Month: February, 2014
Convention discussion: Reaffirming the principles of Marxism-Leninism
| February 28, 2014 | 9:45 pm | Action | No comments

via: http://cpusa.org/convention-discussion-reaffirming-the-principles-of-marxism-leninism/

by: David S. Bell
February 13 2014

Submitted for discussion by by David S. Bell, Philadelphia, PA

As important as the “framework Topics” are for Pre-Convention Discussion, they should be in the context of what is the Communist Party USA. Who are we, what principles guide us, and how do we both plant our feet in the present and at the same time project the future, including necessary steps to socialism? How do we view the shift to the left among masses who, by all major polls, either see problems with capitalism and/or believe that socialism may be the answer?

I believe that the CPUSA has lost its way and with current policies is on the way to liquidation. Already it is difficult to distinguish us from other left forces. Many of our allies and many in the Party go as far as to suggest that we are simply the left arm of the Democratic Party.

Specifically:

Before the 2008 elections, the Eastern Pennsylvania District had a weekend retreat lead by two members of the national leadership, including Comrade Webb. After our District chair gave a report of recent initiatives taken, Webb said this was not the time for initiatives because they would take away efforts to elect Senator Obama. This seemed contrary to what we all learned about the Party putting forward its program and its relationship to building a democratic movement that also included electoral activity. Several months later the then organizational secretary visited our district to discuss party building. When our chair put forth the idea that the Party needed a focus and review of its policies, the response was that program had nothing to do with our lack of growth. The simple answer put forward was that is was just “hard to recruit.” It must be said that the same person has been one of the most persistent in calling for a name change of the Party and rejection of some of our terminology. I will have more to say on that later.

Now we get to the publication of “A party of Socialism in the 21st Century: What It Looks Like, What It says, and What It Does. This was written by Sam Webb dated February 3, 2011 and appears in Political Affairs. Although Webb said this was not an official piece, but only some thoughts not necessarily for wide discussion, one must ask how the world can view this as unofficial when written by the Chair of the Party. After reading this piece it made sense to me where Webb was coming from at our retreat. Also, if one reviews recent reports to the National Committee, articles by Webb in the People’s World and decisions made outside of the governing bodies of the Party, one may see that elements of the unofficial document have become policy in some cases in violation of the 2001 Party Constitution.

For example, the concept of democratic centralism is seen as obsolete. Given that one important element of that is unity of struggle, it is curious that when the strongest unity is needed to defeat a well united, well financed ultra-right, unity of our membership is down played.

The document is unclear at best that we still need the science of Marxism to guide us or that a communist party is necessary to build working class consciousness that can withstand the test of time and various steps forward and backward. The document goes as far as to suggest that economics or political economy is no longer at the root of class struggle and that a transition to socialism will be based on broader issues such as the environment. What a classless approach.

Webb suggests in the document as well as at the National Board meeting held October 5-6, 2013 that we need to let some terms go including Democratic Centralism, Marxism-Leninism, Dictatorship of the Proletariat, and Vanguard Party. He makes no substitute suggestion. I therefore conclude, based on conversations and reading his remarks in PA, People’s World and reports that he and others are not talking about terminology but abandoning principles necessary for the functioning of a communist party consistent with the “Communist Manifesto.”

I have already dealt with democratic centralism.

Although Webb often quotes Lenin with regard to sectarianism, he clearly does not cite his significant contribution to how a party must be organized to challenge the ruling class. Where is the organizational bureau of the Party? It was dissolved several years ago with our chair taking on some of its responsibilities. Where are the commissions? Where is the Educational Department? The list goes on. Exactly what is our structure and definition of membership?

Although I agree that the term “Dictatorship of the Proletariat” needs to be modernized, unlike Webb we need to see its validity if we are to see a transformation to socialism given the power and determination of US capital.

What can be said about “Vanguard Party?” Again the debate should not be the terminology, but the principle. There are those in the Party who suggest the principle is outdated and arrogant. Those who believe the vanguard concept (or leadership concept) is irrelevant are those who also believe that the level of class-consciousness for revolutionary change will come about spontaneously. This is in direct conflict with Marx and Engels and has never happened.

With regard to being a “Vanguard Party” or assuming leadership is not subjective. If a communist party follows the science of Marxism and the principles of the “manifesto,” it is not a matter of what we think. It is a matter of how the mass movements respond to our program without necessarily giving recognition. The Party was the first to put forward “people before profits.” Now it is a popular phrase among the masses. We did not stand up and declare in an arrogant way that it should be so. Over its history, the democratic movements have picked up Party slogans, ideas for organization, and actions without subjectively recognizing the Party. That is what being in the vanguard and giving leadership is all about. It will lead to Party growth by the actions it engenders, not by declarations.

Those who believe that changing our name will make it easier to build need to learn from our mass activity that that will have little affect on recruiting. Rather what it does is further justify the path proposed in Webb’s 21st century piece.

Next a few words about the Party’s constitution that I believe has been violated by actions of the National Committee and Webb leadership.

In the preamble: “Our Party is organized on the principle of democratic centralism combining maximum democratic discussion and decision-making with maximum unity of will and action, ensuring our ability to play a strong organizing role in the class struggle.” Further it says, “With Marxism-Leninism guiding our actions, the Communist Party strives to build the broadest unity against global capitalist imperialism now headed by U.S. imperialism, for immediate gains and reforms that benefit working people, and for a progressive democratization of the government, the economy, and society of our country on the road to and after winning socialism.”

Article II, Section 1: The system of organization of the Communist Party is based upon the principle of democratic centralism, which means that decisions and policies are made through democratic procedures, and that once a final decision is made, all members are obligated to carry it out.” Further it says, “Unity is the strongest weapon working people have in the struggle to advance their interests. By making a commitment to unite around a program of action, members strengthen the Party and help unify the working class and peoples’ movements.”

Comrades, we must push back these liquidationist policies and support our Party constitution if we are to give meaning to the struggles put forth in the “Framework Topics.”

 

Sign the petition to remove the anti-communist paragraph from Title VII
| February 26, 2014 | 9:01 pm | Action | 2 Comments

Sign the petition to remove the anti-communist paragraph from Title VII. The paragraph allows employers and labor organizations to lawfully discriminate against and/or harass communists. You can sign the petition at http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/revise-title-vii-remove

PHill1917@comcast.net

Revise Title VII: Remove the clause which allows employers and labor organizations to discriminate against members of the Communist Party
| February 26, 2014 | 8:28 pm | Action | No comments

By James Thompson

Title VII, the federal law which prohibits employers from engaging in discriminatory employment practices, exempts members of the Communist Party from protection. In effect, it allows employers to freely discriminate against and/or harass employees who are members of the Communist Party or affiliated organizations. The clause which allows discrimination of communists needs to be removed since it is discriminatory, unconstitutional, outdated and is a violation of human rights.

See paragraph (f) below. Here is the federal law as it stands now:

42 U.S. CODE § 2000E–2 – UNLAWFUL EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES
(a) Employer practices
It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer—
(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or
(2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
(b) Employment agency practices
It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employment agency to fail or refuse to refer for employment, or otherwise to discriminate against, any individual because of his race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, or to classify or refer for employment any individual on the basis of his race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
(c) Labor organization practices
It shall be an unlawful employment practice for a labor organization—
(1) to exclude or to expel from its membership, or otherwise to discriminate against, any individual because of his race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;
(2) to limit, segregate, or classify its membership or applicants for membership, or to classify or fail or refuse to refer for employment any individual, in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities, or would limit such employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee or as an applicant for employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or
(3) to cause or attempt to cause an employer to discriminate against an individual in violation of this section.
(d) Training programs
It shall be an unlawful employment practice for any employer, labor organization, or joint labor-management committee controlling apprenticeship or other training or retraining, including on-the-job training programs to discriminate against any individual because of his race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in admission to, or employment in, any program established to provide apprenticeship or other training.
(e) Businesses or enterprises with personnel qualified on basis of religion, sex, or national origin; educational institutions with personnel of particular religion
Notwithstanding any other provision of this subchapter,
(1) it shall not be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to hire and employ employees, for an employment agency to classify, or refer for employment any individual, for a labor organization to classify its membership or to classify or refer for employment any individual, or for an employer, labor organization, or joint labor-management committee controlling apprenticeship or other training or retraining programs to admit or employ any individual in any such program, on the basis of his religion, sex, or national origin in those certain instances where religion, sex, or national origin is a bona fide occupational qualification reasonably necessary to the normal operation of that particular business or enterprise, and
(2) it shall not be an unlawful employment practice for a school, college, university, or other educational institution or institution of learning to hire and employ employees of a particular religion if such school, college, university, or other educational institution or institution of learning is, in whole or in substantial part, owned, supported, controlled, or managed by a particular religion or by a particular religious corporation, association, or society, or if the curriculum of such school, college, university, or other educational institution or institution of learning is directed toward the propagation of a particular religion.
(f) Members of Communist Party or Communist-action or Communist-front organizations
As used in this subchapter, the phrase “unlawful employment practice” shall not be deemed to include any action or measure taken by an employer, labor organization, joint labor-management committee, or employment agency with respect to an individual who is a member of the Communist Party of the United States or of any other organization required to register as a Communist-action or Communist-front organization by final order of the Subversive Activities Control Board pursuant to the Subversive Activities Control Act of 1950 [50 U.S.C. 781 et seq.].

Title VII should be revised immediately to remove item (f) above since it violates the First Amendment to the constitution. It is a throwback to the most vicious aspects of the McCarthy era.

All people of conscience should unite to vigorously oppose this law legalizing discrimination against communists. As long as it stands, there is a threat to other organizations and sectors of the population since their names could be added to the list of groups that it is legal to discriminate against.

PHill1917@comcast.net

Repeal the anti-communist laws in Texas
| February 25, 2014 | 10:10 pm | Action | No comments

Please sign the petition to repeal the anti-communist laws in Texas. The link is http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/repeal-the-anti-communist

We also invite you to write an essay about why you think the anti-communist law should be repealed. Submit essays to PHill1917@comcast.net  for posting on this website.

Thanks for your support.

The poverty of ideology
| February 24, 2014 | 11:01 pm | About the CPUSA, Action, Analysis, National, Party Voices | 2 Comments

by James ThompsonWorker and Collective Farm Woman

As the CPUSA proceeds towards its 30th annual convention in Chicago, a number of “preconvention discussion documents” are appearing on the CPUSA website. It certainly appears that the CPUSA fully intends to continue down its self-destructive, reactionary and bourgeois boot licking path. Sam Webb has posted an essay titled “Toward a Modern & Mature 21st Century Communist Party.” http://www.cpusa.org/convention-discussion-toward-a-modern-mature-21st-century-communist-party// Although an essay is generally thought to be the personal opinion of the individual writer, since it is written by the chairperson of the party, we can assume that this will be the roadmap for the immediate future of the CPUSA.

The essay is filled with contradictions which Webb himself identifies. It is almost as if someone has tried to write an ideological bombshell which will eventually implode based on its internal contradictions and inconsistencies.

Let us examine some of these contradictions and view them through Marxist-Leninist lens.

Marx and Engels on alliances with the petty-bourgeois

It would seem appropriate to start with a quote from Karl Marx and Frederick Engels “Address of the Central Authority to the League (March, 1850)” (MECW, IP, volume 10, page 280) since Webb characterizes the CPUSA as “Marxist.” Marx and Engels wrote “The relation of the revolutionary workers’ party to the petty bourgeois democrats is this: it marches together with them against the faction which it aims at overthrowing, it opposes them in everything by which they seek to consolidate their position in their own interests.” On page 283 they continue “In a word, from the first moment of victory, mistrust must be directed no longer against the defeated reactionary party, but against the workers’ previous allies, against the party that wishes to exploit the common victory for itself alone.” On page 284 they spell it out “Even where there is no prospect whatever of their being elected, the workers must put up their own candidates in order to preserve their independence, to count their forces and to lay before the public their revolutionary attitude and party standpoint. In this connection they must not allow themselves to be bribed by such arguments of the democrats as, for example, that by so doing they are splitting the democratic party and giving the reactionaries the possibility of victory. The ultimate purpose of all such phrases is to dupe the proletariat. The advance which the proletarian party is bound to make by such independent action is infinitely more important than the disadvantage that might be incurred by the presence of a few reactionaries in the representative body. On page 287, Marx and Engels concluded “But they themselves must do the utmost for their final victory by making it clear to themselves what their class interests are, by taking up their position as an independent party as soon as possible and by not allowing themselves to be misled for a single moment by the hypocritical phrases of the democratic petty bourgeois into refraining from the independent organization of the party of the proletariat.”

Let’s see how Sam Webb’s proposals stack up against the words of Marx and Engels.lenin

More “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” or “Back to the future”

Chairperson Webb wrote on the first page of his document “For the past 25 years, our strategic objective has been the building of a labor-led people’s coalition against Republican right wing domination of our nation’s political structures. Its aim isn’t to bring us to a gate on which is inscribed ‘Doorway to Socialism.'” He continues “But again, our current strategy-which envisions the broader movement in a tactical, but necessary alliance with the Democratic Party against right wing extremist candidates and initiatives-is only one stage in a longer-term process whose goal is to radically reconfigure class relations as well deepen and extend the democracy (probably understood as the right to a job, living wage, healthcare and housing, right to organize into unions, quality integrated education, reproductive rights, comprehensive immigration reform, affirmative action and an end to all forms of discrimination, green environmental policies, etc.). He follows the statements up with “While we favor a socialist solution, a far more likely political possibility in the near and medium term is a series of measures that radically roll back corporate power, privilege, and profits and overhaul the priorities of government, but still within the framework of capitalism.”

Instead of a modern Communist Manifesto which someone should be writing, the CPUSA chairperson has once again authored a paper which should be titled the Capitulation Manifesto or Class Collaboration Manifesto. He openly and unabashedly advocates an “alliance with the Democratic Party.” He would have us believe that such an alliance will lead to a reconfiguration of class relations and a deepening and extension of democracy. He also openly advocates for a continuation of capitalism. Lenin’s teachings, which he would like to drop, tell us that all reforms can be rolled back by the ruling class when it is politically expedient. This has certainly become clear in recent years.

Marxist Leninists view democracy as a form of the state. They view the state as the means by which one class, i.e. the ruling class, oppresses another class. In our current situation, this would translate to the capitalist class oppression of the working class. For a thorough discussion of Marxist-Leninist views of democracy, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OoQN4mKBJtc  . Webb obfuscates the meaning of democracy by defining it as a string of reforms as indicated above. He makes no mention of the fact that in this country we have bourgeois democracy, in other words democracy for the wealthy, by the wealthy and of the wealthy.

Since Webb advocates “an alliance with the Democratic Party,” we should examine this and understand it more clearly. Amazingly, Webb clarifies by stating “the top circles of the Democratic Party are anchored to the outlook, needs, and policies of major sections of the capitalist class, thereby making it an unreliable and inconsistent ally… My point is to underscore the importance of expanding the network of progressives and liberals at every level of government, and further building the independent parents and formations in and outside the Democratic Party-while at the same time, stressing the urgent (and hardly mundane) task of building a broad coalition against right-wing extremism, in which the President and the Democrats play a necessary role.

As for the formation of an independent People’s party at the national level, we should keep it in the conversation even if it isn’t yet on the horizon…”

Webb also says “Ours is a party that places a high priority on independent political action. Now I am not suggesting that we do an about-face with respect to the Democratic Party. At this stage of struggle that would be a stupid mistake-strategic and tactical. The Democratic Party is an essential player in any conceivably realistic strategy for defeating the Republican Party and right-wing extremism… Although the Democratic Party comprises diverse people and interests, it has a class gravity and anchorage about which we shouldn’t lose sight.

The main seats at its table are occupied by political players and powerbrokers who by disposition, loyalty and worldview are committed, and then, to creating favorable conditions for the accumulation of capital (profits) and for the smoothest reproduction of capitalism on a national and global level.

Neoliberalism, globalization, and financialization-all of which deepened inequality, severely aggravated economic instability and crisis, undid many of the reforms of the previous century, and disempowered people-are simply creatures of the Republican right.

Now, the election of Reagan and the ascendancy of the right did play a big role in the process, and the Republican right is a leading edge of the current ruling class offensive. But the Democrats were not bystanders either. While they resisted the more extreme measures of their right-wing counterparts, they also embraced some of the main assumptions and practices of neoliberalism, financialization, and globalization.

The Carter administration was the first out of the gate, but it was the Clinton administration and the Democratic Leadership Council that really greased the skids for the rise of finance and speculation, globalization, and the reduction of government’s responsibility to the people.

And even today, the president and his advisers and leading Democrats in the Senate and House are far from free of such thinking and practices.

And as for foreign-policy, the differences between the two parties are more tactical than strategic. While such differences can be of enormous consequences to the preservation of a peaceful world and thus shouldn’t be dismissed by progressive and left people and organizations, it is also a fact that both parties are committed to US global dominance and the growth of the national security state.”

Untangling the Webbkarl marx

So, let’s see if we can untangle this Webb of ideas. He admits right away that the strategic objective of the CPUSA is not to seek Socialism at this stage in the struggle. He indicates that the strategic objective of the party is to combat the demons of the right wing. The fatal contradiction in this thinking becomes apparent when Webb himself asserts that right wing elements are very visible and influential within the Democratic Party. Although Webb’s obfuscation makes clarity a stranger to the party, it appears that he is telling us that in order to further the interests of the working class, we workers must ally with our class enemies. What would have been the outcome of World War II if Stalin had commanded members of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to ally themselves with the fascist elements in the Soviet Union? What would have been the outcome of the struggle against the Vietnam War if the Communist Party leadership had advocated uncritical support and alliance with the imperialist administration of Lyndon Baines Johnson, who was a progressive Democrat, because he was a progressive Democrat? President Johnson helped move the civil rights struggle forward, but at the same time his policies resulted in the unnecessary deaths of many people of the working class in the United States and Vietnam.

Webb himself notes that there is little difference between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party in terms of foreign-policy.

This hypocrisy and contradictory thinking cannot in any sense be characterized as Marxist, Marxist-Leninist, communist, or socialist and it certainly does not promote the interests of the working class.

Webb has a history of surrender before the battle even starts. In an interview with Glenn Beck several years ago he announced that “socialism is off the table.” Even though a large percentage of the US population favor socialism over capitalism according to recent polls, Webb has not budged from this negativistic position. What would have been the outcome of the 1917 Russian Revolution if Lenin had said “socialism is off the table?”

Fighting the right wing is a necessary and ever present part of the struggle for socialism. The history of socialist countries instructs us that the struggle against the right wing continues after socialism has been achieved. Webb also states that the CPUSA places a priority on independent political action. One Democratic Party candidate for president asked the question some years ago “Where’s the beef?” We must apply this question to the CPUSA in the current situation. It would be one thing if the CPUSA was attempting to confront the right wing ideologically, politically, or any other way. However, rather than criticizing the right wing, Webb and other party writers concentrate on criticizing left thinkers such as Chris Hedges. Instead of mounting a program to train party cadre in political struggle, and running communist candidates for public office, members are told to merely “vote Democratic!” Their slogan appears to be “All power to the Democrats!”

Webb has mired the Communist Party in this idea of an unholy alliance with the Democrats and has repeatedly expelled party members who speak out against this twisted path. I should know since I was expelled for this reason in August, 2012 on the same day that I received a diagnosis of oral cancer. Commanding party members to support the Democrats is tantamount to the Pope telling Catholics to convert to Judaism. This is a slick way to destroy the identity and mission of an organization, i.e. simply ally the organization with an organization with which members do not identify. Once the self-destructive edict is issued, the next step is to excommunicate any member who refuses to follow the edict. This is the modus operandi of the CPUSA currently.

What would an alliance with the Democrats mean?

Realistically speaking, if an alliance could be forged with the Democrats, what would this mean? For example, a few years ago in Germany the leading Social Democratic Party was unable to form a majority coalition in the legislature. The Communist Party offered to join a coalition with the Social Democratic Party in order to achieve a majority coalition. The Social Democratic Party refused to form a coalition with the Communist Party even though this would have meant that they would have stayed in power. Such a coalition would have prevented Angela Merkel of the right wing Christian Democratic Union from taking power.

In the United States, such an alliance between the Communist Party and the Democratic Party might be characterized as an annoying tick attaching itself to a donkey. The donkey would be periodically irritated by the presence of the tick which would appropriately be attached to the donkey’s tail. The donkey would swish the tail in an effort to rid itself of the tick. Eventually, if the tick was irritating enough, the donkey might go to extraordinary lengths to get rid of the parasite.

If the CPUSA was able to form an alliance with the Democrats, it would be a parasitic relationship and it is clear that the CPUSA would be the parasite. It is clear that the Democratic Party does not need any more parasites. Indeed, it has plenty of leeches from the capitalists which weigh it down and make it difficult for it to operate effectively. If there was a recognizable and visible alliance between the Democratic Party and the Communist Party, this would become a very effective weapon that the neofascists could use against the Democratic Party. A party member once told me that the Communist Party “does not want to be the issue.” If the CPUSA formed an alliance with the Democrats, it is quite likely that the CPUSA would be the issue in the struggle against the ultra-right. This strategy is not only anti-Communist, and divorced from Marxism Leninism but it is also divorced from reality.

What do workers need?

Progressive workers in the United States need a Communist Party which serves them by acting as a guiding light in the struggle for workers to gain state power. Workers need a Communist Party which fearlessly and unflinchingly fights for the interests of working people. Workers need a Communist Party which critically analyzes its own work and the policies of Social Democrats as well as the right wing reactionaries. Indeed, as in the past, workers need a Communist Party which leads a movement to oppose the antiworker policies of whatever bourgeois political party is in power, Republican or Democrat. Certainly, the right wing, which is merely the guard dog for the ultra-wealthy class, is not shy about applying pressure for the interests of the wealthy. It would be beneficial if the Communist Party was not shy about applying pressure for the interests of the workers.

But here Webb departs from Marxism Leninism again. In his paper he admits that the CPUSA has jettisoned the idea of a vanguard party of the working class. In addition to disavowing the leading role of the party, he notes that “a few decades ago we scrapped the hammer and sickle, mothballed the red flag, and dropped phrases like ‘dictatorship of the proletariat.’ We worked hard to get rid of leftist jargon, and change the names of our collective bodies and leaders’ titles.” He goes on to state “In recent years, many party leaders, myself included, have dropped the term ‘Marxism Leninism’ and simply use ‘Marxism.'” There have been reports from around the country that Webb has strongly advocated at various meetings dropping the word “communist” from the CPUSA. Apparently, he has met with some resistance among party members who realize that if the current leadership sheds the skin of the party, there will be nothing left and nothing left to do but dissolve the party.

Rather than celebrate the glorious history of the party in leading the struggle for socialism and against fascism/nazism, Webb says “It is a party that utilizes slogans, symbols and terminology that resonate with a broad audience. And it should shed those that no longer fit today’s circumstances or are freighted with negative connotations, and not only because of the mass media, but also because of the practices of the communist movement in the last century.” Here he dismisses not only the achievements and contributions of various socialist states ruled by Communist parties such as the Soviet Union, Cuba, China, Vietnam, Laos and many others, but also dismisses the achievements and contributions of communist parties in non-socialist countries such as the United States, Canada, Greece, Mexico, India, South Africa, Venezuela, Brazil, England, France and Germany and many others. If there ever was an anti-Communist statement, this would be it.

Summary

In summary, this preconvention discussion document which is the roadmap for the future of the party since it is written by the party’s highest leader is full of contradictions and self-destructive actions. It jettisons almost all of the central ideas of Marxism Leninism and damns the history of the party. It argues that workers should ally themselves with their class enemy in order to struggle against the class enemy. He promises “a pie-in-the-sky when you die” to party members as well as the working class if they subscribe to his prescription for disaster.

Instead of this idealistic claptrap, the working class has earned through struggle a party which will lead it and prepare it for its historic mission which is the winning of state power for working people. Workers need education and training in political struggle so that they can fight for their interests without being confused by anti-worker parasitic parties. Workers are becoming increasingly aware that their interests are not advanced by financial bailouts of multinational corporations, expanding wars which serve to protect and increase profits, rollbacks of the social network, interference in the affairs of sovereign nations, and an ever-increasing military industrial complex and national security state. Workers know which parties have implemented these policies and are growing increasingly hostile to those leaders responsible. An alliance with those leaders would be poison to any organization which claims to be a worker’s party.

Hopefully, the CPUSA will come to its senses and resist the contradictory and irrational proposed program at its upcoming convention. The future of this country and the world depends on the development of a realistic workers party program. Without socialism, the world will continue to see ever-increasing economic and social crises which will lead to catastrophe. The slogan of the CPUSA convention should be “Forward to a Socialist USA!”

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Articles by W.T. Whitney and Andre Vltchek on Cuba and Venezuela
| February 23, 2014 | 8:15 pm | Action | No comments

Historical Materialism

Slavery, cotton-raising, and a global fix

By W. T. Whitney Jr.

Book Review – “River of Dark Dreams, Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom”

Author: Walter Johnson. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 2013

ISBN 978-0-674-04555-2 $35

The spirited, engrossing narrative of “River of Dark Dreams,” authored by historian Walter Johnson, has Mississippi River Valley planters fighting to retain land and slaves prior to the U.S. Civil War. In the telling, slavery takes on a cruel logic within the era’s globalized marketing arrangements. Johnson shows how planters, their problems mounting, reached out internationally, turning their backs on northern compatriots.

Johnson’s book is filled with factual details, among them: ledger books; cotton “pickability;” slaves starving, stolen, rebelling, and running away; search dogs; slave babies dying, slave prices, hybrid cotton seeds, soil fertility, droughts, sandbars, and Haiti. Steamboats, seen then as marvels of technology and essential for cotton-marketing, figure prominently, also their explosions, gamblers, races, high-pressure engines, and dining room etiquette.

For Johnson, “The Cotton Kingdom was built out of sun, water, and soil; animal energy, human labor, and mother wit; grain, flesh, and cotton; pain hunger, and fatigue; blood, milk, semen, and shit.” He writes about “bare-life processes and material exchanges so basic they have escaped the attention of countless historians of slavery.” Cotton production increased fortyfold in the Valley over three decades, the slave population, 17 times.

Other realities were farther away. “The greatest economic boom in the history of the United States” was in progress. Cotton was “the largest single sector of the global economy.” Planters were part of “a network of material connections that stretched from Mississippi and Louisiana to Manhattan and Lowell to Manchester and Liverpool,” destination of 85 percent of their cotton. Indeed, the “rate of exploitation of slaves in a field in Mississippi … was keyed to the exchange in Liverpool and the labor of mill hands in Manchester.”

Before crossing the Atlantic, planters’ cotton was re-sold, re-graded, and transferred to another ship in New York. Some 40 percent of money spent on cotton stayed in New York. The product accounted for two thirds of all U.S. exports, yet only 10 percent of U.S. imports went south.

“[T]ariffs and tonnage rates that had artificially diverted southern imports through northern ports and turned southern wealth into northern profits” triggered southern agitation for free trade. Reduced access to imported goods led to shortages of plantation supplies and hobbled efforts to build southern manufacturing capacity.

Cotton marketing called for “lashes [being converted] into labor into bales into dollars into pounds sterling.” Really, cotton flowed from planters to factors in New Orleans, to banks and shippers in New York, to bankers and buyers in England through promissory notes, borrowing, and credit, with deductions along the way.

Planters’ money was in slaves and land, the latter serving as collateral for loans. But “without slaves, land itself was worthless.” Planters “buy Negroes to plant cotton and raise cotton to buy Negroes.” Distressed planters “can’t shift investment … Their capital would not simply rust or lie fallow. It would starve. It would steal. It would revolt.”

Eventually powerbrokers looked for a “spatial fix.” For them, the River led to South and Central American venues fit for cotton-growing and other ventures. “For many in the Mississippi Valley, [therefore], the most important issue in the early 1850s was Cuba,” the “Gibraltar’ of the America.

The author recalls the last adventure of the onetime Spanish soldier Narciso López, cotton grower agent engaged in “pro-slavery imperialism.” With troops drawn from “the margins of the cotton economy,” López in 1851 headed to Cuba from New Orleans in a ship filled with supplies donated by slaveholders. The object was annexation. The invaders wandered about for two weeks before Spanish authorities executed López in Havana before 20,000 spectators. López supporter and former Mississippi governor John Quitman raised 1000 men in 1855 for an invasion project that never materialized.

Johnson also notes the career of slaveholder proxy William Walker who in 1855 left New Orleans with a small force for Nicaragua where he established himself as president. Mississippi Valley supporters provided supplies, arms, troops, and ample publicity.

In the end, “planters and merchants set about trying, first, to reform themselves and, failing that, to remap the course of world history. In order to survive, slaveholders had to expand … Proslavery globalism increasingly took the form of imperialist military action.” That drill should have become familiar to national politicians later on as they dealt with contradictions of U.S. capitalism.

Historians have debated whether or not slave-owners were capitalists. Johnson rejects the view that slavery is an “archaic” pre-capitalist mode of exploitation. He settles on “a materialist and historical analysis [that] begins from the premise that there was no nineteenth century capitalism without slavery.”

Johnson’s methodology as a historian is of great interest. He presents “a history of bare-life processes and material exchanges so basic they have escaped the attention of countless historians of slavery.” History, he notes, is often “approached through durable abstractions: ‘the master-slave relationship,’ ‘white supremacy,’ ‘resistance,’ ‘agency.’” Yet “these categories have become unmoored from the historical experience they were intended to represent.”

Rather than center his present investigation of slavery on concepts like abolitionists’ moral imperative, northern industrialization, southerners’ states’ rights bias, or virtuous free labor, Johnson turned at once to actualities and people’s lives.

His and Karl Marx’ views on historical method are similar. In the German Ideology, Marx writes: “The first premise of all human history is, of course, the existence of living human individuals. Thus the first fact to be established is the physical organization of these individuals and their consequent relation to the rest of nature. [The method does] not, like the idealistic view of history, in every period [have] to look for a category, but remains constantly on the real ground of history; it does not explain practice from the idea but explains the formation of ideas from material practice.”

Johnson’s book thus provides a fine example of using historical materialism, pioneered by Marx, as a social investigation tool. His conclusions on U.S. slavery are hardly run-of-the-mill. He is a scientist of history, and praise is due.

=======================================

Open Letter to President of Venezuela

Soon, the Battle for Venezuela
by ANDRE VLTCHEK http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/02/21/soon-the-battle-for-venezuela/

They are already sewing your funeral gown, Venezuela. They are now ready to welcome you back to that world of the lobotomized, destroyed nations that are fully submissive to Western political and economic interests – Indonesia, Philippines, Paraguay, Uganda, Kenya, Qatar, Bahrain, and almost the entire Eastern Europe. There are so many places like that – it is impossible to list them all.

They want you back in their deadly embrace; they want you to be corrupt and hopeless, as you were before the “Bolivarian Revolution”.

They want you to be the top oil exporter, but with all those horrific slums hanging, like relentless nightmares, over your cities. They want your elites and your military top brass to speak English, to play golf, to drive luxury cars and to commit treason after treason, as they used to commit treason for decades, before your brave predecessor, President Hugo Chavez, began serving and literally saving the poor, in Venezuela and all over Latin America.

Those who are planning to destroy you, those who belong to the so called ‘opposition’, in their heads, are already portioning you; they are dividing your beautiful body – fighting over which parts should be taken where and by whom. They are arguing which pieces of you should stay at home, and what should be taken abroad – a leg, an arm, and your deep melancholic eyes, the color of the profound pools under the mighty waterfalls of Canaima. They want to sell your jet-black hair, as black as those evenings in the mountains, or like that endless night sky above Ciudad Bolivar.

They want everything, all that is under your skin as well as what is deep inside your body. They want your skin, too, as well as your heart.

They want your dreams, which are almost everybody’s dreams – the dreams of all those people from all over the world, people that have been oppressed, and humiliated, for centuries, up to today. They want to take your dreams and to step on them, dirty them, spit on them and to crush them.

But it is not over; it is all far from being over. You are loved and admired, and therefore you will be defended. By all means – we who love you will not be ungenerous; we will not be negotiating the price!

For many men and women, for millions all over the world, you used to be a girl; a brave, rebellious, wonderful young woman… then suddenly you became a mother and then you turned to a motherland – for all those who lacked one until this very moment. For me, too, you became a motherland… for me too!

***

I am not a Venezuelan citizen. I wish I could be, but I am not. But I have fought for Venezuela, in my own way, through my reports and speeches, through films and in my books. I fought ever since Hugo Chavez became the President, ‘my President’.

And I am proud that I fought. And now, when Venezuela is once again under vicious attack, I want to stand firmly by her side, by the side of her Revolution, by the side of El Processo, and of her great Presidents – both Chavez and Maduro!

And I want to say this, and I will say this loudly, carajo: I don’t care what passport is hanging from my pocket, but Caracas is now my capital, and Caracas is what we are going to defend, if we have to. Because in Caracas, we will be fighting for Havana, for Harare and Johannesburg, for Cairo and Calcutta, for the tiny atoll nations in the Pacific Ocean, for Hanoi, for Beijing, and even for Moscow, Asmara, La Paz, Valparaiso, Quito, Managua and for so many of the other independent, freedom-loving places of this wonderful world.

The violent activities undertaken by those so-called ‘protesters’ in Caracas have to be stopped, immediately, and if necessary, by force.

‘The opposition’ has been paid from abroad, as it has been paid, in the past and now, in China, in Eastern Europe, in Syria, Ukraine and in Thailand, as it has been paid everywhere else in the world, where the West could not manage to easily strip those ‘rebellious’ countries of all their riches, while keeping them humiliated, and on their knees.

***

As you are contemplating your next step, Mr. President Nicolas Maduro, as Venezuela is once again bleeding, as none of us knows what the next day may bring, I am leaving Indonesia, flying to Thailand. (For now it is Thailand, but I soon may change my course).

Thailand is not Venezuela, but their government also introduced free medical care and free education, and other basic social services. People responded – by supporting progress. They have been supporting it for years, through ballots.

But the elites intervened and the army intervened. There was a coup, and there are now voices shouting that ‘the people cannot be trusted’, otherwise they will always be voting for this administration, read: for progress.

The West is firmly behind the elites and against progress. Thai feudal leaders are fully trusted in Washington, in London, and even in Tokyo. It is because they have totally sold out their souls, because they fully lost all their shame during the Vietnam War. They fully participated in the horrible slaughter of the Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian people, and they even eagerly murdered their own people: revolutionaries, Communists and students.

The West likes it when such despots hold the reins of power. They like people like Duvalier, Trujillo, Videla and Pinochet – and their equivalents – on all the continents and in every country.

In Thailand they are now supporting the ‘opposition’, as they supported the ‘opposition’ in Chile before 1973 or in China before Tiananmen Square. As they are right now supporting ‘the opposition’ in Venezuela! Everything that can damage or destroy a rebellious country, Communist or non-aligned, goes!

It does not matter how many millions will die in the process. As long as a rebellion, or a fight for independence, can be crushed, Western imperialism and neo-colonialism will sacrifice any amount of human lives, especially the lives of those ‘un people’, just to borrow from the Orwellian lexicon.

I am soon leaving Indonesia, Comrade President Maduro. Indonesia is the country about which I have written books and made films, including a recent film for TeleSur.

Here, too, the West disliked the progressive President, Sukarno, who used to scream in face of the US Ambassador: “To hell with your aid!” Sukarno was one of the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement. Some would call him the Asian Chavez, and they would not be too far off the mark.

And so in 1965, the West teamed up with the local military and religious cadres, supplying them with lists of those ‘who had to be killed’. What followed was one of the bloodiest coups in human history: between one and three million Communists, intellectuals, trade unionists, teachers and people belonging to the Chinese minority, were slaughtered. Culture was destroyed. The spine of the country was broken. It is broken right until now. It is terrible, a terrifying sight!

Now Indonesia is a servile, nauseating place, corrupt, both financially and morally. Its people are only there to supply multi-national companies and the local ‘elites’ with raw materials, and a low quality uneducated cheap work force.

It is exactly what the West wants to turn Venezuela into – the Latin American Indonesia, or even more frighteningly, the Latin American version of the African horror story – the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Venezuela’s riches under and above the ground, are so numerous, and its land so fertile, its rainforests endless. Foreign companies and governments from the North simply cannot stop shaking from the lowest type of desire; unable to contain their unbridled greed.

The West, of course, does not come and say: We will rob you and rape you. They sing some stereotypical tunes about freedom and democracy. But anyone in Venezuela who wants to know what will happen to their country if the ‘opposition’ takes over, should go to Indonesia and see with his or her own eyes. Or should at least remember what occurred in the Chile of 1973, because in Chile, the US replicated its horrible Indonesian formula.

It is all connected and inter-connected, comrades, although Western mass media does not want us to know any of this.

***

Venezuela has to fight back! It is under siege and you were democratically elected, Mr. President. You have a mandate, and an obligation to defend your people.

I have worked in almost one hundred and fifty countries. And I have seen the horrors of those places that fell into the hands of Western usurpers: directly or indirectly. I have worked in places as diverse but broken as Paraguay, Honduras, Egypt, Bahrain, Kenya, Uganda, Philippines, Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Marshall Islands.

Countries are so often punished for their great leaders!

In Congo, Patrice Lumumba decided to dedicate his life to feeding the children of the continent, to use the enormous natural wealth of his country for the good of his citizens. He despised colonialism and he openly repeated his accusations again the former colonial masters (the Belgians murdered ten million Congolese people during the reign of the Kind Leopold II) and against the neo-colonial clique. And he was murdered; after the Belgians, North Americans, Brits and others joined forces and decided that ‘such behavior’ could not be tolerated.

Now the DRC, country which has some of the greatest natural wealth on this planet, has the lowest ‘Human Development Index’. Brutal Western allies in Africa – Rwanda and Uganda – have plundered DRC since 1995, on behalf of Western companies and governments. By now around eight million people have died. I made a film about it. Needless to say, nobody in Europe or in the United States wants to see it!

It is all because of Coltan, Diamonds, Uranium and Gold. But it is also, undeniably, because Congo once so proudly stood up against imperialism and foreign oppression. The Empire almost never forgives!

The Empire never forgave Yugoslavia, another founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement, breaking it apart and bathing it in blood. It never forgave Russia, supporting an awful despot and alcoholic, Boris Yeltsin in his determined efforts to ruin what was left of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and by murdering thousands of Russian people during the siege of Russian ‘White House’.

It never forgave China, or North Korea, or Zimbabwe.

The list goes on, and it is endless.

Please, do not allow this to happen to Venezuela!

Allende, Sukarno and others, fell, and their countries fell, because they assumed that despite everything, despite the West murdering hundreds of millions of people all over the world, for many centuries, it would actually not be as brutal in this particular day and age, it would at least spare cities such as Santiago or Jakarta.

Then, when millions of Indonesian women had been gang-raped, when their breasts were ‘amputated’, when victims had to dig their own graves before being killed… when Chilean women were violated by dogs, under the supervision of ‘English speaking investigators’ as well as old German Nazis from Colonia Dignidad, when people were “disappeared”, tortured, thrown alive from the helicopters… Mr. President, it was too late… Too late to fight!

***

I saw enough of this. As a war correspondent, as a man who was searching for the truth on all continents, writing about the most devastated cities and nations, I managed to absorb so much pain and suffering that I hope it gives me at least some right to write this letter, this appeal, and to urge you: “Do not allow this to happen to Venezuela.”

Those who are opposing you will not stop – they will go all the way, if allowed. They have been engaged in a disinformation campaign, suspiciously similar to the one before the “9/11” in Chile, 1973. The ‘strikes’ and ‘insecurity’ are also similar to those provoked in Chile and Indonesia before their coups. And like elsewhere, in Venezuela there is also a group of ‘economists’ and ‘business people’, ready to reverse the course of the country, immediately, were the counter-revolution to succeed.

It is great business to oppose you! Tens of millions of dollars are poured into the coffers of those who want to overthrow the government of Venezuela… of Cuba… of China… of Iran, Bolivia, Ecuador, and so many other countries…

But Venezuela is now so high, perhaps at the top, of the Western mafia-style hit list.

In my recent essay: “How the West Manufactures ‘Opposition Movements’”, I gave a list of countries where all this is happening right now – an attempt to use local gangs to overthrow totally legitimate governments only because they are defending the interests of their people.

Mr. President, your country – Venezuela – is much more than a beautiful place inhabited by brave people. It is also a symbol of hope, and as Eduardo Galeano once told me in Montevideo: “To take away hope is worse than murdering a person.”

Do not allow them to choke this hope: the hope of the Venezuelan people, and the hope of millions all over the world.

If you have to fight, please fight! And we will join you; many of us will. Because what your predecessor and friend, Hugo Chavez, started, is what billions all over the world desire and dream of.

Venezuela, your Venezuela and my Venezuela, gave free books to the poor, free medical care, education, and housing to all needy people. Not as some sort of charity, but as something they deserve, have right to. Venezuela built cable cars, libraries and childcare care posts to help working mothers, where only naked misery reigned before. Venezuela educated and inspired some of the greatest musicians on earth. It stood against imperialism; it redefined, together with Cuba, what is ‘heart’ and what is ‘courage’.

Now our Venezuela cannot fail. It cannot fall. It is too big, too important. Perhaps, the survival of the human race depends on the survival of Venezuela and the countries related to it.

After Hugo Chavez died, or as many believe was killed in cold blood, I visited TeleSur in Caracas. In the center of the city, there was a photo of Chavez, sweating, clearly suffering from chemotherapy, but clenching his fist: “Here, nobody surrenders!”

And a short distance away, there was another poster only showing a sprinkle of blood on a white background. ‘Chavez from his heart’, it read. Chavez was endorsing Maduro, posthumously.

President Maduro, let’s defend our Venezuela! Please let us not allow this revolution to fail. Let us do it by reason and by force! Let us do it for every tiny village destroyed by drones, for children dying from depleted uranium, for the ‘Cuban 5’, for those who died from the horrors of modern-day imperialism, in Congo, Angola, Vietnam, Laos, Indonesia, Iraq, Libya, Chile, and in dozens of other ruined countries.

Let us defend Venezuela for the sake of the humanity. No pasaran! This time, let us make sure that the fascist forces will not be allowed to advance!

Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His discussion with Noam Chomsky On Western Terrorism is now going to print. His critically acclaimed political novel Point of No Return is now re-edited and available. Oceania is his book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific. His provocative book about post-Suharto Indonesia and the market-fundamentalist model is called “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear”. He has just completed the feature documentary, “Rwanda Gambit” about Rwandan history and the plunder of DR Congo. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and Africa. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.

A. Shaw on Marxist views of democracy
| February 22, 2014 | 12:01 am | Action | No comments

Check out this video of A. Shaw discussing Marxist Leninist views of democracy on 2/9/2014. http://youtu.be/OoQN4mKBJtc engelsleninkarl marx