Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line


The 40-year-old struggle for a Marxist-Leninist Party of the American working class enters a new stage

First Published: The Marxist-Leninist Vanguard Vol. 1, No. 1, September 1958
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Thirty-nine years ago, inspired by the Russian Bolshevik revolution, and convinced by the victorious theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism, revolutionary American workers hoisted the banner of proletarian internationalism and established the Communist Party. The validity of the Marxist-Leninist internationalist outlook of these workers was confirmed by this historic circumstance in our country, just as in every other, this new Marxist-Leninist Communist Party was a logical outgrowth of the struggle against the same bourgeois ideology, and in the first place, against opportunism – bourgeois theory and practice – masquerading as “labor” policy.

It was a declaration of war not only against the “two-party” swindle, but likewise, against the petty-bourgeois reformist “municipal” and “post office” socialism. It not only hurled defiance at bourgeois police terror and Us extra-legal auxiliaries; but likewise, it exposed the counter-revolutionary essence of anarcho-syndicalism and its shallow and narrow rejection of political action, its adventurism, dual unionism, and sectarianism. It not only rejected the openly bourgeois doctrine of “white supremacy”, but likewise spurned its more subtle variants – the denial of the special, revolutionary character of the Negro question in the U. S., and the reformist sermon on “patience.”

The formation of the Communist Party was the most decisive historic event in the development of the U. S. working class movement. For, although the basic essentials of a rounded revolutionary policy on the trade union question, the Negro question, and sectarianism were developed only in the course of a decade. Still, the formation of the Party was the decisive step, first and foremost because it enlisted an indestructible core of American workers in the cause of Marxism-Leninism, as a contingent of a world proletarian revolutionary front against imperialism, and for the defense and the advancement of socialism.

As such, this new Party characterized modern capitalism as monopoly capitalism, and showed that imperialism is not a mere policy of government, but the highest and, at the same time, the moribund stage of development of the capitalist social system itself.

The new Party recognized not merely that socialism is the inevitable answer to imperialist wars, poverty, oppression and insecurity – but also that a new revolutionary state power led by the working class with the support of the most oppressed of the remainder of the producing population – in short, a dictatorship of the proletariat is an indispensable requirement for smashing capitalism and laying the foundations for the development of socialism, the first stage of Communism.

The new Party determined to mold itself on the lines of Lenin’s principles of Party organization, as a “Party of a new type,” a Marxist revolutionary, working class party, worthy of the historic task of leading in the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The new Party dedicated itself to the cause of international proletarian solidarity, the very negation of all chauvinist, nationalistic, jingoistic, exclusionist ties with the U. S. bourgeoisie. This internationalism was expressed first of all in its unhesitating and uncompromising defense of the October Revolution as not only the liberator of the Russian masses, but as the fortress, the champion, the rallying point of the working, class and the oppressed masses of the whole world against imperialism. Secondly, this internationalism was expressed by the establishment of the closest possible fraternal relations with other Communist Parties, through affiliation with the Communist International.

The basic soundness of these principles of the founders of the CPUSA is confirmed again today in the call of the Twelve-Party Declaration for an intensified struggle against revisionism. That historic Communist statement defined the main features of modern revisionism as: 1) Denial of the historic necessity for the proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat; 2) Denial of the leading role of the Marxist-Leninist Party; 3) Rejection of the principles of proletarian internationalism; 4) Rejection of the Leninist principles of Party organization.

Truly, then, the Communist Party was born in the struggle against revisionism!

* * *

The founders of the Communist Party based themselves upon principles of Marxism-Leninism, the fundamental condition for defeating revisionism, and all other forms of opportunism.

However, the history of the Communist Party of every country – and especially that of the CPUSA – has shown that basic Marxist-Leninist principles must be constantly defended, renewed, and developed in the struggle against opportunist deviations within the Party.

The reason for this is clear to workers who understand these words of the Twelve-Party Declaration: ”The existence of bourgeois influence is an internal source of revisionism, while surrender to imperialist pressure is its external source.”

So serious have these bourgeois influences and imperialist pressures been on the Party, that three times they have led to mortal crisis.

In 1928-1929, the dominant leadership headed by Jay Lovestone promulgated the notorious revisionist theory of “American exceptionalism”, according to which Marxist-Leninist theories are not valid for the United States. Timely advice by the international movement aided decisively in enabling the Party, to rid itself of Lovestone’s mis-leadership. This action occurred on the very eve of the 1929-32 economic crisis, an event which dramatically exposed the anti- working class nature of “American exceptionalism”. Lovestoneism was shown to be a product of bourgeois influence within the ranks of the Party.

In 1943-44, the entire leadership, headed by Earl Browder, and including Foster, Dennis, Davis, et al, promulgated the revisionist theory of “progressive imperialism,” according to which imperialism (American imperialism in particular) would proceed in the post-World War II era to raise wages and lower its rate of profit in a program of “enlightened self-interest”, in co-operation with the USSR. Timely advice from the international movement aided decisively in enabling the Party to rid itself of Browder’s mis-leadership.

The post-war assaults by monopoly capitalism on the political and economic position of the working class, and the development of the imperialist Cold War policies exposed the anti-working class nature of Browderism. Browderite revisionism was revealed as the product of bourgeois influences in the Party, brought to fruition in the long period of collaboration with the “liberal” bourgeoisie and in the period of war-time prosperity.

As we have noted, dramatic, historic developments the Great Depression and the “Cold War” furnished quick confirmation of the correctness of the Party’s rejection of Lovestoneism and Browderism.

But the very forcefulness of these objective events was allowed to serve in place of the needed deepening of Marxist-Leninist understanding in the Party. As a result, the Party never carried through a full eradication of the old revisionist ideas, the exposure of their class sources; and it preserved and built up a traditional bureaucracy effectively insulated against the operation of the Marxist-Leninist practice of criticism, and incapable of self-criticism. In this way, not only was the ideological level of our Party forced to remain at a low level, but at the same time, unification, purification, and corrective replacements of leadership were made almost impossible.

In the post World War II period, bourgeois influences within the Party combined, in effect, with the pressures of imperialist repression against the Party. As a source of revisionism, illusions about the vitality of American imperialism were reinforced now by the imprisonment and terror employed by the government against the Party.

Under these circumstances, the shallowness of the “correction” of 1945 became apparent. Illusions about the possibility of continued alliance with the “liberal” bourgeoisie, continued to be the center of the political orientation of the Party leadership.

Simultaneously, under the pressure of the Smith Act prosecutions, the Party leadership developed the revisionist dogma of “peaceful, parliamentary, constitutional transition to socialism” in the United States through the evolution of the people’s front. (See W. Z. Foster, History of the CPUSA p. 555).

Soon, outright liquidation of the Party was being advanced aggressively by the revisionists. They pursued this policy, not only in the field of open “coalition” political work, but in their line for the direction of the illegal Party organization. Every development was seized upon to justify neo-Browderism – the ending of the Korean War, the Geneva Spirit, etc.

The revisionists saw their great opportunity with the self-critical revelations made by the 20th Congress of the CPSU Under the open leadership of the Gates forces, they moved for the liquidation of the Communist Party. In place of the banner of Marxist-Leninist proletarian solidarity, they raised the opportunist slogans of “National Communism.”

Thus was precipitated the present mortal crisis in the Communist Party of the United States.

* * *

But both the basis of the present internal struggle and the eternal conditions of its development differ decisively from those prevailing during the two previous crises.

The external setting of the present internal struggle is, above all, the already advanced second stage of the general crisis of world capitalism, marked by these chief features:

First: the growth of the military, economic and political strength of the socialist world, guided by the science of Marxism-Leninism.

Second: the simultaneous emergence of an irresistible upsurge of the national liberation movements.

Third: the corresponding decline in the relative strength of world imperialism:
a) economically: the vast extension of parasitism, militarization, expansion of the government debt, and drastic reduction in the percentage of productive (non-military) consumption in the total production; the instability of the economies of the capitalist countries – the slow and unsteady expansion of production, and in the unprecedented frequency of sharp crises; the extreme unevenness of development of the imperialist countries – the emergence of U. S. imperialism as the one great imperialist power.
b) politically: the decisive defeat of old-style colonialism, and the isolation of the comprador agents of imperialism as the internal enemies of oppress-ed nations; the defeat of Nazism, Mussolini fascism and militarist fascism as methods of bourgeois rule in Germany, Italy and Japan; the simultaneous exposure of the limits of bourgeois democracy – the exclusion of French and Italian Communists from their proper parliamentary rights; the suppression of popular governments in Guatemala and British Guiana; the racist policies generally followed by all imperialist governments, most notoriously displayed by the oppression of the Negro people in the United States and by British Imperial policy in Kenya and South Africa.
c) militarily: the smashing of the Wehrmacht and the imperial Japanese armed forces; the historically decisive defeat of U. S. imperialism in North Korea and China, the victories over imperialism at Dienbienphu and Suez and the continuing armed struggle of the Algerian National Liberation Front; the ending of the imperialist monopoly of nuclear weapons; and the demonstrated lag of the imperialists’ techniques in the field of long-range weapons.

* * *

Inevitably, such vast developments of the general crisis of world capitalism have sharply reduced the base of operations and maneuvering room of opportunism in the world workingclass movements, including the Communist Parties.

First of all, the decline of colonial domains of imperialism has adversely affected them as a source of subsidy for Right opportunists in the imperialist countries. This, in part, accounts for the relatively less important role of Social Democratic leadership in post-World War II Western Europe as contrasted with the period after World War I.

Secondly, the main specific function of opportunism – the diversion of the workers from Marxist-Leninist policies of class struggle – is undermined by the enhanced international role of the Soviet Union, China and other countries of the socialist world under Marxist-Leninist leadership.

Thirdly, the emergence of the anti-imperialist front of the colonial semi-colonial and formerly colonial peoples, as manifested at Bandung, has, by the test of international proletarian solidarity, exposed the chauvinist character of Right opportunism in imperialist countries.

Fourthly, the very accentuated unevenness of imperialist development, which has thrown up the U; S. as the overshadowing Great Power of the capitalist world, has strengthened the development of the most openly bourgeois forms of opportunism at the expense of its more “radical” sounding varieties.

Fifthly, the moral superiority of Marxism-Leninism over opportunism was demonstrated with especial forcefulness ’by the historic Twentieth Congress of the Soviet Union in its self-corrective attacks upon the problem of “worship of authority” and the “cult of the individual.”

The Communist Party’s present internal crisis has developed in the presence of these external conditions, and its distinctive features are connected with those external conditions. These distinctive features are to be found in the following facts:

1) The extreme Right not only espouses American exceptionalism to Marxist-Leninist theory, not only advocates the outright liquidation of the Party – it combines these with open attacks upon the countries of Socialism and denies the general validity of Marxist-Leninist theory for “Western” countries.

2) The “Left”-Center leadership has not only refused to carry through a thoroughgoing fundamental correction of opportunist errors, has not only pressed for “unity” deals with the Right without regard to principle, but it has throughout the crisis attempted to suppress any vigorous defense of basic principles of Marxist-Leninist theory and practice.

3) And most important of all, the crisis developed not only two main factions, but three. The Right, the “Left” conciliators, and also, the so-called “ultra-Left”, so labeled by its enemies because of its uncompromising defense of Marxism-Leninism.

Factionalism became general and quite open in the Communist Party late in the autumn of 1956, upon the publication of William Z. Foster’s article “On the Situation in the Communist Party”, in Political Affairs, (October, 1956). Then, for the first time, the membership as a whole began to rally against the conspiracy of Gates and other Right-wing elements who sought the outright and formal liquidation of the Party.

At that time, and until after the February, 1957, 16th National Convention, this opposition to the Gates line was organized under the general direction of the so-called “Left” faction, headed by Foster, Benjamin J. Davis, William Weinstone and Charles Loman. But this leadership increasingly revealed itself to be incurably infected with conciliationism, because of its basic political agreement with the main revisionist theories of the Right and the Center (Dennis, Jackson and Stachel). The Foster-Davis leadership made a pretense of struggle against the open liquidationist line of the Gates forces, by raising the slogan of “maintenance of the name and form of the Party.” By doing this, they succeeded in narrowing down the struggle against revisionism because the name and form of the Party has significance only in the context of Marxist-Leninist policies.

The aim of this strategy was to eliminate basic Marxist-Leninist principles as barriers to “unity” among the self-perpetuating leadership; the fruit of it was the suppression of any serious challenge to the various brands of revisionism, which were crossbred to produce the line of the 16th Convention.

But the “Left”-conciliators had gone to the well once too often. On the one hand, the Convention ended with the National Committee dominated by the Gate faction in alliance with the Center; on the other hand, right in the very nest of the conciliators there was hatched a brood of Marxist-Leninists who were determined to smash not only avowed revisionism, but conciliationism as well. After the Convention, this latter grouping continued organized activity as the Marxist-Leninist Caucus, and it was tagged as “the ultra-left” by the leadership of the other factions.

The history of the internal struggles of the CPUSA since the 16th Convention can be divided into three periods:

1) The period of the ascendancy of the open liquidators, Gates, Charney, Stein, et al., with the cooperation of the Dennis Center elements. This period lasted from the Convention until the onset of the economic crisis, the launching of the Sputnik, and the issuance of the historic 12-Party Declaration, late in 1957.

2) The period of renewed and sharpened factional strugglesamong the leadership, resulting from the pressure of the changing economic and political climate. (All important is the fact that these factional struggles took place on a “back-room” level, excluding the rank and file membership, the “ultra-left” faction particularly, and Marxist-Leninist principles generally from participation.) This period ended with the factional realignment carried through around the Dennis Resolution adopted at the February, 1958 National Committee meeting. This maneuvering, falsely called a “victory over revisionism” by its sponsors, placed a new coalition in the dominant position in the national leadership, the Center (Dennis et al.) and the “Left”-conciliators (Davis, Bob Thompson, et al.)

3) The period which began with the Dennis Resolution and ended with the expulsion drive against the Marxist-Leninists of the “ultra-Left”, and the final fatal split of the old Party. Since present events were directly precipitated by actions in this third period, it is necessary to give some brief attention to it.

The Marxist-Leninist caucus had been excluded from National leadership by the revisionist-conciliationist “sweetheart” agreement at the 16th Convention. However, from its base in certain proletarian sections of the Party, it continued to put the principled “life-or-death” questions before the Party.

This struggle by the Marxists-Leninists was decisively aided by the 12-Party Declaration. Basing itself squarely upon this Declaration, the caucus prepared and published “Two Roads,” a general indictment of both the extreme Right and the Center “Left” conciliator coalition dominant in the leadership since the February National Committee meeting. This article demanded the endorsement of the 12-Party Declaration, the repudiation of the 16th Convention line, and the calling of a special National Convention to reconstitute the Party on a Marxist-Leninist basis. Being unable, to silence the caucus and at the same time, being unwilling to endorse the 12-Party Declaration, the revisionist-conciliationist leadership resorted to suppression of the Marxist-Leninist documents and to expulsions of the leaders of the caucus. We shall prolong this presentation to cite only a few examples of this method.

On the Jewish Question and the USSR, the New York County Convention in 1957, condemned the anti-Soviet position of the State leadership as anti-Soviet, anti-working class, and bourgeois nationalist. This resolution adopted upon the initiative of comrades of the Marxist-Leninist caucus, was never published; it was suppressed by the ̶-;Left”-conciliator leadership of New York County.

On the theory of the state, the caucus distributed a pamphlet “The Main Thing,” aimed at defending Marxism-Leninism against the attacks of John Gates and the 16th Convention, particularly to defend the dictatorship of the proletariat and socialist democracy. Although it had previously been submitted to the national leadership, it has never been acknowledged even in the form of a criticism. This was an attempt to suppress discussion pf a question of paramount importance of the Party.

On the Negro Question, the 1958 article by Harry Haywood has been suppressed, even though the basic theory on the Negro question was supposed to be open for discussion. Although it was condemned for not having gone through “channels,” Comrade Haywood was never even given a chance to participate in the discussions “within channels” on the resolution of this key theoretical problem.

On the 12-Party Declaration, the Marxist-Leninist caucus made charges of incompatibility between the Declaration and the 16th Convention line of the leadership of the CPUSA. What more general criticism could be made of a Communist Party leadership? The only defense made by the leadership was to condemn ”Two Roads” as a ”factional document” (statement in The Worker, August 17, 1958); in short, to attempt to suppress it.

Since the Marxist-Leninist caucus refused to be suppressed, however, the National Committee determined to defend its unprincipled position by expulsions. That which they could never resort to against Gates for fear of its effects upon the 16th Convention “unity” deals; that which they could never attempt against the liquidators for fear of being “outvoted” – that step, expulsion, now suddenly became not only possible, but necessary to them. Suddenly they saw “unity” in a different light, unity was impossible with only one group, the “ultra Left.”

This could hardly have been better spelled out, than it was in the report of Robert Thompson, National Organizational Secretary to the June, 1958 National Committee s meeting. Said he: “when Gates and Clark and Fast et al., were running rampant. . . our Party couldn’t do much to defend itself against factionalism. Well that day is passed.” Thompson went on in this concluding section of his attack upon the Marxist-Leninist caucus, “Our Party. . . has the capacity to declare war on factionalism. . . whether from the direction of revisionism or the direction of dogmatism.” It remains merely to add two notes. First: Thompson’s talk about warring against revisionism was just so much eye-wash. For, it so happened that the open revisionists, Roberts and Lightfoot were the very ones who directly implemented Thompson’s “declaration of war” by expelling Marxist-Leninists from the Party in Chicago and Philadelphia. Second: for all their fondness for the “dogmatist” label against the Marxist-Leninists, they have never found it fitting to attempt to prove the charge by engaging in any form of polemic on the subject.

But, in truth, “that day is past” when the struggle for Marxism-Leninism can be subordinated to the “cult of the clique” which has arrogated to itself the title of “the Communist Party. ”

The class struggle is the central, underlying feature of American economic, political, ideological, and social life. At times, the struggle, which is the real substance of our everyday, ordinary national existence, inevitably erupts in great events and crises which become pivotal punctuation marks of our history. For the everyday struggles and for the great crises and eruptions, the working class and democratic masses require the guidance of the Marxist-Leninist vanguard party. This fact and this necessity, together, constitute a guarantee of the existence of a Marxist-Leninist Communist Party in our country.

However, this historic guarantee must be implemented. The significance of the developments we have been discussing is that this guarantee now can no longer be implemented by the old Communist Party.

Events have already shown which road the leaders of the old Party have followed. They have pointedly refused to endorse the 12-Party Declaration, in pursuance of their “courtroom socialism.” They seek to minimize the significance of this refusal, by pretending to the international movement and to the Party membership that this is merely a matter of formality. They refused even to discuss the need for a special convention to cancel the shameful revisionism of the 16th Convention. They add insult to injury by coupling their recent “anti-revisionist” pretenses with repeated reaffirmations of their adherence to the 16th Convention line.

They owe their very positions of authority as members of the national committee to convention-time collusions with Gates and others who have since openly renounced” Communism. Yet, instead of returning this tainted mandate to the membership, they use their lofty perch for hurling down anathema on their Marxist-Leninist critics. They demanded the liquidation of the Marxist-Leninist caucus and resorted to expulsion of its leaders.

To surrender to this attack, to break our Marxist-Leninist ranks, would mean to abandon effective struggle for a Marxist-Leninist Communist Party. This we will never do!

Here and now, we declare our stand in relation to the dominant clique in the old Communist Party.

1) We refuse to countenance their expulsion of honest, militant, veteran comrades whose only “crime” is their refusal to compromise with the revisionist-conciliationist National Committee and 16th National Convention.
2) We refuse to acquiesce in attempts to make the Communist Party into a “cult of one-or-a-few individuals” who must be regarded as being unanswerable to the criticisms of the proletarian membership of the Party and of the international movement.
3) We condemn a National leadership, which after almost two years still finds it “inconvenient” to repudiate its anti-socialist resolution on Hungary of November 1956.
4) We mean now to disassociate ourselves once and for all from the opportunist trade union policy which would isolate us from the rank and file workers in order to combat “isolation”from the labor lieutenants of capital.
5) We will no longer submit to their pervert-ion of democratic centralism to impose on the Party its opportunist and bourgeois-Reformist line on the Negro question, a policy which has already seriously weakened the Negro liberation struggle and working class solidarity.
6) We reject their line for “solution” of the agrarian question in the South, and in the rest of the country, through the blind operation of economic forces which reduce the farm toilers to abject poverty in a land bursting with agricultural surpluses.
7) We will withhold, henceforth, the title “Comrade” from those who used their position of leadership in the CPUSA to subvert and destroy the Marxist-Leninist movement in Puerto Rico, and who spurned the hand of international solidarity extended by the Communists of Latin America at the time of the 16ith National Convention.
8) We denounce their unauthorized and secret liquidation of the Communist Party in the South in 1951.
9) We repudiate their bourgeois nationalist distortion of fact and theory regarding the position of the Jewish population and the Jewish question in the USSR and other socialist countries.
10) We denounce their attempts to discourage the specialstruggles of Negro and white women in the cause of peace and democracy and women’s rights – at the very time when women workers have come to constitute a third of American wage labor.
11) We condemn their liquidation of the Marxist-Leninist youth movement – at a time when the imperialist bourgeoisie has developed its most concentrated attack on the interests of American youth.

The old CP leadership, which has a historically-confirmed habit of bartering Marxist-Leninist political and organization principles (via the “interpretation” route) for momentary and illusory “advantages” in the trade union field, electoral field, in the courts, etc.

Such a “leadership” has shown itself unworthy of the confidence of the American working class and of the international movement. Their policies have reduced a still-declining organization to a mere shell of some 2 to 3 thousand members, mostly inactive. Such a “leadership” has forfeited all claim to the militant and internationalist traditions of the founders of the CPUSA.

Therefore, we of the Marxist-Leninist caucus of the old Party, having met in a national conference on August 16th-17th 1958, have constituted ourselves as a Provisional Committee for the Reconstitution of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party.

Our membership is composed mainly of proletarians, Negro, white, and Puerto Rican from a number of industrial centers of the Eastern and Mid-Western sections of the United States. We directly represent the former caucus movement. We represent indirectly the far wider group of Communists with or temporarily without organizational connections, who share our views of the present political situation; we are confident that we represent in an organized form the revolutionary internationalist Marxist-Leninist traditions of those American workers who established the CPUSA 39 years ago.

We mark this anniversary of that event by reaffirming the principles of Marxism-Leninism. We call upon all those who adhere to these principles to join with us in developing a program for building the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party in our country.

Harry Haywood, Joe Dougher, Armando Roman, A. Marino, Howard Penn, Alma Velez, Lucille Bethancourt, Mary Moore, Les Thornton, Archie Miller, Bill Porter, Issie Farber, Hilda Moore, Anna Ramirez, Issie Segun, Carl Williams, A. Kilpatrick, James Josephs