TOWARDS A MARXIST PARTY – A Draft Transitional Program


First Published: Spark Vol. I, No. 1, April 1947
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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– INTRODUCTION –

The P.R. Club, Communist Party (Expelled) offers this statement as its approach to the problems of a Marxist party with the intention of stimulating the exchange of more definite opinions. We have called it transitional to indicate the need now for the greatest clarity regarding immediate problems – not for a finished, detailed program for a non-existent Communist Party.

Since a “babel tower” of good and bad ideas is inevitable at this stage, and since we are convinced that unity among us will not be achieved by mere decree or resolution, we feel it important for all interested in a Marxist party to contribute open, definite statements of their ideas. Where this has been lacking we have found fictitious unity – and sometimes foul play. What can be more valuable now than open polemic? As for those who dislike committing themselves, we submit that there is no catastrophe in a few little mistakes which will prove later what does not have to be proven–that there is and has been no Lenin in the U.S. The only catastrophe lies in our failure to get a Marxist Party soon enough.

Including only what we feel is necessary, we have tried to deal with the immediate problems within the perspective of three main tasks: the fight for Socialism, the fight against imperialist war and fascism, and the fight for a Marxist party. All three must be fought for simultaneously or there is no perspective, no meaning and nothing achieved.

THE FIGHT FOR SOCIALISM

We believe in the scientific Socialism of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin. In this statement, addressed to Communists, we need not prove the validity of this science. In connection with efforts towards a Marxist party, however, certain responsibilities stemming from a belief in Socialism must at least be summarized.

We must resurrect Socialism from its present American graveyard of opportunism, we must re-study the science of Socialism to avoid a repetition of the fraudulent leadership of the CPUSA, and we must learn to work for Socialism every day. (Note to the National Committee, CPUSA: Please misquote this as the call for immediate Socialism.) We must reveal certain ideas which are currently carefully hidden secrets in the CP.: Marx's economic doctrine, the character of the state, the class struggle, and the dictatorship of the proletariat. We must replace the idealist and pragmatic thinking among American Communists with dialectical materialist thinking.

Although the U.S. and world capitalism take great comfort from the atom bomb, atomic power is itself the herald of Socialism for it exposes capitalism's inability, let alone unwillingness, to use it industrially. Capitalism's use of atomic power for the benefit of people is inconceivable; its use of atomic power industrially for profit impossible. A week after the first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the ”Magazine of the Wall St.” had a long-range plan for the prevention of the industrial use of atomic power.

Atomic power has made of capitalism too horrible an anachronism and of Socialism an absolute necessity – in our time. Perhaps this is why we cannot complacently feel that the inevitability of Socialism means that it comes without the help of men. We must finally start to fight for Socialism.

THE FIGHT AGAINST IMPERIALIST WAR AND FASCISM

Communists should develop their program for any period from an objective estimate of the forces at work in the world. Today four important factors must be recognized in order to understand the desperation of American imperialism and in order to fight imperialist war and fascism.

(1) Socialism emerged from the war stronger than ever and continues to flourish. There is no longer a capitalist encirclement of the S.U. – only the the plans for it, whereas the friendly neighbors of the S.U. have multiplied. The Soviet Union is the world leader for peace, progress and Socialism.

(2) The world has erupted into a new high in national liberation movements: China, Indo-China, India, Greece, Palestine, etc.

(3) The Fascist axis was smashed, but Fascism was not destroyed and is being nursed back to life in Germany, Greece, Japan, China, etc.

(4) Capitalism emerged weaker and more desperate than ever, with the U.S. its last mainstay, a receivership for its bankrupt empires and tottering regimes. But what plagues world capitalism, plagues its strongest representative, the United States. Even the blustering of American imperialism cannot hide its weaknesses. Internally it faces a depression and widening class struggles. Externally it has foolishly adopted the world's pregnant colonial volcano. As the U.S. displaces competing capitalist powers, it creates disunifying rivalries which disarm it in the face of a world united front of the proletarian and national liberation movements. The U.S. has become the new civilizer, the new colonizer, the new oppressor of weak nations. The U.S. has projected a Pax Americana on the basis of junior partner Churchill's thesis that the temporary atom bomb monopoly gives capitalism a last, short chance to destroy the Soviet Union and Socialism.

War against the Soviet Union is an insanely difficult task. There are tremendous barriers in the way. American imperialism must first prepare a military encirclement of the S.U. and fascism at home. The focal arcs of the anti-Soviet circle are China in the east, Germany in the west, Greece, Turkey, Iran and Palestine in the south; and Iceland, Alaska, and the U.S.-Canadian Arctic plans in the north. To these lands, the U.S. brings war, subjugation, and fascism as security for anti-Soviet bases. To support this circle, Fascist havens – sanitariums for recuperation – are sprinkled through the world from Spain to Argentina to the U.S., and counterrevolution is painstakingly prepared in the Balkans.

What prevents outright war against the S.U. before the illusion of the atom bomb monopoly is shattered? First the U.S. has acted tough but accomplished little in the matter of browbeating the world. It is obvious that the U.S. has been fighting in China, but so far an all-out war against the Chinese people is impeded by the simple fact that the American people are tired of war and only American fascism can force them into a war now. Furthermore, the imperialists face a calm, formidable, unconquerable enemy in the Chinese Red Army. The Pax Americana is doomed to failure, but if its time table is not cancelled, the price we will have to pay will be fascism,– the worst in history, but the last.

Even within the movement for a Marxist party there are those who think that fascism as a desperate technique of capitalism has been tried, disproven and disqualified. They say the U.S. will never resort to Fascism because the U.S. has strong bourgeois-democratic traditions. Furthermore, they ask, why does American capitalism need Fascism if it is not threatened by a strong revolutionary force. The visible actuality of Fascism's advance carries little weight with these American exceptionalists.

Dimitroff called Fascism the “open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinist and most imperialist elements of finance capital.” Fascism is used by the capitalist class for three reasons: (1) To throw the burden of crises on the workers; (2) to help solve market problems, enslave nations, oppress colonies, and plan new wars for the redivision of the world, and (3) for a world struggle against revolution and for the destruction of the S.U. The more capitalism rots, the more its contradictions force the desperate use of fascism. Since capitalism can never recover from these contradictions, fascism is “here to stay” as capitalism's last dragon.

Before fascism is able to take over, bourgeois democracy prepares the preliminary stages. The working class is corrupted by class collaboration and all the other vices of Social Democracy (in the U.S. via the C.P.U.S.A.). The proletariat is separated from its natural allies –the farmers, petty bourgeoisie, etc. Redbaiting replaces unity in labor, veteran, youth, racial and professional organizations.

The prevention of Fascism depends on a real Communist Party; on a militant, united working class; on the correct attitude of the working class to its allies; and on vigilance and a properly-timed offensive. This is the essence of the Popular Front. Without a real CP. a popular front is impossible. As the Communist Party improved in the U.S. the progressive forces increased, as the CP. degenerated, the progressives lost all direction, and at present, without any real CP. there is only a fragmentary progressive movement.

Nevertheless, we must, as we work towards a Marxist party, participate in and lead all manifestations of the fight against imperialist war and fascism, no matter how small and isolated. If there is really so little organization left in the U.S., we had all better start at rock bottom now.

We have encountered three main “left” errors in connection with the fight against imperialist war and fascism. The first is the belief that participation in any form of Popular Front is merely disguised support for capitalism, – that the effort had better be expended in party building. We think a real Communist Party should participate in an anti-imperialist, anti-fascist Farmer-Labor party, which – true to its name – could not redbait. Today there exists no real CP., and therefore, for the present our problem is clearly to build by being where the workers are, no matter how bad their leadership. In this process, a real Communist leadership will develop on the basis of leadership within the working class. No longer can a National Committee play the farce of haranguing the American working class into following dark-horse, recordless leaders.

There is never a contradiction between even the most insignificant everyday struggles and the fight for socialism, so long as these struggles are actually used in the fight for socialism. It is idle to place the question: Is the organization in question for or against capitalism? Leninists often support–sometimes with a rope–what they will eventually fight. This has nothing in common with the unprincipled deals of the CPUSA.

A second left concept is the opposition to the UNO. When Communists oppose the UN, they join the company of American imperialism, Trotskyism and Social Democracy, even if their argument is that the UN is an anti-Soviet weapon. Would the S.U. idiotically belong to an organization whose function was the S.U.'s destruction? While the S.U. is logically very much at home in the halls of collective security – its own idea, the U.S. government has just tried to bury the UN with moves toward war taken outside the body of the UN, such as the war in China, and the proposed invasion of Greece and Turkey. Just as Communists participate under certain conditions in bourgeois parliaments, so a Socialist state participates in an international bourgeois body so long as there is something to be gained. The UN is a platform from which the finest principles of Socialism are broached, a platform upon which the worst contradictions of capitalism are exposed.

The Soviet Union's protection lies in her armed forces, her new Socialist people, her friendly neighbors, and her international support from the proletarian and colonial movements. But the S.U. knows peace is indivisible, and so no effort in the UN is wasted.

The third left error is the misconception of Marxist “inevitability.” The great “relaxers” of the inevitability vulgarization answer problems of immediate program – with the complacency: Socialism is our program – inevitably the next stage of society. To the problem of fighting imperialist war, they answer defeatedly: War is inevitable under capitalism. The concept of inevitability, divorced from its constructive role in Marxist science reaches its apotheosis in the belief that there is now a Socialist encirclement of capitalism.

THE FIGHT FOR A MARXIST PARTY

A real CP. must be a vanguard party – leading not tailing after the working class. It must be an organized detachment of the working class, but also its general staff, armed with revolutionary theory. The CP. must always work to raise the working class to the high level of its class interests; when the CP. lowers itself to the momentary level of the proletariat it betrays an essentially snobbish attitude.

A Marxist Party must be courageous and self-sacrificing in the interest of its class. It must never sell principles for the comfort of legality. When illegality threatens it must not bargain or beg for mercy (as the CPUSA does); it must fight all the harder because the eyes of the working class and its allies are on it. A real Marxist Party must be ready for underground “reconversion” when necessary.

A real CP. is a party of democratic centralism – the principle of the submission of the minority to the majority, inconceivable without unity of will and discipline. But the Communist Party must allow contests of opinion. Democratic centralism does not preclude but presupposes differences of opinion. After democratic discussion, decisions are binding on all, but this is no contradiction to the existence of conflicting opinions, or corrections would be impossible. In an opportunist party there can be no democratic centralism, because there is no democracy. Opportunism is itself the basic source of factionalism.

Once the CPUSA, despite serious faults, was an improving party. Now the faults have become the party. There is no redeeming feature. It has become revisionist, its basic philosophy reclining in the gossip columns of the capitalist press. It has pickled Socialism and then bartered it for State Socialism. It has become riddled with the ideas of economism, spontaneity, eclecticism and pragmatism. It has become the famous corrupt corpse of the Second International: Opportunism.

The Browder Brotherhood hid the books and liquidated everything from the women's movement to the aliens, national and youth groups, the YCL itself, the CP. and all vestiges of organization in the South. Offering verbose condolences, it has deserted the Negro people.

During the war it led the American labor movement into a no strike pledge – a pledge to the “enlightened” capitalists. It helped our government delay the second front – the worst crime of the war.

Duclos-day meant only two changes – the removal of the name Earl Browder – not the idea, and the substitute of the name Communist Party for CPA – not the idea. The CPUSA is a party of fake coalitions all over the place, coalitions which work for its own destruction. It is a party riddled with enemy agents right through to the Nat'l Committee, a party whose leaders redbait their comrades in the unions. It is the spirit of the Second International in the U.S., splitting the unions and all progressive America by its approval of redbaiting resolutions, and its alliances with the imperialists and Trotskyists.

It is a party which refused to help Eisler and actually sabotaged his defense. It is energetic only in expelling hundreds of real Communists and exposing its own membership to the enemy. It is a party that has not yet called one street demonstration in objection to its proposed illegalization. When Truman proclaims a Pax Americana to the whole world and pledges the U.S. to world war and fascism, the D.W. squeaks mildly in the seclusion of its pages, between pinup girls and gossip. It follows logically that such a cowardly party cannot defend itself.

* * *

Obviously then, we need a Marxist party in the U.S. (whatever its name may be). The developing movement for a Marxist party can mature successfully in one of two ways. If the CP. rank and file awakens soon enough and reacts correctly to the sharp struggles ahead for the working class, there can be a “rescue” of the CPUSA. This may easily never happen because degeneracy has a long entrenchment in the CPUSA, and in the last act the command “Stachels pack your satchels!” might not be obeyed. Instead, the National Committee, invoking the bourgeois conception of private property rights, would refuse to give up the party apparatus– from the press to the spitoons. There is also the unfortunate truth that if the CP. is illegalized in the days to come, it will crumble. It has not the stuff to continue under real pressure. In such a case, the CPUSA would become a dangerous source of stools and agents.

The only alternative is a new Marxist Party. To work with the attitude of salvaging as much as possible is to prepare for either eventuality. To decide now which of the alternatives we will end with is forming the theory before the fact because the basic data has not yet shown itself. It will show very soon.

If one agrees with the above it is necessary to adopt certain attitudes and discard others. There has been too much of the personal testament followed by divorce from the party. Comrades should remain in the Communist Party as long as possible, fight to change and save it, build ideologically while keeping contact with expelled groups. Once expelled, comrades should go through the ugly farce of appeals because the bureaucracy, itself, will inject the ideological and political into the procedural, call names and raise issues. The CP. not only creates the basis for a real party by expulsions but in that process extends the discussion within the party. The CP. membership will learn only through its own experience.

In our discussion with a local group, the P.R. Club has suggested the following Declaration of Intentions as a minimum for organizational linking:

”Resolved, that the P.R. Club, Communist Party (Expelled), the ____________ and the _______________ form the Committee for a Marxist Party.

”The aim of this committee is to help bring into existence in the U.S. a bona fide Communist Party, guided by the principles of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin; dedicated to the constant struggle for Socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat; militant in its fight against every act and preparation of our government for imperialist war and fascism; outspoken in its defense of the first land of Socialism, the Soviet Union, and of all progressive struggles throughout the world.

”We believe the Communist Party U.S.A. is opportunist – that it has abandoned the theory of the class struggle and the principles of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, and that it has betrayed the American working class and its allies.

”Therefore, it becomes the responsibility equally of members of the Communist Party U.S.A., expelled Communist Party members, and non-Party Marxists to work towards a bona fide Communist Party:

1– By extending the current discussion both within and without the Communist Party on the role of a Marxist Party in the United States; 2– By helping the development of varied Marxist circles such as study, contact, publication, and expelled groups; 3– By establishing a publication for the purpose of unifying ideologically and organizationally the forces for a Marxist Party in the United States.

”All decisions in the name of the C.M.P. (Committee for a Marxist Party) must be based on the unanimous agreement of the constituent groups. However, each group reserves the right of independent action in its own name and cooperative action with other groups. This will be amended as needed in the course of the growth of the C.M.P.”

We feel that Marxist circles are important for three reasons:

1. Obviously, they would promote the current discussion, prepare for a Marxist publication and all future organization. 2. It would be foolish to delay all preparations for a Marxist Party until all hope for “rescue” of the Communist Party is destroyed. We must begin now. These circles must be the source of a new Marxist leadership for the United States. 3. In the eventuality of an underground situation Marxist Circles will have laid a basis for continued work.

As for the publication, the day we attain a Marxist organ for all the anti-opportunist groups in the United States, we will gladly retire this magazine and turn all our efforts to the more representative organ.

We have found there is more than enough in the United States to start building with. We must make it clear that personal ambition, National Committee ideas of leader-pomposity, and the inability to accept criticism are taboo. There can be no deals over the heads of the membership, and no National Committee members allowed in the real CP. We must be open and frank with each other – the best preventive for cliques. We must develop our own ideas, consider other groups' ideas, admit mistakes and cooperate rapidly on a minimum.

We hope this statement is of use in formulating and discussing your ideas. Your reaction will be of the greatest interest to us, and next month we will publish a consideration of these reactions, reprinting as many as possible.