Harrison George

The Crisis in the C.P.U.S.A.

Thesis on the Next Tasks of the CPUSA – Submitted for Discussion



“Real democracy means that it is the Party membership that acts in the Party organization, that the Party membership decides Party questions and general practical questions as well, that the Party membership passes its own resolutions, and obliges its organization to put these resolutions into effect... What we are referring to is democracy in action, whereby the Party membership decides questions itself, and acts itself. And we must say that this is just the kind of democracy that must be fundamental in our organization.” (Stalin, June 1906, in New Life, a Bolshevik paper then published in Tiflis; quoted in The Communist International, June, 1940, p. 400.)

HOW TO STRENGTHEN THE PARTY PROGRAM POLITICALLY by the adoption of a new National Convention Resolution, which will arm the Party membership for unrelenting struggle against both Right Opportunism and “leftism,” has been indicated in previous chapters. Already, as a result of our Right Opportunism, there is a “left” danger arising, not inside our Party, nor in any important way among the expelled comrades, but outside the Party, where some syndicalist trends (helped by clerical leadership) are appearing in the CIO, and where, as a result of our Right Opportunist sectarianism, strong anarchist currents are bound to appear in the labor movement. The wide and growing distrust among workers of “all politics” and “all parties,” arising from their seeing in our Party no difference from the bourgeois parties in representing their class interests, is the mass basis for this anarchism, which fascism can make great use of in its demagogy.

But as to leadership to apply Party Program, it is evident that, as a rule, the present leadership cannot be trusted to carry out a revolutionary line, no matter how carefully our National Convention may write one into its resolutions. From top to bottom, this corrupt and incorrigibly opportunist leadership must be swept away, and replaced by fresh and proletarian leadership from the depths of the Party.

It is said, and not without some grain of truth, that even the Party ranks, especially those who came to the Party in the years of reformist domination, coming in, all too often, on the basis of an acceptance of a reformist outlook as final and sufficient to meet their approval, have had their ideological development ”frozen” at that level, and are incapable of generating a new and revolutionary leadership.

This is, no doubt, a factor. And that it exists as a problem in other countries – the problem of development and use of those who have come to the Communist movement in the period of legality and when it was “easy” to be a Communist Party member – is testified to by Dimitroff’s remarks on that subject in his speech of February 27, 1946, concerning the Bulgarian Communist (Workers’) Party. (Political Affairs, August, 1946.)

If it is a problem for such a strong and Bolshevized party as that of Bulgaria, it is trebly a problem for our Party. Our opportunist leadership is living, and apparently expects to continue living, on the enthusiastic new people who come to believe in our Party, not so much from anything our Party itself offers or teaches them, but from what they cannot help but see and learn from the successes of the Soviet Union and the Communist parties of Europe and Asia.

These people are raw material. But they are not developed. They are not taught that independent thinking and a critical attitude are indispensable equipment of every real Communist, and are also the foundation of true Party discipline based upon conviction. Instead, they are taught a one-sided conception of discipline, that they are to believe what the leadership tells them, regardless of whether or not they are convinced by it after independent thinking and a critical objectivity in approach to it; and to disbelieve anybody who voices criticism of the leadership. In short they are taught hero worship and the fetishism of leadership infallibility.

Hence this matter of the ideological level of the present membership is a problem, within the larger problem of the Bolshevization of the CPUSA. But it is not a dominant factor. For these comrades want to be good Communists. And the coming gigantic struggles, wherein their vital interests as proletarians are bound to come into conflict with gigantic treacheries of the Party leadership, will, in spite of that leadership’s present reckoning on losing them and getting a “new crop” of recruits on which to live, keep the Party in continual crisis.

More, it can be written down as inevitable, that the American proletariat is bound to have its revolutionary political party of Communism, no matter how desperately any clique of opportunists tries to maintain a monopoly of the honored name – the Communist Party.

One would have to be wholly unrealistic to “set a date” for such a development, to express a “leftist” impatience with the laggard unfoldment of events, or an over-estimation of what can be done, once what is wrong and what to do about it, has been stated. Action does not follow so quickly the realization of error. And, still more, bureaucratic censorship and double-talk can play a hindering role. Besides, the fact is that our Party membership, no less than the masses, has to learn from its own experiences, sometimes tragic ones.

The long and formless struggle in the old Socialist Party, which first climaxed in 1912, by taking form in the expulsion of Bill Haywood, and the bureaucratic suppression of “the Reds” by “the Yellows,” did not end matters. Although tens of thousands of revolutionary workers left the old Socialist Party, this settled nothing. The rival I.W.W. was not built up in like numbers, neither was the Party “wrecked” by this mere desertion, as the makers of empty phrases fondly imagined, nor was that party isolated from the masses as an organization attractive to the proletariat, by such futile tactics. In that very year of 1912, it got over a million votes. Only four years later did it markedly fall off from that figure.

Indeed, by 1917 the Socialist Party regained a large measure of its attractive power. On the eve of America’s entry into World War I, the Party’s national convention at St. Louis adopted a ”militant” (though hardly a Leninist) anti-war resolution. Then came the February revolution overthrowing the Russian Tsar. Both these events attracted new masses to the old Socialist Party. But that very fact was the ultimate undoing of the revisionist leadership. With the entry of the United States into the war, and the passage of restrictive laws, such as the ’Espionage Act,” the cowardly Party leadership, clinging to the fetish of “legality,” ignored the “anti-war” resolution of the national convention. No, it did not repudiate it, but neither did it implement it. The leadership sabotaged the Party program, much as our present leadership has sabotaged our 1945 National Convention Resolution, weakened as it was by their own writing of it in the first place.

When scores and hundreds of individuals and local Party organizations, especially the Young People’s Socialist League, used their own initiative in various anti-war actions, and clashed head-on with imperialist policy, the leadership deserted them. Then, with the October Revolution, the leadership began increasingly to exhibit its Menshevism. Especially after the arrest of the five national leaders, who managed by “deals” postponing their prosecution finally to escape penalty, did the leadership feel forced to become more openly the lackeys of imperialism.

While hundreds of Party members were jailed and some tarred and feathered, several obscure workers being killed by frenzied “patriots”; while Debs and Ruthenberg and Kate O’Hare were sent to prison for “overt acts” – speeches against the war, the top leadership “magically” avoided any personal discomfort. The anti-war “Green Corn Rebellion” of Oklahoma farmers got no Party support, the I.W.W., against which was thrown the full force of chauvinistic mass terror, was officially shunned as outside the pale. And, more and more the Socialist Party leadership took, visibly, the anti-Soviet path, defending the imperialist lackeys of the Second International and the Russian Mensheviks.

All this developed on an increasing scale, a sharp cleavage between the membership and the leadership, which grew swiftly and took shape in a powerful Left Wing after Lenin’s official appeal in March, 1919, for the formation of the Third (Communist) International. Local party organizations everywhere began adopting resolutions demanding that the Party affiliate to the Third International. Papers and pamphlets began appearing, sponsored by rebellious Left-Wing organizations, openly challenging the Right-Wing officialdom, and voicing the Left-Wing Program, drafted by delegate conferences of the rebel party organizations.

Fighting for control of the Party, the Left Wing won 12 out of 15 seats on the National Executive Committee in the party election (where national officials were elected by referendum). The Right-Wing leadership refused to yield, officially declaring the election null and void. They “suspended” – virtually expelled – seven language federations and the whole Michigan state party, which were pledged to the Left-Wing Program. And, when the national convention met in Chicago in August, 1919, the old Party leadership refused to seat the Left-Wing delegates, finally calling in the Chicago police to eject them from the hall.

But all this made the issue clear, and also proved that the Left Wing represented the big majority of the membership. Therefore, being ejected from the “regular” convention, the largest group of Left-Wing delegates met separately and formed the Communist Labor Party. Another group of Left-Wing delegates, who had refused even to attend the “regular” convention, or even have any dealings with those Left-Wing delegates who tried to attend, declaring themselves against so doing as a matter of “principle,” met in a third hall and formed the Communist Party. It is worth note that two years passed before, in December, 1921, these two Left-Wing parties solved their quarrel and merged in one party. Meanwhile, on November 7, 1919, the repressive “Palmer Red Raids” began, and both Communist parties were driven underground.

However, the persistence of social-democracy’s attractive power is worth mention. In 1920 (of course, with both Communist parties outlawed), the Socialist Party won nearly a million votes, with Debs, a convicted “disloyal seditionist,” remaining throughout the campaign, behind bars in the Atlanta Penitentiary.

And Debs, although he had exclaimed to the world: “From the top of my head to the soles of my feet, I am a Bolshevik!” – nevertheless was not Bolshevik enough ever to break with the opportunist leadership of the Socialist Party and go with the Left-Wing majority into the Communist Party. Like Foster today, Debs served as a fig-leaf for an incorrigible reformist bureaucracy, and his verbal “leftism” was tolerated by that bureaucracy, in similar fashion as Foster’s “leftism” in words is today tolerated by the Dennis bureaucracy, for that service. Because Debs attracted to and held within the old reformist Socialist Party, thousands of revolutionary workers who would, otherwise, have been attracted to the new Communist Party.

This illustrates the difficulties, the time, the objective developments, and the subjective determination, and the organizational labor, necessary to bring forth a revolutionary party, out of a situation where the leadership of the existing party is monopolized by an opportunist bureaucracy. These difficulties were, no doubt, uppermost in Comrade Foster’s mind when he declared, with complete but mistaken assurance, in his August, 1946, talks with me in San Francisco, that expelled comrades “had no place to go but to the Trotskyite organization.”

For these difficulties were overcome by those who formed our present Communist Party. That success illustrates that the renovation of a party can be done in one form or another, by the birth of a new organization if need be, given the time and necessary development of both objective and subjective requirements. And these requirements can mature, after sometime slow beginnings, at lightening speed. Only six months after Lenin’s appeal for a new international in March, 1919, the new Communist Party emerged from the battle which had been slowly approaching for seven years. Both Lovestone and Browder smugly prided themselves on a great majority support in our Party, but lost that majority overnight. In the imperialist epoch, opportunism has a short life. But the history of the birth of our Party likewise has a lesson for those impatient ones who imagine that they can, like some magician, pull a “new party” out of their hats, without considering the party which the past has brought forth, and without the time and labor to overcome the difficulties in building the future out of the present, working with the material at hand.

Writing in the midst of imperialist war (1915), Lenin said that, with that war, the socialist movement had “entered a stage of revolutionary action, and a complete break with opportunism, the expulsion of the opportunists from the labor parties, has become imperative.” Clearly, a similar “imperative” has come with the ending of the recent anti-Axis war and the inevitable dissolution of the wartime “coalition” and “national unity” in this imperialist country. But, Lenin added, “This outline of the tasks... does not indicate directly how fast and in what definite forms the process of separation of the workers’ revolutionary parties from petty-bourgeois opportunist parties will take place.” (The War and the Second International, p. 48.)

At the same time he wrote: “The gigantic power of the opportunists and chauvinists comes from their alliance with the bourgeoisie” (ibid., p. 43). And although he wrote (ibid., p. 53.) that: “The imperialist epoch cannot tolerate the existence in one party of an advance guard of the revolutionary proletariat on the one hand, and of the semi, petty bourgeois aristocracy of the working class... on the other,“ he also said (ibid., p. 37) as regards the German movement: “As for the creation of a new organization, time is required; determination to throw out the old, rotten, obsolete organization, is required.”

History proved Lenin was right, and not only about the German movement. Time was required, and determination, too, for years of struggle inside the parties of the Second International, before Communist parties of importance emerged. Today, of course, objective developments rush upon us with greater speed. And today the subjective factor of determination to “throw out” the old, the rotten and the obsolete, is the laggard factor, the principal requirement in attaining a truly revolutionary party of the United States proletariat. In the face of onrushing crises, the interests of the workers of the United States demand that the membership of the CPUSA sweep away, at once, the old corrupted leadership, completely.

And it is not Bolshevism, but Menshevism, which contends that opportunists must be kept in office because they are “experienced.” They are experienced traitors, experienced bureaucrats. Neither must there be tolerated the present widely prevalent use of functionaries who “deteriorate into unprincipled plodders, who blindly and mechanically follow instructions issued higher up” – (“Democracy in the CPSU,” from The Communist International, June, 1940), and become mere time-servers out of mental laziness and the desire to retain a comfortable post. Such people prostitute their intellects as apologists and ideological “night watchmen” for any and every four-flusher bureaucrat who climbs into authority, and must be driven out of their cozy positions with whips of steel.

Neither, also, does the Party need, in its leadership, “trade unionists” who are only trade unionists, but are not thoroughbred Communists. Trade-union officials are, indeed, one of the most dangerous sources of opportunism. More, the Party has had enough of “leaders” brought into the top leadership directly, and without the tough probation an ordinary worker is supposed to undergo, merely because they are “big names.” All too often in the past this has been done with persons whose chief claim to “fame” was that gained by fighting the Party. Budenz stands out as an example, but there are others, and from now on no beautified biography must permit such people attaining posts of authority which they by no means deserve.[48]

Granted that old leaders must go, and that new leaders are needed, the question remains: how can this be done in the face of a factional bureaucracy determined by hook or by crook to cling to organizational control? There is a right way and a wrong way to attain these ends. And, although factionalism in opposition appears to be most appealing to many comrades, it is the wrong answer. The right answer is mass criticism from below; mass control from below.

Mass criticism from below should be encouraged by the topmost leadership. But even if that is entirely lacking in this case, or there is only a partial gesture from that quarter, mass criticism from below, accompanied by mass control by the Party membership from below, still can be effective against any opportunist bureaucracy.

Comrade Stalin, who is an inveterate foe of factions, has many times urged mass criticism and mass control from below as the cure for bureaucracy. In his Tasks of the Youth (Little Lenin Library, Vol. 27, pp. 23-26), he had the following to say, in part:

“The Communist bureaucrat is the most dangerous type of bureaucrat. Why? Because his bureaucracy is masked by the title of Party member. And, unfortunately, we have quite, a number of such Communist bureaucrats.” (He cites some examples and then continues.) “How are we to explain these disgraceful instances of corruption and moral deterioration? By the fact that the monopoly of the Party has been carried to absurd lengths, the voice of the rank and file has been stifled, internal Party democracy destroyed and bureaucracy implanted.

“How is this evil to be combated? I think that there is not, nor can there be, any other way of combating this evil than by organizing control by the Party masses from below, and implanting inner-Party democracy. What objection can there be to rousing the fury of the Party masses against the corrupt elements and allowing them to throw these elements out? There can scarcely be any objection to that. (My emphasis – HG.)

“I know that in arousing the fury of the millions against bureaucratic abuses in our organizations it may sometimes be necessary to punish some of our comrades who have past services to their credit, but who now suffer from the malady of bureaucracy. But can this be allowed to stop our work of organizing control from below? I think it cannot and ought not. We must sincerely honor past services, but for present mistakes and bureaucracy, it would be well to give them a little jolt in the back. How else? Why not do this, if the good of the cause demands it?...

“Only by shifting the focus of criticism from below can we rely upon bureaucracy being successfully combated and eradicated.

“Hence it is the immediate task of the Party to wage a relentless war on bureaucracy, to organize mass criticism from below, to take heed of this criticism when adopting practical decisions for the correction of our shortcomings.” (May 16, 1928.)

Again, in his Mastering Bolshevism, Comrade Stalin has the following to say:

“Some comrades think that people can only be checked up on from above, when the leaders check up on subordinates, on the results of their work. This is not true. Check-up from above is necessary, of course, as one of the effective measures for verifying people and checking up the fulfillment of tasks. But verification from above does not exhaust by far the whole business of verification. There is still another kind of verification, the check-up from below, in which the masses, the subordinates, verify the leaders, point out their mistakes, and show the way of correcting them. This kind of verification is one of the most effective methods of checking up on people” (p. 36).

Factionalism is something entirely different. Once before, when our Party was led by the Right Opportunist faction of Lovestone, and there was an opposition faction, Comrade Stalin gave our Party, in his Speeches on the American Communist Party, a lecture on the evils of factionalism. In part, he said:

“Factionalism weakens the Party spirit, it dulls the revolutionary sense and blinds the Party workers to such an extent that, in the factional passion, they are obliged to place the interests of the faction above the interests of the Party, above the interests of the working class.

“Factionalism not infrequently brings matters to such a pass that the Party workers, blinded by the factional struggle, are inclined to gauge all facts, all events in the life of the Party, not from the point of view of the interests of the Party and the working class, but from the point of view of the narrow interests of their own faction, from the point of view of their own factional kitchen.

“Factionalism interferes with the training of the Party in the spirit of a policy of principles; it prevents the training of cadres in an honest, proletarian, incorruptible revolutionary spirit; free from rotten diplomacy and unprincipled intrigue. Leninism declares that a policy based on principles is the only correct policy. Factionalism, on the contrary, believes that the only correct policy is one of factional diplomacy and unprincipled factional intrigue. That is why an atmosphere of factional struggle cultivates not politicians of principle, but adroit factionalist manipulators, experienced rascals and Mensheviks, smart in fooling the ’enemy’ and covering up traces.

“It is true that such ’educational’ work of the factionalists is contrary to the fundamental interests of the party and the working class. But the factionalists do not give a rap for that – all they care about is their own factional diplomatic kitchen, their own group interests.

“It is, therefore, not surprising that politicians of principle and honest proletarian revolutionaries, get no sympathy from the factionalists. On the other hand, .factional tricksters and manipulators, unprincipled intriguers and backstage wire-pullers and masters in the formation of unprincipled blocs are held by them in high honor...

“Weeks and months are wasted lying in ambush for the factional enemy, trying to entrap him, trying to dig up something in the personal life of the factional enemy, or, if nothing can! be found, inventing some fiction about him. It is obvious that positive work must suffer in such an atmosphere, the life of the Party becomes petty, the authority of the Party declines and the workers, the best, the revolutionary-minded workers, who want action and not scandalmongering, are forced to leave the Party.”

No, factionalism, the organization of permanent groups. in centers and clubs outside the Party centers and clubs, in duplication of the Party apparatus, with a program opposed to the Party program as basically laid down by the national convention, with functionaries apart from the Party functionaries, and the giving of directives apart from and opposed to the directives of the Party organizations conforming with the Party Constitution and Party program – in brief, the formation of a “party within the party,” is not the answer to the problem of the purification of the Party leadership faced today by the membership of the CPUSA.

Mass criticism from below, made effective organizationally by mass control from below, which is the only real answer, is, however, something new for our Party, something never truly and fully practiced, even in periods of pre-convention discussion. Always there have been some Pecksniffian “rules” imposed, under one excuse or another, to rob it of its democratic vitality and blunt its organizational effect, to make the worker, with his rough but expressive language of the workshop, feel embarrassed and unwelcome to speak and speak freely.

Even less are members encouraged to propose organizational changes among the leadership. Should any individual member have the temerity to propose that this or that Party official be sent back to the work-bench for some outrageous incompetence, both he and his proposal are looked upon with indignant horror, as “anarchistic.” The mutual protection of a bureaucratic clique “takes care of” any incompetent, who, though sometimes “removed” from a position, turns up in another, and often a better one, the work of which he can ruin and sabotage, in turn. He can repeat this performance endlessly, without ever being thrown out, unceremoniously, by the action of the membership, exercising the right which belongs to it of control from below.

It is this paralysis of membership initiative which Comrade Zhdanov was striking at, when he sharply attacked, in the 18th Congress of the CPSU – “the practice of setting official discipline up against and higher than Party discipline, thus demoralizing honest Party members.”

Party officials are subordinate to “Party discipline.” They have no right to violate the Constitution or the Party Program written basically into the resolutions of the National Convention. When they-do so violate these, and attempt, to impose their policy, their revisionist line, upon the Party, by “setting official discipline up against and higher than Party discipline,” it is the right and duty of every member not only to insist that Party Program is higher than official policy, but that “Party discipline,” enforced by “mass control from below,” displace such officials.

What has occasionally been asserted as an empty abstraction, that Party positions are the property of the Party, and not of persons occupying such positions, must become a living practice. More, divisions in the Party membership, based upon class categories, where a socially elite circle of members whose wealth, professional or bourgeois standing, or leading position in trade unions, sets them above “ordinary” working-class members in the esteem of Party officials, and corrupts those Party officials by absorbing them into such circles, must come to an end.

There must be no “second class citizens” in our Party, whose opinions, and whose right to voice them, are held inferior to those of other individuals because the latter are lawyers, professors, union leaders or Party functionaries. If a worker has something to say, he must say it. But it must be his own opinion, based upon his own thinking, not the instructions of a faction, neither a subservient parroting of some individual leader. By thus making “Every tub stand on its own bottom,” factionalism and cliqueism is prevented, and a true measure of every comrade is attained. If a comrade “has no opinion,” then he lacks something of being a Communist. As Maurice Thorez (Political Affairs, August, 1945, p. 711) said about the Communist Party of France:

“In 1929, fighting a sectarian group which stifled all political life in the Party and cut us off from the masses, we carried on, as the old comrades remember, a public campaign under the slogans: ’Let the mouths be opened! No mannequins in the Party!’ ”

There must be an end to obstructing “rules” put forth under the false excuse that the bourgeoisie might benefit from public and free self-criticism, or that moldy hobble on criticism that demands it be “constructive” – meaning inoffensive to the pride and position of some bureaucrat. Let the workers take over, and make their own rules on the spot. Who has a better right, and who better judgment of what is “constructive”? Remember that Lenin said:

“A revolt is an excellent thing when it is the advanced elements that revolt against the reactionary elements. It is a good thing when the revolutionary wing revolts against the opportunist wing. But it is a bad thing when the opportunist wing revolts against the revolutionary wing.” – Little Lenin Library, Vol. 29, p. 42.

Our Party has already had enough of that “bad thing.” The “good thing,” which, in some measure, was started by the Duclos article in 1945, was aborted by the chicane of a faction of opportunists who, in effect, successfully revolted against the revolutionary elements of our Party. The aborted revolt of the revolutionary elements must now be carried through, and not only a revolutionary policy re-established, but its putting into practice must be guaranteed by a thorough house-cleaning. Comrade Stalin’s words mean exactly what they say. There must be:

1. A rousing of “the fury of the Party masses against the corrupt elements.”
2. Mass criticism from below, expressed in unrestricted terms, and regardless of the “past services” of some of those criticized.
3. The “organizing of control by the Party masses from below.” This may, as precedents have shown, take the form of temporary “control committees” elected by the membership; traditional, when occasion warranted them, in the CPSU, and in the German Communist Party when in the early 1920’s the membership helped clean the Brandler-Thalheimer. opportunists out of the Party.[49].

Those political “lawyers” who try to bring in some “writ of injunction” against the mass revolt of the membership, must be shown the door. As to objections that such “control committees” are “illegal,” and wrongly supplant the “legitimate” so-called “Security and Review Commissions,” the answer is plain. The functions of these commissions have been subverted and already supplanted by the functioning of a faction.

We have already seen how the California Security and Review Commission pursued a factional line. The National Review Commission is evidently no better. In The Worker of Dec. 2, 1945, page 2, there was published the report of Comrade Saul Wellman for that Commission, which, under the guise of claiming that the Party “needs the experience and ability” of those pre-Duclos officials whom the membership refused to re-elect in the 1945 convention period, urged that these rejected bureaucrats be “placed in work.” The result was to nullify what little organizational effect the revolt against opportunist bureaucrats had attained...

One of the basic organizational principles of the Party (Article VI; Section 6, Party Constitution) that “All officers and leading committees... shall be elected,” is thus flouted. And these rejected bureaucrats and opportunists have been re-imposed upon the membership by co-option. No, the existing Party organs, including the Security and Review Commissions, are clearly too corrupted to serve as purifying organs, and are rather obstacles to be overcome by “control by the Party masses from below.”

The revolutionary elements in the CPUSA must feel that they stand in the foreshadow of such events as demand that they speak NOW and act NOW, or bear forever the shame and responsibility of being accessories to mass starvation, fascism and atomic war, not to speak of their own personal impoverishment, enslavement, torture and death.

History is a cruel task-master, as we may learn from the German proletariat, whose sons and daughters died miserably, not only in Hitler’s slaughter pens, but also under Soviet artillery fire, because their parents found the illusions of revisionism comfortable to live with, and supported actively or passively, those leaders who, from 1918 to 1933, claimed they had a painless, easy way to socialism, and who howled down as “enemies of the working class” the Leninists who called on Germany’s workers to drive out the reformist agents of the bourgeoisie from their Social-Democratic Party. These workers, of course, “believed in” socialism. But they did not summon up “the determination” to fight for it, first of all by overthrowing a party leadership of traitors to their class. The end we saw in May, 1945.

(Postscript: As Lenin wrote in 1915, so again today, no one can say “how fast or in what definite forms” the process of attaining a really revolutionary party in the United States may proceed. History and its dialectics point to the inevitability, as well as the necessity, of struggle within the existing CPUSA, as the key for such attainment.

(The membership, acting through its regular Party organizations, fights for unity on the basis of the Party Program, adopted by the 1945 National Convention in its convention Resolution and approved by membership vote, while fully conscious of the weaknesses of that Resolution as revealed by time and experience, and fully determined that a new convention must take account of the need of strengthening the Party Program in a new resolution. The membership does not fight to split the Party, but on the contrary, to keep all members in the existing Party Clubs and Units, in which “the membership decides questions itself, and acts itself.”

(The leadership, which has already introduced the beginnings of a Party split by expelling those who protested the leadership’s violation of both the Party Program and Party Constitution, is pressing its splitting policy by sending its supporters, organized as a faction, into Clubs and Units and committees to fight those who want unity upon principle and conformity with Party program. The leadership claims to defend “party unity,” but only if the membership accepts the leadership’s current practice of violating Party Program and Party Constitution. The leadership backs up its factional supporters with expulsions against those who insist upon inner-Party democracy of the kind advocated and practiced by Lenin and Stalin.

(One can only conjecture “how fast” the process unfolds, and in what forms. Already, it has gone through what, roughly speaking, might be called two interlinking phases.

(The first phase, of course with its background of dialectic development, began with the January, 1944, adoption of the “Teheran line” of the Browder-Dennis leadership. Membership opposition to this was marked, passively, by, firstly, 18 per cent of the members “failing” to enroll in the Communist Political Association. Secondly, as Comrade Williamson reported in June, 1945, by the first five months of 1945, the true indicator of membership, dues payments, had fallen to a national average of 58 per cent; in industrial districts, as low as 32 per cent. Also, there were some individual expulsions in this phase, which, again roughly speaking, ended with the Duclos exposure. Generally speaking, this could be compared with the 1912 to 1917 period in the old Socialist Party, starting with the expulsion of Haywood and the mass desertion of members that followed.

(The second phase of the inner-Party struggle, beginning roughly with the 1945 National Convention, exhibited complications, when the leadership, as a unit, dumped Browder but clung to official positions in order to carry on in a more concealed form, a revisionist line. As this deceit, at first successful, began to wear thin, this phase of the struggle was marked by individual expulsions of “premature anti-Browderites,” then mass expulsions, the “reorganization” of many Clubs and the expulsion of some, with an increasingly intolerable bureaucratic suppression of Party democracy, as membership opposition passed over from a passive to an active form.

(A third phase of the struggle within the Party, again roughly speaking, opened with the National Committee meeting of June, 1947, violating the Constitution by abolishing the National Convention – under the excuse of “postponing” it – thus usurping authority by refusal to submit its mandate to the membership for renewal or rejection.

(Evidently, the suspension of party democracy for individuals, and the expulsion of such individuals as insist upon it, no longer avails; the leadership thus suspends the right to party democracy for all the membership, without exception. Of “democratic centralism,” there remains only centralism. Under this rigid centralism, the factional bureaucracy may, or may not, prepare a factional caricature of a “convention,” which would rubber-stamp its violations of Constitution and Program and lend false color to its usurped authority.

(If so, the membership will be able to recognize the fraud. Because, in any case, with or without such a “convention,” the logic of its development carries the leadership ever deeper into the swamp of class collaboration, chauvinist anti-internationalism, of actual if not official liquidation of the Party, in brief, of lackeydom to imperialism in deeds [of omission as well as of commission], and hence into ever sharper conflict with the proletarian membership, against which repressive measures must increase.

(Objective development may greatly speed up the ultimate climax of this struggle, whatever form such climax may assume. Economic crisis, war, and – not the least – the inevitable clarifying function of the international Communist Bureau established recently at Belgrade, can be among these objective factors.

(But the development of the subjective factor, the determination of the Party membership to carry through a Party cleansing from below must be the decisive element. The Party Clubs, as “the basic organizations of the Party” [Article VI, Party Constitution], have the power, under the proper functioning of democratic centralism [summarized “legally” in Article IV of the Party Constitution, and elaborated by Lenin, Stalin and other authorities quoted in this Thesis] to serve the membership in carrying through such Party cleansing. There is no need for factionalism. But only the aggressive initiative of the membership, expressed through its Clubs and such delegate bodies as they elect, can prevent the bureaucratic leadership from splitting the Party with its factional insistence on rule or ruin to perpetuate revisionism. The Party is not growing, but stagnating, after two years of this leadership.

(Already, in the above-mentioned second phase of this struggle, the leadership’s splitting policy, by reckless and increasing expulsions, created the embryonic beginnings of a split, in organizations outside the Party which try, however badly, to express the interests of all who desire a revolutionary, as against a reformist, party.

(But it is worse than folly, however, if a relative handful of expelled individuals and Clubs, should disregard the reality of the temporary and provisional nature of such embryonic organizations, and set themselves up as a “new party,” complete with finally chosen leadership, ignoring the existence of the tens of thousands of members remaining in the “old party,” whose ideological level is little or no lower than their own, but who simply haven’t been expelled yet. Such comrades are either over-endowed with revolutionary impatience, or are ignorant of how parties are born, or else are incredibly arrogant.

(Only such factors could account for the expectancy, in one case, that the bulk of some 75,000 Party members are going to “leave” the “old” Party, and one by one, as repentant sinners, to join the “new” and, of course, the “perfect” party of some 200 or 300, with an already chosen – or self-chosen – national committee and an already formulated “perfect” program; thus allowing these “late comers” no more democracy in choosing their leadership and writing their program in the “new” party, than they had in the “old” party.

(Or, in the alternative case, where it is held that the “new” party need “pay no attention” to the ”old’’ party, whose members, some contend, are ”more corrupted by imperialism” than the rest of the working class, and that the superior few in the ”new” party can at once proceed to ”practical work” in agitating, educating, organizing and leading in struggle the American proletariat in all its millions, it is imagined that this can be done without the most bitter and long-drawn struggle with the existing ”old” party, and all its sympathizers on every field of ”practical work.”

(Two facts seem self-evident. The members of the “old” party are not going to rush from the “old” bureaucracy to any “new” bureaucracy merely out of boredom with the “old” one. Likewise, the first and faintest attempts to carry on “practical work” without paying “any attention” to the “old” party, will run head-on into the insoluble contradiction of (1) either falling into step with the members and sympathizers of the “old” party in the carrying through of revisionist policies, or (2) conducting a terrific struggle for leadership of the masses as against such members and sympathizers of the “old” party; members and sympathizers whom these unrealistic tacticians have imagined they could “ignore,” and thus left under revisionist ideological control.

(It is also obvious that such an attempt to “skip over” the difficulties of struggle inside the “old” party, merely transfers the struggle from the field where ideological clarification primarily belongs, to the trade unions and other non-party organizations, where factional struggle without the necessary preliminary and legitimate struggle inside the Party, can ensue, and with harmful consequence to proletarian unity and proletarian interests.

(Dogmatic and sectarian rigidity is thus out of place, as always. And this, of course equally applies to any contrary theory. For it is obvious that, in the latter phases of the struggle, if and when mass expulsions of Clubs and other subordinate bodies as well as of individuals, can possibly force the formation of more than embryonic, but still minority, opposition organizations, flexibility in organizational questions is imperative.

(But whatever organizational forms thus result from the insistent splitting-policy of the bureaucratic leadership, they must remain for a period as clearly provisional bodies, dedicated primarily to winning to their side the majority of the membership and unifying the Party membership against the revisionist elements. Events then take their logical course. But only after the basic issues have been thoroughly clarified for all members, when it is clear to all that the “new” organization offers revolutionary workers what the “old” one rejects, and gives them the democracy in choosing leadership and program denied to them in the “old” organization, can any final organization be constituted. And even then, its policy must include friendly appeals to the proletarian elements remaining in the “old” party, for united action in common struggle. Not one single honest worker must be left under revisionist leadership.)

Let every single Party member stand on his or her two feet and speak frankly and fearlessly what he or she thinks. This is mass criticism from below.

“What is there wrong,” said Stalin, in his 1929 fight against the Right Danger in the CPSU, ”about district meetings of active members of the Moscow organization demanding that an end be put to the mistakes and vacillations? Is not our work governed by the slogan – self-criticism from below?” (Leninism, p. 86).

This “revolt of the revolutionary elements” is not against Party program, but a revolt against the leadership which has sabotaged Party program and refused to carry out the plain and written resolutions of the National Convention. No comrade can be allowed to sit silent and “abstain” from “taking sides.” Neither can the excuse be accepted that they are “intimidated.” In the Party, there are Communists, not cowards; Communists who have enlisted in the struggle to overthrow capitalism. And shall they, then, shrink in fear from the much easier task of “overthrowing” a. miserable petty bureaucrat? Tomorrow, these Communists will lead the masses in clashes with the capitalist police on the picket line. Shall it be said, then, that today, however, they are to cringe in fear before the frown of a Club organizer?

Such a “revolt of the revolutionary elements” will be, naturally, looked upon with utter horror by the bureaucratic opportunists against whom it is directed, and who, until this revolt occurs, have everything very “orderly.” Like the German revisionists who cried at Liebknecht, and the Mensheviks who screamed at Lenin, they will howl – “Anarchists!”

Let them howl. Remember that this is a struggle to throw the ideology of the bourgeoisie, and those who act as its agents, out of the Party of the proletariat. That it is, therefore, a part of the class war which must go on until a “revolutionary order” is established, with the proletariat ruling not only its own Party, but all society. Not without reason did Marx say:

“You will have to go through fifteen, twenty or even fifty years of civil and international war, not only to change relationships, but also to change your own selves, to render yourselves fit to assume the political reins.”

Nor must the crafty words of the opportunist elements be allowed to argue that those who have already deceived and misled the Party twice, be given “another chance” on the theory that, by “ideological efforts” they can live down their mistakes. This is Foster’s “theory” of conciliation with the Right. Stalin, in his Foundations of Leninism (Chapter VIII, Section 6), warns us against this:

“The theory of ’overcoming’ these opportunist elements by ideological efforts within the Party; the theory of ’living down’ these elements within the confines of a single Party, are bad and dangerous theories that threaten to reduce the Party to paralysis and chronic infirmity, that threaten to abandon the Party to the corrosive influence of opportunism, that threaten to leave the proletariat without a revolutionary Party, that threaten to deprive the proletariat of its stoutest weapon in the fight against imperialism.”

No, every single one of the opportunist bureaucrats must be kicked out of our Party, and the conciliators thrown after them. Because, what Comrade Stalin told our Party in 1929, when he urged us to “set about cleaning the Communist Party of Right and conciliator elements, who objectively represent the agency of Social-Democracy within the ranks of the Communist Party,” is more true and more urgent than at that time:

“And we must set about this matter, not at the usual pace, but at an accelerated pace, for, I repeat, time does not wait, and we must not allow events to catch us unawares” (Speeches on the American Communist Party, p. 34).

Already, the year before that, in 1928, and during his fight against the Bukharin-Rykov “Right” group in the CPSU, Comrade Stalin had said:

“Under capitalist conditions, the Right Deviation in Communism... is a tendency on the part of a section of Communists to depart from the revolutionary line of Marxism in the direction of Social Democracy...

“A victory of the Right Deviation in the Communist Parties in capitalist countries would mean the ideological collapse of the Communist Parties and an enormous accession of strength to Social-Democratism. And what does an enormous accession of strength to Social-Democratism mean? It means the strengthening and consolidation of capitalism, for Social-Democracy is the main prop of capitalism in the working class. Hence a victory of the Right Deviation in the Communist Parties in capitalist countries would add to the conditions necessary for the preservation of capitalism” (Leninism, pp. 78-79).

Therefore, the necessity to clean the CPUSA of “Right and conciliatory elements,” thoroughly and finally, if our Party is to lead the American proletariat to the ultimate goal of a Socialist America.


[48] Bob Minor attained fame as a cartoonist. But he was a leading anarchist who fought the revolutionary ideological concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat before he came to our Party after “changing his mind a little” (his own words). But that it was only “a little” change was shown when he threw himself so wholly into the building of the Lovestone faction that he was rewarded by being made a top leader by Lovestone, whom he dropped, however, to retain his own prestige when Lovestone was discredited. His even greater prominence as ideological policeman for Browder is too well-known to need comment. But, he is still presented by our leadership as one of them, and as one to be honored by the membership.

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn has a biography which should disqualify her as material for our National Board. As agitator for the I.W.W. in its and her earlier years, she served the working class well. For a time. But in 1916, when a frame-up was engineered (the Masonovitch murder case) against some iron miners in the Mesaba Iron Range strike, involving three I.W.W. organizers, as well as three humble miners, a “deal” was arranged secretly between crooked lawyers and the capitalist court in Duluth, Minnesota, whereby these Slavic miners were induced to plead guilty, and, in exchange, the three I.W.W. organizers, Sam Scarlett, Joe Schmidt and Carlo Tresca, went free. The humble miners went to prison. And upon the indignant protest of Scarlett and Schmidt, “Big Bill” Haywood, who was incensed at the fact that any I.W.W. should ever plead guilty to anything, at the following session of the General Executive Board, took steps to exclude Flynn from any future activity in the I.W.W. for her part in this shameless “deal.” (This is all a matter of record, being told of in Bill Haywood’s Book, International Publishers, New York, 1929, pp. 290-2.)

The next year, 1917, when all I.W.W. leaders were indicted for “seditious conspiracy” – and later sent to prison – Flynn and a few other I.W.W. “intellectuals” in New York, instead of making common cause with the persecuted, retained their own attorneys, made separate pleas, and, again, a “deal” was arranged and they did not even come to trial, while Haywood and the rest of us were sentenced to Leavenworth Penitentiary.

For years Flynn was passive; reported ill. Then she became one of the directors of the American Civil Liberties Union, during the years when one of its chief “activities” was attacking the Soviet Union for its supposed “persecution of political prisoners” – that is, counter-revolutionists of both Right and “Left,” including Trotsky. True, she broke with the ACLU in 1937, over the issue of the defense of Communists in the United States, and in 1938, amid the fanfare of trumpets, she was brought by Browder directly into the National Committee. Yet it is obvious that anybody like Flynn, who had already in 1910 or earlier, professed to be a revolutionist, but who took twenty years – from 1917 to 1937 – to “discover” the political value to the working class of the Bolshevik revolution and the establishment and role of the Soviet government, is hardly to be acclaimed as a revolutionist of great vision. Yet she was not only on Browder’s National Board, but she was retained on the 1945 National Board in spite of – or perhaps, because – she frankly confessed that she knows nothing about theory.

But there is no such thing as a theoretical vacuum. If a Party leader does not have a Bolshevik theory, he or she has a theory that is anti-Bolshevik. And Flynn, as head of the National Women’s Department, has followed a line of sabotage of genuine Communist work among women, adopting as her own the revisionist “theory” of A. Landy, warmed over from Bukharin’s original cookery, and still sponsored by the Party. Obviously, such persons do not belong in the Party leadership, if, indeed, they belong at all in the Party.

This whole practice of a proletarian party being so “thrilled” every time some bourgeois intellectual, “progressive” politician or former enemy of Communism speaks a kind word for us, or protests that we should not be hung but only shot, that we must rush, in our admiration, to beg of him or her to please be our leader – this rotten liberalism must be done away with – and forever.

[49] No doubt this will be attacked as expressing an “anarchistic anti-leadership” theory. But unless Comrade Stalin is an “anarchist,” it is no such thing. Criticism from above, and the purging of corruption from above is necessary, too. But when it does not serve the attainment of the desired end, it is not enough. And when it is absent or the top leadership itself is corrupt, all the more reason for vigorous and effective control from below. Stalin, in the speech quoted, spoke of control from above, of the role of the Central Committee, and the famous “Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection,” as both being “very good.” Nevertheless, he added: “But it is by no means enough. Furthermore, it is not the main thing just now.” And he added that to think otherwise is to “think that only the leaders possess experience in constructive work.”