First Published: Progressive Labor Vol. 5, No. 4, June-July 1966
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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In stately, measured tones, sometimes empty, sometimes redundant, the Communist Party USA has produced a draft Program whose spirit is Wood-row Wilson liberalism and whose position is somewhat to the right of Norman Thomas.
Where is the Olympian mountain in time or space where Gus Hall and others are sitting to get this charming view of the broad, smooth, sweet–peaceful, constitutional, parliamentary–American path to socialism? They foresee that “an elected socialist government with the democratic support of a popular majority would have to proceed with the greatest energy and resoluteness (with all deliberate speed!) to enact the measures for the socialist reconstruction of society and to enforce these measures with the power at its command...A constitutional amendment.. .would abolish the capitalist form of property,” and violence would be averted by “a majority so overwhelming, so united, so firm of purpose as to restrain monopoly from the resort to force.”
It is a pretty picture of “singing tomorrows,” but unrelated to the bitter, bloody battles of the American working class for every ten-cent-an-hour gain, or to the lynch trees that line every inch of the Black people’s freedom march, or to U.S. imperialism’s annihilatory fury against the colored peoples of the world. The draft Program innocently argues: “There is precedent for this in the Constitutional amendment abolishing slave property, which in its day was just as sacrosanct by law and custom as capitalist property is today.” The only thing the CP revisionists leave out of their historic precedent for socialism by constitutional amendment is the CIVIL WAR! With vague rhetoric they celebrate the “legendary heroes of American labor” and the “indomitable heroism of the Negro freedom movement” to project a generalized, non-class alignment of forces to work both within and without two-party politics, winning reforms and gradually “replacing capitalism with socialism.” Lenin had a name for this. He wrote:
In mockery of the teachings of Marx, these gentlemen, the opportunists, including the Kautskyites, ’teach’ the people that: the proletariat must first win a majority by means of universal suffrage, then, on the basis of the voting majority, obtain state power, and only after that, on the basis of ’consistent’ (otherwise called ’pure’ democracy), organize socialism.
But we say on the basis of the teachings of Marx and the experience of the Russian Revolution: The proletariat must first overthrow the bourgeoisie and win for itself state power, and then use that state power, that is, the dictatorship of the proletariat, as an instrument of its class for the purpose of winning the sympathy of the toilers...
It was this dialectic that the traitors, blockheads and pedants of the Second International could never understand: the proletariat cannot achieve victory if it does not win the majority of the population to its side. But to limit that winning to polling a majority of votes in an election under the rule of the bourgeoisie, or make it the condition for it, is crass stupidity, or else sheer deception of the workers.
The very thought of peacefully subordinating the capitalists to the will of the majority of the exploited, of the peaceful, reformist transition to socialism, is not only extreme philistine stupidity, but also downright deception of the workers, the embellishment of capitalist wage slavery, concealment of the truth. The truth is that the bourgeoisie, even the most educated and democratic, now no longer hesitates to resort to any fraud or crime to massacre millions of workers and peasants in order to save the private ownership of the means of production. (Lenin, Struggle against Revisionism, pp. 36 and 41)
Has historical experience refuted the Marxist-Leninist thesis of the violent character of the imperialist state? Is Leninism out of date?
Not a day goes by without imperialist violence being brutally used to suppress the people both at home and abroad, from Vietnam to Watts! “Communists do not welcome or initiate violence. Violence is inherently necessary to maintain capitalism. To create illusions about this objective fact is to disarm and to distort, preventing the people from determining how to defend themselves.” (“Rejoinder to Studies on the Left,” PL, March-April 1966)
It is no accident that in the CP’s new draft Program there is not a single word about the Black people’s rising rebellions in the ghettoes across the country, nor of such self-defense organizations as the Deacons for Defense, the Harlem Defense Council, or the Lowndes County Freedom Party (the Alabama Black Panther Party). These most clearly express the revolutionary essence of the Afro-American Liberation movement, and conflict sharply with the petty-bourgeois integrationists after whom the CP tails. With their heads stuck in the reformist feed bag, they “can’t see” any real revolutionary developments. They can only see what predominates at the moment (the integration movement) and not that which is growing and developing (revolutionary Black nationalism), which dialectical materialism teaches revolutionaries to grasp. Fatuously following Martin Luther King and other Black reformists, they are unable to analyze these leaders–their middle-class orientation, the dangers in their mis-leadership of disarming and enslaving their own people. (Didn’t King say, “If any blood is to be shed, let it be ours?”) They say reluctantly “...the Negro people see themselves as a nation within a nation as it were” (italics ours), but they cannot see or concern themselves with the black man’s right to autonomy in both his present battle for equality and his future victory after capitalism is smashed.
Genuine Communists today advocate the separate independent organization of Black people to fight for economic, political and social equality, and to ally themselves ultimately with white labor (when white labor finally catches up with them!) in the fight for socialism. But the CP fails to present any strategy or program for Black liberation in the United States.
On the relationship of the labor movement to this struggle, incredible as it may seem, the “new Program” asserts: “...its class position has impelled the labor movement to adopt a fairly advanced program for equal rights and opportunities. The problem is to infuse life into this program, to ignite the fight for it throughout the ranks, from top to bottom, to give it the concentrated energy and attention it merits.”
But what is this “advanced program” that labor has adopted? All the draft Program can say is that “often labor unions endorse civil rights legislation.”
Once again the truth is the opposite of what the revisionists claim. The labor movement has failed to adopt an advanced program of struggle for Black equality; it has virtually abdicated support for Black liberation, so the gap between labor and the freedom movement has grown wider just when the freedom struggle has grown sharper. The Communist Party Program never analyzes this critical widening gap, although it pays lip service to the Labor-Negro alliance.
The revisionists make these basic errors in discussing the labor movement: In order to emphasize the leading historic role of the working class, they exaggerate the truth about the current progressive role of organized labor. They also minimize, no– ignore–the reactionary character of the top labor officials who tie the trade unions to the coat-tails of Big Business. They blame the “idea” of “class partnership,” as if this “illusion” came from heaven, an immaculate conception in the labor movement, rather than being the deliberate ideological bastard of the bought-out bureaucracy to delude the rank and file. The Program makes an evasive reference to “old officialdom that has lost contact with the ranks,” but then praises “the profound advance in the thinking of the official labor movement in turning to politics and the Democratic Party.” These so-called Marxists cannot see the class enemy in the trade union leadership, although thousands of workers today are wildcatting and beginning to fight the sell-out artists who hold back their struggles (see Editorial this issue). The CP solution for organized labor today is “a free discussion within the unions–with a fruitful clash of ideas,” and what they celebrate as the “great leap” from economic organization to the ballot box.
When they project voting as the highest form of struggle for the working class, they are truly “perspiring with parliamentarism,” as Nexo described in his great novel, Pelle the Conqueror.
Genuine Communists today know that labor’s most basic and political task is to use the strongest weapons of the class struggle (union organization, strikes, etc.) at the point of production. We know that the working class in the U.S. will lead the people to a socialist revolution in the near future, so we have no need to dress up the truth about today. The trade unions are currently held down by the ruling class and its labor lieutenants. The main strategic task for revolutionaries is to break that stranglehold, “to lead the campaign for the unions not only to reflect truly the present class struggle, but also to become an instrument and a weapon in working-class hands for the future, a school to prepare for the revolutionary ending of exploitation altogether.” (Progressive Labor Party Trade Union Program)
A principal aim of the CP’s “New Program” is to divert and slow down the militant, growing “New Left” in the U.S. It proposes, on the surface, the need for a third party, a people’s party, but then says: “Not yet.” The present phase is to work within the two capitalist parties, it says, calling them “a coalition of diverse interests” (whose interests?). It continues: “Nor is it essential at this time to determine whether the principal core will represent a transformation of one of the present parties, or whether it will be, in the main, a new formation.”
For those who advance a “Communist” strategy of “Socialism by constitutional amendment,” taking over “one of the present parties” (the Republicans?... they’re too coy to say which one) should not be too hard. Thus while seeming to press for political advance through a third party, they advise the New Left and others to work within the imperialist parties (it’s the Democrats, let’s face it), thereby helping the ruling class to continue to entrap the people.
Earl Browder in the 1940s and John Gates in the 1950s proposed the same opportunist path that has now, in the 1960s been spelled out as something new by Gus Hall & Co. Shouldn’t the CPUSA leaders self-critically acknowledge their forerunners, including Bernstein, Kautsky, Hillquit, et al? In fact, why should the CPUSA continue to call itself Communist or Marxist-Leninist; this may hinder working within the Democratic Party and building “one big mass social-democratic party.”
The CPUSA must hold on to these left terms because in our epoch Marxism-Leninism is guiding the forces of revolution throughout the world. Revisionism wouldn’t be worth a thin dime to the ruling class if it didn’t mask itself behind these honored words. As for program, even Henry Ford III recently spoke out for the “war” on poverty, ignorance and unemployment–it is quite the style today, for the staunchest supporters of the status quo.
Lenin had a word for this too: “The bourgeoisie needs lackeys whom a section of the working class could trust, and who would paint in fine colors, embellish the bourgeoisie with talk about the possibility of the reformist path, who would throw dust in the eyes of the people by this talk, who would divert the people from revolution by depicting in glowing colors the charms and the possibilities of the reformist path.” (V.I. Lenin, Tasks of the Third International)
While posturing grandly against the evils of the “corporate establishment,” and the dangers of the “ultra-right,” the Communist Party is afraid to mention President Johnson by name! Whoever may be the leader today of what they call the “middle-of-the road, consensus-oriented” government, he is somehow not responsible for the war in Vietnam or for the vicious, concentrated attacks upon the people at home and abroad. This kindly omission and unwillingness to call an imperialist an imperialist is the best the CPUSA can do for the candidate they tacitly endorsed last November and will probably endorse at the next elections.
A similar strange gap in their writing on history (to avoid the embarrassing connection between past and present betrayals) occurs when they skip entirely over the historic split between the Bolsheviks and the Second International in 1914 on whether or not to support the first imperialist war. The draft Program says: “Marxists fought with at least as much vigor as anyone else to prevent the specific outbreak of World War I, but despite their efforts, their prophecy proved tragically true.” (Emphasis added) Thus they ignore and malign Lenin’s magnificent fight against the social democrats who voted for War between their capitalist fatherlands, while he and the true Marxists opposed the war and broke away to found the Third International.
In further fancy phrases that extol Marxism only to degrade it, the CP also evades any real discussion of Johnson’s dirty war; the first mention of Vietnam is on page 37, when they characterize US military aggression there as the most clear and present danger to world peace. But two sentences later Gus Hall and Co. “foresee the possibility of a more stable peaceful coexistence... For the American people as for all the world’s peoples, the struggle to avert global war, nuclear war, to realize the historic possibility of peaceful coexistence, is the “supreme challenge of the age” (italics ours). This is the final treachery–to tell the embattled colonial peoples, with victory in sight, with the chance of defeating imperialist aggression in one country after another, to lay down their arms, to stifle their resistance, which is the most powerful defense against global war today! Compare this to Che Guevera speaking at the Economic Conference in Africa (1965): “This is an assembly of peoples in battle...the fight against imperialism, the fight to liberate ourselves from the shackles of colonialism or neo-colonialism...is inseparable from the fight against backwardness and poverty; both are steps along the same road which leads to the creation of a new society, a society both prosperous and just.” (PL, “Securing Revolutions,” March-April 1966) And in even more pointed terms, the revisionist position is answered by Jariretundou Kozonquizi, President of the South West Africa National Union, speaking at the most recent Tri-Continental Conference in Havana: “We have no choice but to fight, so that what I have termed the conditions of disarray in the anti-imperialist camp relates to the advocacy of peaceful coexistence with imperialism. So that we must declare here and now that peaceful coexistence with imperialism as far as the people of Latin America, Asia, and Africa are concerned is anathema and that is what it is.” (PL, “For Peace and National Independence,” March-April 1966)
Every page of this anathema is filled with abuse-curbing (spot-cleaning) proposals to make monopoly capitalism “less monopolistic” or “less capitalistic” and more palatable to the middle class liberal. As for the section on “Socialism,” it skips blithely over the class struggle, working-class leadership, a vanguard party, and the dictatorship of the proletariat to paint in pastels how our exceptional American abundance will enable the future society, based on public ownership in the U.S., to give all its enemies the guaranteed freedom of the Bill of Rights! The only Socialist country it mentions is the Soviet Union, the other two-thirds of the Socialist world doesn’t exist, or can perhaps be wished out of existence by being ignored. Our own imperialists try the same trick and they also fail.
Serious revolutionaries should study the draft Program thoroughly as an example of modern revisionism, heir to all the reformist claptrap that the Communist movement has battled throughout its history. Such classic social-democratic betrayal of Marxism-Leninism is only made possible by substituting the methodology of idealism for dialectical and historical materialism. For example:
“Of course, it was the fundamental policy of U.S. imperialism that brought the world to the brink in each instance, and as long as that policy remains there will be recurrent crises with the recurrent danger that each might bring us to the point of no return.” While bowing in the direction of Lenin’s Imperialism, the revisionists again and again assert the idealist view that U.S. foreign policy is a conglomeration of mistakes because the monopolists refuse to “recognize or reconcile themselves to reality”–that, “their policies are in contradiction to reality,” and “as long as their policies remain there will be danger of war.”
Is this not a non-class view of ideology? Do the working class and oppressed peoples view reality in the same way as their oppressors? Aren’t the writers of this statement asking the imperialists to abandon their own bourgeois view of the world and adopt a working class view? How absurd can you get? They must try to persuade the imperialists to be reasonable! They must therefore support the “sober and sane” imperialists (Kennedy, Johnson, etc.), who apparently more closely recognize reality. In the same way the well-known revisionist Kautsky divorced imperialist politics from imperialist economics, and monopoly in politics from monopoly in economics, the better to confuse those who followed him.
The fundamental contradiction in the world today is not between imperialist policies and reality, as the revisionists say, but between the imperialist system and the rise of world socialism.
Imperialism is not a set of policies preferred by the monopoly capitalist, but a system–the capitalist system in its monopoly state. Imperialist policies are aimed at defending the system, at undermining and destroying those who resist, at defeating the socialist revolution. Essentially the peaceful coexistence line based on this analysis tries to reconcile the irreconcilables, revolution and counterrevolution. To justify this absurd position, the CPUSA now claims that because the relationship of global forces has shifted against the imperialists, an era of peaceful coexistence is possible.
The truth is just the opposite. The shifted relationship of global forces has not made imperialism more peaceful, but, on the contrary, more reactionary, fascistic and aggressive. In reality, the global class struggle is sharpening and will intensify. Genuine Communists advance the global strategy of struggle within and without our borders to defeat U.S. capitalism and not to coexist with it.
We live in the epoch of the rise of world socialism and the decline of world capitalism. This is an objective historic process taking place within our lifetime. Developments over the past half century have confirmed the dialectical materialist analysis of social change. The class struggle cannot be reconciled!
Genuine Communists cannot deceive the people into believing that war and peace can be resolved by getting the imperialists to recognize reality or to change particular policies. On the contrary, we must develop a mass movement to defeat particular imperialist policies (such as Get Out of Vietnam!) as an aid to the general development of the people’s conscious understanding that peace can only be achieved by destroying the imperialist system.