always meant, that there are no prior stages on the way to this goal in the U.S. today. The bourgeois democratic revolution was carried out over 200 years ago, and extended to the South in the Civil War over 100 years ago. Even the ending of the apartheid regime in the South took place over 30 years ago. The remaining democratic tasks, including the right of self-determination for the oppressed nations, must be part of the minimum program of a genuine communist party in the United States today. Also, there is no basis at this time for making a tactical goal of a united front against fascism that would include democratic sections of the bourgeoisie.
5) See also Workers Herald, September 1996, journal of the Organizing Committee to form the CPUSA (M-L), formerly the Revolutionary Political Organization (M-L).
6) "Day-by-day propaganda and agitation must be genuinely communist in character.... The dictatorship of the proletariat should not be discussed merely as a stock phrase to be learned by rote; it should be popularised in such a way that the practical facts systematically dealt with in our press day by day will drive home to every rank-and-file working man and working woman, every soldier and peasant, that it is indispensable to them." (Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 31, p. 207.)
7) Note the similarity to Khrushchev's formulation at the notorious 20th Party Congress that the CPSU had become a "party of all the people."
8) This is not the place to analyze the errors made by various parties in this period. We will just point out that the CPUSA under Browder's leadership made many right opportunist errors, dropping its independent role and finally liquidating the party itself in 1944.
9) This brings to mind Stalin's excellent criticism of the opportunists in Georgia in 1907 who claimed: "We are supporting only the 'progressive steps' of the Cadets [party of the liberal monarchist bourgeoisie - ed.], but not the Cadets themselves." Stalin pointed out in relation to the Cadets, as we must now point out in relation to the Democrats: "the fight against them in order to strengthen the hegemony of the proletariat is the question of the day for us." (Stalin, Muddle..., in Works, Vol. 2, pp. 36-38.)
10) Such a position has been put forward by the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), using infantile slogans such as "The right to vote has been won... Now we need the political awareness and sophistication NOT TO USE IT." RCP does not deserve more than a footnote here, since they have no base among the working class, hardly carry out any activity among the masses and have only a shrinking base among some socialist-minded petty bourgeois intellectuals.
11) See A. Badayev, The Bolsheviks in the Tsarist Duma, reprinted by Proletarian Publishers, for an excellent description of their tactics both in the electoral campaigns and inside the Duma itself.
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