Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Jobs, Peace, Equality – The Communist Labor Party

Origin of Communist Labor Party

In order to understand what the Communist Labor Party is and where it came from, we must look at the historical development of the communist movement in this country.

Communists have always used the electoral form of struggle in order to put forward the ideas of socialism and rally the revolutionary workers against the capitalist state. Seventy years ago the electoral form of struggle was one of the main forms for the proletariat and its vanguard, communist party in many of the advanced capitalist countries. As conditions changed and the class struggle intensified, the tactics of the communist parties also had to change. The electoral struggle could no longer be a principal form. Instead, the main activity of the communists was the organization of the proletariat into a force capable of overthrowing capitalism and seizing state power from their real enemy, the capitalist class.

When World War I broke out, an important split took place in the communist movement, between those parties who continued to use the electoral struggle as the principal weapon of the proletariat, became an appendage of the bourgeois state, and thus ended up by supporting their “own” bourgeoisie; and the Bolsheviks, led by Lenin. The Bolsheviks advocated the necessity for a new party, a militant party, a revolutionary party, bold enough to lead the proletariat in its struggle for state power, sufficiently experienced to find its bearings amidst the complex conditions of a revolutionary situation, and sufficiently flexible to steer clear of all submerged rocks in the path to its goal.

Historic Deviation

The communist movement in the US parallels the history of the international communist movement. The incorrect theories and practices of the communist movement in this country can be traced to three main deviations: syndicalism, parliamentarism, and sectarianism. In order to understand what these deviations have meant, we must discuss the objective conditions of the development of imperialism in the United States.

The imperialists were amassing a tremendous amount of wealth in the early 1900’s. They had plenty of money to carry out their political work within the revolutionary movement, especially in the newly established trade union movement. They immediately began skillfully developing the tactic of dividing the workers by bribing mainly the skilled sector. But they were also successful in dividing the employed and unemployed, the native and foreign born, and the national minorities from the Anglo-Americans.

By 1900 the biggest labor grouping in the US was the American Federation of Labor (AFL), under the leadership of Samuel Gompers. This grouping became fully committed to the support of the capitalist two-party system.

At the same time, the Socialist Labor Party had developed. The SLP later split to form the Socialist Party whose main proposition was that the trade unions could free the working class. This was one of the main forms of syndicalism. Syndicalism is the idea that the working class can free itself from the bourgeoisie through one big trade union; that the proletariat does not need to have an independent political party which can organize and lead the seizure of state power. Syndicalism does not see that the working class cannot liberate itself from capitalism unless it has taken over the state apparatus, and replaces the bourgeois state with the proletarian state–the dictatorship of the proletariat. Syndicalism overlooks the fact that the capitalists enslave the workers through their control of the state–the police, courts and army. The syndicalists in the long run end up reducing the struggle of the workers to improving conditions under capitalism.

Syndicalism also takes other forms. Today syndicalism is reflected in the view that each sector of the working class should organize itself; that Negroes should organize Negroes, students should organize students, women should organize women. Instead of uniting the working class into a mighty class conscious army for socialism, syndicalism divides the working class struggle into separate struggles and thus weakens it. Syndicalism is one of the most dangerous and harmful theories to the working class. This theory permeated the Socialist Party and later the Communist Party of the U.S.A. (CPUSA).

The Socialist Party periodicals were rabidly white chauvinist. Their pages were filled with proof of the inferiority of Negroes and called for the extermination of Negro workers. Gene Debs (a leader of the socialist movement) was opposed to allowing Negroes into the Socialist Party.

The growing class struggle produced many groups claiming to represent the working class. The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was formed in 1905. The I WW insisted that the general strike, the trade union, and revolution by conspiracy would liberate the working class. Here syndicalism was accompanied by anarchism and sectarianism.

Anarchism is the philosophy which states that the workers do not need a state after the successful revolution. The anarchists do not understand that after the socialist revolution a period ensues which is most violent and bloody as the bourgeoisie fights even more ferociously. Thus the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat. Sectarianism is a doctrine which claims that revolutions are made by small groupings (sects) of revolutionaries. Sectarians do not see the role that the proletariat and its party must play. They do not see that it is the masses who make revolution, led by a vanguard communist party; revolution is not made by a small grouping of revolutionaries.

October Revolution

In October, 1917, the great Soviet Revolution took place. This revolution proved the correctness of Lenin’s teachings on the party of a new type and affirmed the truth of Marxism-Leninism for all to see.

The CPUSA, formed in the wake of the October Revolution, was a militant party and is an important link in the revolutionary heritage of our time. But the CPUSA was faction ridden; the leadership ran the party by cliques; there was no common line uniting the party.

In 1927, Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union, stepped in to try and establish unity among the leading members of the party on the basis of Marxism-Leninism. He exposed the factionalism destroying the CPUSA. As a result, Trotskyite elements were expelled and the party unified, but this unity was on the basis of syndicalism and not Marxism-Leninism.

Throughout this period the CPUSA refused to recognize the Negro question as a burning question for revolutionaries to solve. In 1928, the Communist International finally persuaded the CPUSA to accept a strong position on the question. But the CPUSA later abandoned any semblance of a Marxist position on this question–recognition of the Negro question as a national colonial question whose only solution is independence for the Negro Nation.

Great Depression

With the great depression and the subsequent rapid growth of the CPUSA, it became clear that this was a syndicalist party, incapable of leading the struggle to emancipate the working class from capitalism. The CPUSA took up the banner of reformist work, which meant the fight for a better life under capitalism without regard to the struggle for socialism. They chose reformism rather than revolutionary work, which would have meant fighting to better the workers’ lives under capitalism but with the goal of using this struggle to raise the fight for socialism and organize the working class to seize state power and build the dictatorship of the proletariat.

During this period another side of economism, parliamentarism, the use of the ballot box to legislate socialism into existence, became the main form of struggle. Using the ballot box, the CPUSA leaders thought (and many revisionists today still think) the workers could vote for the communists who would win and introduce socialism.

In 1941, President Roosevelt released General Secretary of the CPUSA, Earl Browder, from jail and had him to dinner at the White House. The fate of the CPUSA was sealed. Browder and the leadership put forward a “united front” which was nothing more than a “center-left coalition” with the Democratic Party in control. To this day, the CPUSA cannot break its ties to the liberal bourgeoisie in the Democratic party.

Party Building

By 1949, the CPUSA was falling apart. Faced with the anti-communist rampage of the McCarthy era, the CPUSA capitulated, and renounced all claims to the revolutionary heritage of Marxism. By then, many revolutionary elements in the CPUSA were already disappointed with the quality of their party.

Khrushchev’s famous denunciation of the great leader Joseph Stalin only legitimized the revisionism which had characterized the CPUSA from its beginnings. Becoming a tail on the Moscow revisionists, the CPUSA openly betrayed the working class of the USNA.

In 1958, a small grouping of Marxist-Leninists left the CPUSA and formed the Provisional Organizing Committee (POC). The POC did some good work, but it was unable to completely free itself of the strangling ideology of the CPUSA. They rapidly became a small sect isolated from the class struggle. They insisted that the working class was reactionary and could not be won to the goal of socialism. Registering 400 members when they began, 10 years later they were left with 42.

But from the POC emerged a small grouping of Marxist-Leninists who were steadfast in their struggle to build a real communist party, a Leninist party of a new type. From 1968 to 1974, a period of party building took place, where Marxist-Leninists from across the country carried on theoretical and political debate in order to re-establish the basic principles of Marxism-Leninism and to apply them to the conditions in the United States. In 1974, the Communist Labor Party was formed, a party determined to be the party of a new type, a party of Bolsheviks.

Workers and progressive people, the program, which analyzes capitalism and puts forward solutions to the problems which face the working class, is your program. It is a program which represents the hopes and needs of workers across the country. The Communist Labor Party is your party. It is the only independent proletarian political party which can consistently represent the interests of the masses of workers. But in order to fulfill its historic tasks, the party must grow. We need people like yourselves, who fight day in and day out against the injustices and misery of capitalism.

The communists never have and never will be able to do it alone. Only the masses of workers can win the decisive battle. But without the leadership of a real communist party, the proletariat can only repeat the tragedies of history. Join the Communist Labor Party and fight for the only system which can provide the working and toiling masses of the world with a better life for themselves and their children–socialism.