First Published: The Worker, August 12, 1956.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Gene Dennis in his recently published report to the National Committee of the Communist Party stated that serious efforts were made by the leadership to strengthen democracy in the Party since 1945. Foster has written in the Daily Worker that the cult of the individual and bureaucracy were problems of the Browder leadership. He doesn’t state, but certainly implies, that such problems do not now exist.
The Daily Worker, Foster and Dennis have recognized the error of the cult of the individual in the CPSU. Neither Dennis, Foster nor the Daily Worker takes the position that bureaucracy and the cult-of the individual are the main problems of the CPUSA. They have evidently not examined past writings in Political Affairs, in the Daily Worker, in draft resolutions, in political work (such as the Progressive Party) to determine if the cult of the individual is the main weakness in the work of the U. S. Communist Party, both before and after 1945. For example, Foster and Dennis haven’t mentioned that they suppressed Jim Keller’s criticism on the first draft resolution after 1945. The Daily Worker still doesn’t explain why they suppressed critical letters from 1945 to 1956.
Gene Dennis states that the 1949-1953 campaign against chauvinism should have been a mass campaign rather than an internal one. This is the understatement of the year. It is possible that the national leaden started this campaign with the idea that it would facilitate the struggle for Negro rights. I supported it in the beginning because white chauvinism did exist in the Party. Most of it proved unintentional and the result of poor national leadership on the Negro question.
However, this campaign soon developed into a really vicious attack on the membership and secondary leadership by the national office. Expulsions reached heights never dreamed of by Browder. Many more members were made ineffective because of unjustified slander. Members were expelled without steps provided for in the Party constitution, often under the guise of security or “the difficult objective situation.” Both Negro and white left the Party in large numbers.
Foster has criticized other theoreticians on the Negro question for sectarianism. He doesn’t mention that the violations of Party democracy and Marxism cited above were committed under the Foster-Dennis leadership and often in their names.
Without numerous articles and speeches unduly praising Foster and Dennis it is very possible that most of the serious errors would have been avoided. Therefore a preface to the Dennis article on Khrushchev would have been strengthened by an explanation to the U. S. membership on his role in the so-called campaign against white chauvinism. The role of individual top functionaries and National Committee members in that campaign also needs to be examined and explained. Certainly enough of them followed undemocratic methods between 1949 and 1953. Their unanimity in accepting that section of Dennis’ report was a shocking non-Marxist act. The first step toward becoming a modest part of such struggles as Montgomery is admission by leadership that they have substituted dogma and directives for Marxist thinking and struggle.
The Dennis report amounts to 48 pages and attempts Marxist observations on a multitude of subjects. It covers mainly the years 1945-58. And not one word on the Rosenbergs! Under the Dennis-Foster leadership one draft resolution was published before their death without a word on the struggle. Another (after their death) with or one or two paragraphs criticizing, as I recall, the reformist leadership of the labor movement for inactivity in the Rosenberg’s behalf.
The role of the Party leadership, especially in the period until a few weeks before their execution, was characterized by inaction and incompetence. The non-Marxist National Guardian, Pope Pius XII and many rank and file Communists were far ahead of the Party leaders in understanding and action. No one can claim that ineffective leadership in the Rosenberg case was mainly left sectarianism. It was a result of unexplained mid un-admitted defects on the part of leadership.
Since 1940 the leadership of the American Communists have, at various times, looked over their left shoulder and seen sectarianism. At other times, they have looked over their right shoulder and seen opportunism and revisionism. Now is the time that they should turn squarely around and see that the members and the people are pointing to bureaucracy, cult of the personality and isolation from reality.
The point is not who assumes “particular responsibility” but who is going to tell what led to his individual mistakes and what he or she is doing as a person to insure against their repetition.
I would urge on the National Committee:
(1) That they reverse themselves and reject the Dennis report since it places main emphasis for past errors on left sectarianism rather than on bureaucracy and the cult of the individual It is high time that they recognize it is impossible to reach a correct program or carry it out until this bureaucracy is ended.
(2) That the national convention be postponed six months so the discussion can produce a democratic representation from the districts rather than a majority of functionaries.
(3) That a committee be set up to study democratic centralism in the USA, write articles on it and encourage others to write. This committee should not be restricted to National Committee members. Is democratic centralism being misused by leaders in the U.S. or is the logic of democratic centralism here the development of bureaucrats?
Once this is done the gulf between membership and leadership will be narrowed. The foundations for a new program with refreshed and strengthened leadership will be ready. Large numbers of people are ready to work in a disciplined way for immediate needs and a Socialist U. S. Vanity and “prestige” must step aside so these folks can unite and get on with the work.