First Published: The Call, Vol. 6, No. 24, June 20, 1977.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The historic Founding Congress of the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) took place in a small Midwest town June 4-5 as delegations from more than 30 cities packed the meeting hall to reestablish the vanguard Party of the U.S. working class.
Marked by great militancy and jubilation, the Congress accomplished the important tasks of adopting a Program and Constitution, electing the Party’s leadership and approving the Political Report presented by the new Party’s chairman Michael Klonsky.
As the meeting was called to order, the first act was to dissolve the 11 pre-Party organizations which had united together at the October League’s initiative last year to form the Organizing Committee for the new Marxist-Leninist Party. The official dissolution of these pre-Party organizations brought thunderous applause from the delegates. It signaled the end of a period of work characterized by small circles and scattered centers in the communist movement. Chants of “Long Live the Party!” reflected the great unity that has been achieved in building the CP (M-L).
The composition of the delegates themselves was a testament to the proletarian line of the Party. The majority of delegates were workers and minorities. A number of veteran communists were also present, providing a direct link to the glorious history of the Communist Party in its revolutionary period.
The whole Congress was characterized by the spirit of proletarian internationalism. The delegates themselves included people from at least 15 minority nationalities—Black, Chicano, Puerto Ri-can, and several Asian-American nationalities as well as immigrant workers from a number of third world countries. Simultaneous Spanish translation was provided throughout the proceedings.
The bonds of unity between the workers’ struggle in the U.S. and the struggles in other countries were clearly reflected in the many messages which the Congress received from Marxist-Leninists and anti-imperialist fighters around the world. More than 40 messages were received from fraternal Parties and organizations, all placing great hopes on the work of the U.S. communists to build our Party and lead the struggle right inside one of the two superpowers.
The Congress itself adopted a special resolution thanking the comrades in different parts of the world for their support.
The Congress further resolved to send special messages of greetings to the Chinese Communist Party headed by Chairman Hua Kuo-feng and the Albanian Party of Labor headed by First Secretary Enver Hoxha, expressing our complete solidarity and gratitude for the revolutionary leadership they have provided to the world communist movement.
The Congress also received messages of solidarity from a number of political prisoners including Ronnie Long, Rafael Cancel Miranda (one of the five Puerto Rican Nationalist Prisoners) and Gary Tyler.
Some veteran communist fighters, whose health would not permit them to attend, also sent messages. These included Odis Hyde and Nanny Washburn, two comrades who for decades stood in the front ranks of the fight for socialism, never abandoning it even when the revisionist Communist Party abandoned them.
In a moving letter, Hyde recalled his days organizing among Black workers on the South-side of Chicago during the Depression. He painted a vivid picture of the working-class martyrs from Haymarket Square to Republic Steel who laid down their lives in the fight against capitalism. He called on the delegates to fight with the memory of these martyrs in mind.
In her letter, Nanny Washburn showed how the revisionists had destroyed the Party in the South and especially liquidated the struggle for Afro-American self-determination. She said that her greatest joy was knowing that the new Party was being built.
A veteran communist leader able to address the Congress personally was Harry Haywood, a member of the Communist Party’s Central Committee until he was expelled in 1959 for trying to combat the revisionist line of the Party leadership. Haywood was the Party’s foremost theoretician on the Afro-American national question and helped develop the Comintern’s position on the national question during his stay in the Soviet Union in the 1920s. He was personally acquainted with many of the Bolshevik leaders who made the first great socialist revolution, including Joseph Stalin.
In his speech Haywood looked back on more than fifty years of his activity in the communist movement. He showed how the founding of the CP (M-L) represented the continuation of the Marxist-Leninist line, which was attacked by the revisionists in the 1950s. He called on veteran fighters for socialism to join him in becoming members of the Party.
In delivering the Political Report on behalf of the Organizing Committee, Michael Klonsky summed up the history of this two-line struggle in the communist movement. He drew upon the lessons of the fight against revisionism that led up to the founding of the CP (M-L).
Klonsky’s report showed that the destruction of the CPUSA was not “inevitable,” as some have claimed, nor was it the product of “gradual degeneration.” Rather, he stressed, the Party was taken over by revisionist agents of the bourgeoisie. Their betrayal was met with sharp struggle, although the Party’s rank and file was never fully armed to combat the revisionist line.
From this history, Klonsky drew the important lessons of arming the new Party’s rank and file with a thorough-going understanding of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought. He spoke to the need of recognizing the fight against modern revisionism as a life-and-death battle which the Party must pursue consistently.
The Political Report went on to analyze the present conditions under which the Party is being built, especially the deepening economic crisis and the growing danger of superpower war. It put forward the chief tasks of the Party in the period ahead, calling for a bolshevizing of the Party’s organizational work, the recruitment of many more workers and continuing the struggle to unite the Marxist-Leninists. The Report was adopted unanimously by the Congress and will be published soon in its entirety.
The Congress then proceeded into an intensive discussion of the Draft Program. The Program embodies the basic line of the Party on all major questions.
Among the hallmarks of the Party’s Program are:
•Recognition of the overthrow of U.S. imperialism and the establishment of socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat as the strategic aim of the workers’ struggle.
•Affirming the leading role of the working class in the revolutionary struggle and the need to build the closest alliance between the workers’ movement and the movements of the oppressed nationalities.
•Striving to build the Party’s leadership of a broad united front to oppose imperialism.
•Resolute opposition to both imperialist superpowers, the U.S. and the USSR, including exposure of the Soviet Union as a social-imperialist, social-fascist country, the most dangerous superpower and the main source of a new world war.
•Active support for the struggles of the third world countries, upholding Chairman Mao’s concept of the “three worlds” in determining the friends and enemies of the revolutionary struggle internationally.
•Firm solidarity with China, Albania and other genuine socialist countries and support for the working class and communist movements in every country.
•Consistent efforts to win the trade unions to socialist revolution and communist leadership, directing the main blow of the workers’ struggle at the reformist and revisionist union leaders who serve as capitalism’s agents.
•Support for the right to self-determination for the Afro-American nation; full democratic rights and regional autonomy for the Chicano, Afro-American, Puerto Rican, Native American, Asian-American and other minorities and independence for Puerto Rico.
•Support for the women’s struggle for emancipation which is in essence a question of class struggle for the overthrow of capitalism.
•Recognition of the youth as a great revolutionary force in society, whose struggles should be actively led by the Party.
The Program, which elaborates on all these principles as well as many others, was unanimously adopted by the Congress after a section-by-section discussion. Several additions and amendments were made to the draft by delegates who had led extensive study around it in their local areas for months leading up to the Congress. Over the last year, the Program went through three drafts and incorporated numerous suggestions that came from the rank-and-file cadres, as well as the masses. The final text of the Program will be published next month.
The Party’s Constitution was also adopted unanimously, providing the basic principles for building a democratic-centralist Party with the firmest unity of will and action in its ranks.
As called for by the Constitution, the Congress elected the Party’s first Central Committee, after discussing the qualities leadership should possess and the tasks of the Central Committee in the period ahead.
The discussion around leadership exemplified the communist spirit of criticism self-criticism and demonstrated the existence of a large body of advanced cadres who have developed over the last period as leaders of the Party. The selection of the Central Committee members was met with great enthusiasm on the part of all the delegates and pledges of firm support from the rank and file.
At the first meeting of the Central Committee, held immediately after the Congress, Michael Klonsky was elected as Party Chairman and Eileen Klehr as Vice-Chairman. Some 50% of the Central Committee members are workers or minorities and all have extensive experience in the communist movement and the mass struggles.
The closing session of the Congress heard solidarity messages from the National Fight Back Organization as well as the Communist Youth Organization. The representative of the NFBO said, “Now that the Party is built, I am sure it will be able to give great revolutionary guidance to the fightback we are waging against the economic crisis and the whole capitalist system. We can fight back with renewed energy and determination, because the workers now have a Party of their own.”
Roy Smith, the Chairman of the Communist Youth Organization, brought the delegates to their feet with a rousing speech in which he pointed out: “The youth are a mighty revolutionary force. They have fought and struggled for the last 20 years, even without a Communist Party to lead. Now at last we have our Party! Wherever the Party needs support, wherever there is work to be done, wherever the youth are struggling, the CYO will be there!”
As the Congress drew to a close, the delegates took the floor to sum it up, speaking about what the building of the Party meant to them.
A Black Vietnam veteran said, “It was only a few years ago that I was fighting for the imperialists against workers of other countries. By studying Marxism, I’ve learned that the workers of every country have common interests. Building our Party means that next time there is a war, we really will be able to turn the guns around against the imperialists.”
An immigrant worker from the Caribbean said, ”The revolutionary forces are advancing, and imperialism and the superpowers are crumbling. I am proud to be a member of this Party which stands so completely dedicated to solidarity with the people of the third world.”
A woman who had been in the old Party for many years commented, “The revolutionary youth in Germany and other European countries today always ask the older generation, ’Where were you when Hitler was coming to power and when fascism was on the rise?’ In this way they can see who fought with the people and who collaborated with the enemy. In the future, our children will ask us, ’Where were you when the storm clouds of war were gathering?’ and we will be able to say proudly, ’We were helping to build the Party to destroy the revisionist and imperialist enemies.’”
Many delegates were moved to tears by the speeches that were given. Some read poems, which they composed out of the feelings of unity, solidarity, determination and joy which engulfed the meeting room.
Finally, as the Congress was adjourned, the delegates sang a mighty chorus of the “Internationale,” the anthem of communists in every country. Never in recent memory did the words ring truer as the delegates expressed their conviction that “a better world’s in birth.”