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Erwin Marquit 1992 on the CPUSA crisis

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Soviet cogitations: 836
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 28 Jan 2008, 19:10
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Post 02 Feb 2019, 19:05


The Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA),
the only organization of any significance in the United States
that ever considered itself Marxist-Leninist, survived shortly
after World War II perhaps the worst period of bourgeois terror
to which any party in a developed capitalist country has been
subjected. With some 80,000 to 100,000 members in 1945, the
Party was a major influence in progressive politics and the
trade-union movement. About one-quarter of the trade-union
membership was in unions that were led by Communists or left-
progressive trade-unionists allied with them. This indeed was the
principal reason behind the repressive measures taken against
Communists and other progressives starting with the Taft-Hartley
Law in 1947 that, among other things, essentially outlawed unions
with Communists in elected office. By 1959, when Gus Hall became
its leader, the CPUSA was down to 8,000 members.

The Party emerged strongly united ideologically through two
major ideological crises, in 1945 and 1956, resulting from
temporarily unsuccessful efforts to turn the Party into a
political association so that the priority of Communists could be
the consolidation of a left wing within the Democratic Party
rather than the forming of an independent labor-based left-
progressive party in which Communists would openly participate,
while retaining their membership in the Communist Party. This
latter strategy had been adopted because of the weakness of the
socialist tradition in the U.S. working class, a consequence, in
turn, of the relative weakness of class identification among U.S.

The relative weakness of this left tradition in the United
States is often attributed to the absence of an indigenous
feudal heritage and the availability of free land for U.S.-
born Euro-American or European immigrants through a good part of
the nineteenth century, resulting in a greater class mobility (or
the illusion of it) than possible in Europe.

Some people (including a few leading cadres) left the Party in
1968 over the use of Warsaw Pact forces in Czechoslovakia, but
those events did not in fact produce a major crisis in the Party.
Moreover, the Eurocommunism of the 1970s and 1980s did not draw
significant support even among the intellectuals in the CPUSA.
The class character of the state, the relative freedom with which
the U.S. bourgeoisie periodically suspended the civil rights
protection supposedly guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution
whenever it felt its interests threatened, the use of the state
to enforce the racist divisions in the country and preserve the
social inequities resulting from racist practices left little
room for illusions about the possibility of a social partnership
between capital and labor or the class neutrality of the state.

This history of ideological resilience has not been able to
shield the Party from the devastating effects of the current
ideological crisis that has now engulfed Marxist-Leninist
movements worldwide. On the eve of its 25th National Convention
in December 1991, the membership was less than 2,500, but since
then the membership has fallen to about 1,000.

This debacle cannot be attributed to a single event, such as
the Khrushchev revelations about Stalin, or even to the collapse
of socialism in Europe. The crisis came into the open at a
meeting of the National Committee (formerly the Central
Committee) in August 1990 when Charlene Mitchell, a leading
African American member of the National Board (formerly the
Political Committee of the Central Committee), over the
objections of the majority of the 23-member National Board, but
with the eventual support of nine (including five of its six
African American) members reported on "differences that have
existed over a long period and have had less and less opportunity
to be expressed in the National Board." Mitchell criticized the
pretense that the leadership was completely united when, in fact,
"because of the bureaucracy, many differences are not even
presented in the meetings of the Board." "This situation has come
to such a point," she continued, "that the report presented today
by Comrade Hall has not received any collective discussion, with
the exception of electoral work. . . . Our Board has yet to hear
a membership or dues report on the status of our Party, its
composition, what unions and mass work its members are part of."
She stated that these differences already existed at the time of
the National Convention in 1987, but "we sought to cover them
over by appealing for Party unity without a discussion of the
differences." Particularly disturbing was Mitchell's assertion
that "for almost two years, we have raised the question of
influences of racism in our Party, yet the Review Commission
. . . has not seen fit to deal with these racist influences in
our Party and its leadership."

By May 1991, the differences over the draft of the main
convention resolution led to the emergence of two clear groups,
one headed by the national chair, Gus Hall, and the other led by
Charlene Mitchell. In October 1991, the group headed by Mitchell
issued a document entitled "An Initiative to Unite and Renew the
Party," which by the time of the national convention had been
endorsed by some 900 members.

The composition of the Initiative supporters (as this group
came be known) included a high proportion of members active in
trade unions and other mass organizations and an especially high
percentage of the African American members.

The split centered around opposing positions largely on three
closely linked ideological questions: (1) How does a party of
some 2,500 members deploy its meager resources to become a mass
party of the working class capable of significantly affecting a
transition from capitalism to socialism? (2) How should the Party
deal with racism, which monopoly capitalism uses to weaken the
united struggle of the people against its domination? (3) How is

the democratic content of Party organization and administration
to be realized in practice? This last question was related to
another: Was it the gross distortion of socialist democracy and
of the Leninist principle of democratic centralism by the
leadership of most of the Communist parties in both socialist and
capitalist countries (including the United States) that weakened
the socialist system to the point where imperialism could mount a
successful counterrevolution? Or was the crisis of socialism
caused mainly, as Gus Hall still argues "Political Affairs," May
1992), by Gorbachev: "The crisis is caused by introducing
capitalism into the structure of socialism."

The answer to question (1) given by Gus Hall and his supporters
is to concentrate on building blue-collar shop clubs in
industrial enterprises, with special focus on basic industry.
They argue that, despite changes in the composition of the
working class, in 1987 "the 500 largest industrial corporations,
. . . employing only 11 percent of the U.S. workforce, accounted
for 55 percent of total corporate profits" (Sam Webb, "Political
Affairs," May 1991). "Surplus value is generated at the point of
production. . . . Workers in basic and mass production
industries carry on the class struggle at the point of production
daily. . . . They are closest to the fire of exploitation" (Gus
Hall, Speech to the CPUSA National Conference on the Working
Class, 29-30 June 1991, Chicago). "Industrial concentration . . .
[is] the concentration of our small workingclass Party's
resources on moving the strongest, most advanced, most compact,
strategically placed section of our class in order to most
effectively move the entire class in an anti-monopoly,
revolutionary direction" (Bruce Grant, "Political Affairs,"
December 1991).

Critics of this viewpoint argue that Marx was quite clear that
industrial workers were not the only source of surplus value, and
he even cited situations in which teachers and singers were
producers of surplus value. These critics support organizing
industrial blue-collar workers, but point out that the
overwhelming majority of the U.S. labor force is involved in the
production of profit for the capitalists. One need not debate who
is exploited more, the underpaid hospital workers, or the
undocumented farm workers (mostly Mexicans without legal
immigration documents), or the workers in basic industry.
Communists should pay particular attention to those sectors of
the working class in which there is the greatest opportunity to
develop militant revolutionary class consciousness, whether in
industry, trade, or services, in the private or public sector. In
reality, some of the most militant working-class struggles are
now emerging where there are the greatest concentrations of the
most oppressed sections of the working class, particularly
African Americans, Latinos, and women. A strategy with its focus
in fact narrowed down to basic industry was not only left-
sectarian, but gave the Party's industrial-concentration policy
an effectively racist and sexist character. Apart from doctors,
for instance, health-care workers are predominately both female

and workers of color. When Party members in Seattle began to
support activities to organize hospital workers, they were told
to stop their activity and concentrate on Boeing, the aircraft
manufacturer. In New York, the participation of Party members in
the building of the health-care workers Local 1199, a large,
militant trade-union organization, was belittled by the national
Party leadership.

The debate around question (2) was similar. In the United
States, the bourgeoisie, especially its most right-wing sectors,
appeals to racism to split the working class and deflect it from
the struggle for its class interests. Less than ten percent of
African Americans can be considered to be outside the working
class. The CPUSA, until its 1991 convention, had put forth
the concept of "centrality of African American equality," based
on a labor-Black alliance. This concept was described as follows
by Henry Winston, an African American who was CPUSA chairman
(while Gus Hall was general secretary) until his death in 1986:
"What is . . . not being posed is to put the question of Black
liberation as a self-contained entity in opposition to the labor
movement, and this is not, and must not be considered anything
other than a welcoming of Black leadership in the struggle based
upon a scientific outlook which sees the necessity of solidarity
within the labor movement and a firm alliance between labor and
Afro-Americans which can strengthen the fight against the
corporations. These two processes are regarded as integrally
related. . . . In short, the unity of Black and white is the
pivot around which class unity becomes possible" (speech at the
meeting of the Central Committee, 29 May 1983). Tensions between
the African Americans in the Party leadership and Gus Hall
developed when Winston was not replaced after his death as chair
by another African American (the post of general secretary was
abolished and Gus Hall assumed the title of chairman), and by
Hall's opposition to the Party's giving significant support to
Jessie Jackson's Rainbow Coalition in 1988. Jackson was the first
candidate for the Democratic Party presidential nomination to
raise issues sharply in a class context and adopt the slogan of
"organize the unorganized and register [to vote] the
unregistered." Large numbers of African Americans and progressive
whites joined together in this unprecedented movement. Hall
labeled as right opportunist the demands that Communists actively
support Jackson and give more attention to unionization of
workplaces with high concentrations of workers of color because,
as he recently reiterated, they de-emphasize the class struggle
"by reducing the Party's commitment to independent political
action and by de-emphasizing the focus on the industrial working
class and elevating the importance of national struggles across
class lines" ("Political Affairs," May 1992).

Here one should note that the principal strategy of the Party
since the mid-1930s, except for the period of 1943-45, has been
to work toward a popular, independent labor-based left-
progressive party in which Communists could openly participate,
while retaining their membership in the CPUSA. Such a coalition

is particularly important in the United States because of the
absence of proportional representation. Political movements can
only gain elected office in national, state, and local bodies if
their candidates receive more votes than any other candidates.
Jackson's campaign was for the nomination as presidential
candidate of the Democratic Party, hence Hall did not see this as
independent political action.

The result was the Party did not contribute in a meaningful way
to significant independent political activity and in reality
stood outside mass struggles for African American equality. The
urgency of the Party's dealing with this issue was expressed
dramatically by Kendra Alexander, then chair of the Northern
California District, CPUSA, "I'm the mother of a 15-year-old
Black son. Each time my child is a little late coming home, I am
scared to death that he's been shot or he's in jail. It is my
nightmare. This is true for almost every African-American mother
and father. It's a level of anxiety you live with constantly. We
have to understand the anxiety that exists in African Americans
about the welfare of their children. Our babies are dying. Our
youth are in jeopardy. . . . The oppression of African Americans
is central to every question of progress in the nation. . . . The
working class is the motor of history. . . . For the class to
play its role--leading the country out of this mess to
socialism--it has to understand this question to move forward."

The narrow and sectarian character of setting industrial
concentration in opposition to the centrality of African American
equality is clear from the utter failure of the Party's
industrial-concentration policy. After years of a primary focus
on establishing shop clubs in the steel industry, the Party, at
the time of the 1991 convention, had one shop club in the steel
industry, at a USX plant in Ohio, with a half dozen blue-collar
workers actually working in the mills, while the entire district
of Ohio had only one or two African Americans in the Party. In
Illinois, another major industrial-concentration state, a state
with the third largest number of Party members (after California
and New York), the Party could count only two industrial workers
in its ranks among some 190 members.

As these conflicts developed, question (3) took on increasing
importance. When it became clear to a large number of Party
members that the principal strategic line of the Party needed to
be analyzed realistically, the absence of mechanisms in the Party
for effecting any change became evident. The African Americans
found themselves blocked from putting the issue of the centrality
of African American equality on the agenda for discussion by the
National Board, whose function was increasingly reduced to
listening to a weekly summary of events by Hall. The day-to-day
affairs of the Party were put in the hands of a small group of
people close to Hall within the National Board. In attempting to
isolate internal opposition, the Hall forces used tactics that
were the very ones the Party had always criticized as racist:
bypassing African Americans who were in positions of
responsibility. At one point the offices of all National Board

members except Charlene Mitchell were moved to the eighth floor
of the Party headquarters.

The criticism of the Party's lack of democratic procedures took
the following form: The National Board functioned as a self-
perpetuating bureaucratic faction with an internal discipline
standing above the Party, and not accountable to the body that
elected it. It alone determined the agenda of the National
Committee, what issues were to come before it and what its
"decisions" were to be. This control was perpetuated from one
convention to the next by control over the convention procedures
by the "outgoing" National Board. The selection of district
leaders by the higher Party bodies led to the de facto control of
the lowest Party bodies by the higher ones and ultimately
determined the ideological character of the delegates to the
national convention. In this way, the Leninist principles of
democratic centralism: elected leadership, accountability of
those elected to those that elected them, decisions by the higher
body binding on the lower body after adequate discussion, and
minority accepting decisions of the majority were deformed. The
self-perpetuating higher body, in fact, dictated its decisions to
the lower bodies.

In the preconvention discussion it was further argued that this
deformation of the principle of democratic centralism had been
introduced into most Communist parties in the Stalin period
through the Comintern, and this absence of accountability of the
highest levels of the Party to the Party membership ultimately
laid the basis for the collapse of the socialist countries, since
it prevented recognition, discussion, and solution of the
socioeconomic and political problems by people who were competent
to deal with them. Gus Hall, on the other hand, blamed only
Gorbachev and imperialism for the collapse. Victor Perlo, head of
the Economic Commission of the CPUSA, even maintained that the
Soviet economy was basically in good shape until Gorbachev
brought it down.

The Initiative forces demanded that the leaders of the Party
should stop falsifying reality just as they should not have
falsified the reality of what had been going on in the socialist
countries. Party members resented having been told that Party
membership was as high as 20,000 when it was no more than 3,000,
that the results of industrial concentration were never disclosed
so that the policy could be evaluated critically, that the social
composition of the Party was kept secret. It turned out that real
size of the membership had not only been withheld from the
membership, including the National Committee, but even from
members of the National Board. No accounting was ever given of
the Party's finances, specifics of which were even withheld from
the National Board.

Gus Hall was charged with propagating a cult of the individual
around himself. He was criticized for surrounding himself with
toadies (people who would never disagree with him), for not
presenting his reports to the National Committee meetings for
collective discussion by the National Board, for reducing Party

theoretical literature on the situation in the United States and
abroad largely to his own speeches, and for his general anti-
intellectualism. I recall his criticism of the Marxist
Educational Press for publishing an English translation of Andras
Gedo's important critique of contemparary bourgeois philosophy,
"Crisis Consciousness in Contemporary Philosophy," "Why do you
publish books on philosophy that not even philosophers can
understand?" (Many consider this Hungarian Communist to be the
most outstanding living Marxist philosopher). Hall shocked many
when he stated on 17 December 1991, "I only read 5% of the
preconvention material. I made a conscious decision not to read
much of the propaganda, but only the headlines" (Remarks to the
first meeting of the Interim National Board on the 25th National

Unfortunately, rather than deal with the ideological issues in
the preconvention discussion, the Hall leadership called its
critics right opportunists, factionalists, and FBI agents. The
Initiative supporters were not a monolithic group. Many were
committed Marxist-Leninists, seeking to restore the Party's
Leninist content, ideologically and organizationally. Others were
moving away from Leninism, no longer certain of what was valid in
Marxism-Leninism, and hence no longer certain of Marxism. Still
others were in the process of abandoning Marxism altogether. The
boundaries between these currents were by no means sharp. The
Initiative supporters focussed largely on their critique of
Hall's position, and with a few exceptions, the Marxist-Leninists
among them neglected a principled defense of Marxism-Leninism in
order not to weaken the cohesiveness among the Initiative
supporters. This error laid the basis for an incompatible
ideological alliance between Marxist-Leninists and those who were
ready to abandon Marxism, strengthening the latter in the
process. The Committees of Correspondence, which emerged from the
split at the convention, were thus set on a path that ultimately
led to the abandonment of Marxism as their ideological basis.


By July 1991, with the convention five months away, it appeared
that the Party membership was divided into three groups of
approximately equal size: one group supporting Gus Hall's
leadership; another supporting the Initiative to Unite and Renew
the Party; and the third group supporting whatever forces were in
the leadership, since this was the concept of democratic
centralism that had been ingrained in them.

Despite a clear majority of about sixty percent, the Hall
leadership decided on a purge. In January 1991 the National
Committee had recommended that each of the clubs choose its
delegates to the national convention on the basis of one delegate
for every five members. Implementation of this decision was
sabotaged in a variety of ways. In my district, Minnesota-
Dakotas, the district convention took place in the city of St.
Paul immediately following a snowstorm which prevented the rural
delegates, mostly Hall supporters, from attending. Those
attending were all Initiative supporters. A resolution was passed

that the delegates to the national convention would be those
nominated by the clubs. This would give the Hall forces, whose
base in our district was in rural Minnesota, where Hall comes
from, almost half of the delegates. The national leadership ruled
this convention invalid, convened a new one at a time when not
all the Initiative supporters could attend, and, after rejecting
a motion that the delegates be those chosen by the clubs, removed
all but one of the twelve delegates chosen by the clubs in
Minneapolis and St. Paul (with more than half of the members in
the district). The ruthlessness of this action ruled out any
possibility of organizational contact between the two groups
after the convention. Similar actions were taken elsewhere.
Nationally, the Initiative supporters were replaced by Hall
supporters in all districts under control of the Hall forces.
Some thirty percent of the delegates, all supporters of the
Initiative, were denied their seats on spurious technical
grounds. Nevertheless, in the June/July 1992 issue of "Political
Affairs," Victor Perlo writes that "never has our Party been more
democratic in its organizational methods and operations, . . .
overcoming the disruptive tactics of the factionalists,
especially their attempts to interfere with the unprecedented
democratic procedure giving each club the right to choose the
delegates to the Convention." Perlo obviously chose to ignore Gus
Hall's frank comment in his closing remarks to the convention,
"We had to cut corners on democracy to save the Party."

At the convention itself, a single slate of nominees to the
new National Committee was presented to the delegates. Procedures
were adopted that made it mathematically impossible for anyone
nominated from the floor to be elected. The purge was completed.
Not a single supporter of the Initiative was put on the slate.
While the convention was in progress, delegates who were denied
seats met in a hall across the street to consult with one
another, being joined periodically, during breaks in the
convention, by the Initiative supporters who had been seated. The
unseating of thirty percent of the delegates had already
formalized a split. The main question of remaining in the Party
was to depend on what happened at the convention itself. The
answer came quickly. Not a single supporter of the Initiative was
put on the National Committee.

As soon as the convention adjourned, the Initiative supporters
met and decided to form the Committees of Correspondence (CoC)
and to meet again in about six months to decide on a future
course. Many had been convinced that the confrontational tactics
used to reduce the number of Initiative delegates, even though
they would have been in the minority, had the aim of driving the
Initiative supporters out of the Party so as to avoid the more
difficult process of mass expulsions after the convention. The
two largest Party districts, New York and Northern California, as
well as the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.) subsequently
voted to withdraw from the CPUSA and affiliate with the
Committees of Correspondence. Most of the members in Oregon,
Wisconsin, Alabama, and members under the age of 75 in Minnesota

and many other states left the Party. Veteran Communist leaders
like James Jackson, Angela Davis, Charlene Mitchell, Herbert
Aptheker, and Danny Rubin found themselves, in Angela Davis's
words, to be "Communists without a Party." In the days
immediately following the convention, the editor of the Party's
weekly paper, the "People's Weekly World," was removed and the
majority of the editorial staff was replaced. The editor of the
Party's monthly journal, "Political Affairs", was also replaced.
The CPUSA subsequently reconstituted its districts in Northern
California, New York, the District of Columbia, and other states
with the members that remained.

One can only speculate about why Hall felt it necessary to
drive his opposition out of the Party. An answer perhaps can be
found in the extent to which Hall's support was based on his
personal history and the cult-like atmosphere that he built
around himself. In the mid-1930s the Party assigned Hall and two
other Communists to the Steel Workers Organizing Committee at the
request of the (non-Communist) leaders of that union. The three
Communists played key roles in the successful unionization of the
steel workers, which, in turn, sparked the organization of the
auto workers, and the consolidation of the Committee for
Industrial Organizations (CIO) as the basis for industrial unions
in the United States. During the postwar period of anti-Communist
hysteria, Hall spent eight years in prison. This history has
earned him great respect among Communists and their supporters.
None of those around him today share this history or respect.
None of those in the leadership around him have contributed to
the formulation of his ideological position nor to its reasoned
defense in any significant way. As an octogenarian, he must have
been concerned about the re-emergence of the ideological debate
when he is no longer able to remain at helm, and this may have
led him to drive those opposing his policies out of the Party
while he was still in control. Therefore it was not sufficient to
win the battle for delegates, but to win it such a way that the
opposition would feel compelled to leave.

The CPUSA has released no information about the number of
people who have remained in the Party. With the Party still in
control of an estimated seven million dollars, it is using its
publications to maintain the faade that it has emerged from the
convention stronger than before. A reasonable estimate is that
about 1,000 members continue to pay dues.
The Committees of Correspondence

In July 1992, the Committees of Correspondence held a
nondelegated national conference in Berkeley, California, at
which was adopted a declaration of principles that was to guide
the organization until a national founding convention is convened
late in 1993. At the end of August 1992, the Committees of
Correspondence had 1364 members, about 500-600 not having been
members of the CPUSA at the time of the Party convention in 1991.

I shall give below selections from the declaration of
principles that best reflect the ideological thrust of the

GOALS AND VISION. We are motivated by the profound
conviction that our country needs a humane alternative to the
anti-human system of capitalism. . . .
We believe that there must be a fundamental realignment of
the political system, new electoral initiatives and the
creation of new vehicles to attain political empowerment. Our
vision has an international dimension, seeking ties and
cooperation with popular movements and working-class
organizations in all countries. We view socialism as the
struggle for democracy carried to its logical conclusion.
This vision is not a utopia, but a practical response and
solution to the contradictions of capitalist society. We will
continue to participate in the ongoing public discussion of
how to define socialism in light of contemporary realities.
We will continue to assess the experience, including both
achievements and failures of the first sustained attempts to
build socialist societies in Europe, Asia, Latin America and
Africa. We welcome all those who would like to participate
with us in this exploration, while we struggle together to
address the immediate problems of our people.
We suggest the following characteristics for U.S. socialism.
A society where the promise of democracy is fulfilled by the
practice of self-government. A society of social justice,
which guarantees employment, housing, education and health
care as human rights. A society which preserves and builds
upon all previous economic and scientific achievements, and
which redistributes the vast wealth and power now held in a
few hands.

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK. The initiators of the Committees of
Correspondence are predominantly people with a socialist
vision and a Marxist view of history. Yet we are convinced
that we can and must build an organization that is pluralist,
embracing members who have theoretical frameworks other than
Marxist. . . . The continuing distinct contributions of
liberation theology, environmentalism, feminism, theories of
non-violent resistance and multiculturalism, non-Marxist
socialism and others cultivate the common ground for
struggle. We impose no ideological litmus tests. People with
diverse views are necessary and welcome in this organization
on an equal basis. Therefore we are both Marxist and
pluralist. We believe different strands of socialist and
democratic thought can coexist and enrich each other within
the context of a shared political program and practice.

While the document was still in draft form, the Minnesota
Committee of Correspondence objected that the statement does not
distinguish socialism from social welfare under capitalism. It
does not mention the essential content of socialism, namely, the
ownership and control of the means of production by the working
people. The Minnesota committee also objected to the organization
being "both Marxist and pluralist," which it felt undermines its
supposedly socialist orientation by ideologically weakening the
struggle against state monopoly capitalism and imperialism by

separating theoretical analysis from political practice. It
proposed instead to state that the organization's "socialist
outlook is based on the ideological heritage from the
philosophical, political, and economic studies of Marx, Engels,
and Lenin, and others inspired by them."

These amendments received no support from the leadership of the
CoC despite the fact that this leadership was still dominated by
those who had been the most active, committed Marxists-Leninists
in the CPUSA. To explain this phenomenon, I draw on articles in
CoC publications and many discussions for the following summary
of the prevailing ideological character of the CoC:

(a) Our understanding of socialism was shaped by what we had
called "real" or "existing" socialism as described in the Party
publications and the publications of the socialist countries. The
shocking revelations of the falseness of this description, the
economic breakdown of the socialist economies, and the apparent
need to introduce some level of market forces mean that we no
longer know what socialism is other than some vaguely just
distribution of wealth.

(b) Marxism-Leninism is a term that was introduced in the
Stalin period. The bureaucratization of Party life, the absence
of the most elementary democratic practices in the Party, the
military-type command style of the central leadership, and the
absence of accountability of the leadership to the membership
were all part of what was demagogically called democratic
centralism as practiced by parties that called themselves
Marxist-Leninist. We no longer want this type of party. The
introduction of democratic centralism as the organizational basis
of Lenin's party of a new type was dictated by the conditions of
czarist repression and is not an appropriate form for a working-
class party in a bourgeois parliamentary democracy.

(c) The CPUSA, under its present leadership, remains committed
to the discredited Stalinist model of socialism and the Stalinist
model of the Party. It was therefore impossible to remain in it.
If we were to try to form a new Marxist party of a Leninist type
with a few hundred members we would amount to nothing more than
another insignificant left sect.

(d) The CPUSA called itself a vanguard party. By this it meant
that it alone had the correct answers on all important questions
and all other groups on the left were what Gus Hall always
characterized as "the phony left." Much of the criticism others
had of the Communist movement--dogmatic rigidity and lack of
democratic procedures--now turns out to be valid.

In my view, one should not view the CoC as an alternative to a
Marxist-Leninist party of the working class, even if it
constitutes itself as a party at the projected founding
convention the toward the end of 1993. Nor should one be too
quick to label it reformist or social-democratic. Our country has
a tradition of non-Marxist, nonsocialist, progressive, "third"
parties in which Communists participated openly as members of the
CPUSA: the American Labor Party in New York and the Farmer-Labor
Party in Minnesota in the 1930s and 1940s, and the national

Progressive Party in the late 1940s and early 1950s, among
others. These parties were in no sense right-opportunist or
social-democratic. They were antiracist and anti-imperialist, and
did not advocate policies of class collaborationism in the labor
movement. The CoC is unique on the left in its multiracial
character. All five of its co-chairs are people of color (four
African Americans and a Puerto Rican--Charlene Mitchell, Kendra
Alexander, Carl Bloice, Manning Marable and Rafael Pizarro), the
majority of its members, nevertheless, being Euro-Americans.

It is necessary to note, however, that most former members of
the CPUSA in the CoC who still consider themselves Marxists are
comfortable in the CoC, feeling neither a need to sustain a
Marxist political presence in an organized way, within or outside
of the CoC, nor a responsibility for the organization of Marxist
education and Marxist publications, nor even for ensuring the
continuing availability of the Marxist classics.

We are reaping the consequences of many years of neglect of
ideological and theoretical work within the CPUSA: absence of
study groups and meaningful Party schools, continual substitution
of unsubstantiated predictions of economic collapse for
scientific analysis of the U.S. economy, inhospitable atmosphere
for theoretical research, dogmatic rejection of support for the
women's movement as bourgeois feminism, and bigotry toward
homosexuals, among others. Though we have had Communist
philosophers, historians, and economists, Party support for the
production of basic Marxist-Leninist textbooks in philosophy,
U.S. history, or political economy written on the background the
U.S. experience was not forthcoming. Consequently the Party's
political agenda during the post-World War II period never went
beyond progressive politics, no conscious effort being made to
inject a Marxist content into our day-to-day political activity.
In brief, the implementation of the Party's program was reformist
in content and sectarian in form. There were two exceptions: our
solidarity with the USSR and the other socialist countries and
our recognition of the centrality of African American equality as
a class question. Our unscientific, uncritical approach to the
former undermines this first exception. The CPUSA's abandonment
of the concept of centrality of African American equality, in
face of the increasing acceptance of its importance by many non-
Marxist progressives, weakens the Marxist contribution to this
area as well.


The strength of the Communist movement and its ability to
survive the extreme repressive measures taken against it by
capitalist and feudal governments throughout the world have in
large measure been due to its Marxist-Leninist outlook. This
article is not the place for a detailed discussion of what is
meant by Marxism-Leninism. A detailed description of its
essential content is given by the German Communist philosopher
Hans Heins Holz in his "The Downfall and Future of Socialism"
("Nature, Society, and Thought" 5, no. 3 [1992]). I list here, in
abridged and slightly modified form, Holz's ten theses of

1. Marxist-Leninists distinguish themselves from other
supporters of socialism in that their conceptions of the
future social order and the path leading to it are based upon
a theory of history, historical materialism, the essence of
which was worked out by Marx, Engels, and Lenin and enriched
by practical political experience, especially from working-
class struggles.

2. As a theory of history drawing upon a dialectical-
materialist understanding of the relationship between nature,
society, and thought, Marxism-Leninism is not to be viewed as
a dogma but as theory that assimilates past history and
present history as it unfolds.

3. The basis of its scientific analysis of historical
processes is the understanding that the decisive driving
force in history is the development of the productive forces
and their corresponding production relations, and that the
development of productive forces proceeds in continual
contradiction with the stable, institutionalized production
relations. These production relations are the basis of class
relations. A basic understanding of Marxist-Leninist theory
is that social consciousness is determined by social being,
that the contradictions in social being, that is, in society,
express themselves in social consciousness so that human
beings confronted by the contradictions of social being
arrive at their various individual positions on the basis of
their interests, traditions, experiences, and understanding,
and, finally, that basic contradictions manifest themselves
in class positions.

4. Human beings are not the helpless objects of a
fatalistic historical process, but are always the active
subjects of history. Nonetheless, human behavior, when guided
exclusively or primarily by private interests and personal
motivations, can have unanticipated results. The desired
change in society, whether through planned reforms with the
final goal of revolutionary transformation or through a
revolution, requires a theoretically guided organization,
that is, a political party sustained by the collective will
of its supporters. In order for the will of all to become a
common will capable of being translated into action,
individual members must subordinate themselves to the
organizational form, but not without prior participation in
forming that common will; this principle of discipline is a
simple condition of survival and effectiveness for all
revolutionary parties.

5. The class interest of that class at whose expense and
against whose self-interest social wealth is created lies in
the alteration of property relations--and, because it is the
only class that is opposed to these structures of
appropriation, the establishment of a new social order is its
historic mission. The opposition between capital and labor
establishes the identity of the working class (regardless of
the differences in the character of the work performed) as

the class that is in a position to abolish the capitalist
relations of production. To materialize itself in activity as
a class (and not just a sum of individuals) and thereby
become the subject of this historical mission, it must
acquire consciousness of the situation in which human beings
in general and members of the working class in particular
find themselves, that is, a class consciousness. Various
levels of class consciousness will obviously arise from
different experiences and not at all solely through theory;
but class consciousness must always be grounded on the theory
of class society and class struggle.

6. A new qualitative element in the development of the
productive forces emerges in connection with the scientific
and technological revolution. On the one hand, science and
technology can today guarantee a generally high material
standard of living if a just system of appropriation and
distribution were institutionalized. On the other hand,
science and technology also make possible the destruction of
the human species and large parts of nature. The capitalist
form of production relations cannot solve, but only
intensify, this contradiction. Only a socialist society
provides the perspective of a human future worthy of

7. The perspective of communism connects the objective laws
of history, which are the laws of reproduction of human
conditions of life, with the subjective striving of each
person toward self-realization and happiness. Self-
realization, however, is not conceivable without reference to
and consideration of fellow human beings; self-realization
has its foundation in the understanding that the individual
can only be himself or herself in solidarity with others.
Solidarity and consciousness of the social nature of human
beings, that is, a socialist morality, is what underlies the
program of the "Communist Manifesto," "that the free
development of each is the condition for the free development
of all." In capitalist societies the new attitude toward
life is formed in the struggle for socialism, and in
socialist societies, in the struggle for construction of
socialism. This struggle requires an organization form: the
theoretical understanding of the social and political
processes of the present and the proposal of goals for the
future must be worked out collectively by the members of an
organization, mediated by them, and translated into political
action. A Marxist-Leninist party is the appropriate
organization for fulfilling these tasks. As the place where
the conception of a socialist future is projected and
systematically discussed and the strategy for the present
worked out with this long-range conception in mind, it
becomes the revolutionary vanguard of the working class (even
in a nonrevolutionary period).

8. The historical mission of the working class and the task
of a Marxist-Leninist party therefore has two aspects: first,

the abolition of private ownership of the means of production
and thereby of the private appropriation of surplus value
brings about the changes in the relations of production that
have become necessary because the development of the forces
of production in the scientific and technological revolution
can no longer be sensibly controlled by the private
interests; a comprehensive plan for the entire society is
required. Second, the working class, in its struggle for
self-determination against exploitation, oppression, and
injustice, brings about the goal of establishing a society in
which free and equal citizens can develop their talents in
full; only such a society, a communist society, can guarantee
human rights.

9. The construction of socialism, and communism that
emerges from it, will be a long and contradictory process
even after the abolition of capitalist property relations.
Presocialist forms of consciousness and behavior persist long
after the institutional changes, some for several
generations. Class positions do not disappear in one fell
swoop; that is, the class struggle also continues, most of
all the struggle over the new socialist worldview;
accordingly, theoretical work and ideological clarity acquire
great importance, especially since the paths to socialism
will vary from country to country and initially under
conditions in which the imperialist centers of capitalism
will be economically stronger. Thus the construction of
socialism essentially depends upon a Marxist-Leninist party
giving leadership to the process of socialist transformation
and development. This leading role must not be permitted to
solidify into bureaucratic mechanisms.

10. It is well to remember the insight of Karl Marx that
"no social formation is ever destroyed before all the
productive forces for which it is sufficient have been
developed, and new superior relations of production never
replace older ones before the material conditions for their
existence have matured within the framework of the old
society." Capitalism today, in the development of its
productive forces, begets external contradictions to the
point of threatening the extinction of humanity--in this
respect it prepares in its womb the transition to socialism.
However, capitalism is still capable of organizing within its
own framework the continued development of the forces of
production, even though with increasing deterioration of the
quality of life. For this reason, the struggle against
capitalism is still the main task of Marxist-Leninists
throughout the world.

I think it is necessary to add here some comments about the
concept of a vanguard party, since this concept has been deformed
in the practice of many Communist parties in both socialist and
capitalist countries. Lenin's concept of a vanguard party is two-
fold. On the one hand, it concerns the necessity of the party
drawing into its ranks, above all, the most class-conscious,

socially responsible members of the working class, to sustain and
develop this consciousness further, and to take the initiative in
developing strategies that have as their ultimate goal the
socialist transformation of society. This aspect of the vanguard
role can be fulfilled even if the vast majority of the working
class does not acknowledge the leading role of the party in
relation to its interests. On the other hand, the vanguard
concept would be essentially without meaning if the vanguard
party isolated itself in practice, for example by alienating
other class-conscious workers, or socially conscious activists in
general, who were not ready to join the party by attempting to
force its "leading role" on them. Members of the Communist Party
of South Africa participate actively in the African National
Congress, but they avoid the left-sectarian error of caucusing as
Communists and then acting as a disciplined caucus in the ANC. It
is not that members of a vanguard party active in a broader mass
organization should not caucus or otherwise meet to analyze
developments in such mass organizations. But, generally
speaking, they should not be bound by a discipline that stands
above the mass organization in which they are participating; they
must be open to changing their positions and modifying their
activities in discussions and meetings involving nonparty people
who may, at times, have a clearer analysis and more convincing
arguments. A sectarian concept of vanguard can be particularly
self-destructive in the case of mass organizations in which
members of a Marxist-Leninist party have considerable influence.

The process of rebuilding a Marxist-Leninist movement in the
United States will be a very slow and difficult one, as the
experience in Great Britain has shown. The CPUSA leadership
continues to see Gorbachev as the principal cause of the collapse
of socialism; it remains committed to a concept of democratic
centralism according to which a member of one club cannot give
written matter of a political character to a member of another
club; it continues to set concentration on industrial workers
against the struggle for African American equality. The inability
of its leadership to engage in any serious self-criticism is
reducing the Party to an anachronism. A number of good Communists
have nevertheless chosen to wait out an eventual change in
leadership and have remained in the Party. What policies will be
adopted if a change in leadership takes place is an open
question. Within the CoC are many who still consider themselves
"Communists without a Party"--as individuals and as well as
entire former Party clubs. The process of establishing contact
with one another is now beginning. The first step will most
likely be to set up a channel for exchange of information and
views. Particularly useful would be information on discussions
that are taking place in Communist movements in other countries.

The fields which should have been plowed with the Marxist
scientific outlook have been allowed to lie fallow too long. We
must vigorously resume the plowing.

Erwin Marquit 2 October 1992
Kamran Heiss
User avatar
Soviet cogitations: 836
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 28 Jan 2008, 19:10
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Post 02 Feb 2019, 23:50
I was reading this more about the CPUSA CCDS split in the early 90s and looked up "Sadie Doroshkin who is 94, a charter member of the Party" and found this from the 1930s, the original Trevor Loudon ... &q&f=false
Kamran Heiss
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