Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Carl Davis

An Analysis of the CP Oppositionists: The Fantastic Nature of the Fight in the American Stalinist Ranks

First Published: Labor Action, Vol. 11, No. 17, April 28, 1947
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The letter from a former member of the Communist Party, U.S.A., printed on this page [below–EROL], reflects one of the healthier manifestations of opposition to the Stalinist degeneration of a formerly revolutionary party. Unfortunately this reaction is somewhat exceptional, for the wave of opposition which emerged in the CP during the Browder fiasco was largely confined, to narrow national criticism from a left Stalinist point of view: narrow national criticism, because the members of the CP who were led to voice their dissatisfaction with their party by Duclos’ public and surprise attack on the “beloved leader” believe that the situation in the American CP is unique in the world Stalinist movement. A left Stalinist point of view, because we are dealing with groups of people who represent a stew compounded of “third period” radical-ism, some revolutionary traditions of the old Comintern, and the theories of nationalist Stalinist revisionism.

We have previously written several articles on the struggle in the CP and its periphery which dealt with the San Franciscan opposition and the New York National Committee for Publications, which issues NCP reports. The inability of these groups to understand the cause for their separation from the Communist Party led them into the contradictory position of advocating a new communist party, a Marxist Party, based on the principles of Marx, Engels, Lenin and their apostate, Stalin. The statements of Bruce Minton and Ruth McKenney, and the longer declaration by William P. Dunne, one of the most degenerated and unprincipled leaders of the CP, all began with the same premise.

Now a new group, located in the Bronx, has begun its public activities with the issuance of a “Marxist Monthly,” which ironically enough they call the “Spark” after Lenin’s famous Iskra. Ironic, because the little magazine has nothing in common with the old revolutionary paper of that great group of internationalists who founded the Russian Marxist movement.


Let their be no misunderstanding here: the manifestation of struggle inside the CP and the splits that have occurred are a good sign–they show cracks in the monolithic structure of American Stalinism. Every revolutionary socialist should welcome this fact and do everything possible to widen these cracks. But to act as a catalytic agent in hastening the decomposition of Stalinism requires, in the first place, clarity. Without that these groupings will become barriers in the struggle against the most reactionary force in the labor movement. We hope to be able to exert a healthy revolutionary influence upon those whose purpose in their struggle is a genuine desire to reconstruct an internationalist movement based on the ideas of Marxism. Thus far, however, they are far off the track.

We have indicated above that the views of these groups are similar in their narrow, national limitedness, and their esposal of a new party based on the teachings of Stalin. The references to Stalin and his theoretical contributions are ritualistic; they are like incantations evoked to terrify the leaders of the official CP, and to gain for their exponents a certain “legal” standing. Thus, Stalin is referred to repeatedly as authority, no matter what the difference is that they have with the CP, no matter what idea they propose shall form a cornerstone of the new party.

The criticisms of the opportunism of the CP is vigorous and at times quite incisive. But they write of the CP as though its course were something unique in the world Stalinist movement. They cite Browder’s support to Roosevelt, the “imperialist” theories of the CP, its advocacy of the no-strike pledge, incentive pay, and denigration of the struggle for socialism. And this is treated purely as a national phenomenon. These opportunists appear to be unaware that the line of the CP was and is today identical with that of Pollitt and the British CP, Thorez and the French CP, Togliatti and the Italian CP. If Browder’s policies in the United States were opportunistic, what must be said of Togliatti’s line in Italy which was recently crowned by the support the CP gave to re-establishing Catholicism as the state religion of the country to be supported by state funds?

If these new groups were to think the problem through, they could not escape the obvious conclusion that there was and is a continuity of policy in all the Communist parties of the world, a deadly uniformity in their practice. All the Communist parties of the world supported their capitalist-imperialist governments.

All the Communist parties advocated a strengthening of their respective ruling classes. All of them were and are smeared from the same brush of opportunism. Why and how did this happen? What role did the Comintern in Moscow play in this situation? How was this related to the demands and direction of the Stalin regime?

It is apparent from the writings of these oppositionists, that they fear to extend their thinking logically and to answer these questions. They prefer to confine their thinking and analysis to America and to regard what has happened to them as an exceptional phenomenon. To extend their thinking and criticism beyond the borders of the United States would shatter the illusions they have about the “revolutionary” character of their sister organizations. Yet without this extension, it is hopeless to think that these people will ever discover what is wrong.


Appalled by the terrible theoretical and political ignorance of the American Stalinist movement, they call for a return to a study of the principles of Marxism. We hope that this study is made by these people and we hope that it is serious and extended. For then, and only then, will they find the roots of the present degeneration of the Stalinist-Communist movement in its theory of “building socialism in a single country.” They will learn that the theory, contrary to everything taught by Marxism, was the cause for the degeneration of the whole movement. If they pursue their studies of Lenin they will begin to under-stand too what is wrong with Russian society today, how little it conforms to the Marxist concept of a workers’ state and of socialism. Once these ex-CPers discover the source of the great degeneration of Stalinism in its theoretical revision of Marxism, they will make progress in their present blind attempt to return to the road of revolutionary thinking and practice.

The new groups have not yet asked themselves why it is that an American Communist Party which once gave such great promise and hope has become an utterly sterile organization whose strength rests only upon the power infused into it by the Russian Stalinists and their international agents.

They have not yet asked themselves what happened to the whole revolutionary generation in Russia which made the revolution and which led the workers’ state through the days of its most perilous existence. They have not yet thought out why the present police regime wiped out this great generation of Marxist theorists, politicians and organisers. They still believe on the basis of their miseducatlon in Stalinist theory, that men like Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bucharin, Piatkov, were counter-revolutionaries who planned to destroy the revolution even in the days in which they were making it!


Can such confusion help to reconstruct a movement? Hardly! A pitiful understanding of theory, politics and history leads “Spark” to approve of current Russian imperialist conduct. It rejects what it calls “Trotskyist, American imperialist and social democratic” opposition to the United Nations Organization! How is it possible for intelligent people to make such an amalgam? Almost every man in the street knows today that the UN is an arena in which the diplomatic struggle of the imperialists are fought out. Almost every man in the street knows that American imperialism supports the UN and for the same reasons that Russia supports it: it is the arena in which they make public their positions and endeavor to organize their respective alliances. And at least every conscious worker knows that the social democracy supports American imperialism in the UN and is for the UN for that reason, just as he knows that the Trotskyists are opposed to the UN for revolutionary internationalist reasons in the same way that Lenin and the Bolsheviks opposed the League of Nations.

But like the Stalinists, the present CP oppositionists begin from the same premise: Russia is the land of socialism; every worker must therefore support every policy of Russia. Because they are still Stalinists, the CP oppositionists find themselves fundamentally in the CP camp. As a result their criticism must in many ways be purely carping. Often it is picayune.

The hope for the development of these groupings in a distinctly revolutionary socialist direction lies in their liberation from the anti-socialist doctrines of Stalinism. It means that they must discard the anti-Marxist theory that it is possible to build a “socialist society in one country”; it means that they must discard the most deadly of illusions that Russia represents socialism and is the example that must be followed in all countries. It means that they must get a good dosing of revolutionary internationalist theory in order to understand the origin, development and continuity of Russian and world Stalinism and its relation to the fall of the once mighty Communist International.

If they do not achieve this liberation, then they will continue their hopeless, sectarian criticism of the present CP and will never understand why, despite the trenchancy of this criticism of its opportunism, it remains the party of Stalinism in America, supported to the hilt by its Russian masters.

One of the big stumbling blocks in this development of the opposition is that such a liberation will destroy their comfortable ’illusions, and the terrible traditions which weigh heavily upon them. Thus, they think a return to the political orgies of the third period is a return to Bolshevism!

Despite their antipathy to Trotskyism, which grows out of their ignorance of its theories and practice, despite their apparent ignorance of the truly great ideas and traditions of Marxism and Bolshevism, we shall try from the outside to exert some influence upon them in the hope of aiding their development toward genuine revolutionary socialist internationalism. If they cannot break with their tainted past, its thinking and its practice, we will merely have seen a slight tempest in a teapot of people who sought a revolutionary way out of the crisis in the political movement of the working class but who had their feet too deep in the mire to escape it and tread a new road toward the future. In other articles we shall detail the reasons for their inadequacies.

* * *

A Letter from an Ex-CPer

Labor Action
114 W. 14th St.
New York 11, N. Y.

Dear Sir:

I have been reading your paper for more than a year and I must admit that you are doing a great task in the interest of humanity. I find that your paper exposes many of the things that I learned after I became a member of the Communist Party.

At the time that I dropped out of the CP I knew that I must either quit or eventually be expelled. I became inactive two years ago, dropped out soon after. The differences between me and the CP were becoming greater as time passed.

Why I quit the CP will be understood when you read the following:

For many years I was a sympathizer of the CP. I was a dues paying member for several years. After becoming a member I learned many of the policies which one does not learn when he is on the outside. Are these the ideas that I had read in some of Marx’s and Lenin’s books, I asked myself. I had joined an organization purporting to be for a new social order, an order that protected and defended freedom of speech, press, and all democratic principles. At least I thought so.

As time passed, to my amazement, I learned that the party to which I belonged, did everything but practice that which it preached. At that time I was not well enough versed in Marx and Lenin to put up much of an argument; but I had my own ideas. It did not take long before my interest in the party began to drift away. In 1944 the party had the gall to ask the working class to support the capitalist political parties; the bosses parties. This was a shock to me. They supported the no strike pledge, the incentive pay and speed-up system, above all things! What a letdown!

In 1944 two members of the Socialist Party were to speak in Seattle. The CP interrupted the meeting and heckled the speakers. I asked myself, “Don’t we believe in free speech”? Why did they do everything in their power to prevent the speakers from giving their message to the public? I was a member of that organization; I was not proud of that deed.

My suspicions of the CP continued to grow. The role the CP played in Greece in December 1944 put more light on the way the Stalinists do things. Only a blind man would not see through that dirty deal. The Stalinist leadership sold out its own members. Why was Stalin afraid of a workers’ state in Greece? Would Lenin have stood back and waited till the British war-mongers had taken the country over for the Greek capitalists?

In 1945 the CP had the brass to ask that the members support a coalition government of the Chinese Nationalists and the Chinese Communists. I, for one, could never support such an idea. We were asked to support a man who had killed more people than all the Japanese during the Second World War. It was just another sell-out.

Then came the climax. The February issue of “Political Affairs” in 1946, carried an article “Oust the Trotskyites from the Labor and Progressive Movement.” The criminal acts the Trotskyites are accused of, no one is more guilty of that than the Stalinists themselves. In one of their leaflets which came out about this time, they warned us not to associate with, talk to, or give aid to a “Trotskyite, Lovestonite, or any other enemy of the working class.” It was the straw which broke the camel’s back. I ask the question, ”Why do the Stalinist leaders ask the workers and their members not to associate with, talk to, and give aid to Trotskyites and Lovestoneites? What are they hiding from us? Is there something that must be kept secret? What are they afraid of? Are the Trotskyites apt to spill the beans? Asking one not to talk to or associate with any other which is not approved of by me or you, or Stalin is enough to arouse anyone’s suspicion.

The part the Stalinists played in the Nuremburg Trials removed all doubt in my mind that Stalinism is the greatest danger to humanity today. In refusing to bring forth or allow Albert Goldman to question the court about the collaboration between the Nazis and Trotsky. Why? Anyone who read very much of the left wing press knew that the request was made to bring the part that Trotsky was accused of in the infamous Moscow Trials, to the light of the world. That was an embarrassing situation, indeed. I searched the CP press for six months to find some comment on the request made of the court, but not even a hint was ever given. Another question comes up, “Why must this be kept quiet?” The action of the Stalinists at the Nuremburg trials is proof to me that the Moscow Trials were the worst frame-ups in all history.

As I watch the day by day role played by the CP, I am thoroughly convinced that Stalinism must be wiped off the face of the earth. I am not sorry that I did spend several years in the CP. It was a great lesson. I know what it is now when I come into contact with it. In closing, I must say that I certainly do agree with you that, “Stalinism is mankind’s greatest menace.”

J. D. PERKINS, Seattle