Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

New Committee for Publications

Letter from the NCP

First Published: Spark Vol. I, No. 2, May 1947
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Our group, the New Committee for Publications (NCP), having been invited to comment briefly on the first issue of SPARK, has singled out from among the many questions raised the particular matter that NCP regards as the most important of all: the task of bringing into existence a bona fide Communist Party in the United States, a party that will be guided by the principles that have made the Russian Communist: Party the model for the world.

Early in the leading article, the editors of SPARK write of “the need now for the greatest clarity regarding immediate problems–not for a finished, detailed program for a non-existent Communist Party.” (Page 1, col. 1, your emphasis.)

Unfortunately, no such clarity is forthcoming. For such a statement holds that there are, on the one hand, immediate problems–and then, on the other hand, there is the fact of the non-existence of a truly Communist Party in this country.

Do the editors think that the nonexistence of a bona fide CP in this country is something other than an immediate problem? Apparently they do. NCP does not.

The fact is that the working class of the U.S. cannot accomplish a single one of its immediate tasks unless there is first brought into existence a real CP. It is quite false to encourage the notion that without such a real CP the proletariat can nevertheless make “some progress”–for to hold this is to revive the old, discredited spontaneity theory, the theory that without conscious Marxist leadership (and hence without a bona fide CP) the proletariat will move along “spontaneously.” We note that the original ISKRA came into being, in part, to fight against the spontaneity theory– it is too bad SPARK has borrowed only the name.

The editors have more to say on this matter, to be sure, but far from introducing any of that “greatest clarity” they bemuddle the matter still more.

They tell us that the situation could be remedied {could be!) either by a sort of self-reform (no doubt a “spontaneous” reform) by the existing U. S. Communist Party as a whole–or else by the formation of a new “Marxist” party (and why “Marxist” instead of Communist?).

The political crisis of the movement, however, requires a good deal more than idle speculation as to what could happen.

Who is there, after all, who is unable to play the game of listing all “possibilities” and of declaring very profoundly that the eventual outcome is bound to be some one of the “possibilities?”

If we understand rightly what you mean when you say, “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,” (page 8, col. 2) then what you have said is this: that after the outcome is already known, then and only then can a theory be arrived at.

But who is there who needs any such theory as that?

There is doubt as to the future, you say in effect, therefore we should all wait until the future becomes the present, until what is going to happen actually happens, whereupon it will be possible to form a theory as to which was the right course of action some little time ago! That is just making a mockery of theory.

The whole purpose of Communist theory is exactly to help people arrive at the correct plan of action in advance of the outcome’s being known. The purpose is to enable workers to select from among all the many “possibilities” the particular plan of action that corresponds to their class interests in the real situation.

The type of “theory” you propose, one that is altered to suit whatever seems convenient at the time, is one of which we have all already had plenty from the existing CPUSA.

Simple common sense supplies a much better solution. If the need of a bona fide CP in the U. S. is fundamental and immediate (and it is!), and if no such CP exists in the U.S. (and none does!), then it is obviously necessary to start a new Communist Party, based on the principles of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, at the earliest possible moment. That this is very difficult to do is undeniable; it is equally undeniable that it must be done.

The source of this error on your part and of other errors–among which may be cited the strange way in which dictatorship of the proletariat is put, the “it is idle to place the question: Is the organization for or against capitalism?” remark on united front tactics, the pacifist character of your “anti-war” position–is in an actual contempt for theory as such, we think.

There do in fact exist many questions in Communism that are difficult. But the fundamental necessity for a Communist Party, the fundamental strategic aim of establishing a workers’ and farmers’ government in order to replace capitalism by socialism, the class position of the Communist movement on the war question (which is not a pacifist position)–these matters are riot “obscure.” On the contrary, the Communist position is one that has been established for not fewer than 30 years. They are not “open” questions from a theoretical point of view–nor is the position of Lenin and Stalin any secret.

NCP has thought of SPARK–and of the earlier S.O.S.–as good signs of the growing realization that CPUSA is a fake and a dangerous fake–that as a whole CPUSA is dominated not by Bolshevik ideology, but by Menshevism, and that CPUSA’s practical policy is simply a 1947-U.S. model of social-democracy in the true Kautskyite, Trotskyite, Lovestoneite, Browderite tradition.

We have welcomed the appearance of SPARK and S.O.S. as such signs–and as media that have potentialities for great good to the movement. This is why NCP has done what it could to help circulate these publications.

But the extremely careless, slap-dash, almost facetious manner in which the editors have put into print–and under the slogan “A Marxist Monthly,” with ISKRA connotations, at that!–the most disappointing mish-mash of theory indicates to NCP that these potentialities for good have by no means been realized. That these mistakes be rectified is both desirable and possible–however, that is mainly up to you.

With Communist greetings,
The New Committee for Publications–by Carolyn Burkhart (chairman) and Lyle Dowling (editor). P.O. Box 77, Grade Station, New York 28, N.Y.