By James Thompson and Arthur Shaw

Sam Webb’s latest article “Class and democratic struggles in a volatile time” analyzes what he sees as the current situation in U.S. politics and prescribes the direction for the CPUSA to follow. Under one subtitle, he describes his vision of the “Role of the Communist Party” by stating “Our role is to assist labor and its allies to fight more consciously and strategically across every front of struggle.” We’ll revisit this tactic later in this paper. One of his “radical” proposals is a new ad campaign on Facebook.

Since this is the work of an individual party member and is not an expression of the party program, we will respond critically to the paper’s assertions.

Let’s face reality about our party. After all, a number of International Communist Parties have heaped criticism on the CPUSA and condemned its leadership for its revisionism and opportunism. A number of clubs around the country have also criticized leadership and even called for corrective action. It is natural that given the building pressure, leadership would want to conceal its intentions and attempt to hide and run. However, as they say, “you can’t hide and you can’t run.” Leadership should immediately respond to international criticism so that party members will know where our party is headed. Party members need clarity, but Webb’s paper muddies the waters.

Let’s look at some of the major points.

Occupy Wall Street

Webb makes the point that OWS does not have a specific set of demands. This is the big lie that is being repeated by countless talking heads on the mainstream media. Instead of simply regurgitating this right wing claptrap, the Huffington Post does an admirable job of analyzing the OWS demands  .

Working America, an AFL-CIO affiliate organization, proposes demands as follows:

“Tax Wall Street for gambling with our money. Pass the financial speculation tax.

Support Education. Put teachers back in classrooms and ease the crippling burden of student debt.

Keep working families in their homes. Pass a mortgage relief plan that puts the needs of homeowner above the greed of mortgage bankers.

End too big to fail. Rein in the big banks NOW and hold the people who caused the financial crisis accountable.

Fair share of taxes from the 1%. End the Bush tax cuts for the 1% and close corporate tax loopholes.

Businesses should invest in jobs. Corporations must stop sitting on their profits and start hiring again here in America.

Extend unemployment insurance. Millions of Americans are still out of work, and unemployment insurance is a vital lifeline.

End corporate control of our democracy. Abolish “corporate personhood” and restore full voting rights to real people?”

If CPUSA leadership was doing its job, it might propose demands to include:

End all imperialist wars and bring the troops home.

With 58% of Federal Discretionary Spending going to the U.S. military, it is no wonder that there is no money for health care and education and rebuilding our infrastructure. Stop provocations of Iran, North Korea, China and other nations. Drastically reduce the military budget and redirect funds to support working people.

Pass the Employee Free Choice Act right away. Pass further legislation to facilitate expansion of unions and increase their power.

Expand Social Security benefits, Medicare and Medicaid. Implement Universal Health Care immediately.

Pass laws to outlaw hate speech, racism, sexism and all other forms of exploitation and oppression of working people. End wage discrepancies between men and women and between various ethnic and racial groups.

End the blockade of Cuba and expand trade with one of our closest neighbors. Demand release of the Cuban 5 immediately and facilitate their return to Cuba.

Shorten the work week and provide equal pay.

Put the working class on a fast track to become the ruling class. Educate people about socialism and worker’s democracy.

Webb further opines that Labor, although supportive of OWS generally, diverges from the movement in that it “sees the defeat of the Republican Party – the party of right wing extremism – as the critical terrain on which the class struggle will be fought.” He fails to mention that some in the leadership of the major trade unions are openly discussing the possibility of withdrawing union financial support to the Democrats because of their anti-union, anti-labor policies. Probably when Rahm Emanuel, former White House Chief of Staff under President Obama, declared “F… the AFL-CIO!” he did not create a warm fuzzy feeling among trade unionists. Throwing the Employee Free Choice Act under the bus probably did not create much enthusiasm for the Democrats among union members or working people in general.

According to Webb, the greatest fear of the 1% is that the 99% might vote on Election Day. If the choice is between tweedledum and tweedledee cheerleaders for capitalism, what difference could it possibly make to working women and men. The 1% could only see a high voter turnout as an affirmation of their power. What could be more chilling to them would be if the working class organized a party of working people to fight for the rights of the 99%. This would require leadership who pushed for training in electoral political struggle so that working people achieved a mastery of the technological skills and grassroots organizing necessary to win a political campaign. If CPUSA leadership really wanted to chill the 1%, they would provide the support and direction for Communists to run and win political campaigns.

Strategic direction of the CPUSA

The report briefly considers the possibility of a change in strategic direction but then immediately dismisses this possibility. It holds up the bogey man of the right wing and even lists the dire consequences Webb conjures up if the right wing controlled all three branches of the government.

He predicts:

“The right to organize into a union would be annulled.

The unemployed would be left out to dry.

Abortions would become a criminal offense.

Education and health care would become a privilege.

The social safety net would disappear.

Discrimination would become the law of the land.

Global warming would accelerate to the point of irreversibility.

Prison populations would expand still further.

The projection of military power would become the favored instrument of foreign policy.”

What he fails to understand is that the election of Democrats in the legislative and executive branches of government has failed to halt or even slow down the process leading to the above mentioned social disasters. In fact, under the Obama administration the process has been speeding along with no brakes in sight. In reality, the only items that he mentions above that have not already happened are the annulment of the right to organize, and criminalizing abortion totally. Everything else is already in place.

Following from his previous uninspiring thinking, Webb fails to envision any leadership role for the CPUSA, no matter how small. While embracing the Democratic Party as the answer to all evil, he fails to recognize some problems with that capitalist party. The Democratic Party is not a monolithic structure devoted to the interests of the working class. On the other hand, the CPUSA should be a monolithic organization which is devoted to the interests of the working class. By hitching the CPUSA wagon to the Democrats, Webb weakens the party and annuls the independence of the party and nullifies any positive political contribution our party might make.

He fails to recognize that the Democratic Party, unlike the Republican Party, is a very diverse, heterogeneous organization made up of people primarily committed to capitalism ranging on the political spectrum from the extreme right wing to left leaning liberals. It is made up of some people who supported George Wallace as well as people who support Dennis Kucinich. It is made up of people who despise unions as well as people devoted to unions.

Webb makes an important statement when he says “The main obstacle to social progress remains right wing extremism and its corporate backers. It casts a reactionary shadow over the whole political process.”

However, he equates the right wing with the Republicans when many right wingers can be found among the Democrats. The CPUSA position of supporting the Democrats uncritically and proposals to change the name of the party and drop Leninism as “foreign” could be considered “right wing.” Parties and candidates should be judged based on their current programs, policies and actions, not according to their names.

He goes on: “This election is not about choosing a lesser evil. Politics is not a morality play and the Obama administration and Democrats are not evil. It is about our nation’s future: are we going to move in a progressive-democratic or right wing anti-democratic authoritarian direction?”

Here we have an ideological dead end leading straight to idealism. Webb conjures up images of hobgoblins, sprites and demons to justify his claims. He also uses words to suggest that “democrats are progressive” and the people who oppose democrats are “anti-democratic authoritarian(s).” This obfuscation sets up an idealistic smokescreen to conceal the “anti-democratic authoritarian” tendencies we have seen from the Obama administration and right wing democrats. It is also a splitting tactic that will alienate progressives from the CPUSA.

Progressives are not stupid and can detect unreserved, blind, slavish, subservient, homage to the Democratic Party by CPUSA leadership. Many progressives are concerned about the expanding wars and increasing deaths of innocent people in our armed services and deaths of the people in the countries which are attacked by our military. Mindless allegiance to the Democratic Party will stop them in their tracks if they are considering allying with the CPUSA.

The CPUSA should completely redirect its policy. As an independent party with a Marxist Leninist tradition, we should remain firmly grounded in science and wholeheartedly reject the nihilism, idealism and revisionism/opportunism advocated by national CPUSA leadership.

Most people who want to work for a better future for all recognize that the electoral struggle, even though it occurs within a bourgeois dominated political system, is one of the most important arenas for struggle. However, we must reject the diabolical idealism of Webb and his supporters and affirm dialectical materialism as our methodology in political struggle. Instead of beseeching mythical political entities that may well be poised to throw working people under the bus, we must carefully examine each political candidate and view them through the age old filter “Which side are you on?” If their record and views and positions are in the interest of the working class, we should support them as long as they support working people. If they change direction, we should sharply criticize them on each position they take that is not in the interest of working people. The same test must be applied to Democrats, Republicans, Greens, and any other political party candidates including Communists. If they fail to get back on track, that is a sign they have sold out to the capitalists and they must be repudiated and defeated. Communists should not be hypocrites and should oppose reactionary Democrats just as vigorously as reactionary Republicans. The working people do not need a Communist Party in name only.

Only by sticking with the scientific methods of dialectical materialism can we move forward in our efforts to support the working class and build our party. Anything less will result in confusion and a reduction in the power and prestige of the party. Most party members have seen enough of that in the last few years.

So instead of posing the question “Are we going to move in a progressive-democratic or right wing anti-democratic authoritarian direction?” we should be asking “are we going to fight for the working class or are we going to fight for increasing imperialistic wars of occupation and decimation of worker’s wages and benefits, the social infrastructure, as well as the right to organize.”

Failure to lead

The CPUSA has abandoned many of the cornerstones of Marxist Leninist ideology. These important concepts include: dictatorship of the proletariat, democratic centralism and the Communist Party as the vanguard party of the working class.
Webb’s first statement about the role of the party is “Our role is to assist labor and its allies to fight more consciously and strategically across every front of struggle.” Again, the idea of leadership or of a vanguard party is completely lost.

Webb states:

“In other words, broad unity is the path out of this crisis and the fight for such unity is a distinguishing hallmark of communists. As Marx and Engels wrote long ago, we have no interests separate and apart from the movement and our foremost concern is with the unity of the movement as a whole.”

It is certainly understood that our interests are congruent with the interests of the working class. However, it is our duty to educate, organize and lead the working class in fighting for their interests. Working people are so distracted by the culture of confusion created by the bourgeoisie that it is hard to chart a path out of the darkness. We working people need all the help we can get and a vanguard party could fill a gap in the direction of struggle, organizing opposition and clarifying the current situation in which we find ourselves. Working people don’t need a CPUSA leadership that advocates uncritical support of a President that has expanded wars and is caving to right wing demands to reduce Medicare, Medicaid, and social security. CPUSA passivity and failure to speak out on a wide range of issues is a disservice to the people of the United State as well as the international working class movement. Workers need a vanguard party and the CPUSA could be such a party. Failure to assume our historical, independent role will only lead to further decline of the party in terms of membership and prestige among workers.

Fighting for party unity is essential, but this does not mean uniting uncritically with reactionaries. Fighting for party unity should refer to fighting for unity among the working class and the party to fight for our interests.

Fighting for the rights and interests of working people is what we are about. If the Communist Party firmly and unreservedly moves in that direction, we cannot fail since we will be fighting for the vast majority. Once the 99% recognizes that the Communist Party is their party, the party will be propelled forward at a breathtaking speed. However, we have to break our ties to reactionaries in order to move forward.

Instead of continuing with the “circle the wagon” mentality of national leadership of the CPUSA, why not reach out to our allies for advice on where to go from here. Has anyone in leadership had a conversation recently with Michael Parenti? Has anyone in leadership proposed a meeting or conversation with the parties that have sharply criticized CPUSA? What can be learned from the criticism? Has leadership conducted any kind of poll of membership to seek advice on what direction the party should take? We know that discussion at the last convention was severely limited and criticisms of major party documents were ignored and censored.

Direction of the party

In sum, we propose

1. That the CPUSA reaffirm its allegiance to the working class and the independent role of the Communist Party, not to bourgeois political parties.

2. That the CPUSA embrace Marxism-Leninism as its philosophical foundation.

3. That the CPUSA renounce imperialism and all imperialistic wars.

4. That the CPUSA embark on a bold program of education of our membership and allies.

5. That the CPUSA answer the criticisms from international parties and local clubs of its ideology, tactics and strategy.

6. That the CPUSA embrace the concepts of the dictatorship of the proletariat, i.e fight for the working class in its efforts to become the ruling class and for the CPUSA to assume its historical role as the vanguard party of the working class.

7. That the CPUSA develop a means of screening candidates for political office based on their positions and policies vis a vis the interests of the working class. This could be similar to the COPE committees of the unions, but should be different in that it should have an internationalist and anti-imperialist perspective.

8. That the CPUSA develop concrete methods for supporting the development of local clubs. This would include providing the names of people who contact the party to the local clubs, but also listening to the concerns of local clubs about local conditions as well as national and international concerns.

9. That the CPUSA reorganize our party press and provide a national paper for use in organization efforts.

10. That the CPUSA institute an organizing department made up of people committed to the growth of the party. Focus should be on organizing the unorganized and reaching out to low income neighborhoods and people.

11. That the CPUSA be more transparent in disclosing financial resources to membership and provide a clear direction on how these resources can be used to promote the interests of the working class.

12. That the CPUSA denounce, cease and desist from engaging in revisionist, opportunist tactics which devastated the party under Earl Browder and is having the same effect on the party today.

13. Fully support democracy within the party. Efforts should be made to clarify who is a member of the party. Once established, membership as a whole should elect officers of the party. There should be a clear path defined so that the membership as a whole can recall officers if they fail to discharge their duties properly according to the constitution of the party.

14. Elected officers should uphold the constitution of the party.

15. A national message board should be instituted so that all party members can discuss issues and the direction of the party without censorship and suppression of free speech.

Let’s fight for more democracy in the party! We have nothing to lose but our alienation!